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Finlay
Finlay's picture
women self defence

I was recently asked to assist in looking over a syllabus for an up coming womens self defence course. on the whole i thought it was OK. bt one thing stood out, they included verbal de-escalation. It got me thinking is Verbal de-escalation as important for women as it is for men. My knee jerk reaction was yes, but taking into account the nature of the threat that women face how much importance would you place on being able to talk someone down as oppose to avoidance and awareness

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

A very important topic!

I’d say that de-escalation was very important for both males and females. However, I think Rory Miller’s categorisations of “social violence” and “asocial violence” are really helpful as the strategies for both are radically different.

An example of social violence is your typical testosterone fuelled bar fight.

An example of asocial violence would be an abduction attempt.

Social violence requires the person being calmed down. We need to be calm and quiet and avoid adding fuel to the fire.

In asocial violence the person wants the victim to be calm and quiet. So screaming and shouting and drawing attention to the situation are what is more effective in preventing it going further. Pretty much the exact opposite of what social violence requires.

So if “verbal de-escalation” is only being covered from the viewpoint of “social violence” then we’d be giving the students a very dangerous and inappropriate skill set if it was applied in the context of asocial violence because it was all they knew.

It is fair to say that statistically social violence is most commonly an issue associated with younger males (but not exclusively). It would also be fair to say that abduction and rape are primarily issues associated with females (but again not exclusively). I’d therefore be sure to teach both approaches to both male and female students, emphasise the need for everyone to be familiar with both, but also include the crime data to show what is statically most probable (while never suggesting that the statistics were somehow the unwritten law of the universe and guaranteed the un-probable was impossible).

One of the HUGE problems with self-defence instruction is that it is male driven. It tends to be taught by men and most information put out there is also taught by men. Even female self-defence instructors were often taught my men and hence it is easy for a male bias to unintentionally creep in.

Statistically, the most likely person to attack and kill a woman is not a drinker in a pub or a stranger in the bushes, but it is someone they are in a in a relationship with. However we generally see very little in the way of the dynamics of abusive relationships in female self-protection. And this is obviously a major oversight.

The bottom line is that we need far more female self-protection instructors and authors who will look at female self-protection afresh and ensure that it genuinely addresses all aspects from a female perspective.

All the best,

Iain

Tau
Tau's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
One of the HUGE problems with self-defence instruction is that it is male driven. It tends to be taught by men and most information put out there is also taught by men. Even female self-defence instructors were often taught my men and hence it is easy for a male bias to unintentionally creep in.

Statistically, the most likely person to attack and kill a woman is not a drinker in a pub or a stranger in the bushes, but it is someone they are in a in a relationship with. However we generally see very little in the way of the dynamics of abusive relationships in female self-protection. And this is obviously a major oversight.

The bottom line is that we need far more female self-protection instructors and authors who will look at female self-protection afresh and ensure that it genuinely addresses all aspects from a female perspective

Good question and interesting answer.

This past Tuesday I delivered my first presentation on self protection in a non dojo context. My brief was a monthly-meeting women's group. I had one hour. That was it.

I suspected that they were expecting an hour of physical skills but I stated from the outset that to do this would be dishonest. In amongst my presentation, which was Powerpoint based, I quoted several significant Martial Artists (yes, including Iain) but initially Peter Consterdine's assertion that physical skills are the last 2% of self protection and so this is what they got.

I had fourteen information slides in total. Yes, these included verbal de-escalation since this is a part of self protection. However I emphasised from the outset that each of these slides was an entire subject worth many hours of study. I was giving the group an overview only.

The point about self protection being male focussed may be true generally, but certainly wasn't the case from me. Bear in mind the perspective I gain from my profession and specific occupational expertise. I told the group that I was pitching the presentation to them specifically and so covered domestic abuse in greatest depth, only touching on the issue of alcohol fueled fights outside public houses. Were my audience teenage males I would have shifted the emphasis to alcohol and knives.

Does that make sense and answer the question?

Finlay
Finlay's picture

hank you both for your replies.

I think my issue with adding the verbal de-escalation was it seemd to take a fairly promonat  place. This may be my misunderstanding of the syllabus or maybe it got put in becasue it is 'fashionable' 

Giving ladies information about non physical self defence i think should be paramount. in the past i have had a group of people think baout what kind of target they are, then we talked about how not to be a target ( alla Rory Miller, but in a much smaller way of course :)) Ialso really like the 'internal dialouge' that Iain intorduced in his podcast on awareness i find it very helpful and something you can teach people in a very short time

Finlay
Finlay's picture

Forgot ot write this in

I really agree that self defence is too male dominated both in instuctors and techniques. I am 6'1" (or 6"1' I can never remember)I teach in Beijing and some of my female students are of very light builds. It is dffiuclt for me to give acurrate or believeable advice to them sometimes becasue my understanding of their issues is somewhat limited

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Tau wrote:
The point about self protection being male focussed may be true generally, but certainly wasn't the case from me. Bear in mind the perspective I gain from my profession and specific occupational expertise. I told the group that I was pitching the presentation to them specifically and so covered domestic abuse in greatest depth, only touching on the issue of alcohol fueled fights outside public houses. Were my audience teenage males I would have shifted the emphasis to alcohol and knives.

Does that make sense and answer the question?

Yes it does :-) In short presentations, I do exactly the same.

The point about physical techniques being only comparatively small part of self-protection is also very important. Without a doubt, it is martial arts instructors who are worst for not getting this. It’s that old, “If all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail” thing.

Martial Arts tend to focus specifically on “fighting” or “combatives” whereas, from a self-protection perspective, physical technique is an option of last resort to be used when more effective options have failed or are inappropriate.

Awareness, life-style choices, personal responsibility, a healthy attitude to personnel safety, etc, etc. are WAY more important than how to hit. Sadly, we see the physical side of things given undue prominence while other more effective and important skills are ignored or only given lip service. As discussed, this is generally because martial arts instructors teach what they know as opposed to what is actually required.

Finlay wrote:
I also really like the 'internal dialogue' that Iain introduced in his podcast on awareness i find it very helpful and something you can teach people in a very short time

That’s exactly it! That’s a form of practise that anyone can engage in, and it can be taught very quickly! With repetition it becomes second nature and will be much more effective an answer to the problem of criminal violence than any “fighting” technique will ever be. It’s easier to learn, and it’s more effective. When martial arts instructors simply say, “be aware” – whilst giving no instruction on how to be aware and what to be aware of – before moving onto “how to get out of head-lock” they are catastrophically failing to teach what they are claiming to teach. 

For those who have not heard the awareness podcast, a written version can be found here: http://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/article/awareness-key-karate-self-protection 

My podcast on verbal de-escalation is also relevant to this thread and can be found here: http://iainabernethy.co.uk/content/verbal-de-escalation-podcast

All the best,

Iain

JWT
JWT's picture

This is spooky. I made a short blog post on this subject just yesterday!

Here for information for anyone interested.

http://johntitchen.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/creating-and-delivering-self...

 

Wallace Smedley
Wallace Smedley's picture

When I teach self-defense (I prefer to call it "Personal Safety" due to self defense being over used and misunderstood), I constantly hammer the point of the physical being what you need after you have done everything else wrong. 

One issue I see a lot is that women seem to have been coached into thinking that if one suggests steps they can take to increase pesonal safety, you are blaming them is violence occurs. I do not subscribe to this thought, but it comes up a LOT. I think that if there were more female instructors teaching these concepts then this knee-jerk response might go away. 

Quote:
Awareness, life-style choices, personal responsibility, a healthy attitude to personnel safety, etc, etc. are WAY more important than how to hit. Sadly, we see the physical side of things given undue prominence while other more effective and important skills are ignored or only given lip service. As discussed, this is generally because martial arts instructors teach what they know as opposed to what is actually required.

Exactly right! In my classes on personal safety, I teach for six hours, and only about an hour of the class is physical technique, the non-physical is much more important. You are in control of your lifestyle, attitude and awareness, and those three play a bigger role in personal safety than any technique ever could.

Great topic!

JWT
JWT's picture

Wallace Smedley wrote:

When I teach self-defense (I prefer to call it "Personal Safety" due to self defense being over used and misunderstood)

Agreed! I prefer to use personal safety and self protection as terminology (reserving self defence for physical responses) but tend to use self defence as the advertising term because it is more readily understood/searched for than the others. As a result I might be brought in to teach a course under one title (or advertise under one title) but teach it under another. My last course was (keynote) titled Awareness, Personal Safety and Self Defence.

 

kinkoshinkai
kinkoshinkai's picture

Moved to a new town years ago and shortly thereafter was asked to teach self-defense to a young women's group. After having read the paper nearly every week and seeing teen women being hospitalized nearly EVERY WEEK in a very small town simply because they were in a car with a group of teens and not wearing seat belts, I think they were a bit surprised how much time I spent on automobile safety (choosing with whom to ride, loud radio music's effect on driving awareness, make-up application while driving, safety restraints, etc.) without ever teaching them how to make a proper fist!!

JWT
JWT's picture

kinkoshinkai wrote:
Moved to a new town years ago and shortly thereafter was asked to teach self-defense to a young women's group. After having read the paper nearly every week and seeing teen women being hospitalized nearly EVERY WEEK in a very small town simply because they were in a car with a group of teens and not wearing seat belts, I think they were a bit surprised how much time I spent on automobile safety (choosing with whom to ride, loud radio music's effect on driving awareness, make-up application while driving, safety restraints, etc.) without ever teaching them how to make a proper fist!!

Sounds like a good presentation. 

Actually I don't think I've ever taught anyone (male or female) how to make a fist on a self defence course.

Jordan Giarratano
Jordan Giarratano's picture

Hello all! Been lurking on these forums for a while and this thread inspired me to finally sign-up. I'd like to add two points to this great discussion. Quick background, I'm an instructor in Seattle, WA and I run a fairly successful Self-Defense for Women program. I built the program, over two years, with input from many female students who have been brave enough to share their stories with me. 

Point One: Verbal De-Escalation

To add to Iain's first reply: An important factor to consider when teaching verbal de-escalation for women to prevent sexual assault is that sexual assault is not usually a crime based on attraction or desire, it is based on power. A sexual predator does not see his victim as an autonomous person, he objectifies them. In this situation, no matter what a potential victim says, they are not reaching an empathetic person when trying to de-escalate their attacker. As Iain stated above regarding asocial violence, the objective of the attacker is to scare or force the victim into submission. De-escalation, pleading, and any kind of show that makes the attacker feel dominant plays into this power dynamic. In this instance, fighting back, yelling, getting loud, and "being a crappy victim" are the best chance of survival.

Obviously, this is not ALL cases (it is possible for rape to be based on attraction, this is more the "date rape" situation, and rape perpetrated by someone who knows the victim is another matter as well). It's just something to consider. My philosophy in teaching these workshops is I never tell women what they should do, I only give them as much information as I can so they can make an informed decision. 

Point Two: Victim Blaming

Wallace Smedly wrote:
One issue I see a lot is that women seem to have been coached into thinking that if one suggests steps they can take to increase pesonal safety, you are blaming them is violence occurs. I do not subscribe to this thought, but it comes up a LOT. I think that if there were more female instructors teaching these concepts then this knee-jerk response might go away.

Wallace, this is a great insight. This is something I tip-toed around a lot when I first started my program. After putting a lot of time into it, working with survivors, and talking to a number of excellent women who identify as feminists I have a more clear understanding of the issue.

As instructors (especially male instructors) we walk a very fine line between sound prevention advice and blaming. Here is what has helped me to navigate these waters and also to have a keener understanding of how, as a man, to offer help to women without adding my own bias.

  • I never tell anyone what they SHOULD have done. If someone asks me specifically (and they have) what they could do differently, I'll give my opinion, but I'll also qualify it with "You did what you felt was best in that scenario." I focus on information, not judgment. Sexual Assault is a crime that goes on for years after the initial attack. I had a female student in her sixties share a story about an assault from her twenties that she was still visibly upset about. She wanted me to tell her what she did wrong, but all I could do was tell her she did her best and she was young.
  •  
  • I try to understand why people blame victims. Taking responsibility for ourselves is the first step in regaining control, but part of sexual assault awareness is acknowleding that it is 100% the fault of the attacker, not the victim. For instance, in the Steubenville rape case where two high school athletes assaulted and recorded a high school girl. The media vilified the victim, blaming her for drinking at a party, while victimizing the rapists with a "boys will be boys" attitude. As thinking, feeling, empathetic creatures, we struggle to make sense of these awful acts, one way we do that is by saying internally "Well, I would never put myself in that position" and we start to label and think less of the victim and so it makes it easier not to worry about our sisters, girlfriends, daugthers, etc when we fall asleep at night.
  •  
  • That said, if I'm teaching a self-defense class for young women, I will most certainly talk about party safety tips, staying close to friends, keeping an eye on their drink, etc. Like I said, very fine line. 
  •  
  • Sexual assault is not based on how someone is dressed. It is based often on factors of opportunity, how submissive the predator thinks the victim will be, etc. When giving prevention tips, I try really hard to focus on empowerment, not judgment. I would never say "Don't go to a party" or "Don't dress how you like." I'll talk about behavior and awareness.

For anyone who teaches Self-Defense I highly recommend The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker, and of course, Rory Miller's Facing Violence, mentioned above.

I hope I wasn't too rambly for a first post! This is an issue that is very important to me and I was very inspired by all of the thoughtful posts in this thread. It's so good to see honest discussion from dedicated teachers who truly care about offering the best class they can!

Jordan Giarratano
Jordan Giarratano's picture

One other thing, then I swear I'll stop!

I teach all of my workshops with a female teaching assistant 100% of the time. This is usually one of my best students who knows what we are going to work on. She helps to give me insight into what I'm doing, calls me out privately if I say something stupid (which is often), and generally helps to keep the class balanced. 

The other benefit is that some participants have trauma in their past or might be uncomfortable working on a grab or escape with me, they get a chance to try out the techniques with another woman.

I highly recommend this approach.

Kim
Kim's picture

Some great discussion here - two points that I'd like to add my thoughts to that I've come across regarding this topic.  

1) Expectations of the group/organizer When I am asked to do a self-defense seminar, I understand the importance of all of the non-physical aspects of self-defense.  But what it seems to me is that the people who ask me to come in want something fun (i.e. the physical part), and want a quick, easy, solution that will address all of their problems and make them magically safe.  They want to walk out of there with peace of mind that they now don't have to worry.  Explaining the risks of their behavior, things that they need to do in their everyday life to make them more safe, etc. does not have the same appeal as showing them some techniques.  Often I am asked to do this in 30 min (an hour if I'm lucky), and the biggest gains that I can possibly make in that time are making them more aware of their risks so that they can avoid the bad situations.  But when that doesn't line up with their expectations, they are disappointed (and I don't get asked back, but instead they bring in someone who will give them the flash and the peace of mind).  But I think anything that asks people to reflect on (and possibly modify) their own behavior doesn't have the same appeal, even if it is way more effective and exactly what people need - it's not what they want.  

2) Giving Advice vs. Blaming the Victim I see this come up often as well, and I think there is an important distinction to make on this topic.  When talking to someone who has been the victim of a crime, it's incredibly important not to blame the victim or imply in any way that it was their fault.  No one deserves to be the victim of a crime, and it is absoltuely the perpetrator's fault if something happens, and we need to counsel the victims and not judge their actions.   However, this seems to get conflated with prevention strategies and risk assessment before anything happens.  And I think we're doing a disservice to people if we don't address the issues (as mentioned previously) of things like awareness, attitude, life-style choices, understanding risks and statistics, etc. when discussing personal safety in a prevention setting.  As I said, no one deserves to be the victim of a crime, but there are bad people in the world and crime happens.  Your chances of being a victim are always non-zero, but there are things that you can do to minimize your risks - and you want to empower people to do things to make themselves more safe.  I always try to emphasize that people are free to make their own choices (and I avoid language like you "should" do this), but I want participants to understand that their behaviors and actions can affect their risk and make them more of a target for criminals - I want them to be able to make an informed decision.  In addition, especially with women, some of their biggest risks (where I live) are for sexual assault or theft.  But so many think of the "stranger danger" sexual assault/rape as the threat, when that occurrance here is incredibly rare.  More likely, they will know their attacker, and in a huge majority of cases, alcohol is involved on the part of the victim and/or attacker.  So emphasizing things like knowing your boundaries and strictly enforcing them, being able to forcefully say no, not taking open drinks, staying with friends, not getting overly drunk, etc. are going to be much more beneficial to them for the types of crimes they are likely to face. 

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Kim wrote:
2) Giving Advice vs. Blaming the Victim

I see this come up often as well, and I think there is an important distinction to make on this topic.  When talking to someone who has been the victim of a crime, it's incredibly important not to blame the victim or imply in any way that it was their fault.  No one deserves to be the victim of a crime, and it is absolutely the perpetrator's fault if something happens

I totally agree and feel you’ve expressed that well. It is NEVER the victim’s fault. It is ALWAYS the criminal that is to blame.

However, we can’t extrapolate that to infer that none of us need to take need to take steps to ensure our own personal safety. We all need to take steps to ensure our personal safety. We are not responsible for what happens should we be attacked, but we should make it as difficult as possible for the criminal element.

We need to accept that we live in a world where evil people will do evil things to good and blameless people. We can’t take an “ideal world” viewpoint and that absolves us of any need to take care of our own safety. If someone enters my home and steals my belongings, then it is the thief who is 100% to blame … however, that does not mean I should not lock the doors when I leave. If someone were to physically attack me, then the assailant is 100% to blame for that, but that does not mean I should not take sensible and proportionate steps to ensure my own safety.

I think a useful distinction can be “whoops wrong” vs. “you are to blame wrong”. As I hope I have made clear, when it comes to who is to blame, that always lies 100% on the shoulders of the assailant. However, we should all avoid “whoops wrong” in order to do our best to keep ourselves safe.

To use a made up example, let’s say someone was to deliberately get blind drunk and then walk home with a stranger though an isolated area. If they were assaulted by that stranger, then it is the stranger who is 100% to blame for that assault. The victim is entirely blameless. However, I’d hope we’d all agree that we’d generally advise people not to get blind drunk, and not to then enter isolated areas with unknown people. So making those “errors” is “whoops wrong” because it makes us an easier target.

We all advise our children not to go anywhere with strangers … but that would in no way infer that if they did, and if something terrible happened, that the child is responsible! The exact same approach should apply to adults.

Advising sensible precautions is in no way the same as saying the victim carries any of the blame if those precautions were, for whatever reason, not followed.

The blame lies 100% with the person who deliberately set out to harm an innocent victim. Always and with no exceptions! However, that does not mean we should act as if we live in a world that does not contain such evil people. They are out there, and taking sensible precautions to ensure safety is a smart idea … and in suggesting that we are in NO WAY saying the victim is even the slightest bit “responsible” for what happens. They are not! The blame is always FULLY with the evil individual who set out to harm another.

It’s very important that we as self-protection instructors make that clear.

As regards what these sensible precautions should be, one fantastic resource is The Suzy Lamplugh Trust:

http://www.suzylamplugh.org/personal-safety-tips/free-personal-safety-tips/

All the best,

Iain

TomF
TomF's picture

I have trouble with taking the "don't blame the victim" theme as far as it's often taken.  As folks have already observed, situational awareness, de-escalation etc. are all key elements to be explored in any self defence instruction.  But the reason we explore them is that predators will look for and exploit weaknesses and opportunities.  The starting point of self defence is that one's own habits and actions are meaningful; it isn't about blame/not blame, it's about skewing the odds towards safety.

Yes, the Bad Guy is always to blame.  Always always always ... but Good Guys' actions have consequences too.  And as uncomfortable for the Politically Correct as it may be, we're being unhelpful and untruthful if our efforts don't clearly help folks distinguish between better/worse options ... and choose the better ones.  To some people, it may sound like blame if one analyses a scenario and observes that a poor choice contributed to nasty consequences ... but it's still true.  And probably helpful.

People come to us in the first place because they don't want to contribute to their own victimization from a physical threat any more than they want to lose their life savings by making a poor choice and giving banking info to that nice Prince from Nigeria on the e-mail.  Knowing in their bones that actions have consequences, they're asking for help in choosing better actions.  They're not helped, IMO, if in our effort to be sensitive ... we somehow downplay the impact of making good choices rather than poor ones.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Tom,

TomF wrote:
I have trouble with taking the "don't blame the victim" theme as far as it's often taken.

I disagree with the way you’ve expressed the above. There is undoubtedly a need for people to take sensible precautions to help ensure their personal safety. However, the word “blame” would seem to be very inappropriate. We need to be very careful with our use of language on this, quite rightly, highly emotive topic.

As self-protection instructors, our ultimate objective is the safety and wellbeing of those who come to us. If we are careless with our language and hence infer a proportion of “blame” on the victim (and hence a portion of innocence on the criminal) we could install totally impropriate notions of guilt and cause emotional harm. It could also come across as “criminal appeasement” and hence prevent people from taking on board personal safety advice.

Your post makes clear that you are not saying the victim is at fault:

TomF wrote:
Yes, the Bad Guy is always to blame.  Always always always ...

However, the first line could be read differently. And I feel we need to be very careful with that.

TomF wrote:
The starting point of self defence is that one's own habits and actions are meaningful; it isn't about blame/not blame, it's about skewing the odds towards safety ...

To some people, it may sound like blame if one analyses a scenario and observes that a poor choice contributed to nasty consequences ... but it's still true.  And probably helpful.

This is where I disagree. If it “sounds like blame” it isn’t helpful and can be very harmful. It can be harmful because it engenders entirely inappropriate guilt post-event. It can be harmful because it comes across as appeasement and it can prevent people from listening to sound guidance.

As you say the criminal is always to blame (100% to blame), so we need to be VERY careful that nothing we say can suggest otherwise.

Good personal safety advice and guidance should never sound like blame. And the reason it should never sound like blame is because it is not blame. Failing to follow sound personal safety guidance can make someone more vulnerable, but it NEVER infers any “blame”. The blame is 100% on the criminal and we need to be 100% clear when we express that.

I feel the sentiment of your post is very clear and that you are in no way saying the victim is to blame. However, what I’m highlighting is the need to be very careful with language and that we can cause harm to those that come to us if we fail to be careful.

All the best,

Iain

TomF
TomF's picture

Thanks for your careful and constructive reply, Iain.  As a newb on this forum, it's a bit presumptuous of me to launch out thus. ;)

I've a daughter in graduate school.  Lovely, slim blonde thing.  We've had the occasional talk, as one might imagine, about situational awareness ... about keeping a few things in mind when she goes out with her friends etc.  And she's raised the question of what are now called "slut walks" with me.  Where women feel strongly about how their freedom to wear what they wish, when they wish, should be treated as a right - and not be subject to some kind of patriarchal censorship.  So they put on provocative clothes, and march collectively through tough parts of town as a defiance.

My daughter celebrated the notion of freedom, but told me that she thought it colossally stupid to imagine that predators wouldn't be predatory, simply because it went against good ethics.  And that women who somehow thought it ought to work that way ... might be contributing to their own victimization.

Dod
Dod's picture

By coincidence this article came out yesterday in Dubai's Gulf news.   It was the comments that were interesting:   a couple of comments expresses views on blame in a very blunt way,  but are quickly is shot down by the later comments

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/general/self-defence-women-learn-how-to-use-their-toughest-weapon-1.1403635 

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

Very important subject. My journey in karate started with my training with my daughters who I insisted should learn some form of "self-defense" so that when they were older I would feel more comfortable about them being out in the world - however naive that might seem now. In truth, the value of training in a martial art has not so much been the skills they have learnt, but in fact the awareness they have gained simply by having violence at the front of their minds. where it can filter down to more common sense behviour regarding personal safety.

While I agree with all commentators and have found them insightful, I think I understand TomF's unease with letting victims "off-the-hook" completely. I certainly agree with all comments regarding apportioning blame - Iain has summed it up very eloquently. All of life has elements of risk, occasionally we "live a little" and lower our guard a bit and we usually get away with it, but sometimes we don't. If we lived all our lives in a permanent state of vigilance against potential dangers, that would be sad state of affairs. Furthermore, if we say people are responsible for their actions, anyone who predates on a weaker person is responsible for that action - it was their choice and their action, and their initiative.

My "view" regarding self-protection is a mind-set thing - and this is why I think I understand TomF's unease. There is a tendency for people to live their lives according to a mind-set that often includes victimhood. People create roles for themselves within soceity that correspond to a view about themselves that may include their proclivities and experience but is often quite arbitrary. In transactional analysis (I'll come back to this)  for example, they are described as "t-shirts" you wear for everyone to see. You have the "white knight" t-shirt, "downtrodden", "moody"....well you can pretty much make up any you like that you might use to stereotype someone:

Broadly speaking, there are three main categories: Rescuer, Victim, Dominator.

As the image says, it is uncanny how victims and dominators find one another. In the limited teaching I have done, I have always emphasised the importance of not looking like, or behaving like a victim. But regarding those who I have idenitfied as wearing what looks like a "victim" t-shirt, I have never felt comfortable about discussing this with them directly. Except for those very close to me, I am not capable or qualified to discuss such a senstive and personal issue. But, in my opinion, the confidence that comes with regular karate training can go a long way to re-writing the message on the t-shirt, although it can take some time. With these guys, it's confidence building as well as awreness. So I don't just talk about how to recognize dangerous environments and situations, but during training I'll try to big them up a bit in order to give them a different internal script; "Crikey! You kick like a mule!" "Wow, those punches are getting really heavy!" "Ah! You got me! Take it easy, I have to work tomorrow!" - you know the sort of thing.

@ Jordan, thank you for a really interesting and fantastic post. The way you have approached teaching this subject sounds spot on to me. Have you heard of Eric Berne and "Games People Play" - and transactional analysis more generally? That seems to have been the approach you have adopted. If you haven't, I strongly recommend reading up on it. It's fascinating and I think it would resonate with you a lot. A very very brief overview: http://www.slideshare.net/manumjoy/psychological-games-people-play

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

I just wanted to add, for those of you taking regular seminars or talks on this subject whether you think it might be worthwhile to ask your audience about their internal monologues? For example, "People are always picking on me,"  "I'm always over-looked for promotion", "I'm always left to clean up the table"....any signs of a "victim" mentality. The reason is, despite all the awareness training in the world, my experience and research suggests that people with this kind of mind-set will usually find a way to get themselves in trouble. I realize it steps perilously close into "self-help" territory, but it's my opinion that for the purposes self-protection it's highly relevant. 

TomF
TomF's picture

I think that's apt, Stevenson.  If we bear in mind what we find in a nearby forum thread - that psychopaths can identify their likely victims in about 15 seconds of observation - then part of the "self defence instruction" role needs to be helping a person not look like prey.

It's not, in my opinion, about assigning blame to people who look like prey presently, or who (having looked like prey before) were traumatized by a predator.  It's about helping people identify the script they're currently reading and the message it means that they project.  And giving them solid instruction both on how to change that script if they so choose ... and the risks they're assuming if they don't so choose.