Women's Self Defense Krav Maga Style- Part 4 Putting It All Together: Sheep or Sheepdog?

Congratulations. If you have made it this far and you are still reading our Women’s Self Defense article series, you have at least taken the initiative to learn more about your own self-defense. That is the first step in making yourself more prepared to deal with the violent world we live in and moving along the continuum from sheep to Sheepdog. If you have read my 3 previous Women’s Self Defense articles and have not tuned me out yet, I am guessing that you have at least accepted the possibility that you may be involved in a violent confrontation someday. In our previous articles we discussed Situational Awareness; The Predator Optic and the Attack Cycle; and The Switch: The Attack and Your Response. At Krav Maga New York we have a life-long self-defense philosophy of Avoid | Deter | Engage | Escape. We have accepted the responsibility for our own safety with the full realization that at some point in time evil may come calling and we may be attacked. This acceptance is not surrender, or a cloak of paranoia. It is just the opposite. It is the realization that the world can be a dangerous place, and that there are bad people out there who will hurt us to get what they want, or just because they can. Once we get over this hurdle, we work through the other internal sticking points that delay us from employing force to defend ourselves. The moral, religious, ethical, philosophical, and legal constraints that we all have to varying degrees. Doing this beforehand allows us to avoid this internal debate at the moment of truth, when we are actually under attack. At this point we do not have the luxury of engaging in self debate regarding our deepest beliefs. Once attacked, we need all of our mental skills focused on tactics to end the attack. The internal debate will cause us to freeze, or at least delay, and that means time. Time is damage in the fight.

Next issue is using our observation skills to keep us out of potentially dangerous situations. That is the Avoid part. Our ability to defend ourselves all starts with observation. We scan our surroundings and develop baselines for what is normal and abnormal for our environment. We note anomalies, investigate further, and take action when appropriate. Even something as simple as exiting the area can be the necessary action. The more we practice our observation skills, the better we get. Eventually these skills will constantly be running in the background of our consciousness and will require less and less deliberate effort. It is what Colonel Jeff Cooper calls “Condition Yellow” (scanning the environment for general threats). This skill becomes low maintenance and only kicks up to the front of our radar screen when something comes to our attention that is a specific, significant threat (“blinking red”).

We also work on making ourselves less attractive as potential targets to those that would prey on us. When we are out and about we don’t become task fixated or cell phone zombies. We focus on our environment. We do not put ourselves in threatening situations (lifestyle choices, habits, associations, places we visit, etc.). When in public, we display a “fit and aware” posture and use eye contact to alert potential threats to our recognition of their presence (remember predators want victims, not a fair fight). All of this is designed to make the predator more likely to discard us as a potential target and move on in his search for a “limping zebra.” This is the Deter part.

Our next endeavor along the path to Sheepdog is actively training in the actual skills that may someday save our lives or the lives of those we love (the Engage part). Hand-To-Hand Combat training, basic emergency medical training (CPR, hemorrhage control), and weapons handling skills. Again, we do not need to train to the Ninja/SWAT Team level. Almost anyone can learn the basics. You do not need to attain a black belt, or be a sniper. Learn some basic combative strikes that are consistent with your physical abilities. Learn firearms nomenclature and handling. Learn how to load or unload a handgun, how to clear a stoppage or malfunction. Learn how to point-shoot a handgun in case you have to. These encounters are going to be up close and personal. Long-distance target practice (although good) is not mandatory. Start simple. You need to develop your baseline skills in these disciplines and then maintain them. All of these skills are perishable and require an ongoing commitment to keep serviceable. You are a knife: you are either sharpening the blade, or rusting and getting dull. It does not take endless hours of training, but periodic in-service practice of skills you have learned. It doesn’t make much sense to buy a handgun, shoot a box of ammo and put it away, thinking that you are good to go. I have known many people who buy a significant amount of gear and then never train with it. They buy a new handgun, a tourniquet, a tactical flashlight, and a cool knife and think, “check, I am ready.” When you see their gear, it is shiny and clean. I call this phenomenon the Gall’s Catalogue Syndrome. Show me the guy (or girl) whose gear is frayed and worn. That is the person who trains seriously. When things go sideways, that is the person I want with me. Remember, it is not the hardware, it is the software that saves lives. Gear (hardware) is great, but without training (software) it is virtually useless. Additionally, incorporate some physical fitness training in your routine. Being able to move fluidly and run will help in your self-defense, and also help you to get away from the threat (the Escape part).

That’s the plan. Mindset, Skills, Tactics. You can accept it or disregard it as paranoia (many do). It is much easier to say it will never happen to me. Not in this town, not in this neighborhood. Life, and a career in law enforcement have both taught me that it can happen here. It does happen in this town. These articles have been about preparing for interpersonal violence, the universal phobia. It is not a comfortable subject. No one wants to think about being attacked or hurt. We all want to believe that if we behave, if we treat others well, we will not be attacked. This simply is not always the case. It is our hope, but certainly not guaranteed. There is a Latin phrase that best sums up our approach at Krav Maga New York: “Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum.” Translation: “If You Want Peace, Prepare For War.” It is on many of our shirts and on our plank-owner wristbands. We train with purpose and determination because we know what is at stake. We take responsibility for our own safety. We do not rely on Hope and Denial as our survival strategies. We refuse to be sheep and we constantly move along the continuum to becoming the Sheepdog.

We believe that if we are prepared for the battle, we are better prepared to Avoid and Deter the battle. If we are prepared for the battle, we are better prepared to Engage in the battle, and Escape once the opportunity presents itself. We do not want to fight, we just accept that someday we might have to. I have laid out a path. Admittedly, it is not an easy one. The next step is up to you. Click off the article and forget about it…….or take action. It comes down to priorities. Most of us make time and expend energy on things we think are important. Do you accept that someday evil may come to you? If the answer is yes, how much time and effort are you willing to invest in yourself to be ready when it does?

Sheep, or Sheepdog?

More on Women’s Self Defense to follow, so stay tuned in.

About The Author: Ed Raso is a retired Major from the New York State Police with 32 years of law enforcement experience. He is also the Chief Instructor for Krav Maga New York’s Orange County location and the Leader of Krav Maga New York’s Force Training Team.

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