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Evil is uncertain in the same degree as good, and
 for the reason that we ought not to hope too
securely, we ought not to fear with too much dejection
                                 Samuel Adams

FAQs About Personal Safety

Topics on this page:
Am I in danger? Risk assessment | Animal's silly WWF name How'd he get it? | I couldn't do that!!! Reservations about defending yourself | Fighting isn't Self-Defense? | Martial arts: Do I have to? | Martial arts: What about my children? | Paranoia: Is the cure worse than the problem? | What Is And ISN'T Self-Defense? | Why should I learn this? I've always managed

"Am I in danger?"
The answer is: It depends. Risk is a matter of degrees. Your risk increases and decreases depending on your activities and behaviors.

There are lifestyles in which violence is systemic. If you live a certain way or associate with certain kinds of people, your risk is greatly increased. Crime, violence, rape and countless other horrible consequences are the natural results of particular ways of thinking, behaving and location. Basically, it comes with the territory. With these conditions, it's not a matter of if it will happen, but when?

Violent people tend to be violent. While this may seem like a stunningly stupid statement because it is so obvious, it is critical to recognize that in order to understand the implications of the 'not if, but when' concept.

While there can be many reasons for violence, the fact that violent people are violent tends to be the prima facto cause. They've learned to use violence to get what they want. The only real question is "what set them off?" Or more specifically, "What set them off ... this time?" Does the idea of it being 'not if, but when' they become violent begin to make more sense? This becomes truer when groups of like-minded people gather. The addition of alcohol and drugs to this volatile mix often serve as a catalyst. In these circumstances crime and violence become routine.

"At risk behavior" largely consists of becoming involved with dangerous people. For better or worse, they are more prone to become violent with the people they know and are involved with. This tends to keep the damage they do localized. While it is true that predators can -- and occasionally will -- go outside their immediate circle in order to attack "innocents at random" most violence is very specifically targeted.

Simply stated, the less you engage in certain kinds of behavior (e.g. using drugs and alcohol), the more you reduce your chances of being selected as a target for crime and violence. The main reason for this is the kind of people who tend to be tolerant and permissive of your bad behavior tend to do so because they have bad behavioral patterns of their own; and those patterns are likely to include violence.

Having said this there are other activities that can increase your risk of being targeted for crime. The major difference is that these activities aren't aimed at you personally. For example working as a clerk in a convenience store in a bad area is a very good way to end up looking down the barrel of gun, but then again so is the daily carrying the receipts of your business to the bank. But the truth is a few basic habits and procedures can go miles for preventing crime.

Officer Ken Pence from the Nashville police force has created a "Rate Your Risk" quiz to assess your danger. We suggest you follow this offsite link and take the test.

If your actions do not put you in a high risk category, then simple, common sense procedures should significantly reduce any chances of you being victimized. However, if you are engaged in high risk behavior, while those same tactics will help somewhat, they will NOT be enough to save you. Return to top of the page

How did Marc MacYoung get that silly WWF name "Animal?"
The short answer is by doing all the stupid and dangerous things one has to do to get that name.

A more thorough explanation is that was his "street name" (handle or nickname) on the streets of Los Angeles. When he began to write books on streetfighting and survival, it was logical to use it as his pen name. Now many years later, it's like a tattoo. He is sort of stuck with it...which does nothing to impress polite company. Return to top of the page

I couldn't do that!!!
Face it, the idea of using physical violence to protect yourself is both terrifying and revolting. Or at least it should be. To that end, many people are not willing to use physical violence in order to protect themselves. That is another reason why we strongly advocate avoidance over conflict. Awareness, knowledge and understanding of what leads to and is involved in physical violence is a far more reliable strategy than physical force.

Of equal importance is recognizing how our assumptions, pride and emotions can put us into danger. Often unconscious assumptions about 'how the world is', 'what kind of behavior I deserve' or 'what my self-image/social standing is' can put us in extreme danger.

Although it may not seem like it, these issues are two sides of the same coin.

When you step back and objectively view these seemingly disparate stands, you realize that they both are based on what we expect of the world, ourselves and others. They are standards by which we define ourselves by. And these standards not only determine our behavior, but our self-esteem.

Many people who cannot abide a person's decision not to cause physical harm to another, do not recognize that their decision not to be bullied, intimidated or demeaned by others can be as equally pathological. And those decisions are as equally dangerous in the face of pending violence. Both philosophies are practically a guaranteed to provoke an attack from a violent or criminal person.

In order to effectively avoid being victimized, you must have a certain degree of mental flexibility. And that means allowing yourself to do whatever is necessary to survive -- and better yet, avoid -- a violent confrontation. In short: Anytime you get out of a potentially violent situation without being robbed, raped, beaten or killed and without using physical violence, it is a victory. No matter how you managed to avoid the situation.

Many topics relating to the psychological issues of your personal safety are covered elsewhere in this site, as is the topic of self-defense vs. pacifism, realistic choices.

Fighting isn't Self-Defense?
No it isn't. And while we're on the subject, self-defense isn't fighting either. Unfortunately most people who are fighting believe that they are defending themselves.

There's a really easy way to tell the difference. Self-defense is about defending your body from physical injury. Fighting is about defending your feelings. And if you want to be honest about it, it's usually more about avenging your feelings after they've been hurt.

What makes it self-defense is that your body is in danger. Unfortunately, people have a lot more experience getting their feelings hurt and counter attacking or feeling scared and trying to do a threat display to chase away the other person. Unfortunately, they become aggressive and provoke a counter offensive because they have invaded the other person's space.

The odd thing about this is that BOTH parties now feel they are 'defending themselves' and that the other attacked them. To everyone else though, it looks like what it is ... a fight.

Martial Arts: Do I have to?
No, not really. And there are two reasons why:

1) The difference between martial arts and self defense
There is a serious misconception that martial arts and self defense are synonymous. They aren't. And don't be fooled by the karate school owner who tells you they *are* the same in order to get you to sign a contract.

There are many good reasons to study the marital arts: especially self-confidence, self-respect and self-discipline for young people. And they've been proved to help kids and adults with ADD. Quite frankly, all those good things promised on the windows of schools can be developed through martial arts training. Martial arts won't "give you" these, but they can help you develop them.

Like vehicles, however, there are a variety of martial arts, and they serve many different purposes. And like vehicles, not all types are appropriate for the job at hand. In an article MacYoung wrote for Black Belt magazine, he laid out the Four Focuses of the Martial Arts and how, while each is valid, they are markedly different and not necessarily germane to self defense.

But a martial arts business will try to sell you whatever they do as self defense. In fact, that is what they use to get you through the door. Before you go sign up for self defense training, learn the differences described in the article, it will save you time, money and frustration.

2) Avoidance is better than fighting
The information on these pages is designed to help you avoid violence and crime by recognizing its development, and learning to take counteractive measures before it explodes into physical danger.

Benjamin Franklin was right when he said: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That becomes doubly important when we are talking about your chances of fighting -- and defeating -- an experienced, violent and often armed criminal.

That having been said, the bottomline is this information will work if you do not choose to "back it up" with a willingness to use physical violence. It will work better if you do choose to back it up.

There are many issues involved about the decision whether or not to use physical force to defend yourself. And before you make a decision one way or the other it would be best to read the psychology section of this site. Even if you have already your answer, read this section. There are factors with either decision that if you aren't aware of will put you in danger.

Should I enroll my son/daughter in a martial arts school?
The answer is "it depends." Before you sign your children up you first should read the children in MA page. Also you might want to look at The Four Focuses of the Martial Arts and the belt factory section on the commercial martial arts school page. This will help you determine what you expect your child to get from the training and if the school you are considering can provide that.

What is the impact that knowing this will have on my life? (Or do I have to be paranoid?)
The reasons not to learn about crime prevention are legion.

Many people fear that knowing about crime and violence will bring it into their lives. That is the same logic religious nuts use who believe if you speak the devil's name, you will invite him in.

The other extreme is just as bad. And that is the belief that if you bury your head in the sand it will miss you. That is like believing staying willfully ignorant of AIDS will prevent you from catching it. It just isn't true.

Some people feel that if they learn about it, they have to become gibbering paranoid, "survivalists" barricaded in their homes with enough guns and ammunition to invade a small third world country.

Interestingly enough, some people are afraid to learn about it because they might understand. They fear that by understanding the motives that it indicates something is wrong with them. Just because you understand criminal logic, doesn't mean you are a closet criminal or latent abuser.

None of these, or the many other excuses not to learn the basics of personal safety, are true. In fact, knowing these basics will improve the quality of your life, not detract from it.

Believe it or not, most of crime avoidance is simple people skills. It is knowing how people think and act and how your actions will be received.

There are many reasons why violence can enter your life. Usually, they involve you engaging in some kind of "at risk" behavior. Knowing crime avoidance might acquaint you with some kind of "at risk" behavior that you have been unwittingly engaging in.

I've always managed to handle myself, why should I learn?
Putting it bluntly, that's been mostly through pure, dumb, luck.

There are many reasons people have not been attacked. The biggest one has been simple numbers. Comparatively speaking, there are very few violent people within the greater populace. Their numbers do increase in certain lifestyles, locations and socioeconomic conditions. If you are not actively involved in those kinds of lifestyles or regularly dealing with violent people, you have significantly reduced your odds of being attacked.

It is here, however, that we leave the most common misconception about personal safety. And it is a rude wake up call for people who think they can handle themselves.

Out at the sharp end, the real reason more people aren't attacked is because the bad guy just didn't want to.

It wasn't what you were doing or your attitude that caused him to back off .Usually it was factors that you had no control over. These factors led him to the decision not to attack you -- at this time

One of the biggest factors is it just wasn't worth it.

It would be incredibly disheartening for people who rely on attitude to clear the way for them -to realize how often a violent person looks at them and with calm certainty knowing that he could "take them." It's not a rationalization, but rather a simple fact. If the violent person chose to attack, there would be nothing the person could do to stop him. Along with that cold certainty, however, is a clarity that there would be external repercussions. Even though he could show the person with the attitude "where it's at" because of those repercussions, it's not worth it.

Another major factor is witnesses -- or people who could come to your aid. It is incredible the number of people who believe that they have intimidated a violent person into not attacking who fail to realize that it was a combination of these two issues that aborted the attack -- not their actions.

Had they been alone with the violent individual, those actions would have spurred the violent person to attacked.

While there are things you can do to abort an attack, they are very specific behaviors and attitudes. These issues are covered in the psychology, the robbery and rape sections of this Web site.

Further explanation of the criminal and violent mindset and support for these uncomfortable truths is also available.

What Is and ISN'T Self-Defense?
Our contract attorney has a saying "Everyone knows what something means until there's a problem." We can think of no other subject that this applies more than self-defense. Here we give a layman's introduction to how most people leave legal s
elf-defense and get themselves into trouble.

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