I am sure most have already seen or read about the tragic story of two men murdered in Portland while attempting to assist two women being berated by a man because he believed them to be Muslim. Since then, I have read a number of articles about what a bystander should do if ever confronted with a situation like that. Several of them have been written by police officers and offer very solid advice. Unfortunately, as someone who has trained many police officers over the years, today, more than ever, police departments are training officers more for how to avoid public scrutiny, than how to de-escalate a situation or more importantly to end a conflict without the use of weapons. While it’s true that officers understand the inherent risks of their job, sending them out in to the street with only limited, Martial Arts or Self Defense training, is putting everyone at greater risk. If an officer doesn’t feel confident enough in his non-weapon training, he or she will certainly be more likely to rely on his or her weapons for protection. That’s just human nature. Conversely, the better trained someone is in non-lethal hand-to-hand combat, the less likely is he or she to rely on lethal weapons.
There are two things that differentiate a well-trained Martial Artist from the average citizen, the ability to sense danger and the ability to deal with situations before the aggressor has a chance to do harm. But how is this achieved?
The trained Martial Artist NEVER has his or her guard down. He or she is always prepared to do battle and expects the worst. Guilty until proven innocent perhaps but awareness is everyone’s best defense. Some people may find that cynical but it is the only way to ensure you are truly prepared to do what is necessary to survive a threat. If you are a person who walks with your head down staring at your smart phone, you are a potential victim. When I fly, I carefully look at every single person who boards the plane. Everyone is scrutinized because it might save lives, including my own. Incidents on planes have been increasing and the only way to avoid a serious situation is to be aware of it and to deal with it immediately.
Several years ago I found myself on a very crowed train in NYC where two men were getting into a heated argument. Understanding the possible danger I was in, (weapons could be drawn and no place to go), I explained to both men that I felt uncomfortable and that I had no intention of getting hurt or worse because of you “two morons”. I then explained that if either man moved a hand towards their bags or pockets, the violence they would experience would more than make them forget the reason they had been fighting with each other. I would be more than happy to accept the ramifications of my actions. Clearly both men understood what I meant and that I was not joking. They both apologized and got off at the next stop. Point of the story is that I can not and will not allow myself to be a victim. The best defense is a good offense and I haven’t spent half my life training to become a victim. Let me be clear, I don’t want or expect violence per se but I am more than willing to engage in violence in defense of myself, family or others, in harm’s way.
However, if you are unable or unwilling to engage in a physical confrontation and let me be clear, (most men believe they are, despite the fact they aren’t), you probably should not get involved other than to call for help. One police officer that I read about, who works for a consulting company, said that the two men who were killed had no reason to believe they might be in danger. Unfortunately, that is an incorrect statement and should be retracted. Any person willing to aggressively yell anti-anything be it Gay, Muslim, Jew etc. is a HUGE threat. Only a crazy person with bad intentions can act that way is there is no other way to view it. If you get involved in such a situation with someone like that, the only thing on your mind should be at what point do I strike. Let me be clear, the two men who lost their lives were noble in their effort but If that isn’t how you think, then you should not be getting involved other than to call the police.
That’s not an easy thing to say because one of the worst things about our society is the lack of concern for each other. We should always be looking out for our fellow citizens. That’s what boaters do every day. It’s one of the things I love most about the ocean; men’s and women’s humanity to man and woman. The law of the sea is to always help other boaters in distress, despite the fact that you might be on vacation and it’s an inconvenience. However, if that involvement on a train leads to your demise, then it was the wrong decision despite the fact that it may have been heroic. Two families buried loved ones because they were unprepared and untrained and they paid the ultimate price.
I do want to address terrorism in general. Terrorist attacks like the latest one in London is tragic and there is little anyone can do to survive that if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Every human being eventually dies and no one is in control of how that will occur. So only luck and the odds are on most people’s side when it comes to such an attack. Condolences to all those who lost loved ones and who’s loved ones were injured in the cowardly attack on innocents.
In closing, I am in no way advocating violence. In fact I advocate just the opposite, particularly if you are not trained to defend yourself. Getting involved requires that you are absolutely certain that if a conflict breaks out, you are able to do what is necessary to give yourself the best possible chance for survival.