Street Smart Advice
(Situational Control of Proxemics)
The following advice works in addition to what is often referred to as your Self-Protection Game plan. This refers to having a practiced ingrained response for dealing with any potential confrontational situation that we may find ourselves in. Either on the street or else where as we go about our daily life. Without going in to detail here, as this has been covered time and again by others and myself on a variety of occasions, the dynamics of the said game plan are as follows:
· Awareness/Target Hardening (staying switched on and maintaining a positive Body Language profile)
· Avoid & escape where possible, is the main priority.
· If approached, you must protect space with the fence, as you move hard to the contact’s flank in order to scan for a 2nd aggressor.
· Verbally de-escalate the situation if possible, via graduated verbalization.
· If not, Strike first fast and hard, then escape.
· If necessary keep striking until there’s no more threat, then escape.
The focus of this article falls around the third bullet point, which refers to situational control or the preservation of personal space. Now we should all understand how important protecting the gap between you and an unknown contact (who is yet to be determined as a threat) can be. As we’ve seen time and again all instructors within the field of RBSD and Combatives in general, will all teach some variation of Geoff Thompson’s Fence. Richard Dimitri will teach what he calls a passive stance; Southnarc uses something similar with a kind of hands held high and compressed like, fence. Joe Hubbard employs what he calls ‘’the interview stance’’ Mick Coup employs a similar natural position, as do I. I personally like to use a kind of intermit ant fence, kind of like Peter Consterdine’s talking hands or what Southnarc likes to call ‘’talking Italian’’.
Here we can see the hands high passive fence and a more relaxed kind of intermittent fence.
This kind posture fits into an array of situations from addressing a casual inquiry to verbally dissuading a potentially hostile subject and tends to look a little less passive, though still extremely non-aggressive. If however, someone is immediately aggressive or if my environment dictates that I operate from a closer/tighter proximity, then I too will adopt a more compressed hands high position. The commonality that we all share is that all are natural and unobtrusive looking postures which place your hands, higher than his. The benefits of which are many. From a physical point of view, I am now in a pro-active position from where I can launch a pre-emptive assault in a heartbeat. Worse case scenario and the aggressor now takes the initiative before me, then I can employ an emergency cover via a default position just as immediate. Outside of that, to the recipient I should look non-aggressive and un-assuming or as Charlie Nelson used to say ‘’innocent and curious’’. This is also important from a third party observation, point of view. Remember that what we are seen doing and heard saying, can all effect the outcome post event so consider your witnesses.
We should also understand that the spatial relationship between us and another person, regardless of whether they are addressing us or not, is often dictated by the environment. For example: standing on a crowed tube train could find you practically cheek to cheek with a fellow passenger. Standing in a queue or as part of a crowd, at say a music or sporting event could also place you extremely close to your fellow public. Communicating with someone in a particularly noisy environment, such as a nightclub for example, can also bring forth the need for very close proximity. So you see there is always the potential for ‘too close for comfort’ to become a reality. When Geoff introduced everyone to the fence in the early 90’s, he would say every time you talk to anyone, is a good opportunity to practice the fence. He would even practice when talking to his mum. Such practice is necessary for making the fence natural and unassuming as opposed to stiff and static.
The first is part of natural human behavior where as the later is easily spotted and is not worth considering unless you are taking the fence to a conscious level, in order to create a physical and verbal boundary. That is not what we are talking about here. What we want is to be able to place ourselves in a position of control, or at least in a position of immediate response, in the worse case scenario where we are about to be assaulted. We want this kind of control without showing it, therefore not creating a power play for control or dominance. This is more applicable to the initial interview stage of a potential problem. This might be when we have been approached and there is now some kind of introductory dialogue going on, as a prelude to events. Or we might simply be in close proximity to a potential threat who for whatever reason has now tweaked our instincts into action. In this case the person may not of spoken a word, nor has he/she addressed our attention in any way but is still within touching/harming distance for reasons as yet, beyond the scope of our control. One example might be that you are in a lift/elevator of a shopping mall, an unknown contact gets in and stands in close proximity to you, again possibly dictated by environment i.e. a confined space. Now it should make sense, that you are never going to stand willingly with your back turned to someone you don’t know, that simply isn’t street smart. So in our example of the lift, where possible I am going to stand with my back to the wall, near the exit and control panel. Now any approach to my person can only be frontal, in other words I can see it coming. If this is not possible then I will at least make a quarter turn with my feet so that the contact, is now stood to my flank and is within the boundaries of my peripheral vision, in other words I can see him. The position I adopt from here is often referred to as ‘’the Jack Benny’’ named after the American comedian who would hold his chin as he pondered his next punch line. Again I wouldn’t remain static here but rather make the occasional hand gesture to scratch my nose or my ear keeping it natural and unobtrusive but still maintaining a position of hands higher than his, for an immediate response.
The Jack Benny position, natural and unobtrusive.
I practice this kind of thing all the time regardless if my Instincts tell me to or not. I will also practice the covert access of an improvised weapon from such a position or when I’m walking past someone in close proximity. Rarely will anyone notice and even if they do, all I am accessing is either a pen, mobile phone or a set of keys in a very natural way, that has so far gone completely unnoticed. I digress; my point is, that such practice with or without the improvised weapons thing, keeps me sharp and switched on and is now so natural and habitual, that it is etched onto the disc for deployment when I need it. I am now going to offer a few ideas that can be brought into play, both for practice and for necessity.
Imagine walking on a narrow path toward an unknown person you can’t really avoid them or step clear without almost brushing shoulders with them. Being a polite and courteous individual (most of the time) I would probably move a side to let them pass, I might even smile or nod and say something like ‘’how you doing?’’ Regardless of that, as I pass I will raise my hand nearest them and gesture it toward my face as if scratching my nose. This places me in a position to either chamber a strike (in this case a backhand hammer-fist of Axe hand) or to employ an emergency cover or default in the event of an attempted ambush. The whole thing looks extremely natural, goes completely unnoticed and is the formulation of good street smarts. Not paranoid just pro-active. It changes a potentially vulnerable position into a platform from which I can operate, nothing wrong with that.
Making a hand gesture towards the face as you pass, transforms a previously vulnerable position into a platform from which you can access your skills.
It’s as street smart as walking wide around a corner to increase my reaction time, or using the reflection of a window to see what’s behind me to enhance my observation skills. Another good tactic is the following; imagine you just walked pass someone who was previously stood against a wall doing nothing in particular, just hanging out. As you pass you catch sight of this person in your peripheral vision (because you are a switched on individual) and orientate that he is now walking behind you. May be nothing, probably co-incidence but instincts tingle regardless, even if they don’t this is still good practice. Slow down to a stop and turn to let the individual pass, where possible out of touching range, as you do this make a puzzled expression with your face and pat your pockets as if you have forgotten something. If you make eye contact just nod and say ‘’how you doing?’’ let the guy pass then go about your business. Very natural behavior that again has transformed a potentially vulnerable position into a platform from which you can operate. Take some of these ideas on board and make them a habitual daily habit. Peace. L.M
As I walk pass I notice the guy by the wall start to fall in behind me. Regardless of his intention I’d feel more comfortable with him in front.
Without making this obvious, I slow to a stop and turn, as I do so I am patting my pockets with a puzzled expression to my face as if I have forgotten something. This allows the guy behind me an opportunity to pass from here I just go about my business.