All my training failed me. I completely messed up my first mugging. Worry not: I didn’t get hurt, I didn’t lose my property and I didn’t get carted off to jail for leaving a trail of mangled corpses. In fact, nothing happened. It was quite possibly the least eventful attempted mugging ever. My training failed me inasmuch as I totally failed to realise that I was in a mugging situation; failed so completely, in fact, that someone else had to explain it to me afterwards.
I was at a cash machine, alone, at night, in rancid weather, on a deserted shopping strip surrounded by pillars and shrubberies… On reflection, I can see a few teeny tiny issues with this picture… Anyway, there I am, minding my own business, as per usual in a hurry and in a temper, and this idiot kid decides it’s a good idea to stand so close to me I can actually feel him twitching behind me. I stand there fuming for a couple of seconds, then turn around and growl at him “Would you like to sit on my f@%*ing lap while I do this?”
(Yes, I’m sweet and mild-mannered like that. It’s a gift.)
The idiot kid jumps back about two feet, eyes the size of dinner plates, and goes “eh wut?” At which point another kid peers out from behind a pillar and in a shaky voice explains “the lady says you’re standing too close.” As that still doesn’t elicit any sort of reaction, I bellow my best “F&%^ING MOVE!” Two additional kids emerge out of nowhere, and they all run off into the dark and rain.
It may appear obvious to any rational person that gaggles of teenage boys don’t tend to congregate around cash machines at night in bad weather to provide people with a handy wind break. Clearly I’m not a rational person, because someone had to point it out to me. The little twerps were after my cash. What’s wrong with them? They thought they could mug me? Ok, they were all about a foot taller and twenty years younger than me, but still… Me? A muggee? That’s preposterous!
You see, in my own head I’m still a 19-year-old hitchhiking hellcat. I’m just too much trouble to steal from, because I’m obviously both penniless and rabid. My main problem is dealing with nasty men who want to get up close and personal, and fail to understand that “no” is a complete sentence. Unfortunately, that particular person now exists solely within the confines of my brain: in the real world, where real violence and crime happen, I’ve turned into my mum.
My victim profile changed dramatically and I didn’t even notice. Whilst I’m still at risk of getting raped and shall remain so till the day I die (and possibly even a little while after that, this being a world with some very warped people in it) with every passing year I’m less of an appealing target to the majority of the perpetrators. As a source of money, though, I’m looking more and more hopeful. My most likely risks have changed and will continue changing, so my outlook needs to follow suit.
My physical abilities and limitations have also changed and will continue to do so, presenting me with a whole host of new risks. For instance, I hurt more easily and heal more slowly than I did twenty years ago. The damage I’ve accumulated en route means that certain self-defence moves are now more likely to hurt me than my attacker. I recently had to explain to a Krav Maga instructor that his favourite finisher, the “knee bomb”, would most likely result in me falling to the floor, clutching my dislocated knee and screaming… and he still didn’t believe me until it happened. My job is bound to result in me developing arthritis in my hands, making gripping increasingly difficult. Osteoporosis runs in my family, so if my stupidity doesn’t kill me first I’ll have to get used to the idea that any sort of impact may cause me to break bones – my mum broke four ribs just from getting jolted on a bus. I’m getting old. It beats dying young, but it changes, well, most everything that involves my body.
Why is it, then, that so many people are still trying to sell me the same self-defence? So many snakeoil salesmen are still trying to convince me (and everyone else) that their one-size-fits-all tactical-urban-combat programme will be as useful to me today as it would have been to the person I was twenty years ago, to the person I will be twenty years for now, or to the guy a foot taller and two feet wider than me who just happened to walk through the same door at the same time as me. How does it make sense to anyone that people whose risks, needs and abilities are entirely different could be best served by a generic programme? Unless you’re selling a brand new laser gun or Jedi mind trick, I don’t buy it.