I have a Minion. She is my employee/tenant/friend/minder. She was born in ’91, which makes her a kid forever as far as I’m concerned. She recently took up photography, so she’s been going on a bunch of walks looking for interesting shots. The last walk she went on was to a National Trust property. For those unfamiliar with the organisation, the National Trust is a charity that manages British stately homes and formal gardens; the sort of places where one can reasonably expect to find older, tweed-clad upper-middle-class people enjoying a cream tea. One may reasonably feel at risk of being at the receiving end of some vicious tut-tutting following a faux-pas. One doesn’t tend to feel at risk of harassment, stalking, or assault. Alas, life has a way of surprising us.
Before anyone starts panicking, the story ends well. In fact, it ends so well that I’m sure it’d be a non-event in many people’s eyes, because nothing happened. I’m inordinately proud of how the Minion did, so I’m going to give you the potted summary of what happened, what she did, and how it ties in with top-notch self-defence training.
The Minion was a-walkin’ with her tiny wee dogs in a quiet part of the property, minding her own beeswax and ogling the shrubberies. She spotted a guy also walking on his own. When he saw her, the guy changed direction and made a beeline towards her. She thought this was suspicious, because people don’t normally change their route in order to intercept unknown third parties. (You need to know what’s normal to recognise what’s not. I got this from Marc MacYoung.)
When the guy approached her, she realised quite quickly that he wasn’t all there. His speech and manners suggested that either he had a mental illness, was under the influence of some substance, or had a severe learning disability. The Minion didn’t much care what was afflicting him, because she had no way of reliably finding out. However, she conclude that whatever ailed him made him unpredictable. (I got this from Rory Miller’s “Talking them Through“.)
She tried putting the guy off using by sending normal, subtle messages. The guy did not appear to either read them or care about them. On the contrary, he became convinced that they were on a date, and started to talk about what they might do on future dates. Confirmed in her suspicion that the guy wasn’t playing with a full deck and because they were in an isolated area, the Minion decided not to ramp up her attempts at making him go away in order to avoid an escalation in his behaviour. (Peyton Quinn’s five rules for preventing/deterring social violence: 1) Don’t Insult Him; 2) Don’t Challenge Him; 3) Don’t Threaten Him; 4) Don’t Deny It’s Happening; 5) Give Him A Face Saving Exit.)
She took the time to check him out and determined that, if necessary, “she could probably take him”. (She’s not got any training, but she’s a tall lass who does a job requiring strength and quick reflexes. My money’s on her.) This is important: she had no hesitation whatsoever in deciding that, if she needed to protect herself, she would not only go physical, but go all in. (She gave herself permission to act. Kathy Jackson of Cornered Cat has written some beautiful pieces about it, but if you want an aphorism I’m fond of Malcolm Reynolds’ “Someone ever tries to kill you, you try to kill ’em right back.”) To help stack the odds in her favour, she made sure that he was walking between her and a pond their were skirting, so that if it came to it she could chuck him in. (I got this from Rory’s environmental fighting training.)
Gentle persuasion and brisk walking weren’t enough to shake the guy off. So, even though she wasn’t done walking and would have preferred to stay there longer, she decided to start heading back towards the main part of the property, where there would be people able to assist her if required. (She prioritised her safety and welfare over her right to be there. She also consciously moved towards safety – people and lights – not just away from danger; I got this from Rory, again.)
Once they got closer to civilisation and it became clear that she could make an easy getaway, the guy started to demand that she give him her phone number. As there were now people present, the Minion was happy to be more forceful with her rejection. She flatly refused to give him her number, attached herself to a random family, and followed them back to the buildings. The guy stopped following her. However, she continued to be vigilant in case he’d taken a different route and wasn’t laying in wait in the car park. Once she was in her car and off the site, then she let herself chill out. (I got post-event checks at VioDy.)
When she got back, the Minion talked through the event and her feelings with me. I told her that I thought she’d done splendidly, and why. We ran through a couple of possible alternatives, but couldn’t really come up with better tactics or a better resolution. We discussed her contacting the National Trust to make them aware (although it’s not their fault, it may well be their problem – chances are this is not a unique event). She mentioned that she’d not previously thought of this kind of thing as a likely risk; but now that she’s aware that it can happen, she’ll be on the lookout for it. I suggested that if she wanted to get any training, or acquire any tools that may assist her in resolving this kind of situation, I probably know someone who can help her. She said she’ll think about it.
Now, this is a young lady who’s had no interest in self-defence prior to this event. She hasn’t done any training, read any books, or watched any DVDs. The only reason she’s vaguely aware of names like MacYoung or Miller is that she works with me and I use her as a guinea-pig. She’s a normal young woman for this time and age. I talk her through some of my blogs, because if they don’t make sense to her then they won’t make sense to the vast majority of people out there. Yet, without any self-defence training whatsoever, she just went and aced a practical test as if it was nothing. (And any instructor who wants to convince me otherwise and who has managed to put off a mentally disturbed person with romantic intentions without striking a blow is welcome to come forward and tell us why I’m wrong.)
The thing that bugs me is that, despite of this experience, she still believes that self-defence “is not her thing”. She still thinks of self-defence as “guys in black pajamas smacking each other” (as opposed to martial arts, with is “guys in white pajamas smacking boards”). And that’s a situation that we, the self-defence community, have created. Too many instructors have pushed too hard to make self-defence something special, something esoteric, something demanding a fixed set of relatively uncommon (or at least commonly repressed) personality traits. There’s so much “brutal” this and “badass” that. Fuck the sheeple! And fuck those who disapprove of me saying fuck, too, because how can you be a badass without swearing? And how can you self-defend without being a badass?
Problem is that some people don’t want to be badasses. Some people are perfectly happy being who they are and how they are, and that doesn’t necessarily interfere in the least with their willingness to self-protect. But it does interfere with their willingness to join a group that clearly sees them as either inferior, needing to change themselves in order to reach a standard that is, ultimately, far from universally embraced, or unwelcome.
There’s so much information and advertising out there telling normal, everyday people that self-defence isn’t for the likes of them. And then we have the audacity to see them as inferior because they don’t want to play with us. It’s uncanny.