Get Strong, Hit Hard & Toughen Up!

Learn To Fight… So You Won’t Have To

Fighters Are Seldom Picked On

As someone who’s been teaching self-defense for over three decades, there’s many things I can say with confidence, and here’s one of them… trained fighters are seldom picked on or victimized.

I’ve seen it over and over again.  People turn to self-defense training and the martial arts to escape bullying, harassment or victimization. They are fed up with feeling threatened and vulnerable and, for the life of them, they can’t figure out why THEY are the ones who are repeatedly hassled.   “Why is everybody always picking on ME?”

They take up combative training to prepare themselves for the next time they’re targeted by a crook, bully or insecure retard.

They start working out and develop a physical and mental game plan for the “next time” they find themselves on the receiving end of a predatory situation. 

More times than not, “the next time” never happens.  For whatever reason the incidents stop.

The Law Of The Jungle

That’s the “Law of the Jungle” at work.  It’s a evolutionary process used by predators to evaluate or select a potential victim.

In nature, predators don’t select prey who are strong, defiant and “superior.”  They seek out the lost, the weak, the sick and the meek. They look for someone who they feel superior to.

Human predators are no different, they too seek out (whether consciously or unconsciously) an “inferior” victim.  They don’t want their job to be any more difficult, embarrassing or dangerous than it has to be.

Toughen Up!

Taking up self-defense training won’t eliminate the possibility of a volatile encounter.  It will however dramatically reduce it.

It’s the human equivalent of installing bars and deadbolts on your house or a club on the steering wheel of your car. It won’t stop someone from getting in if they want to.  It will however, increase the potential that they will go somewhere else.  It’ll send a criminal searching for a softer and easier target.

When applied to property, this is called “target hardening.” 

I call the human equivalent “Toughening Up.” Part of the toughening up process is making yourself less attractive as a potential victim or adversary.

Ongoing self-defense training will not only provide you with physical skills, improved fitness and a sense of emotional resilience but will also change the way you look, move and the signals you project to the people around you.

The Passive Approach to Self-Defense Has It’s Limits

I’m not a fan of “passive self-defense advice” The “sit-on-your-ass-and-do-nothing-but-listen” approach to self-defense is not going to have a huge impact on your personal safety.

Nor is the “one-time-crash-course,” where you learn a handful of physical skills but don’t practice or even think about them after the class, course or seminar.

I firmly believe that the key, the secret, the holy grail of self-defense is the training process.

Don’t get me wrong, learning the theories and dynamics of volatile and violent behavior is beneficial.  The more you know about violent and volatile situations, the more capable you will be at recognizing and responding to them. 

However, it’s benefit to your personal safety will be dramatically magnified when that knowledge is combined with “combative workouts.”

Some self-defense instructors advise students to “act or pretend” to be strong, assertive and defiant.  Walk briskly, carry yourself with confidence and stand up straight.  If confronted, ALWAYS defy and challenge your assailant (and run the risk of pissing him off even more).  If only it were that simple. (cuz it isn’t)

This advice is as silly as telling someone to “act or pretend” that they can bench press 300 pounds or drop down and blast off 100 push ups… when the can’t.

I guess it goes back to the “Bluffing and Bullshit” post I wrote a while back… Faking will only take you so far.

The Grayson/Stein Study

In 1984 two researchers, Betty Grayson and Morris I. Stein, researched the criteria predators use when selecting victims. They videotaped several pedestrians on a busy New York City sidewalk without their knowledge.

They later showed the tape to convicts who were incarcerated for violent offenses (rape, murder, robbery, etc.) They instructed them to pick people on the tape who would make desirable victims. The results were interesting.

Within seven seconds, the participants made their selections. What baffled researchers was the consistency of the people selected. The criteria were not readily apparent. The selection did not appear to be specific to race, age, size or gender.

Even the convicts didn’t know exactly why they selected as they did. Some people just looked like “easy targets.” The predator/prey selection process seemed to happen unconsciously based on body language.

Video Analysis

Still at a loss of specific selection criteria, researches conducted a more thorough analysis of the movement and body language of the people on the videotape. Here is an overview of the results:

1. Stride:

People selected as victims had an exaggerated stride: either abnormally short or long. They dragged, shuffled or lifted their feet unnaturally as they walked. Non-victims, on the other hand, tended to have a smooth, natural gate. They stepped in a heel-to-toe fashion.

2. Rate:

Victims tend to walk at a different rate than non-victims. Usually, they walk slower than the flow of pedestrian traffic. Their movement lacks a sense of deliberateness or purpose. However, an unnaturally rapid pace can project nervousness or fear.

3. Fluidity:

Researchers noted awkwardness in a victim’s body movement. Jerkiness, raising and lowering one’s center of gravity or wavering from side to side as they moved became apparent in the victims analyzed. This was contrasted with smoother, more coordinated movement of the non-victims.

4. Wholeness:

Victims lacked “wholeness” in their body movement. They swung their arms as if they were detached and independent from the rest of their body. Non-victims moved their body from their “center” as a coordinated whole implying strength, balance and confidence.

5. Posture and Gaze:

A slumped posture is indicative of weakness or submissiveness. A downward gaze implies preoccupation and being unaware of one’s surroundings. Also, someone reluctant to establish eye contact can be perceived as submissive. These traits imply an ideal target for a predator.

So what’s my point?

Are you starting to get the point here?  Knowing what  you now know, is it any wonder why people who turn to regular self-defense training quickly become “non-victims?”

“Non-victim Signals” are the qualities of a trained and capable fighter.  They are the athletic qualities of movement that can only come from conditioning and coordinating your brain and your body through self-defense (or other forms of athletic) training.

So to make a long story short… the Predatory Selection Process is built around looking for weak, unconfident, unconditioned and uncoordinated people who won’t or can’t fight back.

THAT is why people who undertake combative training, self-defense and martial arts find that the victimization that they had formerly experienced stops.

Knowledge Is Still Important

That being said, I don’t believe the most legitimate solution to predatory or confrontational situations is fighting your way out of them.  The study of self-defense is about training you mind to detect, recognize and resolve volatiles situations long before they turn violent.

However, by acquiring the qualities of movement that can only be gained through ongoing training, you dramatically decrease the probability of being selected in the first place.

So what is the answer?  Learn as much as you can about how violent situations happen, how to recognize them, and what to do about them AND start training.  A combined approach of knowledge and action is the best way to… TOUGHEN UP!

If you need some help, advice and instructions… my Toughen Up Training Guides will get you started on the path of learning how to fight… so you won’t have to.

Take care, train smart and toughen up…


About Randy LaHaie

I’m the founder of “Protective Strategies,” a training and consulting company providing self-defense and combative fitness solutions to law enforcement, high-risk professionals and private citizens since 1994. I am a retired police officer, court-declared expert in use-of-force and critical incident performance, and a life-long student of self-defense and combative fitness. “My Thing” is to help people incorporate functional and minimalist workout strategies to improve their health, fitness and personal safety.

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