One thing about long delays at airports, after you have exhausted all other flight options by trudging around desk after desk and returned to finally check in, is it gives you time to think. Lots of time, seven hours of time that otherwise you would have flitted away enjoying yourself, hedonistic fools that we are. One of the things I thought about for definite was never, ever to fly Monarch again. OK delays happen, I can live with that but I do not like being lied to, being told we were texted early this morning when we were not. We live one hour drive and could happily accept the delay, spent a pleasant afternoon in the garden and driven in relaxed, well fed and relatively content. However, this is not the first long delay with Monarch, do not fly with them, and not the first set of lies either.

Anyway it got me thinking about the other day when I was walking into the city centre, I was on route to meet the wife after work for a trip to Leeds to visit her eldest son, wife and the boy. The sun was shining so I decided to walk down through the parks to Hunters Bar, named after a toll bar that was here many years ago, then down Eccleshall  Road, my old stomping ground, and into town via The Moor, which was once, you guessed. It was nearing the less than salubrious bottom of Eccleshall Road, that my thoughts turned to work. A couple of days earlier I was sitting drinking coffee in the waiting area outside the studios of BBC Radio Sheffield waiting to go on air to plug the upcoming seminars with Michelle Fightingback and Marc ‘Animal’ MacYoung when Marina Lewycka , Author of ‘A Short History of Tractors in the Ukraine’ and ‘Two Caravans, both excellent reds by the way, popped in to do a pre-record for use later in the day.

Marina clocked me as the self defence guy who was being trailed as we had both driven in. It was nice to meet her as I really liked her books, they are very funny, we had a brief chat and she mentioned the underpass at the bottom of Eccleshall Road as a site of numerous muggings of students, she works at Sheffield Hallam University I think. Predator Paradise. Unfortunately the pond life that lives in spitting distance of this underpass can work there then escape back to their flats in less than a minute. A lot of my mates at school were from there but it is much worse now, a drug dealing area before, now gangs war over the territory and it is a social dumping ground.

Anyway there I am around 4.15pm on a bright sunny day noticing how the footpath Changes as I approach this area , outside several houses seemingly abandoned wheelie bins lay on their sides, four outside one house alone, these old houses have large drives and front gardens too, outside one house there is part of a boundary wall partially obstructing the footpath. As I look up there are three people approaching in the opposite direction, no worries but do I opt to stay walking closer to the wall or move to the roadside, first clock at them no threat reading, stay as is. Ten yards to passing the one on the outside, roadside takes a diagonal line towards me with a possibly drink influenced “nah then”, he is the stocky shaven headed one, some muscle evident, the other two one woman and an odd looking guy, both a bit scruffy, both not quite right but still no threat. Hand extended I get closed down and its all “ows it goin mate”, I shake right handed, cannot place him, his mates circle to his left, my right and rear, as I accepted the shake I left hand slap gently but fmly to his right shoulder and that together with a slight pull on the shake turns him past me and places him between me and his mates.

Brief exchange and I act embarrassed I cannot remember his name and he tells me, this gives me a metres backstep as I look him up and down, I know of him and it seems like he genuinely mistook me for somebody else. He ran a pub with his brother and my stepson worked there. Anyway I thought it was interesting, as I continued through the lovely mugger friendly underpass I reflected that I had just put into practise a new technique, one born in the field so to speak.  Now on reflection it was a bit of a non event, or was it, there was the appearance of, I am not sure what, alcohol, drug use? It is hard to tell but I actually enjoyed it as I reflected on how it went, nothing happened, something may have been going to happen, it may not, I will never know but that is what avoidance is, a non event.

If we get clear signals and we act appropriately and avoid we can measure our effectiveness, when it is subtle signs, even possible misdirection, then we do not know what if anything we have avoided.

The week before I was watching some Systema close protection drills, and maybe that is where the subliminal training had kicked in, who knows. Point is ho w often do you/we train for this softer approach. There were a few of these scenarios built into the Gauntlet exercise on Krav Island, I do this with my students when I talk to them about subtle approaches, got a light mate, do you know where, type aproaches, I teach them about proper rudeness. It is just a concept I have made up, The original term was proper selfishness coined by Charles Handy where he talks about that time when we must take time for ourselves ahead of giving time to others. Proper rudeness is when you have a suspicion something is not right and it is a bit rude but you refuse the approach, decline to help, do not get sucked in. This is hard if somebody is generally lost, there is a difference if it is a little old lady or a strapping shaven headed bruiser, neither may be a threat but we will draw deeply on all those stereotypes that exist in our head.

Do not say you do not do this because we all do, consciously or subconsciously all that information is in our head and it influences how we perceive reality. We perceive then act  react using the OODA Loop, observe, orientate, decide and act. Training speeds up the OODA Loop, read Siddle’s ‘Sharpening the Warriors Edge: the Science and Psychology of Training’ for the detail. We do this with the supercomputer in our heads, survivors do it, victims did not do it, that is why they are victims. Most of us train for a wide variety of reasons, one of them is to avoid being that victim.

I am going to evaluate my softer approaches, the ones used before a strike is chosen as the right response to a threat, where we are unsure whether we are being set up or not, yes I will continue to train to take out a threat as quickly and efficiently as possible but I am going to revisit some of the body language issues and subtle positioning skills and some multi person drills, ones where uncertainty over what the low level threat will or will not do, train them in low light, in the car park, in the street, in an alley, wherever the bad guys go to work, I think that will be time well spent, what do you think? More importantly what are you going to do?