White Birch Martial Arts

(330) 329-5990

Larry Vincent's Classes Get You Lean, Strong, Fast, and Focused with "Old School" Training Methods Straight Out of Kung Fu/Tai Chi History!

Adult Self Defense - Mental Defense

(I gleamed a lot of the following information from a few web sites of which I lost the addresses. I appologize to the authors, but the information is too good to let slide and their words were perfect. There's plagerism here folks, I'm not proud of it, but it's important information. Some of the information was taken from www.kidpower.org and www.nononsenseselfdefense.com, both excellent resources for self-defense information. The statistics are taken from several US Department of Justice crime surveys.)

Most self-defense experts agree that 80% of self defense is mental. That means 80% of what you learn about crime and self defense should be directed towards avoiding the incidents that require a physical response from you. If you do that well, you will probably never need to use physical defense skills.

Crime Statistics

Here are some statistics to help tell you where the real danger lies, what crimes you're most likely to face, where they're committed, and by whom.

Crime Locations:

The first thing to recognize is that crime occurs close to home. Most crime against you is within 5 miles of your home. I personally would be interested in knowing if most people stay within 5 miles of their home at about the same percentage or not, though, in order to determine if this statistic is very eye-opening or not. It may also be this percentage because most violent crime is against youth who don't go very far from home.

Crimes by Victim's Age:

The differences in crime by the victim's age is stunning. Most crime occurs against those between 12 and 19 years of age. There is a nice drop off first at about 25 and then again at about 35. A 19 year-old is about THREE TIMES more likely to be a victim of a violent crime than a 35 year-old! As I'll show below, men are most victimized between ages 12 and 15. Women, however, are most victimized between ages 20 and 24.

According to the CDC, in the ranking of the top 10 Causes of Death in 2002, covering all races and both sexes, homicide was extremely high:
Age GroupHomicide Ranking
5-9#4 (39% by firearm)
10-14#5 (69% by firearm)
15-24#2 (82% by firearm)
25-34#3 (77% by firearm)
35-44#6 (63% by firearm)
45+Not within the top 10

According to the U.S. Department of Justice Crime Surveys:

Crimes Against Men:

Men are more prone to be a victim of a violent crime than women. They are most likely attacked by a stranger, in a public place, between noon and midnight, by a simple assault. Crossing the 25-year-old age mark and marriage greatly reduce the risk of violence.

Marriage is good for men. Single men are 4 times more likely to be a victim of a violent crime than a married man. Divorced/Separated men are 2 times more likely to be a victim than a married man.

Crimes Against Women:

Women are most likely attacked by someone they know, in a private home, between noon and midnight, and by a simple assault. 20-24 year-old women are the most at risk of victimization. Crossing the 25-year-old age mark and marriage reduce most crime danger against women. Crossing the 35-year-old age mark reduces it even further.

Single, Divorced, or Separated women are four times more likely to be victims of a violent crime as married women, eight times more likely to be a victim of rape/sexual assault.

Female victims ages 20-24 had the highest rate of violence in every category.

Who's Committing the Crimes?

In general, violent crimes are committed by people close to the age and race of the victim. Black offenders are more inclined to cross race lines than white offenders, especially with rape/sexual assaults. Violent crime is by far most often committed by a lone, male offender.




Number of Offenders:

Fight Back?

In most violent crimes in 2003, the victim fought back. Strangely enough, in most crimes they were more likely to fight back against a nonstranger than a stranger, except in the case of rape. Of all violent crime victims, rape victims were the most likely to fight back with nearly 88% doing so, 94% when a stranger attacked them. Robbery victims were the least likely to fight back at about 59%.

All Violent Crimes68.8%66.5%71.2%
Aggravated Assault70.8%66.9%75.5%
Simple Assault68.1%67.3%68.7%

In most cases when the victim fought back, they believed that it helped and that it mostly lessoned the damage they received. If nothing else, it overwhelmingly helped more than harmed the situation.

Aggravated Assault65.1%9.9%7.5%
Simple Assault62.8%9.7%10.2%

While the chances of receiving an injury is around 25-35%, the chance of receiving an injury that requires hospital care is much lower, at around 6-15%. Robbery had the highest chance for sustaining an injury. Ironically, injuries were higher when the attacker was known by the victim in both robberies and assaults.

Percent of Victimizations in which victims sustained physical injury



Percent of Victimizations that received hospital care

GenderViolent CrimeRobberyAssault

Five Stages of a Violent Crime

Let's now turn our attention to how a crime is committed to determine where it can be thwarted. All violent crime undergoes 5 stages. They are, in order:

During the first three stages you can prevent an attack without using physical defenses.

Stage 1: Intent

Intent is defined as "the state of one's mind at the time one carries out an action." This is where the person is mentally prepared to commit violence in order to get what he wants. Often a person who has decided to commit a physical assault is either looking for an excuse to attack or is trying to hide his intentions until he is in position. The individual comes to a situation with the agenda of using violence to achieve his ends.

Intent can be a preplanned decision or an emotional reaction to the circumstances.

Violence is both a psychological and physiological extreme. Before someone is ready to commit it, he has to have moved into this mental or emotional state. Violence doesn't "just happen out of nowhere." Even a habitually violent person will have to mentally prepare himself. It may happen very quickly, but it's not instantaneous. It is just a matter of recognizing the danger signals.

Learn to trust your feelings. Often it is your subconcious recognizing the physiological danger signals he displays. When your alarms go off, even if the situation looks normal, start looking for the next two stages to develop.

In general, you can judge a person's intent in two ways. The first is by their behavior.

A person's behavior can tell you what they're thinking, especially if it's bad behavior. You have to be aware in the case of good behavior because it can mask what they really feel (e.g., a boundary-lowering tactic).

The second way to determine intent is by examining how YOU FEEL at that moment. The big question is, do YOU feel scared or uneasy? We have an amazing ability to feel danger. Unfortunately, we most often attribute the feeling as something stupid and ignore it. We've *learned* to ignore our natural fear response. In many cases we ignore it because we don't want to insult someone or appear rude. I suggest if you feel nervous or fearful, take a "time-out" and investigate the cause of the fear a little to determine why. Maybe you can disappear into the bathroom to think for a moment, getting yourself out of the situation temporarily. By paying attention to it, you may determine that your safety is more important than being in the situation you're in. Now, you're in a position to do something about it.

For example, if you're approached by someone that makes you feel uneasy, walk away. If someone comes to your door unexpectedly and they make you nervous, close the door. If you're out on a date with someone and they're degrading the waitress, get away from them. If you're at a bar and patrons are getting rowdy, leave. Your safety is more important than not appearing rude.

Characteristics of an Abusive Relationship

Intent is probably the most difficult in relations with an intimate. We certainly want to give the other person a chance and truly want to believe they're good people. So we often overlook specific clues which indicate trouble. But if you look back at the statistics for women, a lot of violence perpetuated against them is by someone close to them -- a high percentage by "intimates" (as much as 20%!). It's not strangers, not even just people they knew, but these were people *very* close to them. Identifying a current or potentially abusive relationship is key to judging intent in these cases.

Abusive relationships are characterized by:

Characteristics of an Abuser

Studies have found the following to be associated with sexual assault perpetration:

Boundary-Lowering Tactics

In order to get you to trust them, criminals may resort to the following boundary-lowering tactics, tactics to get you to trust them and ignore your fear. Use of some of these tactics does not automatically mean that someone is a bad person with bad intentions. In fact, some of these tactics can be very helpful when people are building a relationship. If we never lowered our boundaries with other people, we would have a hard time making friends, doing business, or enjoying social events.

However, you can help yourself stay safe by noticing WHEN these tactics are being used and not letting them stop you from making your own choices. Is this person is trying to get you to do something that you also want? Or are you are being persuaded to lower your boundaries in ways that might not be in your best interests?

Forced teaming: Sometimes someone will say and do things to make you feel, "We're in the same boat," or, "We're on the same team." The purpose is to establish rapport and to put you at ease. Team spirit can be an excellent motivator. Sport teams, political parties, community service organizations, and neighborhoods all work best when people feel a sense of belonging with each other.

However, notice when someone with whom you have not chosen to be connected with talks as if you are together. Remember what your relationship with this person truly is and is not.

Charm and niceness: People sometimes project warmth, kindness, sympathy, and humor as a way to get others to open up to them. People like this can very enjoyable, but they also might be harmful.

When someone is very funny, kind and sweet, think to yourself, "This person is trying to charm me. Is being with this person what I want? Am I being charmed into accepting things that are not okay with me? Am I in a safe place if things go wrong?" Sadly, many women who were attacked say afterwards, "But he was so nice to me at first!"

Too many details: When people want to persuade you, they sometimes give a lot more information than necessary. This can be because they really care about what they are saying, but it can also be because they are trying to distract you or confuse you into believing their story.

It can be hard for honest people to remember that sometimes other people will make up convincing details to get you to trust them instead being truthful. Instead of getting too involved in what someone is saying, stay focused on your actual situation. Ask yourself questions like, "How well do I know this person? Is this person's behavior suddenly different in an uncomfortable way? Is he or she respecting my wishes?"

Typecasting: Understandably, most people don't like to be labeled as being uncaring, unkind, thoughtless, paranoid, unfair, misusing their power, or ignorant. Someone might deliberately use negative labels to get you to react in the opposite direction.

Watch out for comments like, "You don't care, do you?" Or, "You aren't one of those women who think all men are bad, are you?" Or, "You probably think you are too good for someone like me." Or, "Someone who comes from a family as well off as yours could not possibly understand what it's like to be poor." Or, "This an unfair restriction on my freedom." Or, "Telling me to stop is abusive."

Trying to prove someone wrong by changing your behavior is another way of letting someone's words have power over you. Instead, make a conscious choice about how you are going to act depending on what the specific behavior being labeled is and what is actually going on.

Loan sharking: A loan shark lends one amount and then collects much, much more than was loaned. People sometimes try to build relationships by giving gifts. People sometimes are kind and want to help. There is nothing wrong with this if what they want to do is something you want and if there is no pressure for you to give more than you wish in return.

If someone else approaches you and tries to do you a favor, you are not obligated to accept it nor are you obligated to give a favor back. Be aware that this could be a tactic to get close to you. When someone you don't know says, "Here, let me help you,' and tries to do something you did not ask for or don't really need, the safest response is to say firmly, "No thanks!"

The unsolicited promise: Promises are important. If you are the kind of person who keeps commitments yourself, you are likely to be reassured when someone makes a promise. However, before you trust your emotional or physical safety to someone's promise, make sure that this person has a track record of keeping promises. Criminals are expert liars.

Watch out for comments like, "I promise I will never let you down," "I promise I will never lie to you," "I promise I'll leave just as soon as we get there," "I haven't been drinking, I promise," or, "I'll drive carefully, I promise."

Stage 2: Interview

This is where the criminal decides it's safe to attack. With all violence, the assailant's safety is a critical factor in deciding whether or not to attack.

"Can I get away with it?" is a major motivation for what people decide to do -- or not do. Hence, the interview.

There are five basic types of interview:

Regular: This is the most common form of interview for muggers and stranger rapists. The criminal will approach you under the guise of normalcy, i.e., needing information or small item (e.g., matches). This is a distraction. While he is talking, his is not only getting into position to attack, but (a) checking your awareness about what he is doing and (b) your commitment to defending yourself.

Your answer should always be "no" and insist on him keeping his distance.

Hot: Hot interview are sudden and unexpected emotional blitzkriegs against you. You're minding your business one minute, and the next you have a threatening, obscenity-spouting, screaming person charging down on you. The success of this strategy relies on you not being accustomed to dealing with extreme emotional violence and reacting in a stunned and confused manner. You must be willing to immediately shift into an extreme of physical violence to fail such interviews. Paradoxically, if you can immediately display this commitment, the attack will often abort.

Escalating: Unlike a hot interview, which starts out immediately hostile, an escalating interview starts out normally but it rapidly turns hostile. The person or people test(s) your boundaries by escalating outrageous behavior. Every time he is not slapped down, his behavior becomes more and more extreme until finally he attacks. This is a very common interview for date rapists. It is also common when you walk into the middle of a group of loitering young thugs, what "supposedly" starts out with them "jes messin' witcha" escalates into a robbery or assault. Sometimes both.

Silent: A silent interview is when a criminal puts himself in a position to observe you. He may never speak until the attack, but he has been watching you all along. He may position himself out of sight in a parking structure and follow you. Or he may make his presence known and decide to attack if you show fear of his presence.

Prolonged: An interview can take anywhere from mere moments (hot) to weeks (prolonged). Prolonged interviews are often combined with other types. Being stalked is prolonged escalation. A serial rapist can silently watch a victim for days. With prolonged interviews, the intent is seldom obvious from the beginning.

Stage 3: Positioning

This is the criminal putting himself in a place where he can successfully attack you. A criminal (or even a violent person) doesn't want to fight you; he wants to overwhelm you. To do this, he has to put himself in a position where he can do it quickly and effectively. Positioning is the final proof. Someone trying to position himself to attack removes all doubt that the situation is innocent.

A key point of positioning is "fringe areas." You will seldom, if ever, be robbed or raped in the middle of a crowd. A fringe area is where you are close to people, but out of range of immediate help. You won't be mugged in the mall, but will be in the parking lot or bathrooms. ATMs, parking lots, stairwells, public bathrooms and sidewalks should be considered potential danger areas. Even a separate room in a crowded house can constitute a fringe area, as many women who were raped at parties can attest. Being alone with someone in a fringe area is a major part of the opportunity element of the triangle.

Closing: The most basic form of positioning is simply walking up to the victim. The closer a criminal gets, the greater his ability to overwhelm and control. Five feet is the closest you should allow someone you don't trust to approach in a fringe area whether you know him or not. If the person insists on coming closer after you have warned him away, he has clearly announced that his intentions are not good.

Cornering/trapping: This is the second most basic form of positioning and the most common. He approaches you from a direction that traps you between himself and a large object, like a car or wall. This also entails his putting himself between you and an exit.

Surprise: This is your classic jump-out-of-the-bushes type of position. The criminal puts himself in a place were you don't see him (or if you do, it is at the last minute). From this position, he can easily step out and attack. Once you know these locations, this kind of positioning is easy to foil

Pincer: Professional criminals often work in packs, so you will not face just one. The most common maneuver for two criminals is the pincer. One criminal circles around while the other distracts you. You should always be aware of individuals splitting up when they approach you. Another trap is when two characters face each other in a narrow walkway in such a way that you must pass between them. A third trick is to spread out along a way, when you pass one he starts following you, while the other waits down the way.

Surrounding: This is the most common ploy of a pack (three or more). Again, one will distract you while the others surround. They can swarm around you, but most often they will casually drift. A serious danger sign is when a group is spaced out along the wall in a walkway. When you are at midpoint, it is simple for the wings to fold in.

Stage 4: Attack

The attack is the criminal/violent person using force, or the threat of force, to get what he wants. The triangle is complete and the assault -- or the threat of assault -- occurs. The first three stages have been achieved, and there is no reason for the criminal *not* to use violence to get what he wants.

At this point, you will most likely need to use physical force to escape from the violence.

Many robberies and rapes are committed with the simple threat of or display of violence. A violent, emotional outburst, won't physically harm the victim, but clearly indicates that unless he/she cooperates with the tantrum thrower, the victim will be hurt. Or weapons can be displayed to convince you to cooperate. Other attacks are indeed outright physical assaults. Such attacks can come both with and without warning. In the most extreme it means the criminal simply walking up to someone, pointing a weapon and pulling the trigger.

Unfortunately, there is no way to determine which one you will encounter. And faster than a snake striking, an attack can turn from one type to another. What was a threat a second before, can explode into deadly violence.

Stage 5: Reaction

Reaction is how the criminal feels about what he has done. In the aftermath of robbing someone, the criminal decides, on a whim, to shoot the person -- despite the fact that the person has cooperated utterly and offered no resistance. This also can be where a robber suddenly decides to rape his victim. Of all the reactions, one of the most consistently dangerous occurs among rapists. If the rapist feels that the rape did not empower him as he thought it would, he often turns violent. Nearly 80 percent of women seriously harmed by rapists are hurt *after* the actual sexual assault.

In any circumstance, until the criminal is completely out of your sight, you are at risk of his reaction *even* if you have totally cooperated. The unpredictability of the criminal's reaction is another reason why it is far easier to avoid violence than it is to try to safely extract yourself from the middle of it.

Five Rules of Survival

Here are 5 rules of survival to think about NOW, before you get into trouble. If you get yourself into a situation where conflict is possible or in progress, these rules can help you save your life.

Rule 1: Trust Your Instincts

We've already talked about this. Trust your sense of fear. Use it to help identify potential problems and help you mitigate them. Use it as a sign that you need to think about your situation for a moment.

Rule 2: React Immediately

When you get into a violent confrontation, there is no better time to react than right now. In fact the longer the altercation lasts, the more likely you'll get more injured for two reasons. The first is because criminals want a quick resolution. They don't want to get caught and every second you fight them increases their chance of getting caught. Therefore, every second that goes by makes them more desperate and more violent. Secondly, if time is in their favor, every second that passes gives them more time to secure their position to cause more harm. A criminal with time and isolation is very dangerous.

So, if you are in a violent confrontation, don't wait for the "right moment." Act now. If that means you have to attack, do it. If that means you run, do it. There are all sorts of stories about how much trouble people got in simply because they waited for a better opportunity which never came.

Rule 3: Never Go to a Second Location

When a crime is commited, in general it's not the best location for the criminal. He chose it out of necessity, not out of desire. He may have caught you in a bad-enough location, but there is always a safer place for him to commit his crime. This might be another room, an alley, behind bushes, where ever. The second location is NEVER better for you than the first. It's only better for him. Whatever it takes, NEVER go to a second location.

Rule 4: Expect Injury

When you get into a violent confrontation, you ARE going to get hurt. Of course, you don't seek it out and you try to minimize it, but it WILL happen. If you fear injury or never expect it, you will hesitate in your self defense, or perhaps put yourself in a worse position on his promise not to hurt you. If you expect injury, you will defend yourself without an injury slowing you down.

One quick comment -- never believe a criminal. They are expert liars. If he says "do this and I won't hurt you", don't believe him for a second! He is only trying to play on your fear of injury. You will almost always be hurt later on, no matter how much you cooperate. What are you going to do then, accuse him of lying?

Rule 5: Never Give Up

Once you enter into a violent confrontation, there will be times when you don't think you'll make it. There'll be times when you want someone to help you and they just don't come. No matter what, you have a much better chance of succeeding the encounter if you tell yourself that YOU WILL NOT GIVE UP. Whatever the attacker is threatening to do is going to be the hardest thing he's ever done because you will not help him. You will not submit.

The ONLY caveat to this is... you WILL NOT attempt to physically defend your possessions. For one you do not have the legal justification to use force to protect "things." They are replaceable... your life is not. Give the mugger your wallet and run away. Don't think, don't wait, just do it. Don't fight him for $20. I know it's not fair, but that's what the police are for.


I showed you the statistics around violent crimes to teach you what you are most likely to be a victim of, who will most likely commit it, where, and when. A lot of misinformation has made it's way into the public's mind, things like stranger rapists jumping out of bushes and attacking. The truth may be more frightening, but the knowledge will help you face it head on.

Understanding the steps that can lead to a violent attack and understanding the steps you can take to mitigate the chances of attack is THE most important facet of self defense. Defeating an attacker's opportunity will help you stay safe without resorting to physical defenses.

Copyright 2006, Tien Shan Martial Arts