[You’ll have to excuse today’s profanity-laced missive. I will tell the story — which occurred last Friday night — as it happened, in all its intensity.]
We watched as the man stood at the end of the road, in a victory stance, announcing his next conquest.
“You hear me!? I want to fight!”
His t-shirt was missing, revealing tattoos on every inch of his skin up to his neck as he growled through the shadows.
He stomped toward us, fists clenched.
I was sitting down on the stoop. He walked up and stuck his face in mine and shouted more profanity-laced threats.
Two minutes later, he was on the ground, weeping like a lost child in Wal-Mart.
I’ll tell you what happened — and how I made him cry in a bush — in a moment.
Last Friday night, I learned the second lesson of 99 Things Every Millennial Man Should Know (a book I’m putting together in 90 days using James Altucher’s The Choose Yourself Guide to Self-Publishing)…
99 Things is a compendium of powerhouses (heavyweight boxer Ed Latimore, “Gentleman Mystic” Billy Red Horse, kung fu master and mentalist Jonathan Pritchard, and much more) imparting their wisdom.
Hours before I was to leave for C.J. Midlam’s house (self-published author of The Windows Around, we spoke of last week), I received the second chapter to 99 Things, written by Kung-Fu master Jonathan Pritchard (see below).
It was about self-defense through de-escalation of violence.
I read it, appreciated its approach, then left for the long drive to Dayton to hang out with C.J. at Germanfest.
Little did I know, the very tactics described in Pritchard’s piece would potentially save my life.
C.J. and I started at a bar, Dayton Beer Co., and downed a couple beers.
Soon, we found ourselves downtown, gulping down Jager Bombs (hey, as they say, when in Rome). Then another bar, called “Therapy,” a truly God-forsaken place, in which we had a gin and tonic and I silently vowed never to return. And then, we headed to C.J.’s home.
It was a nice night, we agreed. We relaxed outside on the stoop, under a soon-to-be midnight moon.
As we talked, a man rounded a dark corner down the street, heaving like a wild banshee.
His body flailed as he stormed through, kicking up dust and debris like a bull in heat. His shirt was missing. His pants, drooping. Tattooed from neck to toe.
He was the “bad guy in the dark alley” your mother warned you about.
He raised his arms up like he’d just finished a marathon, stopped, and yelled, “I want to FIGHT somebody! F*CK!”
We took a look around and a realization crept up our spines from our inner-bellies.
It was just us on this lonesome street.
So, naturally, he headed in our direction.
“Well, this should be interesting,” C.J. said.
“Yep,” I said.
“What’s up, bitch?” the breathy man said, one hand on his belt.
I was still sitting on the stoop. An easy target, a sitting duck.
He ran up, stuck his face in mine, and said “What’s up? What you want? Huh!?”
Pritchard’s piece popped in my mind. Time to put it into action.
It must’ve been the Jagermeister in my veins, but I was irrationally placid. Cool as a cucumber.
I said, “Hey, it’s OK.”
He stuck his face closer.
His breath was hot. It stunk of an ancient rage.
My ego almost grabbed me…
There was a loud moment inside my head where I screamed the obvious: “Get out of my face.”
But I didn’t say it. Instead, I tried something else, “Look, you’re a good person,” I said.
Like that weird alien in that Steven Spielberg movie, I reached up and touched his heart with my index finger.
“Here,” I said. “Right here.”
And, you know what, I meant it. I felt it.
It was genuine. I was in the moment. I was with this man, not against him. Not judging him. I felt what’s best described, although the term is lacking, as compassion.
And, some. blessing. how. it worked.
First, he whimpered.
Then, he staggered back and crumpled like a cheap suit.
He fell into a bush and began to weep. I tried to help him up, but his bones had melted into his skin. He slumped to the ground like a bowl of Jello.
This grown man, tattooed from head to toe, possibly gunning for a night gig at MS-13, transformed into a toddler. He didn’t want to fight. He just wanted someone to love him. Be his friend. Tell him everything would be OK. Touch his heart. Teach him how to walk.
“I have no friends!” he shouted. “I want friends,” he cried.
A dark figure emerged from whence he came. A female figure. It approached as C.J. and I hoisted the man on our shoulders.
It was his mother.
“Come on! The cops are looking for you,” she said. “Thank you boys so much. Thank you. Thank you.”
“I love you mom,” he said.
“Try to walk, honey,” she said.
We tried to walk with him for a bit, but it proved more difficult than anticipated.
He goose-stepped all over the street. He would extend his left leg in front of me, on his right, and would do the same with his right to C.J. on the left.
We finally carried him, leaving his legs to drag behind.
His pants began to loosen, and then dropped right down to his ankles. Cojones exposed, flapping in the breeze.
His mistake that morning to meet the day au naturale was the first of many, it appeared.
“Uh,” C.J. said, “Hey, Mom. This is a job for Mom.”
“Oh, no,” she said, looking back.
We rounded the corner, that blasted corner that started this whole thing, and dropped him in the backseat of his mom’s Buick.
We did our good deed for the night, and might have avoided being stabbed.
So, yes, please pay heed.
And recognize nothing, not even violence, is inevitable.
[Ed. note: As mentioned, I’m well on my way to finishing TWO books in 90 days — all thanks to James Altucher’s The Choose Yourself Guide to Self-Publishing. 100 more readers will join us in the Self-Publishing Mastermind group today. Click here for all the details.]
When Violence Isn’t Inevitable
By Jonathan Pritchard
You can spend years practicing a martial art and still not be prepared to defend yourself in a dangerous situation with an attacker.
Does that mean you should just resign yourself to letting it happen? Absolutely not.
Self defense is much more than punching and kicking (which are flashy and fun to do), but some of the most important parts of keeping yourself safe get the least attention.
EVERYTHING LEADING UP TO IT AND AFTER
As the saying goes, “It takes two to tango.” You play a role in every single dynamic you experience. You may not realize it, but you’re actively involved every single time.
Otherwise, it wouldn’t be happening to you!
But, if you look at the math, most people don’t experience personal violence. And that’s a good thing. If you don’t live a lifestyle that tends to attract violent individuals, your likelihood goes down.
Infrequent doesn’t mean never, though.
Many people are convinced that they’re never going to be attacked, and if/when it happens to them their whole world collapses.
Recognizing that violence has been, is, and will always be a part of human life, you begin to become more resilient. A big component of who and who is not affected by PTSD has to do with whether or not the event is explainable. If it’s completely outside their realm of what they ever imagined possible, their mind will fixate on the experience and replay it over and over in a bid to gain an understanding of what it all means.
Acceptance of the possibility of encountering a violent person is the first step towards keeping yourself safe by doing everything possible to avoid the situation in the first place.
Once you’re aware of potential, you can begin preparing.
This is Not Fighting
Note: This is not fighting. Self defense is a legally defined term dealing with the boundaries of acceptable behavior given the context. You must always stay within reasonable uses of force. You can’t hide behind “I was defending myself!” and snap some guy’s neck for yelling at you for taking his parking spot.
So think about the moments before and after a violent encounter. You have to keep yourself safe there, too. If you ignore the warning signs, you’re walking into trouble. If you overreact in the moment, you’re going to suffer the legal consequences. Definitely not a safe path either way you think about it.
How do you avoid going too far? Recognize the boundaries. Before you pop off, you absolutely must be in real physical danger. Not the threat of it. Not being uncomfortable. Not feeling threatened. Not feeling like your masculinity is in question, or you’re being insulted in front of your friends. That’s your ego getting damaged; not your face.
You actually have to be under direct physical assault.
You also have to make damn well sure that you’re not stoking the fire, so to speak. If you let your ego get the better of you, you’re going to wind up saying something that will only provoke your soon-to-be cellmate into going from using words to taking action.
And once it starts, it’s tough to stop. With adrenaline pumping and rage blinding your more logical self, you can easily go too far. At that point you’re no longer defending yourself, but attacking the other person and that’s a ‘go straight to jail’ card, my friend.
This is why your pride, ego, and emotions like anger, fear, and anxiety are the most dangerous part of the whole mix.
And you can control all of it.
That’s why learning this stuff is absolutely essential; you must learn how to control yourself so you’re not caught by these easy-to-avoid situations that could potentially wreck your entire life, permanently.
It’s also why learning how to identify the potential for a bad situation as early as possible will give you more time to protect yourself by finding a way out of the situation without making it worse.
RECOGNITION IS HALF THE BATTLE
You might be familiar with the cartoon examples of aggressive behavior shown in tv shows, books, and fantasy, but in real life it can often take you by surprise.
The natural response, which is to respond in an equally aggressive manner, is exactly the wrong approach if your goal is to diffuse the situation. If you react aggressively, it only proves to them that they were right to behave the way they are.
This is why it’s so important to recognize situations that could possibly erupt into violence before it happens. We’re going to take a look at the signs that someone might become aggressive, and what to do when you see it happening.
WHAT IS AGGRESSION?
It’s behavior that manifests as hostility or violence when someone is preparing for a confrontation or attack.
Unless someone is particularly familiar and experienced with violence, it triggers massive physiological responses.
Think about being in junior high and having to speak in front of the whole school.
You’d start sweating
You might subconsciously lock your jaw out of anxiety
Your hands start shaking
Your chest would be tight
You might clench and unclench your hands
Your breathing would get shallow and get faster
You might forget to blink as you fixate on a single point
You’d fidget back stage
Your face would get flushed
All of that happens when someone is psyching themselves up for violence, with the addition that some people’s face goes completely pale right before an attack. It’s the blood draining from extremities to minimize blood loss from cuts.
So, if you notice any of these changes in the other person’s body they’re becoming aggressive. And the more indicators there are, the more likely they are to manifest the aggression (instead of just experiencing it).
MANIFESTATIONS OF AGGRESSION
Aggression changes behavior to become:
- Louder. They might start yelling & shouting.
- Pokey. As aggression is often a response to a perceived threat, they are likely to threaten right back with an accusatory finger poking your chest, or directed at your face.
- Filthy. Swearing increases as that language pathway in the brain is closely tied to threat identification. Chimps have unique calls similar to “holy shit! Come look at this!” when they identify threats that are along the same lines as the tourettes pathway in human brains. That’s why verbal tourette tics are almost always curses.
- More sensitive. An aggressive person becomes hyper aware of potential threats and responds in kind. It’s like turning a microphone’s gain all the way up, there’s going to be a lot of feedback and it eventually breaks the system.
- Closer. They’ll invade your space in a dominance display. It’s a threatening behavior evolutionarily designed to test your resolve and willingness to fight. This includes stepping closer as well as leaning in if taller.
- Distracted. When they’re getting ready to fight, a threat could come from anywhere, so attention has to be paid EVERYWHERE. This limits their ability to focus and maintain sustained attention on any one thing.
- Destructive. Thrashing the environment is an effective way to show willingness to fight. The objects don’t hit back so it’s not as dangerous as directly engaging a combatant, but it shows they’re willing and able to lash out. It’s only a matter of moments before it’s directed at you.
Think of these as a combination of overt & covert responses. Throwing & kicking things is an overt display of aggression, whereas looking for insult can be more covert; it’s not as obvious.
TIPPING THE SCALES
What causes someone to finally lash out? What influences the likelihood that they will become violent?
We could spend hours (or centuries for that matter) debating the nature vs nurture argument, so let’s just say it’s a mix of both.
It all depends on how aggressive they are by nature, how well using aggression as a tool to get what they want has worked for them in the past, how effective they think it’ll be now, how tired they are, whether they feel threatened in the first place, or maybe they just feel powerless otherwise and displaying potential for violence is their only option.
You might even be making the situation worse. Have you ever told someone who is upset to calm down?
Never in the history of ever has that ever worked.
Make sure you aren’t belittling them, humiliating them, using the wrong name (intentionally or otherwise), using complex lingo that they’re unfamiliar with, telling them their experience is not right (you’re wrong for feeling upset), making assumptions about them, trying to downplay their situation, etc.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start. And, we don’t really care why they’re behaving this way as long as you understand how you might be contributing to it. Mainly, we just want to know what to do about it.
DIFFUSE THE BOMB
You’ve recognized the signs that a person is becoming more aggressive, and is likely to become outright violent. What do you do?
One of the simplest things is to give them the space & time to say their piece. Listen to understand, and hear them out. Try to approach the dynamic with a friendly approach, but make sure you don’t go too far into SmarmyLand which might make them think you’re patronizing them.
Don’t meet their aggression head-on. This ‘fight fire with fire’ approach will only blow up in your face. Don’t take their anger personally; even if it’s directly aimed at you, and you deserve it. Getting defensive can trigger the offensive tact. Stay calm, keep your breathing deep & steady.
Try to diffuse, reduce, and address the potential situation as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the less time you have to reach a non-violent conclusion. Make sure your own body language remains open and non-confrontational. (This doesn’t mean make yourself vulnerable. There are basic open stances that don’t appear as fight-natured, so they’re deceptively safe.)
Let the other person know they matter. Maintain eye contact, but try not to stare (Gorillas take too much direct eye contact as a challenge. So will agitated humans.). Move slowly, but deliberately. No sudden quick movements.
Try not to flex (physically, emotionally, or authoritatively): “You absolutely have to cut this out.”
Instead of encouraging them to vent their emotions verbally (which may stoke their emotions), see if they could write a letter (if they’re upset a person or situation where that might make sense). The writing process will engage their analytical faculties and minimize their temper.
Dealing with a potentially violent encounter with an aggressive person can be an incredibly stressful event. Don’t sell yourself short. It can take a massive toll on you. Accept that you could still be affected by the experience, and give yourself the space to process it out.
But the best way to deal with it is to deal with it before it happens. Learn to identify the obvious, and non-obvious signs that aggression is likely, and minimize the risk for yourself and others.
About the Author
Jonathan Pritchard is a master of the body & mind. He’s a Wing Chun Kung Fu instructor and founder of www.WingChun.Life, and he is also a professional mentalist who has entertained the troops overseas, appeared on Vegas main stages, and worked with Fortune 500 companies to entertain VIP guests. He’s the author of “[think] Like A Mind Reader” which explores the role of applied psychology in relationships, business, and life. Available at https://amzn.to/2Mjsdlu Find him on Twitter at @WingChun_Life and @the_pritchard