By Mike Suyematsu
Hello hybrid fitness folks. My name is Mike Suyematsu, from now on I’ll just be Coach Mike. I’m not going to bore you with my bio. You can read that on the website if you feel like it.
Thank you for giving me the chance to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned in over 45 years of training and applying self protection principles.
Like many people who practice and study self-defense I was bullied as a child. It was very important to me to learn not how to fight but how to survive as I was having problems with bullies on almost a daily basis as a young boy. I looked at martial arts as a way to learn to fight better, something to give me an edge in the ongoing war against the constant stream of idiots who tried to make my life hell.
Rather than regale you with dry lectures I will tell you stories from my past and events that actually happened to me. At the end I will include lessons on either how I screwed up or how I succeeded or what I learned from what happened to me in the hope that you’ll benefit from my experience.
I will also include stories and lessons from trusted friends I have met through the years. These are all guys who have, ” been there and done that ” and we should all pay careful attention to what they have to say.
Let’s begin with some simple stories about awareness…
I was around 9 years old walking to the store to buy some candy. It was during the summer and I was alone probably in the later part of the morning say around 11:00 AM. Because it was a nice day and I was thinking more about how to spend my money than what was going on around me, I didn’t here the approaching steps from behind. In fact, the only time I realized there was something wrong was when I was shoved to the sidewalk, face first. I managed to get my hands down in time to keep my head from crashing into the sidewalk but they were scraped and bleeding when I finally came to a stop.
I turned to my back but before I could react I was grabbed by the legs and arms and lifted into the air. I was able to wriggle one leg free but it was too late as I was thrown into a sewer ditch that was being excavated for a new building about a block away from the store I was headed to.
My bad luck continued when my my head hit a pipe at the bottom of the ditch. I was not knocked out however, and was able see who had assaulted me.
Gary and Ron were fifth graders in the elementary school I attended. I was in the third grade, but these guys were famous for being bullies at our school and they did not mind picking on smaller, younger kids.
I sustained some minor scrapes and bruises and the right side of my head was cut open and bled like crazy as I walked back home, tears of anger and pain streaming out of my eyes and worst of all, no candy to show for all the hassle I had just been through.
As it turns out I was targeted by the bullies because they had heard that my Japanese father, (my mother was Irish which confused all the rednecks in the little town I grew up in) was teaching me Judo. I already had some what of a reputation at my school and fought a lot, primarily with kids my age, who just didn’t appreciate the whole mixed race thing.
Gary and Ron wanted to make sure this Judo crap wouldn’t interfere with their bullying activities and my lack of resistance proved to them that they had nothing to fear from what they thought I was learning.
As it turns out, my dad did some boxing but never studied Judo or Karate. My fighting success had come mostly from trial and error with the exception of my patented punch to the stomach which carried me through all my fights in elementary school except for one, but that’s another story.
Now, it took me several months to get partial revenge on these idiots. Ron actually got into so much trouble with the law he ended up going to what we called ” reform school ” at the time.
That left Gary alone.
I waited until winter time before I could catch Gary just like he caught me. I followed him home one snowy day. The wind was blowing hard so we all had our hoods on and it was freezing so the goal was to get home as fast as possible.
Gary never saw or heard me as I ran up on him when he started up the front steps to his house. I shoved him from behind, just like he and Ron had done to me. The steps were icy and Gary’s feet just flew out from under him and he came down on the steps hard, hurting his knee.
He just laid there crying, holding his knee and I got scared and ran home.
I never had any trouble with Gary again. I don’t know if Ron is even still alive, but I still owe him one…
Now what does that little story tell us about self protection/ self defense?
It is really not possible for me to overemphasize how important awareness really is.
When I was attacked I had no chance to react to anything Ron and Gary did. It would not have mattered if I really had known Judo or anything else. Without awareness I was just a target and an easy victim.
Look at what happened to Gary. Because he was cold and wanted to get home, he ignored the fact I was following him if he even noticed. Again, he lacked awareness. Even though I was smaller and weaker, it was easy to to get Gary because he just didn’t see it coming.
Some of you may find it odd that I am starting my posts on self protection with the experiences of a 9 year old Coach Mike. The point is that the principles of self protection / self defense are universal. They apply equally to children and adults. They apply to men and women. They transcend time.
You see you can train your take downs, your right cross, your kicks and fancy moves. You can go to the range and learn to shoot your gun. You can carry a gun and three knives.
Without awareness all your preparation is worthless.
GETTING THE BIG PICTURE
Even though they were just kids, Gary and Ron displayed perfect Predatory Behavior.
How much difference is there between me being taken unaware and thrown in a hole and a rich businessman in a foreign country being taken by surprise and thrown in a panel van?
Or how about the coed jogging with the iPod with the music blaring who gets doesn’t see the two guys coming up behind her so they can throw her in the bushes?
Let’s look at some of the elements common in ambush style attacks. First has to be motivation. When I was attacked it was a combination of bullying and curiosity. For kidnappers it’s probably money. A rapist is motivated by his own sick desires. When I attacked Gary it was purely revenge.
You have to pay attention to what is going on in your life. If you have been targeted like I was you have to stay alert because sometimes the haters in the world act out, sometimes with violence. Don’t think it can’t ever happen to you.
If you are known to carry large sums of cash or wear expensive jewelry you need to stay aware. Bad guys generally hate work and need money.
Females of all ages have to be made aware that they attract attention. Sometimes it is the wrong kind of attention. Sometimes it’s a stalker. Keep in mind that even though you may feel that you have the right to jog wherever you want, dress however you want, leave your drink out if you want, you may be exposing yourself to danger by making yourself a target.
The point is that for self defense / personal protection you must deal with the reality of what is, not the idea of what should be. Deny reality and you just might pay the price. Being apathetic will also help to diminish or cancel awareness altogether.
THE OODA LOOP
The OODA LOOP was created by Colonel John Boyd who was a fighter pilot and an expert on military strategy. OODA is an acronym standing for Observe-Orient-Decide-Act. Simply stated, you Observe a situation, then Orient or begin to analyze which leads you to Decide what to do, and then Act.
This is a gross simplification of a brilliant process that I will write more about another time. For our purposes today you can see that if you don’t Observe the problem or situation you have no chance to Act.
This is the reason why Awareness trumps all other self protection skills. You simply can not take action of any kind if you don’t see it coming. Of course just being aware of the problem is just the first step in the process. But it is the most critical.
Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of Awareness as I am breaking it down here is “sellf awareness”. Being aware of what is going on inside you is just as important as what is going on in the outside you. You need to Listen to your internal warning system, your instincts.
Gavin DeBecker’s excellent book entitled “The Gift of Fear” offers the best information out there with regards to listening to your inner voice and trusting your instincts. Mr DeBecker goes in to great detail about how fear signals are there to alert and protect us. It is a must read for anyone interested in self defense and personal protection. It may be out of print currently, but I know it is available on Amazon in the Kindle Books section. I lost my old print copy and got the digital version a few months ago. Please do yourself and your loved ones a favor and give it a read.
Next try this mental exercise I learned from Tony Blauer years ago in his Personal Defense Readiness program. There are three phases. They are:
1. Evaluate your routine. Here you are going to start thinking like a bad guy who is attempting to rob, rape or murder you. You need to examine your routine to find the obvious places where you might be vulnerable to an attack. Your lifestyle will determine where and how often you will be a potential target. Flip the scenario and figure out when and where you would attack you. Then take steps to change your routine to make it harder for the bad guy to get to you.
2. Evaluate your mind. If you have already read “Gift of Fear” you will have a head start on this phase. Here is where you carefully examine your ability to deal with confrontations. Are you overly aggressive or extremely passive? If you are short tempered and blow up easily it may cause problems. On the other hand if you appear weak and project a lack of confidence you will actually attract trouble.
I will address the issue of body language and not looking like an easy target in great detail in another article. I will also break down the mind/ body connection and offer suggestions on how to build authentic confidence through proper training. For now just take a good look at yourself and how you deal with confrontation.
3. Finally, evaluate your arsenal. In this phase you will need to look at what you bring to the table physically, emotionally and mentally in a real street confrontation. If you have correctly done your homework in the Evaluate your routine phase, then it will simplify the process of figuring out what skills you have and what you need to survive. You can prioritize your personal protection training by analyzing the threats you will most likely come into contact with.
What is going on in your current environment? Armed robbery? Home invasion? Car jacking? Maybe it is simple purse snatching. In my area, there has been a rash of robberies by predators looking for gold chains. Just a short time ago a 60 year old man was murdered in broad daylight as he did his morning walk, just for the gold chain he wore around his neck. If he had been aware of the crime spree and left his chain at home he might still be alive today.
Your training must include a plan for dealing with single unarmed attacks, single armed attacks, multiple attackers armed and unarmed and all the different environments you may come into contact with. Again, I will break environmental training and scenario and replication training in future articles. For now start your evaluation process and begin to activate your awareness skills.
As you can see, the concept of awareness is multi layered and multi faceted. I have attempted to give a quick overview of what the general concept of awareness entails.
It will cost you nothing but time and analysis to get started on a safer path through life. Awareness, both internal and external is without a doubt your first and most important line of self defense.
Get started today and stay safe,
TAKU’s NOTE: Thanks to my good friend Mike S. for sharing more of his experience with us here. Looking forward to more in the future.
Filed under: Coach's Corner, Personal Protection | Tagged: Awareness, conditioning, FEAR, OODA loop, Practice, Preparedness, Self Defense, Training | 2 Comments »