Pick Pockets

(Gershon Ben Keren - Mon 28th Oct)

Different criminals choose diferent crimes for a variety of reasons. A mugger, commits street robberies because they offer a quick source of cash, the burglar breaks in to houses because their need for cash isn't so immediate and they consider the risk of confronting someone to great. The pickpocket or sneak thief picks pockets because they need quick cash but wish to avoid having to confront their target/victim. In most cases of crime there is an element of power and control e.g. the burglar, the mugger get a rush from either breaking into a place and having control over a location they shouldn't be in, or from having someone acquiesce to their demands. The pickpocket might derive some satisfaction from accomplishing their crime,and demonstrating their skills of stealth and slight of hand etc. but because there is so little interaction, or time spent commiting the crime their need to take away a sense of power from the crime is a lot less. This is important to know if you expose a pickpocket during the act- they are not likely to be inclined towards violence in the same way as a mugger or burglar would be (this is of course a generalization and there are muggers who spend the majority of the time commiting robberies who would not pass up the opportunity to pick someone's pocket should it arise).

Criminals may also opt for pick pocketing because of a language barrier. Someone who has just arrived in a country and is in need of cash but doesn't speak the language may opt for picking pockets because it's a crime that doesn't rely on any verbal exchange. Although commiting a burglary itself wouldn't involve any interaction, selling the goods on to a fence would and if the person isn't tapped into a criminal network they may not have this opportunity.

Pickpockets like all criminals follow a four step (sometimes five step) process, that makes their crime somewhat predictable. Firstly they select their criminal activity and a location/environment to commit their crime. Pickpockets will work in crowded areas, sometimes as a team, where there is a large selection of potential targets; they will also want to work in crowed areas where people and objects can obscure what they are doing - pick pocketing is one of those crimes that passers by have less qualms or fears about calling out a person if they see them committing such a crime - they know that such individuals commit these crimes because they are scared of confrontation. Escalators are a good place, as they give the criminal legitimacy to be close to a person, and their target is static.

When selecting a victim/target (the second step) a pick pocket will be looking for someone who is unaware and possibly engagedin other activity (such as talking on a phone, window shopping etc.), they will also prefer a static target to a moving one.The idea that a pick pocket will be able to take the watch of your wrist without you realizing it is far fetched. Most pickpockets will require whatever goods they want to take of you such as your wallet, to be easily accessible - and the further away from your actual person the better. If you carry a backpack with external pockets, these may well be checked for goods as it is unlikely you will feel the person unzipping the pocket; unless that is you sway slightly as you walk. If you do this then if someone has hold of the bag,you will feel the resistance as you move. Simple steps such as not having the bag fully on your back but slung over a shoulder is a much better way to carry it - it also allows you to release it quickly if the crime is a violent bag snatch etc.

Oftentimes people don't realize when they have a wallet or cash taken from them. A person may assume they have had their pocket picked whilst being part of a crowd, when really their possessions were taken when they left their bag unattended whilst going to the bathroom in a bar/restaurant etc. It is naïve to rely on others to protect your possessions for you, and inconvenient as it is you should take your bag(s) with you.

One strategy I often employ is to separate my cash, from my cards/ID etc, so if somebody does get past my natural security, I still have either money or credit cards to help me get through my day. It would be difficult for somebody to get either of these, as I keep them in the front pockets of my jeans, so that they are not easily accessible by me, let alone anyone else. When I carry bags/laptop,I keep it close to me so any interference with it can be felt- simply pulling a bag away if you feel it is being interfered with will dissuade any criminal from continuing their crime. Moving at a decent speed, rather than loitering will help prevent somebody from being able to get hold of our bags or clothing without being identified. All of these things will not only help us to avoid being selected as a victim but will also help us identify such crimes when they are in process.

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(Gershon Ben Keren - Sun 20th Oct)

We often talk about having an awareness of our surroundings and the potential threats within them however having an awareness concerning yourself is also important i.e. how will you react and respond in a violent altercation, not how you like to think you will, but how you actually will. There are many range shooters who believe that simply carrying a gun is an answer to situations where there is an active shooter - they like to believe that they would respond in a certain way when placed in such a situation without actually taking the time to think whether they would engage or disengage (should the opportunity present itself) from it, if it actually happened. There are many martial artists who look on their prowess at sparring, and take from that, that because they managed to overcome their initial fears and reticence concerning this form of training that they wouldn't freeze, stall or stutter when confronted with a drunken, shouting behemoth who is denying you space and time etc. Don't get me wrong sparring has its place, as does time spent on the range however unless an individual actually considers and visualizes how they would respond in such situations they will never be able to transition from the training environment to the real world. 

The first thing to understand when dealing with violence is that your first response will be one of denial i.e. this can't be happening. If you don't think this is the case then you are already in a combat ready state (you've identified the threat and are already formulating a response plan), or you're not being honest with yourself. If you were involved in an active shooter situation, such as the shopping mall in Kenya, where you were going about your business and then started to hear shooting, your initial response would be one of denial - especially if you've not heard live fire in an urban setting - and you will search your mind for any other reason for the noise, other than one that might pose a threat to yourself. Are you aware of this? Are you aware that if a man with a gun suddenly burst into a movie theater you were sitting in, you wouldn't think it was a joke or prank? I have seen many people laugh in the face of violent individuals just because they couldn't accept the reality of the situation they were in and the only conclusion left to them was that the person must be joking. 

You may think you're trained but are you really? There is no substitute for real-life experience but at the same time few of us have it, and it does become rusty and to a certain degree out of date. The way to experience violence, without having to deal with it is through visualization. Visualization is not dreaming or imagining but constructing a reality in your mind and working through it - and it involves honesty; if you haven't/can't kick a gun out of somebody's hand don't put that in to your visualization process. Visualization here is to reinforce what you can do, and put it into a real world context. You must also acknowledge how you would naturally respond. 

Take a technique you have practiced in a classroom/studio setting e.g. 360 block and punch, and imagine a scenario that you could potentially face where somebody might throw a looping haymaker (where you would perform such a technique), such as when dealing with an aggressive drunk who bumped into you on the street, in a pub/club etc. In your mind assume your de-escalation/interview stance and imagine the conversation with them; go through what you would say to them, and imagine their responses. Visualize the drop of the shoulder and all the preliminary movements that have to happen before the punch is thrown, acknowledge the recognition time this takes, and then visualize your response. Understand that the confrontation doesn't end after your punch connects (imagine what this will feel like) and that you will need to continue your striking; imagine EVERY strike as a definite one, don't trail off the process with the idea of...and then I'll just throw some Hammer-Fists. Visualize each strike. Go through the whole process from start to finish, with your aggressor ending up incapable of continuing the fight. Feel your emotions as well. 

When you visualize you should do it from two perspectives: firstly from your own view, and then from those of third parties i.e. as if you are watching yourself. This process will also help you understand the situations in which you are likely to face potential threats as you have to create the situations where such realities occur. Nobody just pulls a knife on you, they first approach you etc. You must visualize what this looks like as well. 

When you consider that many of the individuals you will have to protect yourself from have first hand experiences of violence, and you probably do not,  you will need to gain those experiences through visualization.    

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The 5 Step Predator Process

(Gershon Ben Keren - Sun 13th Oct)

All Predatory individuals follow a distinct 4, sometimes 5 step methodology, regardless of their motivations or the types of crimes they are committing; it doesn't matter whether they are a mugger or sexual predator they will follow a similar method for selecting and approaching their chosen victim/target. Understanding this process will allow us the ability to identify, predict and avoid  violence before it occurs. 

The first step is to select an environment (Step 1) where there will be a large selection of potential victims to choose from: predators go where the prey is, and they will want the largest selection to choose from. No predator will want to be forced to choose an unsuitable victim simply because they are the only person available and will instead select a hunting ground where there is an abundance to choose from. A mugger looking for victims will not hang around deserted places where they will be forced to wait for a suitable person - who may never actually pass by - when they can go to a populated location, such as a shopping mall, transit station or parking lot and have a wide array of potential targets to choose from. 

Muggers want cash - not credit cards - usually to support a drug habit and will want to hunt in places where people will be carrying cash - this could be shopping malls, or lower income areas where people are more likely to use cash than credit cards. A mugger is usually looking to get money for their next fix and will be satisfied with a $20 haul. 

A Sexual Predator will choose a location that contains targets who match their victim profile. If it is a rapist who targets 18-25 year old women, he may well frequents bars and clubs which this demographic frequent, if it is a pedophile with an interest in girls aged 8 to 12 he may hang around Ice Rinks, Shopping Malls, Sports Fields, Movie Theatres, Parks etc.  (we will talk a lot about this in next weeks blog)      

After choosing an environment they will select a victim (Step 2). Part of this selection may be based on a particular demographic e.g. 8 to 12 year old girls if they are a pedophile etc. But common to all predators is the fact that they are looking for a non-confrontational victim; somebody who will hand over control of a situation to them. This may be somebody who overly looks for guidance and support from somebody else and/or someone who does whatever they can to avoid potential confrontations e.g. when they walk in a crowd they are continually moving out of other people's way, and adjusting their movements so that nobody bumps into them. They may observe to see if people seem unaware of their surroundings/situation and ask for help from others.  

After selecting a victim they will carry out some form of surveillance on them (Step 3). They will want to confirm that the person they have selected really is acting and behaving like a potential victim. The Great White Shark observes and tests its prey many times before it actually attacks, circling and observing from distance, checking if its approaches are noticed etc. Even a predator as powerful and strong as a Great White wants to know it is dealing with prey that will not be able to escape and fight back, and carries out surveillance in order to make sure this is the case. Human Predators are no different, possibly passing by their victims several times before they make their actual assault. 

After surveillance, will come some form of synchronization of movement where the predator ties their movement to that of their target either following, approaching, intercepting or waiting for them. Often this synchronization will lead to a predator setting themselves up for some form of verbal exchange e.g. an aggressor may approach a target, under the guise of them giving directions, informing them of the time or lending them money etc. The synchronization being step 4 and the verbal exchange being step 5.  

Violence is never random it just seems that way when we're unprepared for it.When we understand the process of an assault we can see there are clear steps that can be potentially identified and if we learn how to spot them we can avoid a physical confrontation in the first place.   


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Think Like The Predator

(Gershon Ben Keren - Sun 6th Oct)

There are natural fighters and there are those that learn how to fight; a natural fighter doesn’t need to be trained to look for an improvised weapon he’s already picking a chair up, to smash across somebody’s back. 99.9% of those who come to the reality based self-defense systems and the martial arts, do so because they recognize they are not natural fighters (I exclude combat sports such as MMA and Boxing, where natural fighters are attracted by the chance to have their skills and abilities recognized as well as potentially make a decent living). Recognizing that you don’t naturally possess the mindset to survive and deal with a real world violent encounter, is the first step in developing it.

Often when people walk in to a school or studio for the first time, they look at the higher belts training and think to themselves that they want to be like them. They rarely consider that they want to be like the violent assailant who they are anticipating they may one day have to deal with. It is unlikely that you will have to deal with a trained and skilled martial artist in a real-life situation and much more likely that you will have to deal with some predator or thug, possessing the following characteristics:

  1. First Hand experience of violence
  2. Entitlement – believes it is his/her right to act
  3. No Conscience – Ready to act without hesitation
  4. Little/No Fear of the Legal Consequences of their actions
  5. Has a “Plan”

Consider this list, and match who you are and your experiences to it e.g. what are your firsthand experiences of violence? It’s likely that the character you will have to deal with comes from a totally different background and way of thinking to you. You may have a good job and a great family life and consider a lot of your actions in regard to the legal consequences of them – a mugger supporting a drug addiction is only thinking about their next fix.

We don’t simply want to emulate the Black Belt Martial Artist performing amazing techniques etc. but also start matching up our way(s) of thinking to the street thug and predator. We need to understand that we are entitled to act, that we – in that moment – should have no conscience regarding the person we are facing and that we should have behaved and acted in a way that when the time for physical violence comes we are not concerned with the legal consequences of our actions (because we have tried to dissuade, deter, disengage, de-escalate etc. beforehand).

Many people fail to recognize the purpose of adopting a de-escalation stance, believing it is simply a “martial arts” stance. Your interview stance should also be a physical reminder that you are entitled to act without conscience or legal consideration should somebody try and compromise it.

Predators and Thugs have simple, tried and tested plans that they have gained and developed from their firsthand experiences of violence. Most are based on intimidation and the threat of violence, rather than on any great athletic or martial ability. They expect victims and targets to respond in a certain way – by cowering and acting submissively, or by posturing – they rarely know how to deal with someone who doesn’t respond this way e.g. who smiles, and acts calm and confidently. Too many people get sucked into playing the criminals game rather than playing their own (we should match their mindset but adopt methods that counter theirs).

Their physical plans for violence are simple and normally involve a disruption of balance, followed by extreme pain e.g. a push or pull followed by a punch. It’s an effective system. They strike first, after disrupting a person’s ability to defend themselves. Our striking should be more powerful, more effective and our balance taking more advanced but basically we should adopt the same approach: take balance and hit hard. Having a simple, proven and effective plan for dealing with violence is far more effective than a sprawling, complicated plan involving many moving parts.

It is always worth taking note of how the “enemy” thinks and operates, and adopting the parts of their plan which prove effective.   


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