Monday, December 31, 2012

8 New Year's Resolutions to Keep You Safer in 2013

Happy New Year!

As we enter a new year many of us resolve to make positive changes to our lives - improve our fitness, spend more time with family and friends......  Some we follow through on, some we don't.  

We suggest you commit to your well being - particularly your personal safety. 

Here are 8 self defense resolutions to promote your safety in 2013 - and beyond.

  1. Minimize Your Distractions.  Avoid walking/driving and testing for instance.  Distractions hinder awareness. 
  2. Be mindful of how you share personal information. Announcing your trips on Facebook?  Please don't.  Telling strangers you live alone.  Please don't.  
  3. Identify escape routes.  Make it a habit in 2013 to be aware of how to escape to safe places.
  4. Establish some fitness goals.  We don't all have to be Olympians but improving your fitness does hep your chances to defend, escape and avoid.  
  5. Minimize your stuff.  Try to avoid carrying multiple items.  It makes you an easier target and as elusive as a sloth.  
  6. Saying no isn't rude.  Don't feel compelled to open your door to a stranger, light his cigarette, lean into his car to give directions.....   Say sorry (this comes naturally to most of us Canadians) and err on the side of caution.  
  7. Be discreet about your valuables.  Don't flash money,  jewellery, iPads, etc.......  
  8. Try a self defense class.  Surf the net, make some calls, talk with friends.  Find a  school that suits your needs. (Let's say, oh I don't know, a Krav Maga class?) If you can't or don't want to commit to ongoing classes ask about workshops, semi-privates....

Enjoy the rest of your holidays, have a happy new year, and be safe.  

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga Federation, Toronto

Monday, December 17, 2012

Self Defense and Your Daily Life: 5 Questions to Ponder

Essentially, self defense training is about you getting home safe.  Being unpredictable, assaults can happen anytime over the course of a day. 

With this in mind, we suggest you develop a dialogue - a dialogue between your daily life and your self defense training.  By doing so, training becomes easier to understand and more relevant.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  1. How do you travel?  Do you drive to work?  Do you walk, run, or bike a lot?  Is the subway or streetcar your preference? Are you a frequent flyer? Do you use underground parking?  Self defense situations can arise in all of these situations.  Think and/or read about possible and actual scenarios.  Ask your instructors for advice.  
  2. What is Your Vocation/Daily Activity?  Are you a police officer or security guard?  Do you teach?  If so, what age group?  Are you a taxi driver, TTC driver who deals with many people some of them less than pleasant.  A student who spends most of your time on campus? 
  3. What do You Wear?  A suit, high heels, casual clothing......?  What you wear effects how you move.  Fleeing an attacker in heels. Not easy.
  4. What do You Carry?  Briefcase, backpack, coffee?  Objects can hinder (overloaded grocery/shopping bags) but some common objects can be used for self defense.  
  5. Company/Solitary? Do you walk with a dog?  Run by yourself?  Spend a lot of time with family, groups of friends.  All of these situations have self defense implications e.g. assailants generally target solitary people. 

Assaults occur during the course of peoples' daily lives.  Consider yours and ask your instructor to address potential problems and scenarios. 

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Teaching Self Defense in Toronto: 6 Implications

Instructors need to adapt self defense training to the students(adults, kids, law enforcement....) as well as the context(s) in which they live.

As Krav Maga instructors in Toronto we have to consider the situations and environments students find (or might find) themselves during the course of their daily lives.

Here are some factors we consider.

  1. Winter:  It's Canada, Silly!  Of course, there is winter.  This means that jackets, toques, gloves, scarves become part of our everyday wardrobe..  Ever try to disarm someone while you are wearing mittens?  Ever to try to find a pressure point on someone wearing a parka over 2 sweaters? P.S. Ice and snow are not conducive to spinning kicks.  
  2. Legal:  Different jurisdictions have different laws.   Simple.
  3. Public Transit:  The majority of our students travel via the TTC.  Training needs to consider the various factors at play in subway/bus/streetcar assaults. - limited space, no immediate exit, crowds....
  4. Cars and Parking Lots:  In case you haven't noticed many people like to drive in Toronto.  "Like" might be the wrong word - perhaps choose/prefer.  Many assaults occur in and around cars as well as in parking lots - above and below ground.  Theft, abduction, road rage....
  5. Theft:  We have lots of "stuff".  We carry lots of stuff, our homes are full of stuff.  Often, easily to steal, easy to sell, stuff - wallets and purses filled with bank/credit cars, I-phones......
  6.  Awareness.(Lack of):  To-do lists, phone calls, texts, emails....  our gazes are focused and limited.  This hinders prevention, avoidance, escape....   Instructors need to encourage better habits of awareness.  Not easy!

Wherever you teach be mindful of the everyday lives of students - how they travel, what they wear, the climate, cultural norms............

If you do this, training becomes more relevant and more effective.

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Friday, December 14, 2012

Asking Questions: Self Defense and Interactive Teaching

When one teaches, two learn.  Robert Half

Leaving us (perhaps gradually) are the days when martial arts students are passive receptacles of knowledge passed on from an omniscient instructor. 

Good riddance.

As a self defense student you need to understand the how, why, when, what etc.... of the various self defense techniques/tactics you practice.  Asking questions is a vital aspect of understanding.

Will this work?
Is this effective against someone stronger?
What if I can't run?
What if their are multiple attackers?
Why do you teach that instead of this?
Wouldn't this work better?
Am I doing this right?
This doesn't feel natural.  Is there a better way?

Questions like these help you develop a broader and deeper understanding of self defense.  Also, by understanding the logic/rationale behind various techniques and tactics you can learn future skills at faster rate.

Questions also help the instructor(hence the opening quote).  By articulating our answers we also develop a more sophisticated understanding of self defense.

Win. Win.

So feel welcome to ask questions - during class, before and after class, via email........

After all, you are studying self defense to learn the most practical ways to protect yourself.  Having a clear understanding can be life saving.  

Ask questions and you will be well on your way to becoming a proficient practitioner - and perhaps, some day, a teacher. 

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto

Monday, December 10, 2012

6 Tips for Defending Against Close Range Assaults

We recently offered a self defense workshop focusing on practical ways to defend against close range assaults.  Many assaults happen in small spaces and/or with the assailant getting very close to you.  After all, unless he has a gun or is wielding a long weapon (e.g. baseball bat) he needs to be close to control, strike, steal, etc.....

Defending in close quarters is extremely difficult.  Why?
  • you have very little reaction time
  • your visibility is limited
  • you range of motion is limited (e.g. kicks are not effective if the attacker is very close)
  • avoidance and escape options are compromised (e.g. subway, elevator)

Your training must prepare you for such situations.  Here are some general points we include in our self-defense training.  

  1. Short range striking:  Knees, elbows, hooks, head butts...  You should be able to effectively strike in all directions and at different heights and angles.  
  2. Improve Your Reaction Time:  Through various exercises you can make effective decisions in a shorter time.  Sudden stabs from different directions, wrist grabs, bear hugs, chokes......  The faster you can identify and react to an assault the better chance you have of surviving.  
  3. Economy of motion:  Are you deflecting, blocking, the most efficient way possible?  In all situations, but especially in close proximity, you have precious little time. 
  4. Stress Exercises: You need to learn to manage your stress and fear to avoid freezing or acting ineffectively.  Training must include exercises that induce stress.  
  5. Realistic and Various Attacks: You need to understand the various ways assailants really attack.  
  6. Finishing:  Escaping is the preferred option but if you are trapped (e.g. in an elevator) then you have to disable the attacker.  Training must included both options.  
We always stress avoidance and doing your best to maintain distance from an attacker.  There are times, unfortunately, when these are not viable option.  In close quarters, you need to make quick decisions, act precisely, and do whatever the situation requires to get you home safe.  

Stay Safe,

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga FederationToronto