What if terror struck your city?

If you watched yesterday’s piece on CTV, you caught some tips on safety in public spaces in the event of terror-motivated attacks such as we’ve seen in Barcelona, Nice and London.

If not, check it out here!

http://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1191487

 Here is a more detailed version of that information for your reference. Remember to stay aware and stay vigilant! Safety demands attention.

What to look for

1) Exercise awareness at all times. In large public gatherings, knowing that there is a possibility for violence, use all of your senses. Leave the iPhone alone. Look around frequently ("check your six").

Listen to the sounds of the crowd. If you hear screaming, commotion, loud noises that sound like bangs, vehicles, crashes, etc., assess visually (quickly). If a panic appears to be developing. Move rapidly to an indoor space and well into the building. Call 911.

2) Changes in foot traffic flow are a giveaway. If people are wandering through a tourist space, and suddenly start looking around frantically, running, pushing, then something is developing. It is already too late.

Where to stand and walk

3) Terror attacks target person-dense areas for maximum damage. So stay AWAY from the crowds. A truck will aim for a group of 30 people close to each other, not a single couple off to the fringes.

4) Try to stay close to the edges, sidewalks, borders of a street or thoroughfare. You can duck inside buildings, over guardrails, or if necessary, over the side of bridge. Better an unexpected swim than the alternative.

How to manage your children

5) Keep them close, arm's length and on the inside of the walking track. Example: if walking down a road, you should be between your child and the road. A child can be pushed aside or thrown to the side of the road more easily than pulled away from a roadway with other people charging, trampling and swarming.

Where to go and not go if a truck starts mowing people down

6) Head for the sidelines - better still, try to stay close to them. If you have to enter a central space, once done your tourist activities, return to a sidelong walking track. Prefer the darkened side of the road or the side that doesn't get sunlight. This is a less natural place for an attacker to look for targets as the lower light makes visibility harder.

Exception - sidewalk cafes, etc. Try to stay away from walking in front of these. They have been targeted in past.

7) Run toward the dead space created by the vehicle. You cannot run away from a truck and win. You may not be able to cross in front in time, and there's no guarantee it won't swerve. Like an active shooter situation, run toward the direction of the threat, but into the space beside it, so that you are passed by. 

Safety tips for the graduate!

You’ve seen this past week’s CTV segment for young women on protecting themselves when out partying at this year’s grad. If you missed it, here it is:

http://bit.ly/2t5RSBc


As sad as it is that women still have to be vigilant about their safety, we will never be able to ignore the real threat of sexual predators. Education and deterrence simply don’t stop all of them. Moreover, many young men, driven by impulse, hormones, peer pressure and a poor set of values, will make bad judgment calls about social and sexual situations, not considering how their actions can harm young women.

The first line of defence against both intentional and ill-informed and incompetent malice is always awareness. Teach your daughters these tips! An ounce of prevention…


Never leave a drink unattended

Whatever it cost, it’s still not worth the risk of assault – let the drink go if you have to. Trips to bathroom, for a smoke, to dance, or even just turning away for a moment all signal that this drink is done. Either finish it or discard it. It only takes a fraction of a second to slip something in a drink. A skilled manipulator can distract the mind, senses and attention of his target deftly without being detected.

Have a plan to get there and get home, and a backup plan if the hotel/sleepover goes wrong

If you sense that you’re feeling ill, have had too much to drink, or are receiving unwanted attention that makes you uncomfortable, leave. Before you even go out, decide how you’re getting there, who’s with you, when you plan to go home or to the hotel, how you’ll get there, and make sure all of your friends are on the same page.

A signal that indicates “Get me out of here!” is a good policy too; something that will spur a friend to interject and pull you away from the conversation or situation that is causing you trouble.

At all times, remember that “No” is a complete sentence. Refusing a drink, an invitation to leave or a sexual advance is a completed act with “No.” If your proposer persists, he/she is disrespecting your boundaries and you can, if you feel comfortable doing so, look him right in the eye and say “you have your answer. Do you plan to assault me in front of all of these people?” Say it loudly. Then walk away.


Have a safety buddy for the situations that might emerge (excessive drinking, drugs, violence, unexpected guests, sexual coercion)


We all have that one friend that we tease for not drinking, not smoking up, being lame, etc… But that friend is the one among you who may have the advantage on awareness, judgment and reaction time on prom night. Alcohol, drugs and hormones alter the senses and the judgment machinery of the brain.

Having a switched-on, sober friend can be a big help in seeing situations develop before they become dangerous, and in preventing us from making decisions we might regret once the haze wears off.


Focus on the event and your friends, not on the pressure that you're "supposed" to do certain things on grad night.

You’re here to celebrate your accomplishment with your friends! You came to play, not to get played! Dress up, go out, have a good time and enjoy yourselves. There are no rules written anywhere that oblige you to doing any drugs, getting hammered, sleeping away from home if you don’t want to, partying with older dudes, or having sex – for the first time or at all. Grad is about celebration; don’t start your life as a young adult with trauma, shame and the potential a lifetime of regret. Say NO if that’s what you feel is right. Nobody that matters will judge you for having self respect.

Remember: NOTHING that you do with anyone is private anymore. From Snaps and Instagrams being taken in fitness club locker rooms, to young men covertly filming and sharing their sexual encounters with unaware partners, you can expect that anything you do sober will end up in someone else’s hands. Imagine what you’re missing when you’re smashed. Pay attention. Be aware. Respect yourselves. Set boundaries. And if someone wishes to attempt to assault you…. Let him have it with both barrels.

About that last part… I can teach you how to do that!

info@ronintraining.ca

613.627.3018

7 Dumb Things that sacrifice your privacy!

Yesterday on CTV Morning Live, I gave you five simple tips which will help you protect your privacy. We sacrifice our private information in so many ways today – to Google, to advertisers, to companies, to the government.

Watch the clip here: http://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1113512

But did you realize that you might be giving away information inadvertently through means you hadn’t considered? Here are a few more detailed tips, including those from yesterday.

Parking Passes on the Rearview Mirror: Whether it’s for permitted on-street parking or a regular parking lot a work, you’re revealing a great deal about yourself. Parking passes often have the building, parking lot number or the name of establishment you work for printed on them. They may have your name on them, as well as a license plate number. Matching up pieces of information to create a whole picture is the domain of private investigators, as well as skilled stalkers…

Stick Figure Stickers: You're telling strangers how big your family is, whether you have a partner, how many kids you have and what you're interested in! Many customized sticker sets also show specific interests: Star Wars, pets, comic book heroes, etc. When combined with the next safety risk, we're well on our way to building a personalized profile of you

Vanity License Plates: These often reveal nicknames, business names/types, real names, initials of individuals or married couples, affiliations with organizations, interests or even partial dates of birth. The Veteran's plate is an example... combined with bumper stickers showing the command or regiment, a con artist can start to infer age, service time, even the conflicts someone has fought in. A little creativity around free information is all that's required to start creating a convincing con that will break down resistance. Those who know a few tricks can locate your full name, residential address and bank information from a license plate. That can be done for anyone. Don't contribute personal, vulnerability-related information to that pile of data by being over-customized!

Selling yourself out on social media: checkins, vacations, pictures of kids, birthdays, political opinions, favourite foods, likes, etc. The more information you put out there about yourself, the more a guy like me has to use against you if I want to manipulate you. Sensitive stuff that you might use for passwords and checks (customer service ID validation) - dates of birth, PIN numbers based on DOBs etc., maiden names, pet names, kid's names, nicknames... it's all fair game when it hits the Internet. Who do you really want knowing where you are at all times, and with whom?

Leaving mail and personally-identifying items on car seats or in your mailbox: A peek in the window reveals who you are, where you live, what businesses, organizations, etc. you deal with. Which credit card you have. Linked to your vehicle information, this is a goldmine. If a thief were to break into your car and steal your mail to get your credit card statement, would you notice the mail missing? Would you report it to the police? Do you know what a con man can do with your name, address, a few pieces of info about your car loan and a credit card number? He can find everything about you, assume your identity and get a new credit card just for himself - sent to him, on your dime.

Receiving bank and credit card statements in the mail / forgetting to change your address: Abandoned mail is a goldmine for people that are curious and sneaky. If they don't throw it out or return it to sender, they're probably snooping through it. Same concerns at #5. E-statements are preferable in the modern era - there's no need to receive paper with your identifying details on it. If you move, make sure to register with Canada Post for 1 year of forwarding with address updating to senders. Don't abandon your mail! Change your address manually with the bank, all lenders, store credit and reward cards, MTO and Health Card, your lawyer, doctor and accountant, and all bills.

Posting your real email address and phone number on e-commerce/listing sites: Your real information can be used to locate your other online profiles, historical information about you online, where you've lived in past - even to hack online accounts, or socially engineer customer service reps on the phone. Very skilled operators can start with one or two pieces of information and get your hydro bills, phone bills, bank and credit card information and eventually, where you really live - if that matters to you.

If you’re serious about your privacy, don’t volunteer information about yourself, even casually!

Sleep tight tonight... But get a good lock!

Our home may be our castle, but that doesn’t mean we should take it for granted. Here are a few simple tips to make your home a little safer from unexpected entry, or in the case that you need to get out quickly.

Watch this CTV Segment from March 21 for more information, and read on for tips you can use today.

Basic Tips:

Know your floorplan: In the event of an emergency or a fire, how quickly can you get out of the house to safety? Can you rapidly describe the best way into the home for paramedics and firefighters? Teach your kids about fire safety and practice a fire escape drill until they’re champs.

Doors: Deadbolts. Period. If you have a door that has a sidelight, consider that a thumb-latch deadbolt can be unlocked if the window is broken. Consider a keyed deadbolt at the front door and keep the key near the door in case of emergency, but not close enough that a burglar can reach it. Lock your doors at night. All of them. Lock access devices (garage door openers, remote disarms) in the glove box so they aren’t appealing to thieves.

Deterrents: Don’t get an alarm system after you’ve been burgled. Statistically, it won’t happen again. Don’t pay twice. Get a monitored alarm and put stickers in all the most visible windows. Pay the $30/month to have no-verification security dispatched in case of an alarm. A “Beware of Dog” sticker is great to keep most honest crooks away. Turn your exterior lights on at night. Crooks like shadows.

Windows: basement windows should have BARS! Keep the key on a string that’s 3-4 feet below or beside the window, unreachable from outside, but accessible if you need to get out. Low-traffic areas of the house with large windows should have a motion sensor attached to an alarm with a no-delay trip if someone enters the house.

Understand that criminals who want your stuff don’t want to run into you. They know where to find dangerous goods (kitchen, workshop) and will use them to intimidate you and harm you to escape. If you walk in on a home invasion/burglary, get out FAST, go to the neighbour, call the police, stay away from the guy. DO NOT GRAB ANYTHING and try to fight. This is a good way to get hurt, killed, and charged with aggravated assault. It’s only permissible if your life or the life of a child is already in danger.

Do you TMI on SM? Probably...

Social Media is the way that we communicate today. Despite the convenience, SM is a minefield that will totally explode your privacy and can cause you no end of trouble in your personal and professional life if you’re not cautious and deliberate in how you use it!

UPDATE: #ICYMI - The CTV Segment is here:

http://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1077487
 

Good Practices:

  1. Use impersonal email addresses for each service, and forward them to your main inbox through a privacy provider like 33Mail.com. Use a different password for each SM site, ESPECIALLY if you use the same handle everywhere.

Examples:

My 33mail service would be: adamn.33mail.com and it forwards to my real email. Then I'd use forwarding aliases for each SM site:

  1. Twitter: @AdamN, Email: twitter@adamn.33mail.com
  2. Instagram: @AdamN, Email: insta@adamn.33mail.com
  3. Etc.

This protects your real email address and makes it harder for your stuff to be hacked by guessing passwords associated with a known email account.

2, If you login to all your SM on a mobile, LOCK YOUR PHONE with a strong password. It’s even better to log out of the platforms after use and lock the phone.

3. TURN OFF YOUR LOCATION SERVICES!!!! Smartphone apps are too smart. Locations are being appended to everything you do. A simple Tweet, Snap or Instagram not only has the “What” – content about you and your interests – but the when and the where. And if your friends like and share, those apps can determine, based on their locations, if they are actually with you at that moment. So SM now also knows who your friends are and how they move in the real world – whether they’re tagged, in the picture, etc., or not.

Basic Tips:

  1. Don’t post pictures of people without their permission and don’t tag without agreement. Make sure your location services are off. They embed location data in your photos and tweets/Instagrams/snaps, etc.

  2. Don’t post pictures of your kids, your car, the inside or outside of your home, or any easily identifiable location you visit. It’s cute, but when your kids are adults and decide for themselves about the level of privacy THEY want, you will have created a traceable, location-enabled, friends-family-location-interests scrapbook for the whole world which reaches back 18 years and is totally undeletable.

Does anyone out there worry about cyber bullying, sexual harassment or interference with their children? Don’t help the bad guys. You wouldn’t announce this stuff on a bus or to a room full of strangers….

3. Check ins, likes, comments, dislikes and even the size and connections on your friends list tell the world EVERYTHING about you. This data is collected and analyzed just as fast as you create it. Before you know it, everyone from Facebook, to the marketing giants to many notorious foreign government agencies are keeping profiles and targeting information at you and your family. You’re not as aware as you think..... so be deliberate about how you disclose your interests and activities.

Your mobile phone: Best friend or frenemy?!?

Your mobile phone knows more about you than your mother does. Over time, it collects enough information to figure out your day to day schedule, who your closest friends are, your likes and dislikes, and even where you’re likely to be at 7 PM next Tuesday!

UPDATE: Here's the segment, in case you missed it!

http://bit.ly/2mDvAGR

If you’re going to live the connected lifestyle, there are some simple tips to consider to keep your privacy and safety intact.

Basic Tips:

  1. Create a third-party email address for inessentials – coupons, offers, less important bills, etc. and make it less obvious than your normal email. Use a service that doesn’t track you such as ProtonMail or GMX.com. I recommend NOT using your named, primary email (johnsmith@gmail.com) to register your device, or to do day to day emails. Google and Apple are tracking and logging EVERYTHING and email is NOT private unless properly encrypted.

     

  2. Stay off of public Wifi! Data is cheap, and if you do your Instagram, youtube and facebook on your home Wifi, 2 GB/month is more than enough to manage a semi-private email account and occasional data needs. Public Wifi is totally susceptible to attacks where your private data can be stolen, misused and sold.

     

  3. Always LOCK YOUR PHONE with a strong password. Examples that are difficult to break but easy to remember (spaces can be used now)

    1. A favourite song: L3dZePpeL1N: Ram8Le 0N!: Long, complex, alphanumeric, and easy to recall where number-for-letter subs are made

    2. Pet’s name: I <3 my d0G, ScRUff…

    3. Numeric strings mixed with words: 23-19-22&Go$EnZG0!! (My old gym locker combo + favourite team)

If you can encrypt your phone, do it! The extra seconds at restart are worth it.

Always Remember:

  1. EVERYTHING you do on your phone, especially info which makes it to the Internet, is THERE FOREVER. Period. Keep your phone drama-free. Do not fight by text, send compromising photos, post anything questionable to social media or keep personal info on an unencrypted device. If Grandma found your phone and browsed it, what would she think of her little darling?

     

  2. Know what your apps are asking you for. Most make inappropriate and unnecessary accesses to your location history, contacts, call and message history and a ton of other hidden metadata that gives a detailed picture of your life and lifestyle.
     

  3. Delete EVERYTHING you don’t need from the phone’s internal storage after backing up to a trusted computer (NOT TO A CLOUD SERVICE!!) – Pics, emails, messages, documents.

 

How does a spy do it?

  • I use a phone as a phone – a flip phone.
  • I delete call and text history at the end of the day.
  • I do data and email from a trusted workstation where I have control over access, or a smartphone with Wifi only and limited installed apps.
  • I keep my private life private!

Keep an eye on this blog over the next two weeks for more tips. Next week - using Social Media safely, and the following week, home safety and security!

I'm always avaialble for questions at info@ronintraining.ca

Follow Ronin on FB, Instagram and Twitter: @RoninTrng

Pepper Spray: Good idea, Bad idea?

Conservative Party leadership-hopeful Kellie Leitch is suggesting that pepper spray should be legal as a measure to prevent violence against women. You can read the article here: http://natpo.st/2gI0GYs. John Robson has an interesting take too, at the National Post: http://natpo.st/2g23CCs.

QUICK! How fast can you find and use that pepper spray???!?

QUICK! How fast can you find and use that pepper spray???!?

I applaud the thinking behind this, and the necessity for concrete measures. We can’t rely on the old shibboleth “teach boys not to rape.” That sentiment is both idiotic and insulting: most boys ARE taught to treat girls and women with respect. Some boys, later men, can never be fixed, regardless what they’re taught. They’re simply selfish, dangerous, misogynistic assholes. The same goes for criminal assaults such as home invasions and muggings. Shitheads are never going away.

Unfortunately, arming the everyman is not the solution, as both Ms. Leitch and Mr. Robson suggest. Clearly, these are two people with limited exposure to the reality of weapon conflict.

No, what women need are empowerment, confidence and actionable tools that make them more threatening than their potential attackers. And that’s why I object to the use of deployable weapons for the everyday civilian.

Here’s my reasoning. Weapons – any weapons – have an allure as an effective countermeasure. But there are things you have to remember about their use:

  1. Familiarity and practice: Like any tool, using a weapon, from pepper spray to a fixed-blade knife, requires practice for effective use. Where on your person or in your effects is the weapon stored? How fast and accurately can you deploy it it? Have you practiced this under extreme pressure, perfectly, repeatedly, without screwing it up? Are you preempting or reacting? If you’re reacting, do you have enough time to locate, deploy, acquire the target and employ the weapon? Can you do that in 2.5 seconds?

  2. Retention and consequence: Say it with me, ‘any weapon that you can use can be taken away from you.’ If you do not have total control over the weapon and the attacker, you might lose it. How did you fare the last time you tried to manage multiple moving parts with your whole body, under stress, while your mind was preoccupied? Think chasing two children in different directions through a department store at closing time in a crowd of 400. Combat stress is a little like that.  Moreover, if you’ve even been pepper sprayed, you’re with me on this – you don’t want to give your attacker further advantage. Simply stated, your attacker only needs to get it right for 5 seconds to take you out. You need to be perfect, wall-to-wall, to use pepper spray without consequences to yourself. And then there’s the whole pesky Criminal Code and the line between self-defence and aggravated assault. An argument for another time; but Canada is not entirely friendly to those who defend themselves, as has been proven time and again in our courts.

  3. Blowback: My proclivity and preference for open-hand defensive tactics aside, I hate pepper spray. But that’s because I got it in my eyes. The stuff goes airborne in under 5 seconds, and you’re anywhere near it, you’re going to be sorry. You don’t need a direct blast to suffer. Splash back from an attacker in close quarters, or even a mild breeze or air current where you are is enough. Add in the very real potential that you’re:

    1. Taken by surprise and scrambling to find and use it; or

    2. Getting it out preemptively because you know the attacker is right on you; and,

    3. You’re under stress either way; and,

    4. He might grab your hand or hit you before you can deploy...

...and you have the perfect storm. If you've bought that thing and never trained with it, you're not prepared. But don't take my word for it. Watch the video.

https://youtu.be/QiR26hMjnHQ

Pepper spray is incredibly effective, but is best left in the hands of trained personnel who have used it in high-stress situations as part of a training program. They have been habituated to its effects and are prepared to deal with them. Are you? How fast and how far can you run with your eyes burning out of your face and your respiratory tract inflamed? How hard can you fight under the same circumstances with that attacker on top of you?

Learn self defence. Learn it under pressure. Do it as a practice of self-empowerment. Treat it with the same consideration as you treat yoga, spinning, gym time, or your social activities. Make it a part of your life and educate the other girls and women in your circle. Violence is not going away. It is not something we can educate out of everyone, and it is not subject to quick fixes.


info@ronintraining.ca | 613.627.3018

Women's Self Defence Myths (2/3) - Kick him in the n&ts!

I have a bit of a bone to pick with some of the “women’s self defence” programs out there that teach pie-in-the-sky, lowest-common denominator techniques and sell them like they’ll work uniformly. They seem to perpetuate the idea that you can take the simplest execution of a recycled martial arts technique and make it totally relevant to a swath of attack types.

All the while, they ignore the obvious: every attack and every attacker is different. Different pain tolerances, different physical attributes, different response to stress and adrenaline, etc. Many of these techniques are practiced in a “fun, non-threatening, ladies only!” class, which usually means:

  • Under-stimulation in the attack scenarios, if there even are attack scenarios and not just pad drills;
  • No men in the room. Because reality dictates that attacks will always be similar-sized women, right? And you should feel safe during an attack… It's time to ditch the reverse-sexist idealism. Men are most likely to be the attacker, so that's what you should train against. Highly unlikely you'll be attacked brutally by a woman. Dollars to donuts you'll never be attacked by a kicking shield at 5 km/h.
  • No physiologically-correct response/reaction scenarios (anyone out there with two X chromosomes know how it feels to be kicked in the berries? Got any idea how pissed I’m going to be if you do that to me?) Take a guess how long you'll be upright if you don't drop the attacker in one shot.. Time's up. You're dead.

Before I launch into the video, remember – you can learn a little self defence in a seminar. But you won’t remember it and you won’t employ correctly if:

  • You’re not trained under duress;
  • You don’t have attack simulations and scenarios often;
  • Your attacker isn’t an existential threat to you; and,
  • You don’t train often.

As you’ll see here, a variety of responses are plausible, from dropping your attacker outright (don’t count on it!), to getting bull-rushed and pounded into the pavement.

 

If you plan to use a groin kick as an offensive strategy, ensure that you are going from feet to hands-to-face in a split second. Kicks are a secondary offensive weapon in Urban Combat Systems – meant to create a physiological response (move the attacker’s body) that enables a more aggressive and final attack using primary weapons (the hands) against primary targets (eyes, nose, throat, head & neck).

Next week: Myth #3 – Yell ‘fire’, not ‘rape’!

www.ronintraining.ca | twitter.com/RoninTrng | Instagram.com/RoninTrng

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You can reach me directly anytime at info@ronintraining.ca or 613-627-3018.

A self defence approach to storing your stuff

Nobody likes the feeling of having their valuables stolen, least of all through a break-in. A holdup or robbery is stressful, but in most cases, you see your assailant and can come to closure over the loss of your stuff. You understand that fighting to retain possession could risk your health and life, and it’s easy to understand the reasons for why you let it go.

A break-in feels much more personal, invasive and incomplete. Who did this? Why? Why choose me? So many unanswerable questions. The recent Ottawa Police blotter on a man who has tens of charges pending is interesting: http://bit.ly/2gCiapC. He seems to have targeted storage lockers, which is quite clever. The frequency of checking on a locker is much lower than the likelihood of you returning home every day. Therefore, less chance for the burglar to get caught, and by the time you realize something is missing, the trail has cooled significantly.

Having said that, if we take a holistic, self defence-as-a-lifestyle mindset, there are a few things you can do to protect a small part of your kingdom from burglary:

  1. Choose Carefully: When you pick a storage site, don’t go on price alone. Can you get an indoor locker inside an access-controlled facility? Are there security cameras? Where are they placed? How many hours per day is the site manned? DO they have intrusion alarms for unmanned or non-covered areas? What’s the response policy to a break in?

  2. Don’t be cheap: Buy a proper, tamper-resistant disc lock which exposes minimum attack surface on the shackle. Normal combo locks and key padlocks are easy to smash and snip. Disc locks are more robust and frustrating to would-be attackers.

  3. Think strategically: If you plan to use your storage unit for anything valuable, irreplaceable or very private (documents, client files, jewelry, etc.,), obtain a sturdy locking cabinet or safe for the interior of the unit. You can also consider, depending on the value of your contents, putting a portable intrusion system with a GSM module in the locker. If the door is opened without you deactivating the system, it can text or call you immediately advising of the opening. A motion-activated camera with DVR (lock the DVR in the cabinet!) could help you identify someone who manages to successfully breach the layers of security.

Many of these measures can be used in the home and workplace as well, and although they may not be applicable or of interest to you, it’s worth thinking about the many ways in which you can protect yourself and family from different types of threats.

Web: www.ronintraining.ca

Twitter: twitter.com/RoninTrng

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You can reach me directly anytime at info@ronintraining.ca or 613-627-3018.

 

Women’s Self Defense Myths – “Size Doesn’t Matter”

Caveat: This is not a criticism of specific martial arts schools or styles. It’s a criticism of the reliance on mechanical techniques as a one-size-fits-all solution to dynamic, violent assault scenarios. It’s a critique of the practice of not training skills with integrity – against bigger, faster stronger, more aggressive attackers who are geared up to give and receive realistic levels of force. It’s a criticism of a lack of intensity and stress induction in training.

Many self defence schools emerge as a sideline business of existing martial arts dojos. Everyone thinks they can take their particular flavor of TMA and either transpose the techniques or mix and match them into a “mixed martial art”, and this will work against a motivated hostile aggressor.

Whether it’s some sexy “kick him before he gets close” ideology or “nobody has ever beaten this style of ground fighting” nonsense, what all of these systems forget to do is subject their students to realistic attack. What do I mean by that? I mean putting a 120 lb. woman up against a 220 lb. man who’s trying to smash her into the ground. Naturally, this has to be done in a mature, controlled context with total commitment to safe practices and correct equipment. But it has to be done this way. To do otherwise is create a living, breathing lie.

In our Urban Combat Systems class, this is the way we train – the attackers come for you, they don’t stop until you stop them, and there’s no charity. If your technique doesn’t work, you’d better move on quickly to something that does. We are not a sideline, value-added class to round out the dojo’s Wednesday night schedule. This is all I do.

Permit me to address Myth #1: Size Doesn’t Matter in the following video. Otherwise I could write forever (https://youtu.be/vDwU66IhX9U).

Viewer Warning: Graphic Content

The takeaways:

  • Size and strength DO matter. You cannot overpower a more powerful adversary;
  • Technique depends not just on execution, but also physical ability and opportunity. If I take 2 of the 3 away from you, you have nothing;
  • Ruthless aggression and targeted attacks to vulnerable areas are the ONLY factors that dissolve the size and strength advantage. Even at that, you’re in for the fight of your life.

I invite everyone to come try Urban Combat Systems. If you’re a seasoned martial artist and I’ve offended you, please come and test for yourself. We won’t squawk if you bring it to us hard. We’re here to provide realistic education. If you’re new to self defence and want the real deal, join us for two free classes!

Hatred - Love is not all you need. You need some assertiveness.

Our hardworking Ottawa Police have charged a 17-year-old man with the spate of hate-related graffiti that has plagued the capital in the last few weeks: http://bit.ly/2gdpxG4 .

Sociopolitical theories aside, whatever catalyzed the accused to lash out with such vitriol, it seems apparent that he is not a stranger to the act, nor was this the first time he’s used hate, aggression and intimidation to spread his message, whatever that is. Here’s a report of an incident that is suspected by police as related http://bit.ly/2gFUEvC , and the earlier acts of aggression that preceded it: http://bit.ly/1THGJMD.

Let’s get something perfectly clear: Violence is not just physical. We simply understand physical violence at a visceral level because we’re all afraid of being hurt badly and sustaining pain. But different people experience different fears and have different threshold for suffering. Violence can be verbal, emotional, situational and psychological. The propagation of hateful messaging is an intentional act devised to cause fear and hesitation in the recipient. It’s a message that says “fear me, because I hate you, and I want to hurt you.”

In defense of yourself, you may sometimes be challenged to defend your integrity and the sovereignty of your person. All that makes up “you” is not just flesh and bone that can sustain an assault. You have a personality, consciousness, an identity, a sense of self, memories, dreams, relationships, aspirations – you have personhood. Bruce Lee might call it something like the “totality of the ‘is-ness’ of your person”.

An assault on your person, if unprovoked, warrants an assertive response. Where aggression and revenge are products of the ego, assertiveness arises as the necessary condition of self-worth. If you value yourself enough that others must not and will not intimidate you, then you owe it to yourselves to learn to assert with confidence, and if need be, to back it up with action.

To all of those people in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities affected by this hate: If you fear for your safety or that of your loved ones, I wish to offer you freedom from that fear. Your communities are welcome to a free self-defense and assertiveness seminar, 4 hours in duration, for as many people as you can fit in the room. I will make the time for you.

Let’s put an end to the hatred by working together in the spirit of community.

Contact me by any means below and let’s bring more Salaam, Shalom and Peace to this diverse city.

Web: www.ronintraining.ca

Twitter: twitter.com/RoninTrng

UCS on Facebook: www.fb.com/Urban-Combat-Systems-116884028406364/

You can reach me directly anytime at info@ronintraining.ca or 613-627-3018.

Stabbings - the new normal?

Another day, another stabbing. Ottawa’s dance with violence continues unabated and the introduction of weapons is a game changer. In a previous post, I gave a little context around why people will resort to the use of weapons and how a weapon assault manifests primarily in demographics that are prone to criminal behaviour.

This is not to say the honest, law-abiding people who stay out of trouble are immune to the threat. It can still happen to you. But if you look at the Ottawa Citizen’s report: http://bit.ly/2eYGNiw, you’ll see that police are investigating the “altercation.” Not the assault; the altercation. To me that suggests that both parties were somehow complicit in this event. It also suggests that the police know both parties, or at least that the reporter is inferring this.

But I digress. There are some things you need to know about dealing with knives for your own situational awareness. Awareness enables avoidance, and avoidance is a fantastic strategy for staying out of the hospital.

Nature of the Weapon: Knives are a contact weapon. What this means is that the threat of damage arises just as much from the nature of the weapon as it does from its employment. One, if not both edges are a threat. The tip is a threat. Slash, stab, pare, rip, flick or flash – if a sharp parts contacts your skin, you’re getting cut and you’re going to bleed. Contrast a pistol: A ballistic weapon is directional and purpose-built. It must be employed in a specific manner to cause damage. Not so with a knife. So remember, if a knife comes out, the odds are that you will get cut.

Managing the frequency, nature and severity of the cuts is your main responsibility. Interested? Urban Combat Systems class deals with knives every single class. It’s part of our foundation.

Concealment: Knives are most often deployed as an ambush, from a concealment position. That is to say, if you are not aware of general body language and threat cues, you’re probably not going to see a blade coming until it’s too late. So pay attention! There are obvious cues to weapon deployment, and they’re glaring when you’re used to looking for them.

From draw to grip to deployment is often cumbersome, especially with a compact folding knife. For that reason, the attack must come from knife-already-in-hand. If you’re astute and attentive, you should see the pocket check and draw before the blade is presented. This is the golden opportunity to run like you’re challenging Usain Bolt for the gold. If you can’t run, you’re going to have to mitigate the targeting by protecting your vitals and attacking the attacker. Sound scary? It is. Prioritize your awareness!

If the knife is already in hand and is concealed out-of-pocket, you must observe the nuances of hand position.

  • Can you see both hands?
  • All fingers?
  • What about the thumb?
  • Is the posture and arm positioning natural or suspect?

Don’t forget that even if you compute the odds of a concealment, a knife can get from A to B very quickly with devastating results. If you suspect an open concealment, get the hell out of dodge.

Damage Mitigation: As I noted earlier, getting cut is the cost of doing business with a knife-wielding attacker. The true danger to you is insertion injuries – stabbing – particularly to fast-bleed blood vessels, vital organs, and the eyes and throat. There are physical means of both protecting these areas, such as it were (nothing is foolproof) and allowing you to posture for a counterattack on the assailant. Done correctly, you can prevent blood loss and tissue damage long enough to effectively terminate the threat.

Suffice it to say that you can’t learn this in a weekend workshop or a self defence “thing” that you did 5 years ago. The skills are stress-oriented and habituated; they are also perishable. If you’re not training them deep, under stress and regularly, you’re guaranteed a one night stay in the emergency room if you tangle with a weapon.

You know where to find us! Don’t take chances with your life, and don’t underestimate a knife!

Web: www.ronintraining.ca
Twitter: twitter.com/RoninTrng
UCS on Facebook: www.fb.com/Urban-Combat-Systems-116884028406364/

You can reach me directly anytime at info@ronintraining.ca or 613-627-3018.

What to do in a robbery...

The Ottawa Police Blotter is a great place to keep an eye on the development of crime in our fair city. This November 15 entry indicates that the OPS have charged a suspect in connection with four local robberies: http://bit.ly/2eFj8n8 .

In a recent blog, I suggested that most people will never get into a “wrong time, wrong place” scenario where “random” violence befalls them. The notable exception to this is a bank or retail robbery situation.

It got me thinking that the public should know what constitutes an appropriate self defence response in such a situation. Self defence is a mindset and lifestyle, not just a set of physical skills to be used against violence. It includes understanding and assessing the risks you face and responding to them in a way that ensures your continued safety and wellbeing.

Here’s what you need to know about responding to a robbery (Take note that I say respond, not react. There’s a significant difference!). Note that this is high-level. All of the “how, what and why” is handled in depth in the Urban Combat Systems class which I run.

They’re Only After Your Stuff

Money, smartphones, jewelry, cars and even precious items destined for a safe deposit box are still just things. They are likely replaceable. Even if they are irreplaceable, they are nowhere near as irreplaceable as human life – yours. Though the material loss will sting, it pales in comparison to spending weeks in a hospital bed with severe or life threatening injuries, or worse. Give the bandits your stuff. Do it quietly, intone calmly “no problem, I’m getting it for you right now,” and remain calm. Harm will not likely come to you if you comply.

If, however, a bandit takes an interest in your person, either as a hostage or for an assaultive purpose, you will have to act. This blog is too simple to address this – you’ll need to come to my class for that.

Don’t Be a Hero

Thieves and robbers have a reason to do what they’re doing, and that motivation can make people very dangerous. Interrupting the plan could have dire consequences for you. I’ll draw three broad categories for you:

Desperate: Broke, hungry, possibly fixing for drugs, these people feel like they have nothing to lose. This is probably not the first criminal act they’ve perpetrated, nor are they strangers to the system. It’s a dangerous gamble to antagonize someone, particularly someone at the end of his rope, and doubly so if he’s armed.

Criminal: Whether a member of a gang, a professional knock-off artist, or a serial offender, criminals not only have no respect for established social mores and norms, they’re intent on achieving their objective. This is their job and their lifestyle. On one hand, pros and serial offenders may be highly efficient and use only violence as a last resort. Gangbangers have something to prove and may be prone to irrational use of violence for intimidation. Guns and knives are a factor.

Mercenary: Some people do it for the money, period. They’re no less dangerous and will either be smart enough to keep a low profile and systematically hit jobs over time, spreading their risk out, or they will big-bang it and do 4-5 jobs in 2 months. Neither class of criminal has any interest in being apprehended, and if you get in the way of an escape and fail, you will pay for it.

If there is no direct, personal threat to your safety, don’t intervene to stop the robbery attempt.

Stay Alert, Stay Calm

The biggest service you can do yourself, the other customers and the bank, is to be the voice of reason and to remain totally alert. Manage your voice when interacting with the robber and the others. Encourage calm, tell everyone that it will be alright, actively agree to accommodate material demands and assure the robbers that if they just take your stuff and move on, everyone will make it easy for them.

While you’re doing this, look, listen, intuit and feel. Make full use of your senses:

  • How many perpetrators?
  • What are they wearing?
  • How tall, how heavy, body types – tall with long legs or a long torso, short with thick waist, etc.?
  • Visible eye and hair colour (and length), tattoos, markings, jewelry?
  • Gender and voice characteristics?
  • Language – intelligent and eloquent, rushed and rough? Estimate social upbringing.
  • Age?
  • Weapons involved? What kind, how many, how big, where were they carried or concealed?
  • Set up – is there a door watch, a floor watch, an active robber, a vault guy? Are there just three grunts with shotguns screaming? Are they pros or hammerheads?
  • Gloves and face coverings? GLOVES? This is important! No gloves means someone somewhere left a piece of himself on a door handle or countertop…
  • Command structure of the group – who’s in charge?

If you can maintain calm and keep others calm, this can end quickly. Alertness and observational astuteness make you an asset to the police, who will want detailed witness statements.

Your mission in a robbery situation, in this order, is:

  • Keep yourself safe and return to your family unharmed;
  • Facilitate and maintain overall calm;
  • Contribute to the safety of others;
  • Assist the police completely.

If nobody gets hurt and the police are appreciative, then in a case like this, you have successfully defended yourself.

If you want to know more, and work this type of assault in-situ, join Urban Combat Systems:

 

CollabSpace – Back Entrance

70 Bongard Ave.

Tuesday: 7:00-8:15 PM

Sunday: Noon-1:15 PM

 

As always, your questions are welcome anytime: info@ronintraining.ca | 613.627.3018

Follow us on Twitter: @RoninTrng / @UCSOttawa

Three Strategies for Dealing With Difficult Conversations

If you were at CollabSpace yesterday, you may have had the chance to participate in my workshop, Handle Difficult Conversations Like a Spy, Not at $%#! We covered several strategies for handling those conversations that leave us feeling backed into corners and powerless.

In the practice of self defence, you will rapidly learn that hands-and-feet skills are only part of the equation. Self defence is an attitude and a mindset based on the belief that you are worth defending. Not all threats to your safety will be physical. Some forms of abusive behaviour – emotional and verbal – can leave people feeling powerless and trapped for their entire lives.

It’s important to understand how to decisively stand up for yourself against all forms of aggression without inciting more aggression. When it comes to adult bullies, sexual harassment or subtle undermining, here are three ways that can help you assert your worth and deter people from using you as a figurative punching bag:

Know Your Worth

Self-confidence begins with mindset. In any interaction, you are a partner in and party to the conversation. Therefore, you have a stake in it and are not required to simply absorb someone else’s perceived superiority, just because they say you should. Even the Queen of England takes feedback from her underlings, provided that they present it with tact, confidence and proper manners. That meathead in the Senior VP chair can handle it if you can.

Always cultivate the mindset that you are a person whose input matters, who deserves to be treated with respect, and who has the confidence to act in your best interest if treated disrespectfully. This is not about being combative; It’s about not being a pushover who wishes others would stop stepping all over them.

Finding your worth can be complicated if you’re currently living through or after a struggle that has depersonalized you or put you in an abusive situation. Although you can do a great deal of self-development through resources such as reading, online workshops, audio programs and meditation, it’s sometimes (often!) best to seek out a teacher, mentor or coach to help get you through the scary stuff.

 

Set Your Boundaries

There are two kinds of psychological boundaries: Internal and External (generally speaking, and remembering that I speak from personal and anecdotal experience, not from the perspective of a qualified psychologist). Internal boundaries are those which define what you will let influence your internal state. For example, if I call you a “raving lunatic”, your internal boundary may be simply “I don’t accept unqualified and low-brow criticism from anyone,” making that phrase just a bunch of words which you quickly discountenance. If your internal boundary is weak, you may feel hurt or insulted by that. Take a good look at what your internal boundaries are, and then reset them if need be.

External boundaries are those which you set for others. For example, if a friend of mine is joking around with me and says “You’re retarded,” I might say, “Jack, I’m not cool with using that word as an insult because it’s hurtful to people with disabilities. If you want to call me names, that’s fine, but at least come up with something a little more clever. Dummy works for me.” Just because some people lack “Sending” boundaries doesn’t mean you have to be on “Receive” 100% of the time. Notice, by the way, that boundary setting is not the same as censoring people, telling them to shut up, refusing to converse with them or acting offended. It’s about firmly establishing your notion of being treated with respect.

 

Communicate With Forcefulness, Not with Force

On that note, there’s a difference between assertiveness and aggression. In declaring your boundaries and standing up for yourself, you will often need to be assertive. It’s the difference between telling an unwanted visitor, “Thank you for dropping by, but I can’t accommodate you at the moment. Good evening” and slamming the door in his face.

Assertiveness requires confidence, tact, composure and the ability to not only select the right words for the interaction, but also the tone, facial expression and body language that accompany the words.

 

Here’s an example of aggressiveness:

Male Coworker: “Hey Jessie, you don’t have to try so hard to impress the boss. You’re gonna get by on your looks anyways, so you don’t have be so pushy.”

Jessie: “Mike, don’t talk to me like that. You should shut your mouth before you find out how pushy I can get. Ass.”

Jessie’s well within her rights to push back against Mike, but the response will probably get her laughed off and garner more of the same behaviour, reinforcing Mike's stereotypical sexist attitude. If she (and this goes doubly for men, as the last thing you need is to be known in turn as a bully, meathead, or someone lacking a sense of humour) uses tact and confidence assertively, chances are this will be the last time this guy talks to her like that.

Jessie: “Listen Mike, I appreciate what you’re trying to say, as well as the compliment. The thing is, I’m more than a just pretty face, and I’m sure a guy like you can handle a little competition from me… can’t you?”

This show of confidence not only disarms Mike, but puts him back on his heels, as he now has to consider and re-prove his own worth without looking like a bigger jerk, and without looking like a pushover. The only way out of this for him is to smile and acknowledge that she’s out-clevered him.

Bear in mind, these are concepts; the “what” of the situation. To learn the “how”, you must commit to a learning process, which is exactly what we provide through our hand-to-hand and self-defense programs at Ronin Training. We’re so much more than just fighting off bad guys – we teach you how to cultivate your inner strength and confidence.

When you are ready to move from “why” and “what” to “how,” you are most welcome to join us at an Urban Combat Systems class at Collabspace:

70 Bongard Ave., Back Entrance

Tuesday 7:00-8:15 PM

Sunday Noon-1:15 PM

613.627.3018

info@ronintraining.ca

@RoninTrng & @UCSOttawa

Ottawa Stabbings - A Self Defence Take

Ottawa is a growing city, and with that growth, a perceptible rise in weapon violence has finally arrived. While shootings are at an all-time high, one of the more visceral stories is the Nov. 8 revelation in the Ottawa Citizen that three people were injured in one night in two separate stabbings.

Read it here: http://bit.ly/2fQMOii

Since the Citizen broke the article, we've learned a little more. One of the victims was a man who intervened to protect the targeted victim in one stabbing. He was wounded by the female attacker. In the other assault, security guards intervened and managed to subdue the male attacker.

A few things about this caught my attention, and I want to share my thoughts as a life-long instructor of combative, reality-based self defence.

Alleged Perpetrators

Often, we assume that weapon violence - particularly in the late hours, and especially in known or suspected "rough" areas of town (which the Byward Market is and isn't depending on whom you ask) - is perpetrated in a male-on-male fashion.  However, one of the wanted persons in this case is a woman.

Violence doesn't have a preferred gender. Although we have heard more about gendered violence from the male to female direction (primarily sexual violence), we hear little about female on female and female on male assaults. When faced with violence, particularly weapon violence, you must put perceptions of gender, race, propriety and any other mitigating factors at a distant second behind your own safety. If you are attacked in an unprovoked manner by any person at any time, do what you have to do to avoid egregious harm, period.

Circumstances

Although more information comes to light daily, we don't know enough yet about the involved parties to make a 100% judgment on the motive for these assaults, but I'll take an educated guess. Before I do, think about my position on asocial violence: "Wrong place, wrong time" is really a wrong idea. It can and does happen - witness the number of sexual assaults that we learn of - in some contexts. But when it comes to criminal, asocial violence like this, there are often (read: usually) contributing factors.

Here's what I think: The assaulters and their victims likely had history and were either settling a an old grudge or debt, or a new one had erupted into violence. There is potential here for gang and drug linkages, and many of these parties will not be strangers to the Ottawa Police. None of this was accidental, even if the level of violence employed was incidental or greater than intended. With the exception of the man who intervened, it appears there was little randomness or chance involved in the injuries, but more on that in a moment.

As the old saying goes: He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.

I and my training partners are experts at doing violence, but we don't live violent lifestyles, nor associate with people who choose violence and anti-social behaviour as a primary strategy. We don't frequent areas of the city known to be dangerous. As such, we are never in the wrong place at the wrong time. If I wanted to get stabbed, I'd have to go looking for it.  Cavalier? Harsh? Politically incorrect? Damn right. And also accurate.

Who Carries a Knife?

Well, I do. But not to defend myself. My everyday carry is a tool and an emergency implement. I have no interest whatsoever in deploying it offensively or defensively against a human.  Besides that, it's cumbersome to draw and chamber in a tactically effective way. It's not practical as a weapon.

So, if you're carrying a knife for any reason other than its practical utility, you're a trouble-seeking shithead, period. You want to use it, you've practiced drawing it, and you're rolling with the kind of crowd that attributes status to violent behaviour because you want to be hard.

There was not only intent to employ the weapon here, there was a desire to do so. There was preparation and premeditation. All of the above are accompanied by the ironic and oxymoronic duo of bravado and low self-esteem. Whoever these hardasses are, they were cocky enough to think violence is a suitable negotiation tactic, but neither smart, skilled nor confident enough to employ it without the crutch of a weapon.

Intervening

I applaud all parties for intervening to assist the targets of these attacks. Nonetheless, a word of caution: It is one thing to step into a a violent altercation as a third party, and quite another to do so in an armed altercation. Knives are a lethal force implement, and one must always accept the realistic chance of grievous bodily harm or death. Handling a knife and its wielder is something that requires patience, maturity, a particular skill set and total fear management. These third parties did the right thing for the right reason, and that affirms my faith in humanity. But we see objectively that in the one case, one unprepared man against a knife resulted in a "loss" - he was cut repeatedly and rendered in serious condition. In the second case, I suggest that the security personnel scored a "win" because there were more of them, making the logistics more complex for the attacker. In neither case does it appear that this could have ended favourably for the good guys if this were one-to-one, armed vs. unarmed.

The morality and philosophy of combat in all its forms are topics we go deep on in our Urban Combat Systems curriculum You are welcome to join us for a trial class:

http://www.urbancombatsystems.com

Or, contact me directly at 613.627.3018 or info@ronintraining.ca

Stay safe and stay smart!

 

 

 

 

Women’s Self Defence – Fantasy and Reality, Part 1 of 2

A lot is made in modern media these days about the preponderance of sexual assaults against women. It’s a very disturbing problem that has an undeniably simple solution: Men have to learn to respect boundaries and if they can’t do that, they have to face dire consequences.

No person has the right to violate the sovereignty of another’s person.

Having said that, the harsh reality of assault runs counter to the narrative around responsibility. At the end of the day, someone intent on sexualizing and depersonalizing a woman will persist in doing so unless stopped. Differentials in size, strength and aggression make this all too easy for most men. The perception of entitlement and power, along with undercurrents of misogyny, give the assaulter a moral and cognitive justification for his actions (at least in his mind).

The police can’t stop him; they aren’t there at the critical moment. Husbands, friends, brothers, boyfriends and all of the decent males in the lives of women who have or will endure assaults – they can’t do anything. They’re not there at the critical moment. The only person that can stop an attempted assault is the woman targeted. Sorry folks. Time and space win out over moralizing arguments every time. Time and space cannot be argued the way that motive, intent and opportunity can.

Here’s where we have to draw a critical distinction between blame and responsibility.

The blame for rape ALWAYS falls on the rapist.

The responsibility for self-protection falls to each person, regardless of gender or circumstance.

Only you can defend you, because only you are always with you. Time and space.

As much as education, prevention and laws are the preferable routes to eliminate assaults on women, they will never be as effective as a confident woman motivated to stop her attacker cold through a ruthless commitment to her own dignity.

In that regard, I feel quite strongly that all women should learn basic self defense, if for no other reason than to understand how predatory men think, and perceive the danger before it develops. In the worst case, they’re also equipped with devastating physical deterrence strategies proven to keep them safe.

In next week’s video blog, I am going to address three popular (bullshit) ideas around women’s self defense “techniques”. By the end of it, you’ll see what works and what doesn’t, and why.

Until then, follow me at https://www.twitter.com/RoninTrng and https://www.twitter.com/UCSOttawa

Spy tricks for handling travel scams

The Ottawa Citizen recently ran a good piece entitled “Ten travel scams to watch for: From the broken taxi meter to the take-out fake out”. It was in print on Oct. 29 and digital on Nov. 2, 2016. You can find it here:

http://bit.ly/2f8SIa2

From the perspective of more-paranoid, fairly well-traveled former spy, I’d like to offer a few additional tips that can keep you safe in foreign lands. All of these tips are presented as trainable skills in my Personnel Safety and Situational Awareness training, available to individuals and corporations with travel-intensive business activities. Learn more and enroll here:

http://www.ronintraining.ca/p-s

Many of the scams described here play on two key human frailties – a lack of overall situational awareness, and the ease with which people are distracted. So, as a general piece of advice, here are two things you should develop as habits for everyday life:

  • Maintain a heightened sense of vigilance, especially when traveling. Look around, listen, pay attention!
  • Expect the unexpected – you’re a tourist. You know it and the locals know it. If you’re taken by surprise, it’s because you were too trusting or inattentive.

Here are my thoughts on some of the specific tips in this article:

The newspaper wave and/or The spiller:

Maintain personal space at all times, and if someone gets too close, stand up immediately and take a step towards them. Encroachers are not expecting their marks to re-encroach. It disrupts their ploy and demonstrates awareness and assertiveness.

If something is spilled on you, politely excuse the person and say “it’s no problem, don’t worry about it” and then immediately approach someone – a waiter, ticket agent, whoever is employed at the venue you’re at and ask where the restroom is. Look and point direct toward the “spiller” to raise awareness and say loudly “it was an accident”. Then excuse yourself. It goes without saying: take your stuff with you, and if you’re going to a washroom, ensure you’re not followed.

You should always have your valuables and documents concealed under clothing in a difficult-to-see and access location. Maintain awareness of the location of your stuff and if you sense a distraction, reclaim and pocket it all immediately.

Fake monks:

At the risk of sounding cold-hearted, don’t give anybody anything, anywhere, ever! The last thing you need is to be marked as the rich tourist with the fat wallet. By giving money to people on the street, legitimate or not, you are establishing:

  • That you have money
  • Where you keep your money
  • That you have a kind heart, which innately makes you less likely to resist or fight an attacker or a mugger. Remember: Targets are chosen, they are not accidental.

The fake monk can also be a first-stage ploy to distract you to another crime such as purse snatching or pickpocketing, or in worse scenarios, an ambush or abduction.

Off-site rentals:

Not only should you book only through reputable hotel-sponsored activity providers, you should do some homework:

  • Research the trip/activity online. You have no excuse for not doing this. If they have no online presence and no reviews, they don’t exist. Pass.
  • Check to see if this is a company run by a larger entity, especially a Canadian, American, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese or other major European entity such as a trip operator. You’re safer if so.
  • Call your credit card company. Ask if they’re aware of scams with this resort or trip operator. Get the extra trip and purchase insurance. Ask what kind of indemnification you have if you book stuff on the card and get assessed damages. The $15/week premium is worth it if it saves you a trip to Club Fed and frivolous extortion. Book everything on your credit card and if the operator is sweating you, ask them if they can handle going to court with VISA over it.

The broken taxi meter:

Many countries and cities have approved, branded taxi companies. Do your homework and use only those. Many cabbies will agree on a price beforehand; If so, do so and give them 50% when getting in the cab. In the age of Google Maps and GPS, you’re the only one to blame if a 20 minute cab ride turns into a jungle safari. Map a route and make it clear to the driver that he’s taking that route in exchange for your fare. Note the plate and markings of the cab on your mobile and email them to the front desk of your hotel or a trusted friend before embarking.

The hotel switcheroo:

Easy day. If the cabbies tries this stunt, get out of the cab before you depart. The cabbie will be confused. Ask him which hotel he recommends then tell him to wait while you call your hotel’s front desk. Ask your hotel if they’re open and what the deal is with the other hotel. Then report the cab’s plate and markings to them. Ask the cabbie to leave before you complain to the police and tourism bureau. Ask your hotel if they could send you a shuttle and if not, to call you a prepaid cab to bring you directly to them. Settle with the hotel when you check in.

The take-out fake out:

Never give a credit card out over the phone in unfamiliar territory. Ask the front desk which takeout places they know to be reputable. Better hotels can accept the delivery at the front desk for you. You can either go down and pay in person, or, ask the hotel to pay the vendor and add it to your bill.

Code stealers:

A couple of quick ones on this:

  • Tell your bank or credit card company where you’re traveling and for how long;
  • Advise them as to how you’ll use your cards – for purchases, airline bookings, to take out cash, etc.;
  • If you have no choice but to use an ATM, use your VISA. Protect your bank accounts – the ridiculous cash withdrawal fees are worth the security. You can always advise the bank that you made a cash withdrawal so that if the card is compromised at the ATM, subsequent transactions are blacklisted. You might not get so lucky with debit.
  • Cover your PIN and rest all of your fingers over the keypad for 10 seconds. This distributes the heat signature and makes it harder for someone with IR lenses to pick out exactly which keys are used for your PIN.

Stolen passwords:

If you’re going to take devices with you, I recommend that you use a ridiculously strong password that is easy for you to remember, but difficult to intercept by watching you type, and is prone to repetitive errors if the person is unfamiliar with it. You will need a master device password, and one for a password manager utility – this way you can secure all of your passwords with a password manager and use it to auto-fill or cut and paste into web forms.

Here’s an example of a password that is strong (upper and lower-case letters, special characters and spaces, numbers and a length exceeding 20 characters). Let’s use a memorable song, some numbers I can remember, and appropriate punctuation:

“Oh, let the sun beat down Upon My Face! 6-38-42 Stars to fill my Dream$!”

Recognize Led Zeppelin’s famous “Kashmir”? I’ve thrown in the combination from my old high school gym locker, included spaces and capitalized certain words to make dictionary attacks more difficult. A few extra special characters round it out. Let’s say you used that as your iPad password, then used the next phrase in the song with some minor mods for your password manager:

“I’m a trav’ler 0f Both Time & Space (6)[38](42) to be Where? I have beeen!

I threw in a few nuances that you can use which make sense… “Where” has a question mark, as it often denotes a question, and “been” is stretched by an extra “e”. All you have to do is remember where you put the tricks. Paste any of these into a password tester website like https://howsecureismypassword.net/ and see for yourself – they’re secure.

The first one is computed at 386,285 quadragintillion years to crack, and the second at 37.083 quadragintillion years! I won’t be around that long to worry about who sees my naughty emails.

On that note, don’t use public WiFi. If I have to tell you this, you’re probably already compromised. If you just have to Instagram your life away in the hotel lobby or by the pool or what have you, then pay $50/year for a VPN like Private Internet Access and ensure that it is ALWAYS CONNECTED when you use public WiFi. Your funeral if you’re too cheap or naïve to not do this.

The “front desk is calling” scam:

Force the caller to verify the information they do have. What is your room number? When did you check in and at what time, exactly? What is your check out date? What did you just order for room service? What phone number do they have on file and what billing address? What credit card did you supposed to use, which they “copied down” incorrectly – Amex, VISA, MC? What’s the desk clerk’s name that you’re speaking with? Tell them you’ll be down momentarily, then call back in fifteen minutes and ask directly for a manager. Name the “employee” and ask the manager to confirm there is a problem. Then and only then can you go down to the desk and give the card directly.

There are a number of credit card and travel-friendly solutions available from an excellent author named Mike Bazzell. I recommend his work highly:

https://computercrimeinfo.com/bio.html

https://computercrimeinfo.com/book4.html

As always, you can reach out to me for training and with your questions:

info@ronintraining.ca | 613.627.3018 | www.twitter.com/RoninTrng

Some ugly truths about responsibility and violence

If you haven't already seen my CTV Ottawa Morning Live piece on women's safety while walking at night, here's the link:


http://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=979486

In that piece, I mentioned two key tips regarding awareness:

1) Take out the headphones; and

2) Pull your face out of the phone.

I know - in fact I hope - that this will start a small outrage among people, who come forward with questions like:

"Isn't that a lot like 'victim blaming'?"

"Why shouldn't people feel safe in their own city, jogging with headphones in?"

"People shouldn't take advantage of someone just because they're not paying attention!"

These are all fair statements and questions, as long as you conveniently forget one simple truth:

Thieves, rapists, kidnappers and criminals don't give a sh*t what you think about right and wrong, and they're going to do their thing, regardless of your principles, opinions or prevailing social norms.

Here are a few more examples of well-intentioned, but naïve and unrealistically idealist statements:

“Desperate people shouldn't break into peoples' cars and houses around Christmas to steal presents so they can sell them for food? It's private property and it’s illegal!!”

“Don't drug users know that they should have listened to their teachers and never have started using, because drugs lead to crime and ruined lives?”

“Don't those gang-bangers know that unlicensed handguns are illegal and that they kill people? We have laws against that! Maybe we need more gun control!”

I’d wager that in some of these cases, we’d be quick to point the finger at the victim, indicating how he could have or should have done something more “common sense” to prevent the crime. In fact, here are some typical that for some reason, people are all too comfortable uttering to victims of home invasion, thefts, muggings and social, alcohol-fueled violence. Yet strangely, we don't see these as "victim blaming", even though that's exactly what they are, if you hold the affected parties to the same standard you would a person who’s been sexually assaulted:

“But, why didn't you put the presents in the trunk, like the police tell you? Don't you have an alarm at your house? They must have seen they presents, otherwise why would they go after you?"

“Well, if you're worried about that, why don't you move to a different neighbourhood? You knew the reputation of that part of town when you moved there. Are you surprised that there are drug problems?”

“What are you so worried about? If you don't hang around with those people, and don't go out late at night around their neighbourhoods, what's going to happen? How many people catch a bullet being in the wrong place at the wrong time? If you got involved with gun violence, you were probably around the people that cause it!”


I don't mean to trivialize it, but do you see it now? If something criminal happens to you because you failed to account for the reality of the danger, is it your fault? Probably not. Is your safety your responsibility? Yes. Is it worth accepting that minimizing risk-attractive behavior is the single best way to avoid violent surprises? Depends... do you want to be right, or do you want to be alive, mobile, healthy, vital and happy?

All of the moralizing and social posturing in the world around who's to blame and root causes will never erase the reality that a small segment of the population will always tend toward, or be driven by external factors toward criminal offenses.

If you're interested in being a potential victim with an irreproachable moral position, then keep your face in that phone while you walk home, reading the latest social media outrage on random acts of violence, sexual assaults, home invasions, assaults on seniors, kidnappings, school shootings. Keep reading one-sided opinion pieces that ignore the ground truth of violence; Feed your mind with biased conjecture so you can continue to be informed, outraged, morally superior and totally ineffective in the real world. - to have no impact whatsoever.

You’ve seen the video. Neither of those good ladies deserved to be attacked, but just a moment of distraction and a lack of preparedness could have been life-ending if this weren’t a simulation. What would the police do for them? The courts? The women’s services centres and advocates? Nothing – it’s too late! Only you can defend you.

The only life that you can impact and control 100% is your own. In the course of so doing, you stand a higher-than-average chance of meaningfully impacting the lives of your loved ones by setting the example of being confident, self-assured, aware, capable and strong.

I urge you all to take your lives more seriously. You're worth it. Be aware, pay attention, develop inner strength and make yourself an example of a person who will not submit or cower to wrong-doers. The more of us there are, the fewer there are of the other type, and the less inclined they are to prey on the innocent.

/Rant

That's the "what?" and the "why?" around social victimology from my perspective as a former spy and a lifelong practitioner of the defensive arts. What are your thoughts? In the next few blogs, I'll talk about "how".

While you wait, visit us at a class - Tuesday nights at 7 PM and Sundays at Noon. Contact me for details at info@ronintraining.ca or 613.627.3018.