Martial Arts Practice --- Pre-Incident

By Dennis Lawson
Published on May 14th, 2012

This is the first of what will be a series of articles concerning the “Practice” of Martial arts. After the publication of “Talking Kenpo” (See Subscribe to Talking Kenpo to download your copy), I received a number of questions concerning my definitions of: training, scenario, model, technique, and, of course, practice.

PRACTICE (v) --- To engage in frequent consciously directed activities. The Martial Artist practices the Art every day. Just as an engineer, lawyer, or teacher “practices” a profession. Whether medical practitioner, legal practitioner, or Martial Arts practitioner a profession entails constant learning and stages of refinement. To practice is to be in the process of continuous improvement.

As you can see the details of a violent encounter requiring Martial Arts skills are not dealt with in this definition. Instead the definition deals with the bigger picture of a focused discipline or personal philosophy as it applies to modern life and one’s personal development.

When practicing the Martial Arts consider separating any potentially violent incident or encounter, where we traditionally think of applying our Martial arts training, into a series of phases. To introduce this “map of an encounter” we’ll start with the first of three phases, the pre-incident phase. The incident and the post incident phases will be the subjects of future articles.

PRE-INCIDENT INDICATORS --- This term refers to any number of observable or subconscious components of human communication, whether verbal or non-verbal, prior to any violent encounter.

Violent assault doesn’t “just happen”. There are always “indications” before the incident occurs. One of my favorite stories about recognizing the importance of pre-incident indicators occurred on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California. The story goes that a gentleman was window shopping wearing a new Rolex watch when he was asked for the time by an attractive, well-dressed young woman. As he focused his attention on his left wrist, showing off the watch, the woman moved closer, thrusting a knife in his ribs, threatening to kill him if he didn’t give up his watch. Moments later, she disappeared with his watch into an unmarked white van a few feet away.

There were a number of indications that something was wrong or out of place in this incident. The woman did not maintain social distance from the man. She moved closer than the 4 to 7 feet of “Comfort Zone” which most Americans keep between ourselves and any stranger. He may have misinterpreted this, along with her smile as harmless flirting. She intended this MIS-COMMUNICATION to be “read” as harmless by her victim. Later, the man recalled that the woman was wearing her own watch. He remembered seeing the white van with a man at the wheel and the motor running, but, “didn’t think anything of it.” There may have been more signs (Pre-Incident Indicators) that our victim simply disregarded. By increasing our awareness of the potential threat of certain behaviors, we may be able to prevent a conflict before it occurs. As a Health and Safety manager for a Disaster Remediation company, I’ve developed several policies to deal with rising issues of Workplace Violence. Some of the Pre-Incident Indicators that an employee, or any individual, may be moving toward violence include:

  • Upset over recent event(s) --- either at work or personal crisis
  • Recent major change in their behavior, appearance, or demeanor
  • Recently has withdrawn from normal activities, family, friends, co-workers
  • Intimidating, verbally abusive, harasses or mistreats others
  • Challenges/resists authority
  • Blames others for problems in life or work; suspicious, holds grudges
  • Use/abuse of drugs and/or alcohol

Awareness is an important survival skill in an encounter and a valuable ally in “Practicing” Martial Arts at home, at work, and throughout your life. If the victim in the above story had been more aware that day, he might still have his watch. Awareness prior to and during the incident will be the topic of my next article.

A great guide to understanding various types of illegal and violent behavior is “The Gift of Fear’ by Gavin De Becker. I reference it because of its detailed description of many critical pre-incident indicators and highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in this area of Martial Arts study.

MIS-COMMUNICATION --- 1. To misinterpret an opponent’s true intentions.
2. Planned moves and gestures that a purposely used to mislead an opponent.

Filed under Techniques and Tutorials

Author Bio :: Dennis Lawson

Dennis Lawson has trained for 4 decades in Ed Parker's Kenpo. During his varied career, Mr. Lawson has been an IKKA Regional Director for Region #3, has acted as Master of Ceremonies for the International Karate Championships, and has published numerous articles in publications for the International Kenpo Karate Association, The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC), and Kenpo 2000.

Mr. Lawson has had the opportunity to study other Martial Arts and holds advanced rank in Aikido and Takemusu Aiki Budo. Dennis taught, competed in, and promoted events in the New Orleans area for 20 years. Among his list of favorite achievements is choreographing and performing Kenpo for the Dance Council of New Orleans. His academic background in psychology and love of music allow Dennis to offer a unique and entertaining approach to tailoring "the Art" to the individual. Dennis has taught seminars in Ireland, Jersey Channel Islands, The Netherlands, Portugal, and throughout the United States.

Dennis holds a Sixth Degree Black Belt in Ed Parker's Kenpo and was awarded the title “Professor” under the auspices of The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC). Mr. Lawson was inducted into the International Black Belt Hall of Fame as Master Instructor of the Year for 2006.

Other Articles by Dennis Lawson

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