Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Reflections on a violent encounter

It's a privilege to come out of an assault intact.

I say that because, as those of you in the field of self-defense know, it's far more often about luck than skill. Staying alert, knowing what to do -- yes, these are good things. But there's more going on in a violent encounter that you can't control than that you can.

Today I was lucky.

The man who came into the cafe wasn't after me. He was after another woman. He didn't have a weapon, but he had fists, elbows, a loud voice, and a shocking willingness to do damage to everyone between him and her.

I knew the moment I heard the tone of his voice that he was dangerous. We don't always get that kind of warning, but I did.

I dropped down out of sight, behind a cement barrier -- because I didn't know what weapons he might have -- and called 911. I wasn't his target, the cafe was small, and other people were confronting him, so that was clearly my job -- to make sure someone called for backup.

And backup was exactly what it was, because despite being in-city, by the time the cops arrived, some 10 minutes later, the man in the baseball cap and blue hoodie yelling threats at everyone including a pretty dark-haired woman he didn't know -- and then picking up a table and slamming it against the door that had been closed against him -- was long gone.

So I stand corrected: he did have a weapon. A table. He had been pushed outside, the door shut against him, and he picked up a table and slammed it against the glass door until it broke. Yelling, screaming, but unable to get back in, he finally left.

I found out later that the woman who was the target of this assault had just come in. He'd started yelling at her on the sidewalk up the block, out of the blue. She'd run into the cafe for sanctuary. He followed, yelling, threatening. Swinging fists and elbows.

She didn't know him. Had never seen him before in her life.

If he'd had a gun, or a knife, I am sure he would have used it. He didn't, so the woman was scared, shaken, but physically whole.

I've practiced these types of scenarios across the years. Today I saw that my training actually works; I knew what to look for, what to listen for. I knew what to do and how to do it.

More importantly, I knew what he could do, and what I could do in response.

I don't want to talk about weapons, or how to control them. I don't want to talk about mental illness, or violence. These are topics in heated discussion today.

Today I just want to say this:

Violence can be fast, unpredictable, and senseless. Sometimes, no matter what you do, no matter how fast or strong or prepared you are, all that stands between you and being the target of that violence is luck.

Today I was lucky.