Sunday, February 28, 2010

School and Workplace Shootings

A brief history

“Going Postal” was a phrase that spawned from 20 separate shootings that took place in postal offices during the 1980s and 1990s (During this time period, over 40 people in the U.S. lost their lives in situations where an armed assailant unexpectedly appeared with a firearm and started shooting).

A short list of recent U.S workplace shootings recent years:

• 1984 McDonalds San Diego Ca. (21 killed, 19 injured)
• 1986 Edmond, Oklahoma Post office (14 killed, 6 injured)
• 2006 Goleta Ca. Postal Center (7 killed)
• 2010 St. Louis (3 dead, 8 injured)

And locally…

• November 2009 Tualatin, Oregon (2 dead, 2 injured)

Some of the deadliest U.S. school shootings occurred in the last half century:

• 1966 University of Texas (14 killed, 32 injured)
• 1999 Columbine High School Colorado (13 killed, 21 injured)
• 2005 Red Lake High School Minnesota (7 killed, 5 injured)
• 2007 Virginia Tech University (32 dead, 15 injured)

Thurston High School and Kip Kinkel’s shooting rampage

In Oregon in 1998, Kip Kinkel walked into the cafeteria at Thurston High school and opened fire with a rifle (Killing 2 and injuring 25). This hit close to home with me for several reasons:

1. I grew up in Springfield, Oregon and attended Thurston High. I know that cafeteria very well and it was very easy for me to picture the scene.

2. I lived about a quarter of a mile from the Kinkels. My sister babysat Kip when he was young. Before I saw his face on TV (as a murderer) my only image of him was seeing him eat ice cream and ride his big wheel in the drive way.

A history of violence

Thurston High had a long history of violence and bullying/hazing long before Kip ever arrived. I found myself in a number of self defense situations during my time as a student there (more on this below). I don’t believe Kip’s actions were warranted or justifiable, but I do believe that an extremely emotionally unbalanced individual should not be provoked.

I’ve been in the vicinity of gun crimes…four times.

My experience with hostile environments involving guns includes four distinct situations. I’ve been shot at twice in my life and believe that in both instances the individuals were attempting to scare me (believe me—they succeeded).

The first time:

In the first instance I was young and growing up in Springfield, Oregon. On the outskirts of town there lived a crazy old man who didn’t like kids cutting through his property. One day, after catching us cutting through, he shot over our heads with a rifle. At the time, I was sure he was trying to kill us. We both got out of there as fast as we could—creating a beeline path through the forest and brush in our hurry just to get out of there. That incident instilled in me a desire to improve my escape and evasion abilities. (Tactics and abilities that I regularly share with my Tien Tae Jitsu martial arts students.)

Getting shot at a second time

I consider the second incident a wrong place/wrong time type of situation. My best friend and I were juniors at Thurston High and one night were going out on a double date with a couple of girls from our school. My friend’s new girlfriend had an insanely jealous ex-boyfriend (real life drama) who followed our car (unbeknownst to us) over to a friend’s house. As we got out of our car, he drove by and fired a shotgun at us (twice). Fortunately, the shells were only filled with rock salt. Unfortunately, the rock salt missed my friend, hitting both me and my date). It took us a few minutes to realize it was only rock salt. If it had been buck shot or bird shot we would have been seriously injured or killed.

I suffered superficial wounds on my chest and on my arms as I covered my head/face. My date got hit in the back of the head and her shoulder as she turned to run. At the time, I thought I was going to die. The rock salt left me with some small scars on my chest and arms and I remember that it burned intensely—feeling like sparks flying out of a campfire. I reacted by getting everyone down and hiding behind the car. The crazed ex-boyfriend peeled out and sped away. To make matters worse, one of the neighboring homeowners ran out into the street and fired a large handgun at the car as it drove away. It was absolutely nuts. We were all lucky no one got seriously injured or killed.

Experiencing a close shooting

The third incident occurred at my apartment in southeast Portland in 1987. Crips and Bloods (bitter rival gangs) were waging all-out war almost every night in my neighborhood back then. One summer night I’d just opened my window to cool my room when shots rang out (including fully automatic weapon fire). The gunfight was so close, I could smell gunpowder coming in on the breeze through my open window. I immediately dropped to the floor, crawled down the hall and sat in the most central part of the house—my closet—until it grew quiet.

Experiencing a fourth (and hopefully final) shooting

My fourth very-near experience with gunfire happened one afternoon as I was visiting my parents in their nice, mid- to upper-middle class neighborhood in Tualatin, Oregon, just 20 minutes south of Portland. As I was climbing out of my car, several shots sounded nearby and a car quickly sped away down the street. I instinctively ran (crouched very low) to a nearby embankment and laid flat. From my position, I could see an individual lying in the garage of the house across the street. The victim was bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds. This occurred in a very nice, quiet neighborhood and was the last thing I ever expected to take place that day. Later, I would learn that the shooting was an act of revenge based upon an earlier incident. It wasn’t until the Life Flight helicopter disappeared into the distant sky that I finally caught my breath.

In my next post, I’ll provide some guidance on being prepared and reacting in the event that you find yourself facing an aggressive, gun wielding assailant.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Recognizing Road Rage

Recipe for road rage

If you drive an automobile, you’ve probably experienced rude behavior on the road. We live in a self-important, “Me First” society and road rage is just one symptom.

Roots of rage
 Ask a group of kids to line up for an activity (or even a sip of water at a drinking fountain) and you’ll more than likely see them running to be first (sometimes pushing and shoving to get their place in line). This highly competitive spirit is what I refer to as the “Me First” scenario.

 Aggressive driver behavior

Now, flash forward that scenario 10 or 20 years and you’ll see that same kid now grown, but still “pushing and shoving” to get in line with his or her vehicle, all the while aggravating nearly everyone with whom they come into contact. I believe that aggressive behavior from some drivers is compounded by the feeling that they view their car as a “comfort zone” (much like home, work, or school). As a result of being in their comfort zone, they tend to act a little braver than they would if they were standing next to you on the sidewalk.
Comfort equals confrontation

Think about that for a moment. Two people who narrowly miss each other with shopping carts in a store are very unlikely to be confrontational (yelling profanity, name calling, threats, or flipping the bird) but get those same two people behind the wheel of their vehicles and aggressive behavior is much more likely to erupt. Oftentimes, the most civil of people can find themselves engaged in ridiculous (even childish) behavior. Aggressive road rage behavior can quickly escalate out of control.

Rage happens on our roadways

Sometimes people feel the need to teach someone a lesson. They may go so far as to follow the target of their rage and confront them face to face. Other times, both parties agree to pull over and have it out. These encounters often erupt into violent episodes. In several documented cases, conflict escalated to assault with a deadly weapon and ended with someone hospitalized or dead at the hands of an enraged driver. To make matters worse, this often happens with children in the vehicle.

Avoiding road rage

To avoid getting involved in a hostile situation, practice being a careful and courteous driver. The more aggressive you are behind the wheel, the more likely you are to become involved in a road rage scenario. If you do aggravate someone while driving, be apologetic. I’ve been cut off in traffic, and then had the other driver flash a rude gesture at me just for shaking my head at them.

Never pull over

Never pull over to have it out with someone. You don’t know what their mental state might be. They could have just lost a job, been involved in a family dispute or simply be in less than total control of their emotions at the time. You never know if they have weapons of any kind stowed away somewhere in their vehicle. If you believe you’re being followed, drive to a busy location, (gas station, convenience store, anywhere with lots of people), or continue driving on a busy road (again lots of people around) and dial 911. Give the dispatcher your location and a mile marker or exit number so that they can easily find you.

Courtesy is contagious

Courteous driving is contagious. If you let someone merge into traffic (most of the time) they will be grateful. More often than not, they will then pass that behavior on to other drivers. Eventually, someone may even show you some compassion and allow you to merge into heavy traffic. If you are an aggressive driver with a “me first” attitude, that also perpetuates. You will aggravate a lot of people and lead them to adopt their own self-important attitudes. I can almost guarantee your karma will catch up to you and someone will aggravate you (beginning the cycle all over again). Drive safely and courteously out there.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Split Second Defense

Split Second Defense

Split Second Defense is about acting/reacting quickly when a situation presents itself. Understanding and applying Split Second Defense means developing and heightening quick-twitch muscle response and reflexes. In addition, a keen sense of awareness—both of self and surroundings—is essential. Last, and possibly the most important, is the will to do what needs to be done.

Manage the moment

From a psychological standpoint, you must be able to manage your fear (and the intensity of the moment). At the same time, you must use the surge of adrenaline you feel to propel a “fight or flight” reaction (rather than freezing with fear and panic). Even if we are taken completely by surprise and suffer injury as a result, we can still fight back and/or escape, provided we don’t submit to fear.

Prepare with heightened awareness
 Many people view violence as something that happens to people in the news. The truth is, violent attacks can occur regardless of where you live (day or night). Developing a heightened sense of your surroundings is the first step in staying safe. This awareness is an essential first step in recognizing and avoiding conflict with others whenever possible and striving for peaceful resolutions. When in doubt, get away, call 911 and let the authorities help you to resolve your conflict.

Split second understanding
 Split Second Defense isn’t just about reacting quickly—it’s about understanding that once you’ve successfully blocked, avoided, redirected, or escaped an attack, all you have done is bought yourself one second (sometimes a fraction of a second). It’s what we do with that moment (when the attacker is off balance, stunned, or recovering) that truly defines “Split Second Defense”. We need to either escape and evade our attacker, or continue our counterattack until we feel the threat is neutralized