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Geoff Thompson is a British self-defense instructor and the author of a number of books dealing with self-defense, martial arts, and fear control. A digital version of his autobiography, “Watch My Back” (which I’m told is a worthwhile read) is available for free from his website.
Geoff’s work came to my attention after someone who read my recent post, “The Bully (and the catastrophic laptop attack)” suggested I check out his book called, “The Fence – The Art of Protection” (videos below).
So I set about looking into Geoff and his work and discovered that his book, “The Art of Fighting Without Fighting: Techniques in Personal Threat Evasion:” is available for download from his website.
And so I started to read…
It’s a short book — only 96 pages. And although I’ve only made it about a third of the way through, I can already say (that despite the typos) this book should be compulsory reading for just about anyone. And it has helped me make some sense of my own actions and involvement in “the bully incident” — as well as made a pretty convincing argument against being drawn into such a situation again.
The first chapter in The Art of Fighting Without Fighting is called Avoidance.
As Geoff puts it:
“Avoidance is being aware, understanding the enemy, understanding yourself and understanding your environment. … More than anything, avoidance is having enough control over yourself, your ego, your pride, peer pressure, morality etc. to stop these negative emotions from dragging you into a situation that could otherwise be avoided.”
Now some have praised me for standing up to the man — and perhaps that is a good thing. But at the same time, by doing so, I put myself into a situation that could have been avoided and ended up having some negative consequences on my end.
While I’m confident that not getting drawn into a physical battle was a good thing — and I never wanted to fight the man — I’m not convinced that standing up to him was worth the cost — (except for the potential lesson(s) learned in this case and a topic I can draw attention to).
Now, I’m only speaking to my own recent experience. I’m not suggesting there are not times when it is entirely appropriate to act, despite the risks. In fact, two quotes come to mind:
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” — Albert Einstein
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke
That said, there is an art to fighting without fighting — and I think the whole cafe incident could’ve been avoided if I simply went to speak with management after a reasonable amount of time of dealing with his obtrusive ringtone.
Of course, I had no reason to suspect that the man was going to say “no” or act the way he did — but even after I’d already made contact and my request for him to adjust his ringtone was denied, I could’ve taken that opportunity to go speak with a manager — or when he started mocking me — or even later when I noticed him raising his voice. There was still time to avoid what ultimately happened and deal with it in an alternate fashion, but I chose to ignore it (in fact, at the time I didn’t even think of it).
Geoff also talks about being prepared for your own fight or flight response, which can cloud your judgement — which I can testify to. In those moments after the man threw my mouse and then my phone, my body was humming with adrenalin. And, although I don’t support violence as a way to resolve conflicts — and I never had any intention of getting physical with the man — I entertained the idea of making a pre-emptive strike and “knocking him out”.
Of course, this could be a “good” thing when there are no other options left, but in this case, there was always the option of avoidance — or what is the subject of chapter 2, “Escape”.
Geoff speaks to this sudden onset of adrenalin:
“If and when a situation does become ‘live’, it is again imperative that you understand yourself and what will happen to your body in its preparation for fight or flight. You will usually experience a huge injection of adrenaline (and other stress hormones) into the system (adrenal dump). Adrenaline can add speed, strength and anaesthesia to response but, unfortunately, because very few people have regular exposure to the adrenal syndrome their reasoning process often mistakes it for fear. Consequently many people ‘freeze’ under its influence.”
He talks about the potential dangers of being drawn into a conflict in which you or others may be physically harmed (or even killed) as a result of your inability to walk away from a totally avoidable threat. And he makes a good case for not taking an aggressor’s actions personally — which I did… Although it was pretty clear the man wanted to make it personal, I was really just a manifestation of something not working in his life. His wife did say, “He’s under a lot of stress from work”.
That said, regardless of how he acted, it was entirely my choice on how to react to it emotionally or physically…
“A pivotal part of understanding the enemy is realising that he probably doesn’t understand himself very well. When he gives you the finger in the car, or stares at you aggressively across a busy bar it’s not personal, unless of course you make it so. You are a manifestation of whatever it is in his life that makes him angry: his dominant wife; his bullying boss; his car that keeps breaking down or his adolescent children. You become a displacement figure for the things in life that cause him stress. It’s only because we take these incidents personally that we find ourselves being drawn into contentious situations. If you think about it, that’s probably why you find yourself getting angry with people (especially those closest to you), over little or nothing – you are also displacing your unutilised aggression.”
Anyway, I’ll finish the book later today and possibly add a follow-up to this post below.
I’ve yet to watch the Fence videos below in their entirety, but the book and the techniques for protecting one’s self in this fashion come highly recommended.
The Fence – part 1 (youtube link)
The Fence – part 2 (youtube link)
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