Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The surprising truth about voice and tone in self-defense

Vocal tonality is pretty important. Actually, it's really important, especially when it comes to a self-defense situation. Many women run into problems because their tone of voice doesn't match the words that they are using, and often this is because they fear coming off as either being rude, or being a bitch. We have been socialized for a long time to be polite, and don't get me wrong, being polite makes the world a far better place, but sometimes it is really important that you are firm in what you say and how you say it (particularly when you feel as though the situation that you find yourself is making you uncomfortable).

For example, if you are out on a date with a guy and he starts getting handsy and you aren't
really into it, women will say "stop", but with a vocal tone that doesn't match their wishes. If you say "stop" but your voice goes up at the end, this is called "Seeking Rapport", which is confusing for the man. Even though you are telling him to stop, your tone is telling him that either a) this is still open for discussion and you just need a little more convincing, or b) he'll think that you're being playful. It is absolutely imperative that you are clear in both what you say and how you say it - your words and tone must match in order for him to really understand your wishes.  That makes sense when we understand that 93% of our communication is non-verbal, and only a measly 7% of our communication is about the words that we actually say. Of that 93%, only 55% of it is body language - the other 38% is the tone of your voice.

Let's look at three different types of vocal tone: 

1. Breaking Rapport - this is the most important for our purposes here. This tone of voice communicates that not only do you mean business, but you are showing that you do not want what they are offering and are communicating that clearly. Say "stop" aloud, curving your voice downward as you finish the word. People who train dogs do the same - dogs don't understand what you are saying, but they do understand your pitch. Speak from your chest (not your throat) when you mean business; it's much more commanding, and you will fill your social space with your intent (which, in this case, is for him to keep his hands to himself). 

2. Monotone - We've all had that teacher or professor who droned on in a monotone voice. A monotone pitch conveys disinterest - this is not the pitch that we are looking for in self-defense. Stay "stop" aloud in a monotone voice - it sounds like you are bored, not that you are actively seeking him to stop what he is doing. 

3. Seeking Rapport - this is where your pitch curves up at the end. Generally, this communicates fun, playfulness, or that you want something from the other person. 

4. Neutral Tonality - "Neutral tonality is the best tonality to have. Neutral tonality fluctuates between breaking rapport, and seeking rapport. Neutral tonality is best communicated with a strong voice, speaking from the chest. Neutral is the best of all worlds. Neutral communicates that you’re emotionally stable."(1) 

When you are in a self-defense situation, remember to be clear in both words and tone. Don't try to sweeten what you are saying by having a cute or playful voice or a bit of a smile - mean what you mean, and say it how you mean it. Don't be concerned with coming off poorly because, in all honesty, if this guy is getting handsy and is being a jerk, then don't worry about what he thinks of you. Your safety is always the most important thing! 

Works Cited:
"Become the Intelligent Conversationalist", Kingpin Social, http://kingpinlifestyle.com/become-the-intelligent-conversationalist/

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Techniques to Try: Defense against a front choke

This is not a good place to find yourself. Ever. 
You have very little time to react and you need to get air immediately. Very few empty-hand attacks will put you in as much danger, and you need to respond to the threat right away. 
Front choke 

Fig. 2 - Yellow (carotid arteries), green (trachea),
blue (carotid artery and trachea)
There are three things that can be happening when you're being choked: 
a) You are losing oxygenated blood to the brain if pressure is being applied to the carotid arteries (yellow line in fig. 2). This can cause you to pass out, but it can also cause brain damage and, of course, death. 
b) Air is not being allowed into the lungs if the trachea at the front of the neck is being blocked (green line)
c) It's possible that both the trachea and the carotid artery/arteries are being affected (blue lines).

You have very little time before you pass out from a choke (literally seconds), so it's good to be familiar with a couple of defenses against a front choke: 

  • One way that you can decrease the pressure on your trachea/carotid arteries is to flex your neck muscles. Flexing the muscles engages them and forces them to expand and provide some protection for your trachea and arteries. Just like the picture on the right here, you can flex your neck muscles by turning the corners of your mouth downward, and by concentrating on making your neck feel tight and strong . Instantly you should see how different your neck looks, and if you feel your neck before and after you flex it, there should be a noticeable difference. When your neck is relaxed, it should feel soft; when you have flexed your muscles it feels much harder. 
2. REMOVE HANDS & STRIKE HARD (see this great link on hard striking from IKMF Toronto)

  • Your hands will likely naturally come up to your attacker's hands because you obviously want to pull them away from your neck. Use that natural inclination to quickly pluck their hands away just enough to get some air, and then strike hard. When you 'pluck', cup your hands, and pull the attacker's hands away from the neck by pulling on their wrist(s):

Look at her left hand - she has grabbed her attacker's wrist, and has pulled away just enough to get air

Check out this video on how to defend yourself against a front choke by plucking the hands away


Note: part of the reason that this technique works is because she is moving. Just like the expression "a rolling stone gathers no moss" suggests, it's difficult to hold onto someone who is moving a lot. Here, all this woman is really doing is windmilling her arm (and if it doesn't work for you the first time, windmill again and again and again and HARD), and she strikes after. 

There is no sense in continuing to engage this person, because the chances are that he'll either a) attack you again b) you'll get hurt. Your only concern at this point is to be safe, so run away to a public area and call the police. Report all incidents of abuse and/or assault. 

  • Fancy martial arts techniques. While they may be fine for someone who practices martial arts regularly, I am not a fan of recommending them to women with little or no martial arts background. In all honesty, even as a martial artist, I'm a firm believer in doing techniques in real life that are simple, effective, and can allow me to get the hell outta there as fast as I can. My safety and health are too important to me to want to try to prove something. 
  • Avoid trying techniques that will require some real power to get the release. This video is a great example of some really unrealistic moves to teach women with no previous training. You have so little time to get the hands off your neck that trying to strike upwards at the elbows will only be effective if a) you have the strength to deliver a serious blow, and b) you actually remember to do it when your brain is in panic-mode: 

*There are about a billion variations on this escape, and if you don't like the ones that I've posted above, feel free to share your favourite(s) in the comments section below! Ladies, if you are interested in checking out some different YouTube videos, there are a bunch of great ones. Ultimately you're looking for techniques that are fast, effective, and realistic. The only way you will know which one of them works best for you is to grab a partner and try some of them out. 

Have fun and be safe.