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Defending Yourself Against The Demon Child

Yes, I appreciate how strange that sounds.

… and yet, perhaps not

The Problem

Anyone who is of a different race or ancestry than the locals or that looks a bit different than them makes a good target for the more backward elements of society, no matter their age. I used to get the whole racism thing a lot as a kid (one of the few white kids in a predominantly black junior high school) but you just learn to deal with it, as there really is no reasoning with anyone who does decide to pick on you based on ethnicity.

With teens/adults who do it, its not really a problem as they often just want to say their piece and then go back to the rock they crawled out from. I know if they did get too aggressive I've got no reservations about striking first.

But when you get this nasty little kid all up in your face, complete with a supporting cast of wanna-be gangsters, you face a unique problem as a martial artist. Let's say the kid is only about 11-12 years old, but is getting pretty aggressive when you don't seem bothered by what he's saying. Most of it is trying to look tough in front of his friends and they only join in after he's given you a good spiel about “going back to your own country” or “We don't want your kind around here”.

My question really is, what are you supposed to do with a kid like this who is looking for a fight?

I wouldn't be too bothered about them physically hurting me, but at the same time I'm not just going to stand there and get punched in the face. Yet it looks really bad if, as an adult, I strike a child. I can just see the headlines now: “54-Year-Old Martial Arts Master Attacks Child”.

No good just restraining him if its a large group, as they'll potentially all join in to make me let go. And if I just release them without ending it with a strike, etc. there's the possibility they'll just come back for more.

So what do I do?

It's sad we have to deal with this kind of garbage in the 21st. century. Unfortunately, idiocy is everywhere and we have our share of bigots and general troublemakers floating around, no doubt influenced by their peers or perhaps even their parents.

You could tell him to go home to Mommy, but sometimes they don't HAVE one. OR a Daddy. Maybe they're street rats, living in an abandoned factory. There's also the problem of verbal escalation to be considered – in most cases, talking trash is only going to make the situation worse.

There are a couple of things to consider when we start looking at situations like this. First up, is there any conceivable way to avoid these individuals? Not because what they are doing is in any way right, but simply because it's easier for you to not have to put yourself thru this. It alleviates any concern about unintentionally setting case law in your jurisdiction and having your face appear in that newspaper article.

Groups like this will often claim certain territories or hang-outs. They may or may not venture too far afield from these. It might be worth some research with others in the neighborhood to find out where their usual hang-outs are. This makes staying out of their way all the easier. But sometimes you HAVE to be in that neighborhood, whether because you live there, work there or are visiting friends or family.

Next up, report every incident to your local authorities. Even if they can't do anything (I'm not up on the legalities everywhere, but here the incident I'm envisioning would itself lead to some sort of action), you start a paper trail on the incidents there. This will help build a case for future action.

It will also lead to the identification of the offenders and bring their behavior to the attention of the police. Once the locals get a lead on this kind of thing they tend to keep an eye out for the trouble-makers on their beat and make their lives miserable whenever possible. This often makes them hang out elsewhere, and while it does not solve the problem, it alleviates your having to deal with it. That's a win.

As for the group dynamic, I'd give consideration to a couple of things. One, don't underestimate them. Ever. Don't think of them as kids: they are predators. Just smaller than average. An FBI study here in the states showed that your average violent offender who attempts to kill a cop committed his first violent felony at about age 12-13.

Don't be the first victim.

Getting away is always best. I prefer thinking about the destruction of the nearest, loudest one at the outset, to set the tone, then flee. In a best-case world I leave his broken body between me and the rest of them to serve as a psychological barrier to attack. Stepping over your group's maimed Alpha-male to continue an attack that you didn't start takes some work.

I understand this is harder with 12-year-olds, but once again it may come down to a case of you or them.

Consider training techniques for a rear-naked choke from standing. Then you get to use him as a limp body shield from the others while you negotiate your escape.

Never assume they won't have weapons. Even kids this young have plenty of precedence for carrying. If a weapon does present itself, realize you're in a deadly-force encounter regardless of the age of the hand it's in. Treat it accordingly.

Lastly, regardless of age, they are a pack. You might need to treat them as such. If you can carry pepper spray in your area it might be a good idea. Remember to get an inert trainer and practice deploying it during your sparring sessions, at a minimum. This will let you do it under duress. There is no 100% guarantee it will work, but it works enough of the time to give you an edge.

In most places, if a subject is aggressive or refuses to get away that's enough to deploy. If they are saying they are going to hurt you, then it's more than enough. Again, start with the instigator and hose the pack. Then beat feet and report the incident.

That's the route I'd choose to go, in that order. Be ready to move between any and all of the force options available to you. If hostilities ensue, and I can't stress this enough, don't consider them to be misguided kids. They are the enemy. They are a target. Engage them like that. Mind-set cannot account for how they should act, only how they are acting.

To do any less is to lessen your chances of successfully resolving the situation.

Martial Arts | Martial Arts Philosophy


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