Sunday, August 28, 2011

Self-Defense Move of the Month – Building the Platform

               When you start thinking about self-defense and ways to protect yourself, you may picture some kind of cool martial art flying sidekick, ala Bruce Lee.  However, the best self-defense move is very different.  Awareness is the #1 step to a good self-protection program or plan.  The best way to win a fight is to avoid it whenever possible.

               But we all drop our guard at some point or are caught off-guard by a surprise new move or tactic and could be thrown into a position where we physically have to defend ourselves.

               You do not have to be a martial art expert, but should know a few basic moves to protect yourself from common attacks.  Perhaps the most important first step is to develop a solid footing and balance that creates a platform for all other self-defense moves.      

               One of the biggest challenges new self-defense students face is getting their footing right.  Feet set too close together make for poor balance side-to-side.  Crossing the feet when shifting stances or moving creates an even weaker platform and it becomes almost impossible to use your body’s full strength and capability.

               Proper balance starts with putting your feet about shoulder width apart.  It sounds easy, but it is one of the first things people mess up when they start focusing on other techniques such as escapes or strikes.  Just like any other skill it takes practice.

               To avoid putting yourself on a narrow balance beam you’ll need a barrier to keep your feet apart to start your practice.  A rolled up towel or a piece of wood works (see photo 1).  Keep one foot on each side of that barrier.
Photo 1 - Setting your feet for balance is critical

               The next step is the position of the feet.  In Shotokan karate, Bushido karate or Tae Kwon Do there are different stances for different techniques.  The two most common are a front stance and a back stance.  Instead of trying to learn different stances, simplify.  Try a position in between.  Put one foot on one side of the barrier and the other on the opposite side and back a few inches.  The heel of the front foot should be further forward than the toes of the back foot.  Point your toes out at about 45 degrees, keeping your body turned slightly away from your opponent.  The front foot can point forward if you prefer.  This is similar to boxers and is also the stance taught to law enforcement. 

               With your feet positioned, bend your knees slightly.  This helps keep you light on your feet and ready to move or drop down to lower your center of gravity.  Your weight can be distributed evenly across both legs or put slightly more weight on your back leg. 

               Now to practice.  Take a few minutes a day to practice and build up your muscle memory.  This can be part of a warm up or cool down to a regular workout. 

Photo 2 - Move from the position in photo 1 to this stance
               First, place one foot on one side of the towel or centerline.  Move the other foot forward and plant it, rotating the fixed foot on the ball of the foot so it points outward at about 45 degrees.  Then move the front foot back to the starting point, rotating on the balls of the feet to keep your toes pointed in the same direction as your shoulders.  Switch feet, setting the other one and repeat.

Photo 3 - Shift your stance to face the side

               Next, keep both feet placed, but pivot on the balls of your feet to switch your stance.  If your left foot is forward, pivot to the right so your right foot is now forward and you are lined up with a target 90 degrees to your side from the original starting position.  Practice several times then switch, starting with the right foot forward.  Note – if you pivot the wrong way, you will end up with your feet on the same line as if standing on a balance beam and will have weak balance.

               Keep your knees bent slightly throughout all the practice exercises.  Throw in some lunges or squats to build up leg strength if needed.
Photo 4 - Shifting the wrong way will throw you off balance

               Once you have your balance or footing, you will be able to add strikes, escapes and kicks to your self-protection repertoire. 



Have you wondered how to deal with an aggressive employee or phone threats against a staff member?  Do you have the security system you should?  Are you worried about how your business would handle an emergency situation?  There are lots of worries as a leader in your organization.  Security risks do not have to be one of them.  I am available for business coaching sessions with a focus on security and operational risk management.  The first session includes a money back guarantee if you are not completely satisfied.  For more information, send an email to eric@businesskarate.com. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Credit Scores, Common Sense and Unexpected Risks

               While driving to work, I heard a news story about the economy (hardly a rarity these days).  The report talked about mortgage rates for home purchases and that despite the low rates, few people are buying or re-financing.  In fact, the reporter noted that those who are “well-heeled” and have money are the only ones able to take advantage of the rates, thus saving more money.

               It is hardly a surprise, but the story should be a warning about the process.  With rates at record lows, there should be at least some people willing to buy or sell their home and help boost the housing market.  Part of the reason that this hasn’t worked is a direct result of the stimulus bill.  Since the stimulus bill, lenders MUST base all decisions on loan approvals on a person’s credit score and very little else.  That sounds reasonable at first glance.  After all, bad home loans started the recession in 2008.  However, if you start looking into it, you encounter some serious problems. 

               First, credit scores are calculated in a way that is kept secret, at least the exact formula.  One of the primary sources for generating credit scores is FICO or Fair Isaac Company and the algorithm used is proprietary.  Each of the different credit reporting agencies may add their own touch.  So, we have a business, protecting their information that is presumably used to create a profit, and our entire financial system rests on it. 

               To make matters worse, you can dispute a bill, but it can still be reported to credit agencies and count against your score, without you even being involved or having a chance to defend the position.  There is no hearing or third party review.  Only a claim that is sent to a collection agency and reported to the credit agencies.  The agencies have a process for you to appeal, in theory, but by that time, the damage is done.  Even if the agency agrees to remove the claim, your credit score is not recalculated immediately.

               A bad credit score could mean that you cannot qualify for the best loan available and spoil a closing on a new home or resale.  So a disputed charge of $100 could ruin a spotless credit history and potentially costs thousands of dollars over the life of a loan or ruin the sale.  Ruining the sale or costing the buyer more are exactly the two things to be avoided if the home market is going to turn around.

                 Traditionally, loan processors would look at each loan application and consider income, ability to pay, down payment and overall reliability to pay bills.  Now it is a quick check on a computer and no human thought or intervention.

               This is an example of a so-called solution that focuses on the process and not on the end result.  If the result, in this case, is to help qualified people buy homes, then the process may actually work at odds with the goal. 

               Focusing on the process or way something should work rather than the target is a very real risk in most organizations.  I’m sure if you think about it, you can come up with several examples that you’ve encountered at work.  Perhaps a meeting where the entire discussion and debate revolved how to change the way something was done, without really changing the outcome.  Or a co-worker coming up with a problem to solve when there was never an issue in the first place. 

               The risks to organizations that fall into this trap are twofold.  One is a loss of productivity as resources (time and money) and focus switch to functions that do not support or meet the strategic goals.  The other risk is that the wrong process could actually hinder the very result being sought.

               In many ways, the security industry provides examples of focus on the process rather than the end result.  Security metrics are tracked, recorded, charted and otherwise documented.  The number of vehicle break-ins, burglaries, assaults and thefts are carefully tabulated and tracked.  But the goal is to prevent these things from happening and all too often, there is very little actual analysis going along with the number crunching and little in the way of proactive planning to change or influence those numbers.  Law enforcement data is often used in the same way.

               So keep the focus on the goal and do not get lost in the process.  Make sure that each new undertaking or project has a clear purpose and review all processes to make sure that the objective remains the focal point. 



Have you wondered how to deal with an aggressive employee or phone threats against a staff member?  Do you have the security system you should?  Are you worried about how your business would handle an emergency situation?  There are lots of worries as a leader in your organization.  Security risks do not have to be one of them.  I am available for business coaching sessions with a focus on security and operational risk management.  The first session includes a money back guarantee if you are not completely satisfied.  For more information, send an email to eric@businesskarate.com. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

How to Handle (and Prevent) Active Shooters

           The deadliest active shooter incident by a single suspect was the recent murders in Norway, where one gunman shot dozens of students, trapped on an island with him, after setting off a bomb in the capital.  To some, this has been classified as a terrorist act (Terror in Norway and Global Threats).  Technically, that could be true, as he wanted to influence political views using violence on citizens.

The bottom line is that, regardless of motive, the episode was an active shooting.  Once again, security professionals and law enforcement have to look at the incident and try to develop a way to prevent something similar from happening once again. 

Looking at past active shooter cases, there are many, many differences between them.  Some have happened in schools, including urban or rural and even an Amish school.  Some have been in churches; universities; hospitals; restaurants; political rallies; grocery stores; office buildings; military bases or warehouses.  Some have happened on the street or in neighborhoods, as the recent killings in Ohio by one gunman.  It is harder to think of a place that hasn’t been the site of an active shooter.  Too often, there has been little in the way of warning signs or early indicators.  Perhaps some eccentric or bizarre behavior, but nothing that really warned others of what type of violence lied underneath.  In other cases, the suspect has posted violent content or photos online only to be discovered by authorities after an incident.

Even the types of weapons are different.  Obviously, when we talk about active shooters, we think of the guns involved.  But there have been active attacks with other weapons, including knives or machetes.  China has seen a spate of school attacks with multiple victims killed by a suspect with a knife instead of a gun. 

There are some similarities too.  Many of the shooters were stopped by violence as well; shot by either security, police or themselves.  In some cases, bystanders tackled the gunman when they noticed him reloading or distracted.  Often armed security staff or police have been the first to encounter the gunman, either shooting them or prompting them to commit suicide.  In most of these instances, the gunman or men (it is usually men involved although not always), seem to have little concern about their own life and certainly no concern about others.

So what is the solution?  How do we best go about the business of preventing these types of things from happening or stopping them quickly when they do?

1.                Continue to educate the public about what type of behavior is or should be a warning sign and what steps to take.  A large number of school shootings were prevented because other students notified authorities about suspicious or violent comments posted online or made in person.

2.               Better training on how to respond during an active shooter scenario should be required.  This involves all organizations conducting drills and including training on what staff or employees should do when there is an active shooter.  General advice includes evacuating if possible, hiding if not and fighting back to protect yourself. 

3.               Organizations need to develop clear procedures on how to respond to violent behavior and threats.  The policies and procedures serve as a way to reinforce staff training on how to avoid violence as well as how to react during an active shooter situation.  Local police can help tailor the procedure to match their response. 

4.               All organizations should have some form of risk assessment and guidelines to help identify when they might be at risk.  For example, schools should always review outings where a large number of students will be out of the building and in the community somewhere.  At least within the school, teachers have practiced lockdown and lockout responses to threats.  Even the risk of custody or parental disputes spilling over to field trips is greater with less control over access to students.

5.               Staffing plans may need to include armed security or police presence.  In the case in Norway, hundreds of students were on an island, isolated from normal law enforcement response.  When Matthew Murray attacked New Life Church in Colorado, an armed security officer shot him, wounding him.  He then took his own life.  If security had not been present, the death toll may have been much higher than the shooting in Norway as Murray had 7,000 people trapped in a confined (or at least crowded) auditorium. 

The strange thing about the potential prevention is the opposing views that come to the surface.  Even though armed personnel have stopped many of the shooters or prevented them from going farther, there is a reluctance to allow armed personnel.  Across the United States, many areas have looked at laws to allow individuals with concealed carry permits to remain armed while on campus.  But too often these laws are rejected and law-abiding armed citizens are not allowed to carry a firearm.  Even within the security industry, there has been a trend to move towards unarmed security personnel and away from armed staff. 

Obviously, the decision about having armed security or allowing concealed weapons is a critical one with potential problems as well as benefits.  The decision should be made after careful consideration of a number of specifics.  There are financial considerations of course.  What is the training level of the armed personnel?  What about liability?  Will the presence of armed security make visitors, employees or other attendees feel safer?  The answer to that will fall on both sides of the line (armed or not) for almost all organizations.  Some considerations include known threats, such as a high number of workplace violence incidents or high crime area.  Other factors may not tie into past incidents at all, but consider the number of potential victims.  Large crowds, especially in tight confines, should be regarded as a higher risk target.  The New Life Church incident in Colorado or the large number of students ‘trapped’ on the island of Utoya in Norway with one gunman.

Active shooters are a very complex and difficult security issue and there is no easy or simple answer.  It is time for organizations of all types to make sure that their staffs are trained on the basics of what to do during an active shooter situation.  The second element is carefully evaluating the potential risks, threats, and what the response should be, including having armed security or police officers available. 

              



Have you wondered how to deal with an aggressive employee or phone threats against a staff member?  Do you have the security system you should?  Are you worried about how your business would handle an emergency situation?  There are lots of worries as a leader in your organization.  Security risks do not have to be one of them.  I am available for business coaching sessions with a focus on security and operational risk management.  The first session includes a money back guarantee if you are not completely satisfied.  For more information, send an email to eric@businesskarate.com.