Thursday, April 23, 2009

Command Presence, Command Voice

Via Robb Allen, we have an excellent essay on the blog about the use of verbal commands in self defense.

At the beginning of the Force Continuum are Command Presence and Command Voice. For the private citizen, Command Presence is staying in Condition Yellow, moving positively and confidently, and wearing clothing that favors stability and maneuverability. If I wander down the street listening to my iPod with my head down and shoulders slumped, wearing high heels or flip-flops, dangling a purse off my elbow by a flimsy strap, I'm setting myself up to be an attractive target. Not so if I stride confidently, my head up paying attention to my surroundings, my Maxpedition pack worn cross-body, and wearing clothes and shoes in which I can run and fight. Even when I had to wear skirts to work, I left my black business pumps in my office and walked to and from my car in running shoes.

Just as natural predators scope out the herd to pick out the vulnerable, so do criminals. Neither a mountain lion nor a mugger wants to have to expend too much energy or incur too much risk when taking down prey. But let's say the shark wants to approach nearer and bump the bait.

That's where Command Voice comes in. Being a small woman, I set the boundaries right away. Because I watch shadows and reflections when walking down the street and stay in the middle of the sidewalk where someone approaching me has to cross open distance first, so far I haven't been blindsided (knock wood). For business-suit types, I move inconspicuously out of arm's reach as they ask for directions. My response is polite leaning toward terse. I sound like I'm in a hurry, which I usually am.

The panhandlers and similar folk get warned right away. "That's close enough. Sorry, I can't help you." I take the "interview stance" and move to my 3 or 9 if they persist. "Back off, I can't help you." I don't back away, since then I'm moving into unknown territory and may fall. My hands are up and empty which looks nonthreatening but puts me in a good position to fend or take action if the person keeps coming. So far nobody has, but I'm always ready.

Then there are other situations that demand immediate control. My property is fenced with padlocked gates posted against trespassing, and it is not for sale. Despite that, I am currently dealing with the fourth round of people who want to buy my property and won't take no for an answer. None of these would-be buyers actually want my circa-1881 house and woods, they just want the land so they can bulldoze everything and build a McMansion. The extremely poor choices these various people have made over the years have been duly documented with the county sheriff, the county attorney, the state patrol, the state fire marshal, and my lawyer. So you can understand why I have a very, very low tolerance for strangers trying to go where they don't belong.

I came home early one day to find a pickup truck parked in my driveway and a man trying to get through the fence within clear sight of a "No Trespassing" sign. I pulled up on the side of the road and got out of my car, keeping the engine block between myself and Mr. Stupid. I didn't waste time on niceties:


He stopped, all right. Hands out and empty, he babbled something about how he'd made a BIG mistake and wouldn't come back if I'd just let him leave. Fine with me.

Then as he peeled out up the gravel road, I called the sheriff with his plate number, description, description of his vehicle, and direction of departure. Too harsh a response? Maybe, but with documented threats on file, I will cut somebody trying to circumvent locked gates to get onto my posted property no slack whatsoever.

Did I present my weapon? Of course not. Would I have done so if the man attacked me with sufficient physical violence to put me in fear of serious injury or death? Absolutely, in an instant. My hand was next to my still concealed and holstered gun, out of his visual range. Fortunately, he left instead of advancing.

No matter how much of what kind of training I have, I'm still a small, not so young any more female with bad knees and other physical shortcomings that put me at a huge disadvantage if I close with a bigger, stronger opponent. I want to keep him at a distance and stop the threat from there, not encourage him to get within grabbing or striking range. His reach and strength are greater than mine.

But through Command Presence and Command Voice, I was able to take control of the encounter -- and hopefully make it clear that any such future attempts would not be tolerated.

The bad guy is the one who chooses to initiate the encounter. Had he not tried to get onto my locked and clearly posted property, there would have been no encounter at all.

The bad guy is the one who chooses how far up the Force Continuum the encounter goes. He could have escalated, but he wisely chose to leave.

I am more than happy the incident stopped where it did, but had it not I was committed to stopping it no matter what. Sorry, but when people are threatening to destroy my home, "just give them what they want" does not apply.

And welcome to the blogroll,


Warthog said...


Linoge said...

It is amazing what a confident, strong, and powerful voice can do when the situation calls for it. We may not have the Bene Gesserit Voice down quite yet, but being forceful, direct, and concise is good enough for the time being.

Raindog said...

Excellent Post. Perfect Mind set.

Chuck said...

As one whose instinctive preference is to avoid confrontation, thanks for reminding me and others that assertiveness combined with the training we've received is still the better defense option. I've been delaying getting back in to the training drills for too long -- time to reset the attitude back to what I've been taught!

Greyhawk said...

Excellent post!