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Goddammit. I tore up my house looking for my only remaining copy of The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker so I could fill in a response to jbmcdragon and in the end tried to do the best I could with what the internet had to offer in book review excerpts.


Hulk smash?

So, here I am. Source material. I guess I should just say what I want to say here and now. Please listen, because this is why it's essential for me to tell you:

I am a black belt. I take Budo Taijutsu or Ninjutsu if you will, and just a few weeks ago I received my black belt rank. I've been training for five years, been to Tokyo to train with the Soke/Grandmaster twice and I have expanded to train with guns, as well as a few other relating styles.

I'm not telling you this because I think it gives me any authority. If anything, we consider "black belt" as being the very start of learning. I'm only now considered a real student.

The reason I'm bringing this background up is to accentuate the fact that for five years I've had some really incredible teachers give me some really incredible lessons. I've found in myself a philosophical belief that everything I will ever require is already at hand. I have the tools, but I may not have the awareness of those tools.

Aside from the physical part of training (the actual hitting/biting/kicking part of a martial art) there is a lot of theory, and some of that theory I really, truly believe in. Some of that theory I really think everyone should know. I'm going to, for the first time, try to set it all out in a written form and I cannot promise any method or order to the madness.

Let's see...

To understand some of what I need to say, I'll point out that I got into martial arts after reading comics. I looked up the coolest sounding art in the phone book, and now it's my lifestyle. It's what I believe in doing. I invest thousands in travel dollars, and I'll be training until I die--whether it's a three digit age that sees me go, or next week because I overestimate my ability to break up a knife-fight. I went from wanting to do stuff that Tim Drake has done, to actually just doing it because it's how I get better at finding myself in this art, as well as someday hopefully understanding the tools I can employ for whatever life throws my way.

Remember: life has already given you the tools. You need to learn how to identify them, and employ them. And as you go along, more tools just fall into place. My belief, yes. You don't need to take it upon yourselves, but humour me.

One of these tools was given to me by a personal favourite teacher. He's a police officer, charismatic as hell, and just...pretend Dick Grayson with a slight mean streak which is used on bad people. I would never want to be on the wrong end of this guy, and I know that I don't think I ever could. Being as I am, and looking up to him as I do, one of my earlier classes had him giving us some theology. Nothing official. He just stopped teaching us how to perform a particular kata and went off into a tangent and ended up telling us something profound:

He told us that if he ever saw any of us in danger, he would intervene. That if someone intended to cause harm to us, he would do everything possible to prevent that damage. Further, he would really make our opponent hurt in unimaginable ways. He would do this for us. Only, he knew that he would not be there for us when we ended up endangered. That we would likely be alone, or without anyone like him. And thus, he would teach us everything he could so that we wouldn't need him. So that I, if endangered by another human being, could win. So I could really hurt the other person instead, if I so desired. He wanted us to live, and he wanted us to live well. He did this because he cared.

I don't think I had ever felt so worthy of anything like I did then.

That was a really enlightening feeling, and I really needed to hear that at the time. So, in the same spirit:

Most of you I've never met. We live countries apart, and in some cases with oceans or continents separating us. Some of you I have never even conversed with, while you quietly lurk like ninja around here. The thing is, I don't want anyone of you to be hurt. And I particularly don't want anyone of you to be hurt by other people.

((There is a difference, actually, between bad things happening to you and bad things happening to you by human intent. A feeling if you will. That's a whole other rant, but if you think of a tornado destroying your house, consider how that feels compared to coming home and finding it ransacked by a faceless stranger. Having a dog chase you in an alley, instead of a person cornering you in that same alley at night. I can go into more explanations on this (it's another tool) later.)) The point of this is: any one of you could encounter a dangerous individual, and I want to be there for you when it happens.

I'm not Robin or Batman, but I do want to be with you in that moment so I could at least try to be your sword and shield. And I'm still training any chance I get so I can become more effective. So I can say with confidence (like my instructor can) that I'd utterly destroy any who would harm you.

But I won't be there. So you need to be Robin. You need to be Batman, or the equivalent. You need to be your own guardian, and capable of picking up the tools available to you. Here's all the tools I can give you:

1. The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker

This is a book that Oprah loves, and please please don't let that scare you away. I'm pretty wary myself of the whole hype that individuals like Oprah give to things, but there cannot be enough publicizing for this book. It's not expensive (US $7.99) and I buy out all the used book stores and make it a point to purchase a new one every time I'm in or near a store that carries it. Why? Because I give these books away to everyone in my life that will read it. And I push it on everyone.

The short version is this: De Becker believes that all violent encounters can be foreseen and predicted. I believe that he is right. Gavin de Becker also draws attention to the way society damns itself by perpetrating violence as random and unavoidable. That is self-defeating and I would not have anyone I care about disillusioned.

Now, in regards to jbmcdragon's post (which initially brought this up): http://jbmcdragon.livejournal.com/582312.html & another post about rape

In Chapter Eleven: "I Was Trying to Let Him Down Easy" the whole concept of society setting up women for failure is apparent. De Becker writes:

It is clear that for women in recent decades, the stakes of resisting romantic attention have risen sharply. Some invisible line exists between what is all right and what is too far--and men and women don't always agree on where to place that line. Victims and their unwanted pursuers never agree, and sometimes victims and the police don't either. Everyone agrees, however, at the point where one of these situations includes violence, but why can we not reach consensus before that?

De Becker goes on to summarize the plots of several movies in our media where boy wants girl, girl says no, boy pursues girl, boy gets girl in the end. In The Graduate the boy asks and asks, and then when she goes off to marry another he stalks her, finds her location, storms the wedding and gets the girl--only after swinging a vandalized cross at her family and any who would stop him.

My generation saw in The Graduate that there is one romantic strategy to use above all others: persistence. This same strategy is at the core of every stalking case. Men pursuing unlikely or inappropriate relationships with women and getting them is a common theme promoted in our culture[...]there's a lesson in real-life stalking cases that young women can benefit from learning: Persistence only proves persistence--it does not prove love. The fact that a romantic pursuer is relentless doesn't mean you are special--it means he is troubled...

...it's important to remember that men are nice when they pursue, and women are nice when they reject. Naturally this leads to confusion, and it brings us to the popular practice of letting him down easy. True to what they are taught, rejecting women often say less than they mean. True to what they are taught, men often hear less than what is said. Nowhere is this problem more alarmingly expressed than by the hundreds of thousands o f fathers (and mothers), older brothers (and sisters), movies and television shows that teach most men that when she says no, that's not what she means. Add to this all the women taught to "play hard to get," when that's not what they are really feeling.

The side of me that remembers academia in University shudders at how much I'm transposing, but there really is no wasted paragraphs in de Becker's book.

He points out how if a man pursues a sexual relationship, he's a normal person. If a woman does the same, and applies the same persistence, she's regarded as a maniac or deranged killer. I'm not trying to be sexist or a feminist, since that is clearly not the point. De Becker says:

Popular movies may be reflections of society or designers of society depending on whom you ask, but either way, they model behavior for us. During the early stages of pursuit situations in movies--and too often in life--the woman is watching and waiting, fitting in to the expectations of an overly invested man. She isn't heard or recognized; she is the screen upon which the man projects his needs and his idea of what she should be.

Namely, she should be his.

We've all grown up with these "lessons" all around us. I know you're intelligent, but in case you had never noticed them before (or could not word what was in front of you, or around you) I hope knowing this now helps, or at least keeps you aware for when you risk falling victim. We don't all have stalkers, but I've had plenty of trouble from myself in rejecting unwanted proposals. I've been conditioned to justify myself, or to be polite. A no isn't allowed, so I try to ease him forward. I care for his feelings, but I do so by extending myself into a weak place. In martial arts terms, that's stupid. It's also my natural action, again and again, even when I'm aware of it.

When a woman rejects someone who has a crush on her, and she says, "It's just that I don't want to be in a relationship right now," he hears only the words "right now." To him, this means she will want to be in a relationship later. The rejection should be "I don't want to be in a relationship with you." Unless it's just that clear, and sometimes even when it is, he doesn't hear it[...]I suggest that women never explain why they don't want a relationship but simply make clear that they have thought it over, that this is their decision, and that they expect the man to respect it. Why would a woman explain intimate aspects of her life, plans, and romantic choices to someone she doesn't want a relationship with? A rejection based on any condition, say, that she wants to move to another city, just gives him something to challenge. Conditional rejections are not rejections--they are discussions.

This is the part that blows me away, because it's terrifying that nobody had ever told me this before:

Let's imagine a woman has let pass several opportunities to pursue a relationship with a suitor. Every hint, response, action, and inaction has communicated that she is not interested. If the man still pursues at this point, though it will doubtless appear harsh to some, it is time for an unconditional and explicit rejection. Because I know that few American men have heard it, and few women have spoken it, here is what an unconditional and explicit rejection sounds like:

No matter what you may have assumed till now, and no matter for what reason you assumed it, I have no romantic interest in you whatsoever. I am certain I never will. I expect that knowing this, you'll put your attention elsewhere, which I understand, because that's what I intend to do.

Gavin de Becker points out that there is one and one only, appropriate response. Acceptance. There are almost an infinite supply of inappropriate responses, which boils down to him saying "I do not accept your decision."

The inappropriate response should tell you more than enough about this person, and enforce your decision. There's further instructions now on what to do in the event of him continuing--the bulk of which is a woman's non-responsiveness to his actions because she will only undermine her rejection by "noticing." Some attention, after all, is better than no attention at all.

Women are, as stated above, expected to be nice. Warm, responsive, listeners. A part of me wonders if being Canadian has made it a challenge for me to be rude. I really do find myself letting a conversation drag on when I would often wish it died. Being curt, honest with my discomfort and detached is a sign of rudeness. It's immensely difficult. I don't want people to think of me as a bitch. I appreciate having friends and meeting new people, but I personally need to learn to shut some individuals out, all the while aware that I'm trying to be egalitarian and fair to everyone. Even the dangerous people I'll regret befriending two weeks down the road.


Other useful tools that de Becker's book gives is a few truths by which to fuel predictive strategies. This is some of the Batman-stuff I find so interesting. Sociology and Psychology:

We share some things in common with the rest of the human race, including the most foul individuals, the ones you fear or loathe to relate to.

-We seek connection with others.
-We are saddened by loss and try to avoid it.
-We dislike rejection.
-We like recognition and attention.
-We will do more to avoid pain than we will do to seek pleasure.
-We dislike ridicule and embarrassment.
-We care what others think of us.
-We seek a degree of control over our lives.

In understanding these things in ourselves, and appreciating them in others, we remove a barrier we often set up between ourselves and those that could endanger us. In a way, I feel this humanizes our potential enemy/enemies. While that's a strange concept, if you are able to relate with someone who can threaten you, you better understand them. If you can understand them, you're able to think and act, predict and control. This is an asset that is far more valuable than ignorance and fear. You enforce yourself. Perhaps even later, in dealing with the aftermath of any situation, you can come to forgive or at least understand the "why" which is something that plagues a great deal of survivors.

Forgiveness and/or closure adds to your quality of life, and nobody wants to survive something only to live scared afterwards. That's not what we do.


In confronting a potential hazard, de Becker has presented a system you can use to determine whether or not a perceived threat is actually about to spiral into violence. A lot of harm can come through hesitation, yet we hesitate all the time. It's a great deal of stress and anxiety to act upon something that has yet to develop. We run the risk of being wrong, and jumping the gun only to find out there was never a gun to jump. We can push a potentially small matter into something much more grand--throwing oil on fire, etc. As I said, stress.

When will a potential violent individual turn to violence? Note that not all of these have to be present to signify violence.

Perceived Justification - When the individual in question feels justified in employing violence, violence will happen. We do not act randomly. We are driven by something. Perhaps the person in question is angry, or feels that a grievous wrong has been committed to them. Perhaps they are provoked. Violence is now a viable response, because he or she can back it up with justification.

Perceived Alternatives - How desperate is the individual? Can the outcome that he or she desires be attained through means other than violence? De Becker warns, "Knowing the desired outcome is key."

Perceived Consequences - We like to predict the outcome of our actions, and we'll consider the favourable and the unfavourable. If it's likely that the individual can commit the violence intended and get away with it, there will be little to hinder the act of violence. Be aware of witnesses, authority, etc. Is here a mob mentality, which creates a perceived protection from being tried or seen as an individual? Furthermore, be very aware if you suspect that the potential attacker is willing to kill him or herself after the act because mortal consequences do not apply here.

Perceived Ability - What does this person have at their disposal? If they decide violence is the way to go, do they believe that they have the ability to carry out that violence? Someone willing to rob a convenience store or mug you may not use a bomb, but they will approach with the belief that they can pull off their attempt. "People who have successfully used violence in the past have a higher appraisal of their ability to prevail using violence again."

These make up the acronym JACA which de Becker says can be used on large scale examples (Middle-East predictions) as well as immediate threats.

I'd like to note sadly that in a problem-individual, not all of these signs will be visible to the victim. You may not know your attacker, but someone in his or her family may have recognized these points, or sensed that he/she was capable and very near to expressing themselves violently.

These things can be observed in questionable co-workers, family members, and persons you encounter regularly. The question is whether or not you will be caught in the cross-hairs is present, but hopefully you can identify and predict enough to avoid that. Context will determine how or if you act in the benefit of others.


I guess the last bit of rant for tonight is that you should never ignore that feeling that tells you something is wrong which is the big point of The Gift of Fear.

Though Gavin de Becker doesn't word it this way, I like to imagine my subconscious as being enlightened and always aware of a higher level of things. And that way, it's capable of seeing/knowing/understanding more than I can see and hear, and if there's danger (that I'm not supposed to walk into) it will hit me out of nowhere as a way of warning.

Other ways of looking at this is:

Messengers of Intuition

Nagging Feeling
Persistent Thoughts
Gut Feelings

And just as women are conditioned to avoid being blunt, it's often in our nature (thanks to media and society) to rely on logic over feeling. To reject these as baser instincts, when really we're being made aware of something that we have yet to see or comprehend.

We're afraid of, once more, having no way to justify ourselves. To walk into a store and to suddenly and inexplicably possess a bad feeling, if we cannot identify why we may fear justifying a hasty exit. A retreat without reason. We fear looking foolish or cowardly, when really, we may have caught a glimpse of the man who is going to "snap" (not that there weren't pre-indicators--violence is not random) and try to rob the place, and shoot bystanders. He hasn't done anything yet, but you passed your eyes over him and all the other civilians, and something was not quite right.

A gut feeling is a gut feeling, and in hindsight, we're often amazed at what we had seen/known/observed. Our brains just hadn't clicked yet. Trust yourself. Learn to listen. It's a tool for you.


There's so much more, but I've been writing and transposing for four hours.

Once more, please please get the book. There's a bunch of other things I'd like to share but my brain is melting and I'm concerned I'll just stop making sense at some point. You are all too important for me to be half-assed with this.

(If you can't tell, this post means a lot to me.)

We would all love to have Tim Drake save the day for us. I think it's cooler if you just became like him. We don't have Spider-Man around with his "everybody gets one," promise. So keep in mind that you can't rely on me to be there, when you need it most. Don't hope that the police or authorities will be in easy reach, because though they'd want to be, most criminals are apprehended after the crime. You can't even rely on luck, because you're worth far too much to gamble with.

So please, take care. Grab as many tools as you possibly can and then start to understand where and how they work for you.

Yadda yadda, etc etc. Brain melt. ♥



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 18th, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)
I want you to know that I read everything you wrote, and I've ordered a copy of "The Gift of Fear".

Thank you for taking the time to share this.
Jun. 19th, 2010 08:07 am (UTC)
No way, thank you for actually reading.

For a long time, I just kept a lot of the training stuff to myself. When I'd post pictures of the Japan trips, I'd only show the tourist-y stuff. And the theory was "I'm doing something epic and traditionally secret. Why share it with others who are outsiders?"

But at the same time, it's the so-called "outsiders" I envision myself doing this for. And I can't trust myself to be there all the time for the people I love, and if people could just pick up their feet and raise their heads a little--when it means it the most, it's easier for me.

It's a selfish thing for me, I guess. A kind of defense.

Imagine Robin smack-dab in the centre of chaos and there's civilians everywhere, and there's danger raining down. Tim is just one person, and he's not Kryptonian. He's also not Batman, though we already know he'll put in an exceptional effort. But he knows and fears deep down that it won't be enough. There's a part of him that's already lost, trying to cope in advance with the shame and the grief of having let someone die because he is human and unfortunately stuck in the impossible.

And then, jaw unclenched and brows raising, our boy sees the people on their feet and alert. No screaming, no hesitation, no fear. The people around him are poised for something, same as Tim.

They're in this together, and it's going to be alright.

And that feeling right there is something I'm not ashamed to strive for. Yes, a part of me (petty as it is) enjoys the image of me playing the hero and rescuing the child/the President/the person I'll become best friends with--all from certain doom. There will be million-dollar choreography and perhaps I'll escape with bruises and a really bad ass cut across my lip. I'll save the day and walk off into the approaching flashing lights, and it will be epic.

But that's not real.

Even if I get really good at what I do, it's still going to be fake to expect that. It becomes a matter of my ego, rather than a matter of predicting and avoiding danger. I'd become more concerned with how others think of me, and that's not right.

So I'm very happy. Please do get the book, and read it. Disagree or agree with it. Keep an open mind. If you learn something, it will be there for you if you ever need it. And pass the book along to someone you can't live without. Share it.

I'll get more stuff up when there's time.
Jun. 19th, 2010 02:41 pm (UTC)
I... Thank you. For the experience, for the knowledge, for the mirror, for the desire to help. There's nothing more valuable.
Jun. 20th, 2010 05:24 pm (UTC)
Aw, thank you for listening. That also means a lot to me.

There's nothing so frustrating as watching someone do something destructive to themselves, pointing out the error, and watching the person go "so?"

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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