Self-Defense For The Deaf – Part 2
The event is the time and place where we find ourselves in danger and feel that we need to physically defend ourselves. It may mean taking defensive action, or turning and walking the other way. Your level of awareness will often dictate the number of options you are able to exercise. Let me give you a real world example of this principle. I know of a situation in which two people were outside a gas station one late night. One person was sitting inside their car observing what was happening inside the station and the other hurriedly exited their vehicle and entered the station to purchase a cup of coffee. The gas station was being held up by two gunmen that night and the person (a teenaged female) who watched from their vehicle lived …while the person who rushed in did not. He was an officer in uniform and he did not make it home to his family that night. Awareness buys us time, and time gives us options. There is a saying in my profession that if you find yourself in a fight, then something already went wrong. ALWAYS pay attention!
There will be times when we are not able to foresee dangerous events and when our awareness lapses. This is not the time to give up; it’s the time to either Escape, Deescalate or Fight. The faster you escape, the higher your chances of surviving a dangerous incident. If you cannot escape and decide that it’s not time to fight (or unsafe to do so), then we usually try to use deescalation techniques to calm and thwart an escalating attack. Unfortunately, this usually requires improvised communication based on accurate interpretation of the attacker’s desires. This stage of an event is likely going to be a challenge for a deaf person, so my advice is to increase your awareness skills (pre-event) and fighting skills to make up for this deficiency.
You have found yourself in a bad situation and you cannot escape or deescalate it. You have decided that you must take action and that the time has come to put up a physical fight. I teach most students (law enforcement officers included) to give verbal commands as they are defending themselves. We say things like STOP or GET DOWN (officers might yell STOP RESISTING) so that we can draw attention and so we have positive interaction with witnesses of the event. We like witnesses to be able to tell law enforcement that, “The person was defending themselves. I heard him tell the attacker to STOP about 10 times.” This is mainly to prevent legal problems and is not necessarily in place to communicate with the attacker. If you have the ability to yell commands during your defensive movements, then by all means do so. Just don’t confuse this with an attempt to have active communication with the attacker. You do not need to understand what they are telling you. If it has come down to a physical fight, then communication has already failed. The time for talk is over and you need to be focused on taking aggressive defensive action to stop the threat. The legal system is going to look at something called the Totality of the Circumstances, and if you are deaf, they are not going to hold it against you that you didn’t tell the attacker to stop or leave you alone (which can, by the way, be easily conveyed through body language). Focus on taking decisive action and on ceasing your defense as soon as the person is no longer a threat.
When a human being encounters a life threatening situation, a body alarm response usually occurs. A body alarm response triggers the Fight/Flight instincts and several changes start to affect our body. One of these reactions, called auditory exclusion, causes selective hearing in people who can normally hear. Many officers who have deadly force encounters report not being able to hear their guns fire due to this phenomenon. Many do not hear their partners yelling commands to them, etc. This occurs because in the body’s effort to preserve itself, it gives the brain full focus on things that will keep you alive, such as more focused vision and time distortion (events seem to happen in slow motion). One exception to this sometimes occurs when a body alarm response is triggered in darkness, in which case it is common that hearing is given preference over sight.
This phase of a critical incident really deals with the time right after the attack and addresses your need to summon help from the police, fire department and/or medical attention. This is going to be a stressful time and you may end up waving down a car or running into a shop for much needed help. My advice here is to be prepared. Always have a pen and paper on your person. It will come in handy for quickly facilitating communication and for writing down details. If you have to get someone to call 911, expect a slew of questions. Pen and paper will help ease the situation. Another recommendation would be to have something preprinted to carry with you. Many people have medical bracelets to let people know about allergies and medical needs. There is no reason that you can’t have a critical incident paper ready. I would have my name, date of birth, medical condition, blood type, contact info, emergency contact info and I would have a number of options pre-printed that I could quickly circle to more quickly convey my needs. For example you could have a paper that said, “This is an emergency!” and options like, “Please call 911″, “I need medical attention”, “Someone is trying to harm me”. The possibilities are endless. Something brief and to the point is better. Once first responders arrive on scene, the availability of better communication is going to be there, so just think about the worst case scenarios that you are likely to encounter and prepare your communication needs ahead of time.
I hope you can see that being deaf provides both advantages and challenges in learning self-defense, but the challenges are more manageable and less detrimental to your ability to survive than most people might think. Old injuries and the inability to manage fears are probably the biggest challenges in self-defense and these are factors that can be overcome with training…training that ALL people can do.
Return to Self-Defense For The Deaf – Part 1 here.