Have you ever found yourself in a position in which your own sense of comfort and well-being was at odds with social expectations? This has happened to the majority of us at least a few times, and while we dislike the unease that it produces, we often consign these experiences to relative insignificance. If we’ve had a singularly unpleasant exchange, we may make efforts to avoid the places or persons involved for a while, but we don’t usually go further out of our way than that.
What might a situation like this look like? Perhaps you’ve managed to find a half hour during a particular busy and stressful week to sit down and have a drink at your favourite coffee shop. Shortly after you arrive, an acquaintance sees you and asks if you’d mind if he/she were to join you. You’d love nothing more than that half hour to yourself and your thoughts, but it seems rude to refuse. You acquiesce, losing your alone time, but satisfying social expectations of politeness and friendliness.
Perhaps you’re at a party and you’re introduced to someone new. That someone feels that it’s perfectly appropriate to hug and kiss you on the cheek, which you consider very intimate. In a situation like this, you weigh the value of maintaining your personal space (while risking coming off as aloof and possibly aggressive) against the value of keeping the peace at a friend’s event. In a situation like this, in particular, you have to make a decision in a split-second, and for most of us, the desire to be “socially appropriate” wins out.
These scenarios are manifold – from a salesperson showing up at your door and expecting that door to be opened wide during a conversation, to unwanted (however minor) physical contact, to unsolicited advice, to unwavering eye-contact that you don’t solicit or want to reciprocate. In all of the above cases, there’s a spectrum involved; the offender may be blissfully unaware of the discomfort that he/she is causing, he/she may be fully cognizant of the effect that his/her actions are having and simply not care, or he/she may be acting purposely and with malice.
The problem, as we see it, is that those on the threatening end of that spectrum benefit from the fact that majority of us will do everything possible – even to the point of our own discomfort – to conform to social norms and expectations of polite, cordial, co-operative behaviour. The drive to be “decent,” “helpful,” and “friendly” is sometimes linked to our sense of ourselves as “good” people, and sometimes to a desire to be liked and admired. Knowing this, it’s easy to understand why we’re willing to compromise ourselves for altruism, popularity, or even a sense of normalcy. It may also explain why statistics on assault reveal that in most cases, the perpetrator is known – to some degree – by the victim. How many of us would fail to let a “family friend” in if he/she were to show up on our doorstep?
What’s the solution? The idea that we need to be paranoid or preemptively aggressive is impractical on many levels. More realistic is to hope for the best in others but be able to protect ourselves from the worst. Of course, one of our most basic fears regarding defending ourselves is the notion that we’ll somehow over react – using force when it wasn’t warranted (perhaps we misread the situation), or using more force than was really necessary. We worry about appearing “nuts” or a “bully.” Educational blocks are the answer in cases like these. They allow us to remain open, approachable, and “socially acceptable” without fear that a) we will have to submit to encroachment into our personal space and b) that we’ll have to act in overly aggressive ways. They pave an excellent middle ground for us.
An educational block is appropriate when preventative measures haven’t worked, but prior to more vigorous techniques being used. In socially awkward situations, preventative measures may sometimes be impossible – you may see your “touchy-feely” colleague approaching you at a meeting, but sidling out of the conference room, clipboard raised as a shield, is unrealistic. There will be times in these “grey-area” circumstances that you cannot “observe and avoid” – here, situational awareness will do you little good. To take this example further, however, neither should you allow Touchy-Feely to take advantage of you – you’re not obligated to allow anyone to touch you without your consent – but full-on defensive techniques would be inappropriate as well. Suffice it to say, taking your colleague to the ground judo-style and pinning him/her there with well executed stress on the elbow and shoulder joints would not exactly be conducive to office productivity.
Of course, it’s not only in so-called friendly scenarios that this dilemma arises. As mentioned above, an aggressor knows very well that most of us will default to at least a degree of self-harm in order to “keep the peace.” The playing field with someone this insidious is distinctly skewed in favour of the offender. Again, educational blocks can build a bridge for us between the shock of anti-social behaviour and definitive self-defence.
An educational block can be something as simple as a bit of pressure on a thumb-joint in a lasting, domineering handshake. Nothing could be more unobtrusive, despite the fact that it’s extremely effective. You’ve suddenly evened out the odds – you control the degree of pressure based on how inconsiderate the behaviour of your counterpart. If someone is genuinely unaware of how unpleasant his/her actions are, slight pressure will resolve the situation relatively amicably; however, if the intent had been to intimidate, you will be well within your rights to increase pressure – and the speed with which your opponent will disengage. In this latter situation, no excuses need to be made for “unfriendliness,” as it’s become a scenario of self-defence. This is the beauty of an educational block – it is usually low-profile and the degree of force can be manipulated, so it is efficient while allowing you not to step too far outside the realm of “social acceptability.” Educational blocks thus tend to lessen our anxiety about acting in our own best interests in uncertain circumstances.
Good self-defence training will teach you a variety of “grey-area” techniques like these, because realistic training takes into account the variety of potentially threatening scenarios that can take place in real life. For everything from corporate environments to day-to-day living, these techniques are invaluable. To learn more, head over to https://www.canadakm.com/get-started-.html
The Academy Team