A recent article in the local paper (link at bottom), The Swindon Advertiser, makes public a statement by a senior Police Officer in Swindon. The gist of this statement is that the Police no longer have the resources to deliver the service expected of them by the public. As practitioners of Krav Maga, the implications of this statement should be immediately obvious. In Britain, the Governmental and Societal stances towards self defence are that we have very few rights to self defence beyond those stipulated by the Reasonable Force dictum, and that citizens of the country should instead rely on the Police service to protect them from threat. However, we are now in a position, and have been for some considerable time, where it is not realistic or pragmatic to rely solely on the Police service to protect us from harm. We must take personal responsibility for our own safety and the safety of our communities. This doesn’t mean taking matters into our own hands – intervention is the job of the Police, and only the Police – but it does mean developing Security Awareness – the practice, simply, of paying attention – and making good decisions about our own safety and the safety of our property. It means taking personal responsibility for our own property and person. There have been many advertising campaigns telling people to be responsible for their own health, but few telling them to be responsible for their own safety. In general, the vast majority of the British population are critically naive as to their own vulnerability to crime and critically overconfident about their own ability to ‘handle’ it.

A fellow Kravist said to me recently that not training regularly was essentially a strategy of protection which involves “hoping it doesn’t happen to me.” The context of this was that we were discussing people leaving training. I said, “I can’t understand people who decide to stop training in Krav (or any other real-world self-defence practice).” To which he said, “Yes, they’re essentially going back to the strategy of hoping it won’t happen to them.”

The Police Force of the UK do a fantastic job. And as the years go on, we as a country ask more and more from them while providing them with less and less. What I’m getting at here isn’t a dig at the Police. It’s a dig at the politicians for failing to provide adequately for the service. And it’s a dig at us, the population, for two important reasons:

We the public failed spectacularly in 2008. If you were at the protests on April 1st, 2008, in London, protesting against the bailouts for the big financial institutions, you would perhaps have thought that it was amazing how few people there were that day protesting the gutting of the public purse. But of course in 2008 the protests were abstract – the general public weren’t really aware of the inevitable consequences of the bailouts in terms of future cuts, and still aren’t – until they call on services that they need that simply aren’t there anymore, or have been gutted almost to the point of malfunction. Most people still aren’t aware how bad is the state of our public services, until they need them. Or until they try to work in services that are still being stripped further and further of needed resources. We have a responsibility to support our Police, Ambulance and Fire services and listen to them when they ask for our help, our voices, our solidarity. If you have ever felt that the Police, Ambulance, Fire, or even NHS have failed you, first ask why. These services are failing you because they in turn have been failed. If we were aware of this, en masse, we might have the political will to stop it, which is vital particularly as our security climate becomes ever more unstable.

You are responsible for your own safety. So much crime could be prevented simply by making better choices. Sure, you should have a right to walk wherever you want at whatever time of day, but that doesn’t mean you should. And if you had prepared yourself even with basic awareness training, the odds of you being selected as a victim of crime diminish markedly, as does your burden on the stretched services of our Police Forces.

This second point is perhaps the easiest to address. I am willing to bet that a good majority of calls on the Police services are unnecessary. Further, of the necessary calls, how many of those could have been prevented if individuals took personal responsibility for their own safety? Here are some things you could do today to massively reduce your burden on the Police and Emergency Services.

  • Fit an alarm to your house.
  • Use your alarm, and your locks.
  • Close your curtains so that window shoppers don’t see your shiny new kit.
  • Lock your car doors in transit, as well as when you park up.
  • Remove valuables from the car.
  • Walk in sensible places and at sensible times, or get a lift.
  • Don’t drink too much in public.
  • Carry yourself with a bearing that doesn’t scream VICTIM.
  • Pay attention to surroundings – it’s not stressful to do this, it simply becomes a habit through practice.
  • Get on top of your own ego so that you’re not causing problems.
  • Teach your children to be aware and make good decisions.
  • Learn effective self protection so that, if the worst happens, you will be able to strike back and escape.

I offer these points just to get you thinking – what can you do today to protect yourself, which in turn helps an emergency service stretched to its limits? Every decision you make that keeps you from being a crime statistic helps the Police to focus on someone else, someone who needs their help, someone who cannot do what you have done for themselves.

People say sometimes that training for violence is a negative thing, a thing against society, that we who do it must be violent people. But in my long experience this is not true. To the contrary, people who dedicate time and effort to self protection training show considerable civic duty in doing so. Who is helping society more? The person who takes responsibility for the safety of themselves and others or the person who doesn’t bother, whose sole security strategy is hoping it will never happen to them? Up in the mountains of Wales, it’s common to see people walking up the slopes in trainers, shorts and a t-shirt. These are the people who will have to be rescued when the weather changes suddenly. These are the people whose poor strategies necessitate hard work and risk by other people who are simply better prepared. Which would you rather be?

Will Bayley, BKMA Graduate Instructor, Krav Maga Swindon, Krav Maga North Bristol, Bristol University Krav Maga Society

Link to Swindon Advertiser Article: Officer Warns that Police…

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