Thursday, January 19, 2017

Locking Car Doors and The Left Turn Incident

Have you trained for self defense while driving a car?

In October my school First Defense Krav Maga conducted a Saturday afternoon seminar on self defense while driving. Our instructors, Sam and Chris, helps us learn how to deal with various scenarios, and we drilled outside, in and around student vehicles. We spent a decent amount of time dealing with intruders in the passenger's seat, as shown in the photo at left. I'm wearing the stylish wool hat, because it was freezing outside!

Since that class I have begun locking my car doors as soon as I enter my vehicle, but after all passengers have closed the doors. It's such a simple step, but it can thwart a decent number of problems.

For example, rather than locking your car doors immediately, you might close the door and pull out your phone. Maybe you want to check email, or phone messages, or engage Google Maps. In any of those cases, you're taking your attention away from your surroundings, and becoming immersed in the digital world. It's easy for an attacker to approach, open your car door, and threaten you. Locking your car doors right away makes sense and is very easy to do.

I have been making a subtle mistake however. I started locking my car doors to address the threat I just described. This mistake could have caused me trouble last night, during what I will call "the left turn incident."

Last night I was driving my two daughters to piano practice. My car had been parked in our garage. When we left the garage, I did not lock the car doors. Because I was leaving our garage, and not a public space, I did not have my mindset in the attack model I just outlined.

Partway to the piano studio, I needed to take a left turn onto a one-way street. It was dark outside and the traffic was fairly heavy. I had a fair number of vehicles waiting behind me as I concentrated on finding a gap in the traffic. I was looking out the right window when I sensed a presence at my left side. I turned to my left and suddenly saw a person standing right outside my window!

It was a male, wearing a knit cap and a large winter coat. All clothing that I could see was dark colored. He bending down slightly to make eye contact and was looking straight at me. His left arm was raised and his body was tilted toward the door. His left hand was empty. I could not see his right arm. Anti-Carjacking Training Module
Typing these words I can feel an adrenaline response, similar to the reaction I had last night. I had never encountered any pedestrian traffic on this street. It was a busy road and I could not imagine why someone would be standing at my car door.

I had two immediate reactions: 1) what does this guy want? and 2) if he opens the door I am feeling really confident in throwing a long roundhouse with my right arm. I'm surprised somewhat by the second response. It is absolutely a result of my Krav Maga training. I had my two daughters in the car and I was ready to clock this guy if he opened the door.

I had two subsequent reactions, milliseconds after the first two. 3) can I lock the car doors before he reaches for the door handle? and 4) do I pull into oncoming traffic to get away?

Milliseconds later I perceived that the man appeared to be gesturing with his left hand. I interpreted what he was saying as "move along." It seemed like the sort of motion you get when you stop your car to let a pedestrian cross the street, but they want you to drive ahead regardless.

I remember thinking "if he is gesturing for me to roll down my window, forget it. If I have the time to reach down, it will be to lock the car doors." I briefly wondered if he needed directions, but I was not going to engage a stranger on a busy street with my two daughters in the car.

I quickly looked right, saw an opening in the traffic, and took my left turn. My kids had no idea what had happened, but I immediately began a mental after-action report. I also locked my car doors!

At no time did I feel panic. All I remember were those four reactions, which was more of a problem-solving mentality.

My biggest take-away is recognizing that my attack model must incorporate more than a carjacker or similar approaching my vehicle in a public lot. It is possible for an attacker to approach a car stopped in heavy traffic. While I believe it is less likely to occur, if I had locked my car doors last night I would have mitigated one attack vector at insignificant cost.

Some readers might consider this a paranoid scenario, but those of us who practice self defense, and especially those protecting family members, will appreciate how common-sense prevention measures plus training equals great safety. If you'd like to know more, check out Membership at the site includes access to a 50 minute set of videos taught by Master Eyal Yanilov, specifically addressing scenarios like this one.

On January 8th Master Yanilov conducted a 40 minute Facebook Live event discussing transportation safety. He will be teaching a new course for instructors of transportation safety in Norway, with plans to deploy later to other countries.

This should be a great course, with practical applications for all students!

I'd like to finish by thanking all of my instructors, and especially Chris and Sam who taught the car seminar, for preparing me for the event last night. Thankfully it was not a problem, but I felt that it was better to be prepared, especially when my family is involved.

Have you encountered a similar situation involving a vehicle?

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