(Or, “why sorting out that core can stop you from getting mugged”)
With the first of the Crossfit London self-protection workshops coming up in November we thought it would be a great time to start chatting about some of the things that keep you safe.
Mention street robbery – mugging – or other sorts of assault in the street, and most of us will conjure up images of both the victim and the attacker. Some of us might even imagine ourselves in that role (the former, I trust). We could dwell on the feelings of fear or anger at being subjected to such an invasion, increasing our apprehensions; or maybe we’d plan out a devastating response to turn the tables, feeling empowered by our imagined effectiveness. We could, even, seek out some of the myriad training and advice on self defense that is out there: on the internet and in the gyms and church halls of the country. Almost all of it will focus on what you can, or should do to make yourself safer. What is less well known, is that what you are can be just as important a factor in your personal safety.
Going back to the beginning of this piece, who did you imagine as the victim of the crime: the old lady mugged for her shopping, the lone female jogging in the park at night, the schoolkid ganged-up on for being different? Many of us seem to have similar ideas about who makes a victim, but do the criminals agree? Well, some boffins decided to find out.
Researchers videoed a street in a high-crime area of New York, then categorised the pedestrians into groups of male/female, young/old. An initial selection of prison inmates was shown the footage so that the subjects could be rated for ease of attacking, from 1 (“A very easy rip off”) to 10 (“Would avoid it, too big a situation. Too heavy”). The footage was then shown to a different group of 53 prisoners, who rated them using the previously determined scale. From this, the subjects were separated into potentially easy victims (1-3) and non-victims (4-10). Overall, older men and women had higher assault ratings than younger men and women.
The movement of the subjects was analysed using Labanalysis, a system of movement notation for use in studying non-verbal communication. Rudolf Laban viewed movement as a process that reflected emotions and thoughts and not just external stimuli. While Labanalysis measures a large number of variables, five in particular were of a statistically significant difference: stride length, type of weight shift, type of walk, body movement, and feet. The categorisation of these differences between victim and non-victim are somewhat impenetratable to a layperson, but the summary is more illuminating. Victims’ movement tends to be gestural – that is, initiated from the periphery, with limbs moving in isolation – while non-victims move posturally – initiating the movement from the centre and involving the whole body. In other words, non-victims seem to function in a fluid and comfortable way, whereas victims appear to be ill at ease and uncoordinated.
So, if we are to avoid victimhood, it would seem that we want our movements to be coordinated, ‘whole-body’ and initiated from our centre, rather than isolated and graceless. Now where have I heard that prescription before?
A note of caution should be sounded, however, before all you Crossfitters smugly chalk up another benefit and illustration of the superiority of your chosen training paradigm. In summing up their study, the researchers conjectured that, above all, victims were selected due to being different from the norm, and that this might extend to other behaviours and modes of dress. From the inmates: “any dude that looked different” might be a target for assault. Ruminate on that as you walk down the street in your VFF’s and Puking Clown wife-beater vest, snacking on almonds.
Ref: Attracting Assault: Victims’ Non-Verbal Cues by Grayson & Stein