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Thread: Unfortunate reminder of safety in the field

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    terrib's Avatar
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    Unfortunate reminder of safety in the field

    I had an unfortunate experience yesterday that I thought I would post, mostly for the purpose of just reminding everyone to stay aware of your surroundings while out in the field.

    During my landscape photography class, our small group was spread out in a clearing just off and in clear sight of a trail going through a city park. It's a very busy and popular park and while I was setting up a shot a man approached me and began asking questions about what we were doing. I gave him short answers and continued what I was doing. As I was turning around looking for other compositions, I noticed he had moved behind me amongst a bunch of large boulders. My gut told me something was off, but I was tuned in to what I was doing. To make a long story short, he called out another question to me and when I turned around to answer him he exposed himself to me. I was so flabbergasted that I did not respond as I wish I had. I didn't even think to remove my camera from the tripod and take his picture for the authorities. All I could think was to move away and closer to my group. It was unbelievable that this could happen with so many people so close by. My instructors reported him to the park authorities but of course he had moved on.

    The most frustrating part of this to me is that over the last month or so I had finally worked through my fears of going out alone in the early morning hours by myself. I'd finally convinced myself that the chances of anything happening were slim - you know, that old comparison that you drive a car even though there's a chance of an accident so don't NOT do things for fear of the possible bad things that might happen. Although my husband is a great sport about going with me most of the time, I HATE feeling like I can't go without him. I am looking into local photography clubs and also into what I might carry to help protect myself. So many of these places we want to photograph are remote and not well travelled.

    But the point of the whole story is that any of us could be so focused on what's in that viewfinder, that we might not stay aware of our environment. So just a reminder to be prepared and stay alert.

    And after the fact, I've come up with oh so many things I could have said or done!

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    Re: Unfortunate reminder of safety in the field

    Hi Terri,
    Guy’s like this need..."Well I can't say online what they need"... But I'm sure you know the kind of thing I'm thinking of.

    It's true we all need to be aware when out and about; luckily this type of incident is rare, but one occurrence is one too many. Let hope he gets caught soon and the authorities give him the punishment he deserves.

    Keep shooting my friend and keep safe.

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    Re: Unfortunate reminder of safety in the field

    Thanks for the reminder Terri. I am so sorry to hear that happened. Please don't let it dissuade you from going out again. That creeper is an exception rather than a rule. Truth is the more we go out the more chances that something out of the ordinary will happen - it's like an occupational hazard of photographers.

    I have been going out alone on weekends lately, to a fairly isolated area early in the morning and I am on constant alert. I prefer to work alone and am very slow to compose my shots, so don't feel comfortable with a group, so this is the only option for me. I am never comfortable with the thought of being out there all alone though - it's not just that someone might come along with bad intentions, but also that anything could happen. You could just twist your foot and end up unable to get to your car with all your equipment. It's important to develop a list of safety items and review them before we head out, though I'm not sure I have thought of everything that should be on the list. I am going to do some searching online to see if anyone has put a safety list for women together. A quick search just now yielded nothing.

    edit: Some useful/interesting links

    http://www.flickr.com/groups/pdx/dis...7624269942540/
    http://www.wikihow.com/Travel-Safely-As-a-Photographer
    http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/t...-environments/
    http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/newsg...-in-the-field/
    Last edited by Susana; 19th August 2012 at 11:43 PM.

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    Re: Unfortunate reminder of safety in the field

    Being male, over six feet tall and weighing over 200 pounds, this has never happened to me. I can certainly appreciate the mental and emotional trauma that this pervert inflicted on you and I wish that I could apologise for my gender as a whole.

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    Re: Unfortunate reminder of safety in the field

    I'll add my collective apologies in with Richard's, Terri. I haven't had that kind of experience, either; but I'm 6'4" and 175 lbs, and I do move like someone who has been practicing martial arts for almost 30 years so even when I am out with expensive camera equipment, I don't look nervous - and the attitude one projects can be a big factor in whether others decide it is okay to try and take advantage of any situation one finds oneself within.

    I was stalked by a cougar once while hiking in a really remote area; and I think that your description of what happened to you really brings out an important point about what to be aware of in such situations. Like wild animals, people who are functioning at lower levels of instinctive behavior (rather than reason) are going to (as you so accurately pointed out) 'act off' and you will notice that they are interacting with the space you are both in, rather than directly with you (or with other people). This could mean skirting around on your periphery, or moving between objects in your vicinity (instead of in a straight and logical path), or moving back and forth so as not to move too far away; but whatever they are trying to appear to be doing, you will notice that they are remaining in your vicinity.

    That's a definite warning sign, and one which should not be ignored. If you feel uncomfortable about someone around you, leave; and if they follow, then move through public areas where there are other people until you lose the person who seems to be a problem-in-the-making.

    I'd like also to add here a comment on what Susana said, with reference to hiking alone. I do that too, but one thing I always make absolutely sure I do -and it is a simple thing but it is a very, very important habit to establish - is to ALWAYS stop walking before I look around for a photo opportunity. It is natural for us as photographers to look around while walking or hiking for things to photograph; but if you are walking anywhere except on pavement in a city, NEVER look around as you are walking. If you are in a good area for photographs, then, get in the habit of taking a few steps before stopping to look around; and if you don't see anything of interest then walk a bit farther before stopping to look around again. Don't let yourself be lulled into the habit of looking around for photo opportunities while you are walking: train yourself to look where you are putting your feet when you are walking, and stopping if you are going to look around for places to put your camera.

    Otherwise, sooner or later, you will at least twist an ankle and possible do much worse; and distances become a whole lot longer (and nightfall comes much too soon) when you can't actually walk anymore to get yourself to safety.

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    Re: Unfortunate reminder of safety in the field

    Sorry to learn that this happened, Terri. I think you did the right thing by immediately moving away from the criminal and toward the safety of your group. Always get to safety first; take pictures to help the authorities later.

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    terrib's Avatar
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    Re: Unfortunate reminder of safety in the field

    Thank you everyone for your comments. Susana and John, you are right that it's not just criminals we have to worry about. Paying attention can save us from all kinds of tragedies!

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    Re: Unfortunate reminder of safety in the field

    Something that my wife often reminds me, and something that I have not completely internalized, is that since I am at the twilight time of my life (72 years old) I might seem a pretty vulnerable target to some person or group who would want to steal my equipment.

    I compensate for this by being careful where and when I am shooting! There was a time in my life in which I had very few fears of being mugged, since I was big and a darn tough guy in my prime! However, these days there are places and times in my own area in which I will not venture with photo equipment.

    I respectfully submit, that in a perfect world, you should be safe to venture anywhere you desire without fears. Unfortunately, this world is far from perfect and being with some other photographers is a safety factor. I really prefer to shoot alone but, often join shoots with my photo club because there is safety n numbers...

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    Re: Unfortunate reminder of safety in the field

    On the subject of "just in case" I believe that now we have them in a portable handy size it is only plain common sense to get oneself an EPIRB...I have always had one aboard when I went to sea solo. The difference in rescue time if you do get into trouble is like days versus minutes or at least hours. Since S&R are usually amateurs giving of their spare time it is only polite and courteous to reduce their time to a minimum. This does not apply to the OPs experience but to the solo walker in the bush. These gadgets are not cheap ... NZ$700 ... but what price your life if S&R doesn't find you? That has happened in recent years in NZ as the rapid rescue of somebody who had their EPIRB. The first [a woman tourist] starved to death while the second was rescued in about an hour of raising the alarm.

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    Re: Unfortunate reminder of safety in the field

    What's an EPIRB? I assume the E is emergency and the RB is radio beacon. What do the P and I stand for? Thank you. v

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    Re: Unfortunate reminder of safety in the field

    Quote Originally Posted by terrib View Post
    The most frustrating part of this to me is that over the last month or so I had finally worked through my fears of going out alone in the early morning hours by myself. I'd finally convinced myself that the chances of anything happening were slim - you know, that old comparison that you drive a car even though there's a chance of an accident so don't NOT do things for fear of the possible bad things that might happen. Although my husband is a great sport about going with me most of the time, I HATE feeling like I can't go without him. I am looking into local photography clubs and also into what I might carry to help protect myself. So many of these places we want to photograph are remote and not well travelled.


    And after the fact, I've come up with oh so many things I could have said or done!
    Terri,
    Thank you for sharing this story, and I commend you for getting past your fears... My husband is also a good sport, and accompanies me on a lot of my photo shooting adventures, plus he seems to find some really neat places to shoot. As far as something to protect yourself... My first thought is a GUN! Especially one with a laser site on it. I realize not everyone can or wishes to carry a gun..so maybe a good whistle (to get peoples attention) and or some kind of spray deterrent, this would work for both 2 legged and 4 legged critters that insist on being a nuisance, or some combination of the above..I think it also would be very useful to learn some techniques so that if someone does get close you can defend yourself, a well placed, knee, elbow or other body part can mean the difference of getting away or not..and might also help your self confidence.. I think you really hit it though with just being very aware of your surroundings.

    Isn't it funny how you can always think of hundreds of ways to handle it AFTERWARDS:> That's the way it always works for me too.

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    Re: Unfortunate reminder of safety in the field

    Quote Originally Posted by Trina View Post
    I think it also would be very useful to learn some techniques so that if someone does get close you can defend yourself, a well placed, knee, elbow or other body part can mean the difference of getting away or not..and might also help your self confidence.. I think you really hit it though with just being very aware of your surroundings.
    Concentrated pepper or 'bear' spray is suppose to work wonders. I permanently keep a small plastic item in my camera accessory bag (clipped in with my spare CF memory cards) that is a combination compass, whistle, and thermometer (rapid temperature drops in winter are worth knowing about when in the field). Many people carry a cell phone handy with "911" on speed dial.

    Do you remember when you were a kid, running around in a circle with your hand on a metal pole in the middle? Remember how it felt if someone put their hand on top of yours, pinning it in place while you were still moving? If someone grabs your wrist, instead of struggling just pin their hand in place with your free hand and turn in whatever direction forces their finger tips toward their own inner wrist. They'll wish to hell they COULD let go of you and you will be in complete control of them; just stick out a foot and pull them across it, they'll trip and be on the ground in a second. If they struggle, apply more pressure and bend their wrist more: they won't be using that hand to grab anyone for quite some time.

    It doesn't matter how big or muscular a person is: everyone's joints distend out of place with roughly the same degree of applied force. Don't hesitate; and don't release the pressure when you feel the tendons in their wrist start to snap and pop. They'll struggle, thinking they are stronger than you and can get away: so, they'll hurt themselves. Keep the pressure on, and yell and scream until help comes.

    In too close to someone? Make that hippie 'peace' sign from the 60's, but press the two extended (index and middle) fingers tightly together. On the inner side on both sides of everyone's jaw, there is a series of lymph glands: ram your extended fingers up to the middle knuckle straight up into those lymph glands, just around midway between the chin and the jaw hinge at the back of the jaw; just under the jaw, on the inside of the jaw bone. This actually hurts more intensely than a well placed kick you know where, because the source of pain is so much closer to the brain and the other major sense organs (sight, smell, taste, hearing: this is the true meaning of the expression "blinding pain"); but when the person who is attacking you steps back in shock and pain, well you can kick them there for good measure too and they won't see it coming because their sense are already on overload at the moment.

    Need to get really serious? Any person's collar bone will break with approximately 18 pounds per inch of applied pressure. An elbow will do it: place your right hand's palm on your left hip with the fingers pointing down at the ground; draw your right hand's palm up the left side of your body, fingers still pointing downward, and run your palm up the left side of your face, over the top of your head, and down the right side of your face so that the fingers are now pointing upward. You just circumscribed the perfect arc for your right elbow to make a downward strike; but, move the right hand out a bit so it never touches the body, do it as quickly as you can, and, as your hand passes over your head, drop your body weight into the strike for good measure (just squat a bit; that will do the trick - assuming you weight more than 18 pounds).

    You should be sideways to the front of your attacker's body, because this strike will be directed out from the side of your body toward the front of theirs.

    Even if you miss your attacker's collarbone with your elbow, I guarantee you can still connect with the inside of your wrist; you know, on the bottom of your wrist at the end of your forearm, that little bump before the wrist? Well that is actually one of the densest and strongest areas of bone in your body (early people used that part of animal bones to make spearheads with): if you connect there with the center of an attacker's collar bone using the velocity of that elbow strike, you will slice through their collar bone like a hot knife through butter (only faster). Just be sure to keep your strike moving as fast as you can and keep it moving past your target, the collar bone: strike through your target, as if it wasn't there rather than on your target, which won't have the required effect of breaking through the target.

    Then the arm on that side of their body will fall out of their shoulder; they'll need to use their other hand to keep their fallen arm from dropping off completely (or so their brain will scream to them); and once again you can apply a judicious kick as and where needed.

    If they already have a hold on you, the palm at the hip idea goes nicely with "Wait, let me take off my top so it doesn't get damaged!"

    !CRACK!

    And if all of this sounds brutal and cruel, let me tell you that most martial artists with a few years of training agree; and this is why they are themselves generally pretty much ineffectual in a street fight UNTIL they actually get hurt in an unprovoked attack, and realize that the effects of an injury any attacker can inflict might very well be with them for the rest of their lives. THEN it's down to business from that point on: eliminating a physical threat to oneself as quickly and as efficiently as possible, with no ifs, ands, or buts about the whole process.

    Just tell yourself that you are doing your attacker a little favor by giving them a nice quite rest in the hospital before they are transferred to their prison cell.

    And remember: no property you own is worth risking your health and safety over; so if you can get away from a bear by abandoning your food then do it, and if you can get away from an attacking thief by abandoning your equipment then do that.
    Last edited by John Morton; 23rd August 2012 at 10:02 PM.

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    Re: Unfortunate reminder of safety in the field

    When I asked my son if he felt safe as a result of his karate experience as a youth he replied no ... but he knew how to run.

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    Re: Unfortunate reminder of safety in the field

    Quote Originally Posted by drjuice View Post
    What's an EPIRB? I assume the E is emergency and the RB is radio beacon. What do the P and I stand for? Thank you. v
    Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon.

    I'd like to echo jcuknz's thoughts regarding them. I've seen it countless times in the local papers when someone is overdue in the bush; pretty much only 1 of 2 outcomes:

    1. They have a beacon and (with the exception of where they can't be rescued due to the weather preventing helicopters getting to them) they're generally back within a couple of hours.

    2. Without a beacon they're generally found either dead, or in poor shape after several days searching by dozens of volunteers.

    Yes they are expensive - but they can be rented. Honestly, it's just a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned.

    Interestingly, by older brother is an experienced tramper and mountaineer -- and as a rule doesn't carry one. I've discussed this with him, and the rationale seems to be "I'm careful" (well I'm a careful driver, but I still wear a seat belt) and "I tramp on popular routes where others are always around to raise the alarm" (at which point an accident (a) ruins someone else's tramp and (b) in the case of a serious injury or condition, a delay may well cost a life). On one occasion he slipped - tore some ligaments from his arm & shoulder - toughed it out overnight - next day couldn't continue - and was rescued by ANOTHER tramper setting off their beacon. But still won't regularly carry one. Crazy, in my opinion.

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    Re: Unfortunate reminder of safety in the field

    Quote Originally Posted by jcuknz View Post
    When I asked my son if he felt safe as a result of his karate experience as a youth he replied no ... but he knew how to run.
    Reminds me of a martial artist guru's answer to the question of "what's the best defense against a person with a gun". His answer "200 yards ... and increasing"!

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    Re: Unfortunate reminder of safety in the field

    Hi Terri,

    Let me please add my "apologies on behalf of the more descent portion of the human race". I have to say, I know the feeling. Sometimes I find myself on a beach - crack of dawn - with a truckload of equipment - and even as a "bloke", I can still attest to feelings of insecurity when some groups are in the vicinity.

    All I can do is echo the comments of others to say "put safety first" -- taking a photo might be good from an evidence point of view, but I can also imagine that with others, it might just be a trigger to assault you and steal / break your camera. I've heard it suggested that one course of action (not sure how serious they were) is to just point at his exposed "parts" and burst out laughing!

    On the funny side, I recall the story of how some men like to flash female photographers when being shot for a wedding. Apparently the photographer got the last laugh by printing and displaying the shot - AFTER a significant application of the Photoshop shrink tool!

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    Re: Unfortunate reminder of safety in the field

    That is sad. I worry about my wife and my 3 daughters because of creeps like that (and worse). It is unfair that you should have to be concerned about going places alone but unfortunately that is the world.
    If he had shown any photographic knowledge prior to his stunt, you could have told him "sorry, but I don't have a macro lens!" but I doubt he'd have gotten it.

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    Re: Unfortunate reminder of safety in the field

    Once upon a time, the only ones at risk from these sickos were ladies. Now there seems to be the sad fact that everyone is at potential risk, not only from sexual deviants, but also violent predators. And should they be apprehended the system now seems to bend over backwards to mitigate their responsibility for their actions, frequently to the point that the victim ends up feeling they are the one at fault. And sadly they often live with the trauma of the experience for a considerable period, even for the rest of their lives. Which is a very sad reflection on our society that we are no longer able to enjoy the delights of our Natural Environment free from fear.

    I reckon that Jcuknz's son is spot on when he says that in these bad situations he knows how to run. To this could I perhaps suggest also that one should know when to run? And also where to run? Always be aware of the nature of your surroundings and where are the best and safest avenues for you to move through, especially if speed is of the essence. I no longer have the testosterone charged, foolhardy bravado of youth, whereby I would have once stood my ground. Now, of course, were I stupid enough to do so, I would get done like a good dinner! These scum pick their marks and always ensure that they have the advantage .

    So, as an ex SES member, safety in numbers and always being aware of what is happening around you, is a suggestion. Further, I would suggest that engaging in diatribe or ridicule to try and diffuse these situations in trying to regain control may not always be wise if you are confronted by some one mentally disturbed, out of their minds on drugs or intent on working themselves up into acts of violence. And whilst I fully understand where John is coming from with his instant advice on how to disable an attacker I would suggest you think hard beforehand about going down this path. For two reasons. Firstly, having played judo when younger and having some knowledge of the other martial arts and their use in street fighting, to apply these techniques effectively requires considerable practice to acquire the necessary skill to do so. And secondly, think about how prepared you are to defend yourself in a court of law against charges and claims for compensation for damages you may have inflicted on some dirt bag in defending yourself. Sounds bizzare and far fetched? Well just look at many of the idiotic claims being successfully lodged by smart lawyers and the crazy rulings being handing down by the courts in favour of the perps who initiated the assault or offence against an innocent bystander; who often suffers drastic punitive outcomes for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time and just trying to protect themselves. Often makes no sense, but it happens; all too often."They who chose to walk away, live to take piccies another day." Or how about? " Cowards always seem to live longer.

    And whilst we are on safety, if you are going into remote and unfrequented areas, where all the best shots are to be taken, someone should be aware of your Itinerary and expected time of return. Injuries in the bush, animal attacks, snake bite etc in unfrequented areas are always a possibility. You may be fit enough to run all day but how far into marathon are you going to run with an sprained ankle or a broken leg? And don't put all your faith in mobile phones. Betcha your best shots will be where there is bugger all reception!

    I could go on about appropriate clothing in case you are caught out, first aid kits, carrying snacks and adequate drinking water etc but I won't, as by now I reckon I probably have bored your socks off and most of you will have understandably switched off to my ramblings.
    Wishing you all many safe and happy piccie shooting jaunts
    old ucci
    Last edited by ucci; 24th August 2012 at 03:54 AM.

  19. #19
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    Re: Unfortunate reminder of safety in the field

    Quote Originally Posted by ucci View Post

    I reckon that Jcuknz's son is spot on when he says that in these bad situations he knows how to run. To this could I perhaps suggest also that one should know when to run? And also where to run? Always be aware of the nature of your surroundings and where are the best and safest avenues for you to move through, especially if speed is of the essence.

    So, as an ex SES member, safety in numbers and always being aware of what is happening around you, is a suggestion. Further, I would suggest that engaging in diatribe or ridicule to try and diffuse these situations in trying to regain control may not always be wise if you are confronted by some one mentally disturbed, out of their minds on drugs or intent on working themselves up into acts of violence. And whilst I fully understand where John is coming from with his instant advice on how to disable an attacker I would suggest you think hard beforehand about going down this path. For two reasons. Firstly, having played judo when younger and having some knowledge of the other martial arts and their use in street fighting, to apply these techniques effectively requires considerable practice to acquire the necessary skill to do so. And secondly, think about how prepared you are to defend yourself in a court of law against charges and claims for compensation for damages you may have inflicted on some dirt bag in defending yourself.
    You are absolutely right, Ken. Be aware of your surroundings, and know where to go if you need to escape so that you don't end up heading into a more remote or out-of-sight location by mistake.

    Leave while you have the opportunity to do so. Don't stay to fight. The advice I gave was for situations where an attack is immanent, is in the process of unfolding, or an attacker already has already placed a hand on you with the intent of doing you harm. Effective self defense does take training; even army recruits have been shown to almost unfailingly aim above targets presented to them at first, because it is a natural human response to avoid harming others.

    The point of legal ramifications is also a valid one; and my take on that is, if worse comes to worse, you can count yourself as having done the right thing if the outcome of any trial you face is still better in any case than what would have happened to you of you had not defended yourself. I myself would not resort to breaking another person's collar bone unless I were attacked by multiple opponents; but I would still use the same technique to pass my elbow completely through the space an attacker was occupying, from top to bottom and about two inches past the surface of their chest, knowing that their chest muscles would then be so messed up that they would not be able to strike me with the arm on that side of their body. Then it would simply be a matter of staying on that side of their body until the realization of what had happened finally sunk in to their possibly drug numbed brain; but also I know a lot of other things I can do if need be (or rather, my body is trained to do a lot of other different things) so I don't necessarily have to completely disable an attacker with one and possibly at only one opportunity.

    All and all, it is a terrible thing that we have to consider such possibilities but at the same time I don't think any of us are quite ready to give up our enjoyment of photography just because of the chance that we might be attacked by some marginal character looking for an easy advantage. I do think that the best advice to come out of this discussion is that of "Safety in numbers"; and yet, the original situation that Terri brought to our attention here happened while she was in a busy park with a group of people, as part of a photography class.

    So perhaps the best advice that can be offered here (and which hasn't been mentioned yet) is: if you can't quickly get out of a situation, please be sure that your tripod has a quick release plate and your camera has a sturdy strap so that you can swing the thing in a circle around your head (with the strap around the back of your wrist, as if around your neck, and the two straps running through your hand and out between the thumb and index finger). That's as good of a last resort as you will ever find and only a complete idiot would walk into that.

    If you are being attacked by an idiot, take Ken's advice to heart and do yourself a favor: don't whack them on the head, just give them a good solid wallop on the side of the knee; because knees are hinge joints, they only go back and forth - they can't go side to side without serious damage. Everything in that area is vulnerable (unless the person is in a crouched stance with their knees bent to 90 degree angles), from the knee cap to the tendons which anchor muscle to those bones and the ligaments which hold the knee joint together; so you don't have to be super accurate in order to render an attacker completely incapable of following you at anything better than a crawl.

    Knees, by the way, are generally the first point a street fighter will try and attack when fighting someone who really doesn't know what they are getting into. There are lots of people around who once thought they were tough that are now walking with a cane because of this.
    Last edited by John Morton; 24th August 2012 at 05:24 AM.

  20. #20

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    Re: Unfortunate reminder of safety in the field

    The story of the martial arts expert, a little old man sitting quietly in a train when a large aggressive male started to hit on him. The MAE could have put him out without any trouble but instead he quietly talked the bully out of it. I think this was in Readers Digest thirty or more years ago.

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