In early June, I began taking women’s self-defense and martial arts classes at Krav Maga Global China. Von Ng, the head instructor there, kindly took some time to answer beijingkids questions about self-defense.
Do you consider Beijing to be a safe or unsafe city overall?
Beijing is relatively safe, but every city has its dangers. It’s said that “a statistic is just a statistic until you become the statistic.” The problem with thinking “My city is safe, bad things can’t happen to me,” is that your guard is likely down. So when the situation arises, it’s harder to deal with it.
Who should learn self-defense?
We generally believe that everyone has a right to defend themselves. But what we emphasize is that self-defense is much more than just knocking down or dominating the assailant. Self-defense and straight-up fighting are two different things. Self-defense is as much about avoiding danger before things happen, as it is about defending yourself with heavily practiced techniques when it is your only choice for survival.
How can people best stay safe?
Not speaking to the specifics of yesterday’s tragic event, the most basic and useful answer you will get from anyone who teaches self-defense is to be more aware of your environment and notice unusual changes in behavior and demeanor. However, turning on awareness and then engaging the appropriate reaction only comes with conscious training. It takes time to turn it into a habit.
Another thing that long-time self-defense experts and instructors such as Eyal Yanilov and Rory Miller always talk about is how self-defense is fundamentally about breaking out of that frozen or shocked response and conditioning yourself to respond the best way possible. Again, these are things that take hard training over time, and there really aren’t any shortcuts.
That being said, it’s better to at least be proactive about situational and environmental awareness. It’s not about being a paranoid person, but simply trusting the environment too much or being oblivious is a problem. Again this does not speak to the specifics of yesterday’s events, as we cannot know exactly what transpired.
What self-defense props are legal in Beijing?
Things like pepper spray and stun guns are illegal, as are most batons. That being said, common objects can all be used for self-defense. For example, your house keys, umbrella, pens, even your bag or backpack, that hot cup of coffee you are carrying, or that chair you are sitting on all have defensive uses, whether it be for deflecting or absorbing an attack, causing injury to your attacker, or to create an obstacle between you and your attacker, in order to buy you time to escape and survive.
One caveat: you need to have the will, guts, and know how to deploy and use these things in self-defense, typically through some degree of training.
In the wake of yesterday’s tragic events, what is your advice to families in Beijing?
What happened yesterday was really terrible and we hope there will be relief and better days ahead for everyone.
We do not have judgments on what should or could have been done by the victims in yesterday’s events. A lot of the details are unclear, and they likely responded in the best way they could, despite the very tragic outcome.
The general advice you hear from authorities does apply: avoid crowded public areas where lots of people gather. If you must be in a crowded area (like a busy subway station or a public square), try to be aware of your surroundings, and get yourself out of there if things don’t seem right. Also, don’t shut out the world around you. Sometimes people do it by plugging in their headphones or staring at their digital devices. It’s hard to be aware of your surroundings when you can’t see or hear the things around you.
We believe in the importance of learning and training self-defense, and also on learning more about the nature of violence and how it manifests in the real world.
We also think it’s important that people not be indifferent or apathetic to the public safety of others: if you see something unusual (i.e. a person acting strange or, in a different context, a bag left unattended), say something and alert authorities. It might just save someone’s life.
Krav Maga Global China
Sunnyfocus Sports Club, Building 67-70, Lot 35, Xiaoyun Road, Chaoyang District (15010514712, 18610534434 (Eng), 15010246131 (中文), firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com) http://www.kravmagaglobal.com.cn 朝阳区霄云路35号院内67-70幢上绎锋巢运动俱乐部
Photo: Courtesy of Krav Maga Global China