Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Spider Sense and Safety Words

"My spider sense is tingling..."

When I first began discussing the idea of studying Martial Arts seriously again with Sensei Nick, we talked about all kinds of things. Nick recommended authors to me like Miller, Kane, Wilder, and Abernethy. He sent me ideas for drills. He even mentioned at one point it might be interesting to go bar hoping some weekend to watch for fights. NOT participate, but just observe.

I kind of liked the idea because I haven't ever really been exposed to violence before. How can I teach the martial arts without having some idea of how violence happens and what it's like. Reading Miller's work helps with this, but in the end I figure it's kind of like reading romance novels to learn about sex. Each experience is different, and while people can tell you what it's like, until you actually do it for yourself you really still have no idea.

So when I made the decision to be an Uchideshi, I knew I was going to be in for some interesting experiences. Little did I know they were going to happen so quickly.

Sensei Nick currently teaches classes on Monday and Tuesday at a small dojo in the next town over. (When he's in the country anyway) After our Aiki class Sensei Nick had me going over kata. It was just Sensei Nick, his daughter Emma and I in the dojo. It was late, after 9:30pm, and dark outside, etc.

Sensei Nick was sitting on the mat, I was doing my kata, and his daughter was sitting next to him. A guy walks into the dojo and sits in the chair and starts to watch. He doesn't say anything. I IMMEDIATELY get a strange vibe off this guy and start to feel pretty uncomfortable. I finish up my kata and Nick stands up and says its time to go. Emma and I start to turn the fans off and the guy moves over to the counter to talk to Nick. I can't hear what is being said, but Emma and I are on the other side of the room and Nick looks over at me and tells me to take Emma and go wait in the car. Now I'm starting to feel really bad about the situation. I'm not 100% sure what to do at this point, but I trust Nick so I take Emma (who is 10) and we go wait in the car.

I have a million things going through my mind. Do I call the cops? Is Nick ok? Does this guy just want to talk? Is he going to rob Nick? Does he have a knife or a gun? From where we were parked I could see inside the dojo and was trying to look in the mirrors to see if I could see where Nick and guy were, but I couldn't. I trust Sensei Nick, I know he can handle himself and I know he could seriously mess someone up if he had to. But I would rather not take the chance. Emma and I had only been in the car for a few minutes before another car pulled up and started honking. I could see a mom and a kid inside. The kid jumped out and ran up to the dojo, so I assumed they were this man's family. Shortly thereafter Nick and the guy came out and he got in the van and Nick got in the car with us.

Nothing bad happened, but my heart was pounding.

The conversation on the drive home was of course what to do next time something like this happens. I KNEW something was not right. Nick has mentioned the book "Gift of Fear" many times, because people often tell themselves they are being paranoid, but you do not want to ignore your intuition. EVER. This can save your life. We have that tingly spider sense for a reason. Don't ignore it. In the seminar earlier this month Miller mentioned not to ignore your subconscious either. He said when your subconscious goes off, to look around and see what has triggered it. Have an internal dialogue with yourself and talk to your subconscious. The more you learn to have your subconscious and your conscious communicate with each other, the more things your subconscious will notice.

In the end Nick and I devised a system. If something happens again and he says something like, go wait in the car or whatever, and tugs on his ear while he says it, I will promptly leave and call the police for help. It turns out the guy was drunk and he did have a knife, but he didn't pull it on Nick. He just wanted to talk. Thankfully. Since I tend to fidget with my hair and pull on my ears and stuff a lot we decided the best thing would be for me to have a verbal cue. "Everything's good in Tokyo." means "HEEEEELP!"  Maybe all of this is a little silly, but I feel much better having a code to be able to communicate distress in a situation where you can't necessarily actually ask for help.

I'm glad the situation wasn't critical, no one was hurt, nothing bad happened, but it was certainly a good learning experience and sparked some really good conversation.


  1. Some would of talked themselves into thinking they where being silly or paranoid.

    Everything turned out ok, and you got a learning experience from it.

    Win, win,

  2. Note: we used safty or security words where I worked which was high security and involved deadly force, etc.

    I would suggest that when this occurs, if ever, in the future Sensei Nick simply asks you to "Take Lizbeth to the car ..."

    You both know it is Emma yet saying Lizbeth sends a signal that is not apparent to the threat. In tight situations a pull on the ear might not be seen or such but a name will trigger the brain, etc.

    Just a thought, we used such words or expressions to convey to the Marine armed forces at the place I worked that something was OK or not ... ;-)

  3. Joshkie - Agreed, couldn't have put it better myself.

    Charles - That might have worked in this case, but what happens if Emma isn't with us? I suppose he could call me by another name... but the fact that Sensei Nick pretty much never scratches, touches or pulls on his ears or hair or face makes it a dead give away if he were to do those things.