One evening in December 1994 a friend of mine was getting her washing off the passenger seat of her car when the door opened, a man put a knife to her throat and said, “Move over or I’ll kill you.”
She moved over into the passenger seat, and even helped him start the car because the ignition was faulty.
They drove into town where they picked up a friend of his. They then drove to a secluded beach where they both raped her, slit her throat multiple times, disembowelled her and left her for dead.
The story of Alison, who survived this ordeal, shocked the nation, but it was this event that changed the course of my life.
After speaking to Alison about her ordeal, I wrote a thesis for my fifth-dan karate grading on “self-defence for women” because I realised that Alison had made the wrong choice. She just hadn’t known any better. She did not know she had choices and what they were. Had she known, she would have chosen a different course.
You need to decide what you are going to choose. Doing nothing (freezing) when you don’t know what else to do is very different to when you choose to do nothing, knowing all the options. I believe you will be able to live with your decision better.
I sent Alison a copy of my thesis and she called me and asked, “Why did I do nothing?”
I said, “Ali, you didn’t have a choice. You didn’t know all the options!”
She was a victim, and no one should ever blame a victim for what happens to them, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from our choices, as Alison has. She has also said that if she lived her life again she would go through that again to be where she is today, something that I still find amazing.
There are only three things you can choose to do in a life-threatening situation: ONLY three!
Flight, fight or freeze.
The most important of these is always flight. Leave the situation if you can. Get away! Trust your gut. When something feels wrong, it is wrong. Leave!
Don’t go looking for what it is to prove yourself right.
If you can’t leave or you choose not to leave, there are only two things left: fight or do nothing.
The term “fighting” is a little confusing. During my INpowered sessions, I always ask: “How long does it take the average person to learn how to fight?”
The answers range from a few years to a long time … the answer, however, is that the average person will probably NEVER learn how to fight. Not properly, anyway. Fighting is an art and requires many hours of training and dedication – we are not talking about “brawling”, which every guy thinks he can do after a few cold ones.
Something I believe is key and which most self-defence practitioners or “Friss Chris Frikkies” as I like to call them, don’t seem to realise or tell you is that anything you do to a would-be attacker that does not immobilise him is going to more than likely make matters worse.
Or, as I like to say, “If it does not switch him off, it’s going to piss him off!”
Do you want to infuriate a person that is intent on hurting you anyway and has probably done it many times before? Of course not. You need to immobilise him.
So, fighting in a life-or-death situation when you are not highly trained is not a good idea.
Which is why I replace the word fight with immobilise or incapacitate. As mentioned in my previous column, if you know one thing, one thing that you will never forget, that you know can immobilise anybody, you will have a choice that most people do not have – an option that could perhaps save your life.
I’ve had many people say they would rather do NOTHING and hopefully make it out alive, while others say they would rather DIE than just submit. There is no right answer here, unfortunately.
But how do you make that decision if you do not know all the options?
Choice is so powerful and is sometimes all we have. When someone stops you from leaving a situation that you feel is threatening, they have taken away one of your choices and you only have two left.
They say that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you choose to react to it.
Alison made the wrong choice that evening, and this is something I will discuss in a future column, but she also chose to live and she chose to turn what happened to her into a positive, and has gone on to touch thousands of lives with her story.
If it wasn’t for her decision that night, I would never have found my own path as the founder of INpowered.
They say the two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why. The day Alison chose to live was the day she helped me find my why, and I know my life’s mission is to help you to understand that you always have a choice!
Mark Grobbelaar is the Founder of INpowered, incorporating WIP (woman INpowered) and GRIP (Guy Responsibly INpowered).
He holds a 6th dan in karate and has over 45 years’ experience in the personal protection field.
He does talks and hosts INpowered programmes to corporates, schools and small groups.
Reach him with your question about personal protection at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will try to answer you in future columns.