Article ~ The Lion and The Gazelle

Discussion in 'Self Defence' started by Judderman, Oct 17, 2004.

  1. Judderman

    Judderman 'Ello darlin'


    “When the sun comes up, the Gazelle knows it must run faster than the quickest Lion, in order to survive.

    When the sun come up, the Lion knows it must run faster than the slowest Gazelle, in order to survive.

    When the sun comes up, who ever you are, you’d better be running.”

    BBC TV Advertisement

    This can reflect aspects of life in Society today.

    Just as the story of survival is played out on the plains of Africa, it also played out on the streets of our own towns and cities.

    From the moment we wake and leave the imagined comfortable security of our own home, we are being stalked. We may even be unlucky enough to “bump into” a predator or, worse still, an injured animal.

    It is useful to remember that usually humans, like every other animal, do not enter in to conflict at a whim. This comes from deep-rooted biological systems that protect the body. As a result each attacker will use various rituals to achieve their goal in the most effective way possible, using the least amount of energy and exposing the body to the least amount of risk.

    In the following I hope to explore and reveal the tactics and rituals of attackers (Lions) and how they select and exploit their victims (Gazelles), thus equipping the reader with an insight to the real aspects of street crime.

    My hope is that this will educate people enough and add strings to their Martial Arts bows, so that they know what it is they are training for if they wish to defend themselves effectively.

    I hope to focus on the method of victim selection as well as method of attack, rather than the actual mechanics of the attack.

    Who are the Lions?

    According to Home Office statistical reports, the majority of offenders are male and between the ages of 16 and 25 years old. The evidence reveals that attacks by offenders over this age are quite rare. Rarer still are attacks by women, either alone or part of a group of either sex, and they tend to be younger than their male counterparts.

    Offenders usually work in groups of two or more, although the statistics show that a single offender attacked 59% of women. My own research indicates towards the notion that even these lone offenders are working with a friend, even if they were not directly involved. This may be due to dilution of responsibility. One offender said:

    “…it’s selfish, but you feel better thinking, “Well if I get caught, at least I’m not the only one”…”.

    This is also appears evident from the increase in “gang” attacks (more than five offenders), especially in offenders under 21 years old.

    These figures represent personal robbery, but a Metropolitan Police study showed that offences of violence against the person tended to increase with age.

    Although statistics have been taken for the ethnicity of offenders, it would be improper to publish them here, as the figures would have to be taken on an individual basis and compared directly to the local population.

    Who are the Gazelles?

    I will examine victim selection presently, however Home Office research has shown that males, between the ages of 16 and 25 are targeted most. It is interesting to note that female victims are usually slightly older, usually between 21 and 30 years of age. Unfortunately, the study shows that elderly women are targeted more readily than elderly men.

    It was also noted that victims under the age of 20 were school children or students, against the majority of adults being employed at the time of the attack.

    The majority tend to be employed people who appear wealthy, by their dress, or display an amount of personal wealth, such as expensive jewellery or mobile phones. For reasons that will become apparent, those under the influence of alcohol also rate quite highly as targets, not only for assault but robbery.

    Where and When?

    Most believe that robberies and assaults occur in darkened alleyways away from prying eyes. Where this may be the case for a few incidents, robberies typically occur in, or in the vicinity of, open public spaces, primarily a street, but also alleyways, parks, commercial buildings or even the victim’s own transport. This is of course dependant on the area. If an area has a high commercial area with a number of pubs and clubs, then these will be the hunting grounds, rather than on the street. For those travelling on public transport, the majority of attacks occur on the transport itself, rather than in stations or platforms.

    The interesting psychology of this is simple. In public areas the criminal is able to blend in. The arena is known to them, as is any escape route. It has also been found that the majority of people will not intervene if they see a crime being committed. Whether this out of shock that they are seeing such a thing, or a reluctance to get involved out of fear or other notion, is unknown.

    The time of day as well as the day of the week is also important. The majority of attacks occur at the weekend and at night, usually between 1800hrs and 0200hrs, with a third occurring between 2200hrs and 0200hrs.

    A possible explanation for this is that it tends to be people with money who go out at night. They tend to wear their best, so to impress potential partners as well as their peers. Most are out to have fun, thus are too involved to identify a potential attack.

    Although the actual attack may occur in an open space, there are generally fewer people actually out on the street to intervene. In addition to this the darkness is cover the escape, not the attack. Studies have shown that well lit areas have little impact, probably because the public are not likely to intervene.

    (It is important to note that additional lighting in addition to other items, such as CCTV, is highly effective)

    How and Why?

    What is the hunger that drives the Lion to go hunting?

    It is of note that a high percentage of prisoners have (or have had) substance abuse issues, or mental health problems. One should look to the economics of the situation, however, a burglary, either commercial or domestic, will tend to produce a higher reward, than a personal robbery. This is also true for robberies of small shops and garages.

    More interesting though, studies believe that these are not the most prevalent reasons for carrying out these attacks. Elizabeth Burney (1990) found that the primary reason for robbery was to not to feed a drug habit, but to feed a style habit.

    It was found most robberies were “motivated by a desire in young people to attain all the trappings of a ‘style’ so expensive as to be unattainable through legal employment, but vital if they wished to conform to group norms. ‘Style’ may represent status to those who have few opportunities for acquiring it legally.”

    The drug culture is often blamed for a great deal of violence and whereas this culture and its politics are apparently governed by violence, it important to note that certain “styles” may also include the use and abuse of drugs.

    Although not necessarily a motivation for the professional attacker, drugs and alcohol contribute highly to the occurrence of attacks. This is mostly combined with ego, both for offender and victim, to produce quite a volatile brew. The ‘buzz’ of committing the attack can also play a factor. Some attackers enjoy their work.

    One of the biggest reasons these attacks occur is the “absence of an appropriate guardian”. This, for most, is the absence of a visible presence of Police Officers, Security Personnel, Door Supervisors or CCTV etc. Without these this simply provides an arena, where the attacker is less likely to be stopped or caught.

    The Frustration-Aggression Theory

    Frustration, theorists believe, is caused when we are unable to achieve our goals. Aggression can be described, in general terms, “as the act of initiating hostilities, verbal or physical, with intent to hurt another”. This emotional response can be greatly increased if the barrier to our goals appears unexpectedly or is perceived as unfair or unjust in some way. (Aronson, 1984; Berkowitz, 1989)

    We become wrapped up in the notion of what should be, which fuels our frustration further. Some theorists believe that anger is a natural response to frustration, perhaps due to hormonal imbalance.

    Whenever we become stressed, the body releases Adrenaline. This is the hormone responsible for the Fight or Flight syndrome. The problem is if we don’t express this emotion, adrenaline remains unused within the body tissues, essentially elongating the syndrome. So from a minute of perceived stress, days, even weeks of stress can occur.

    We all get frustrated and angry from time to time, usually venting or dealing with it in a socially acceptable manner, thus using up the adrenaline. Some, however, are unable to or don’t recognise that they are stressed. This can lead to Displacement. This is where anger and thus aggression is directed at some one or some thing unrelated to the focus of our frustration.

    This theory leads us to our first attacker.

    The Spontaneous Attacker

    This type of attacker is your everyday Joe (or Joanne). They are stressed and probably have been for a while.

    Attacks from these people are triggered by, normal, every day events, which cause them additional stress. For this reason, victims are very rarely chosen; they are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Triggered is a good word to describe their actions, but detonated would be more apt.
    The spontaneous attacker explodes at the new focus. This can be as simplistic as smashing inanimate objects, to physically attacking people. The consequences for the victim range from bruising to death.

    The Ritual.
    The attack ritual of this person is usually obvious. It can be broken down into 4 stages.

    Posturing Stage 1: This is done at a distance, “hard” stares and extreme verbal abuse and challenges are employed. It is obvious that this person is upset.

    Posturing Stage 2: The gap between aggressors is closed to under a metre or so. The body is squared off to the opponent; large arm movements are an attempt to make the whole body look larger and more intimidating. The loud, verbal abuse and challenges continue, but the sentences become more simplistic, even monosyllabic.

    Pre-Fight Ritual: In some cases the gap is closed down further and the physical contact begins. This is still non lethal. It can take the form of shoving or pushing with the hands or barging with the body. Any verbal exchange will probably be monosyllabic.

    Fight: After the pre-fight the fight actual starts in earnest, no holds barred.

    The timing for this can vary. Due to the emotive imbalance of this individual they can escalate rapidly from posturing to attack. If you respond with your own aggression you are only fuelling his and attack will occur quickly. The physical effects of adrenaline will be quite evident.

    Note to Professionals.
    It is important to mention the effect of fear at this point. Many professionals will be familiar with the term “Positional Asphyxia” or “Medical Distress”. The person that you are dealing with may become extremely scared; this is usually because they believe their life is at extreme risk. This may be in actuality, due to medical reasons, or perceived, due to overwhelming odds and the likelihood of getting hurt. This produces a surge of adrenaline, and with it a surge of particularly violent behaviour.

    The Random Attacker

    Displacement is also a common factor with this attacker. One offender said:

    “When I get problems, I just hit the bottle. Then I’m chucking bottles and glasses about. I’m just looking for a fight”.

    The more dangerous part is that this attacker may enjoy fighting. He gets a buzz from it. This buzz may be caused by an increased hormonal level, not just adrenaline but various forms of Endorphins which, along with raised serotonin levels, cause the natural high some athletes experience due to their highly stressed muscles.

    The selection can be quite random. Any person who meets the challenge is generally selected. The challenges are usually issued with lingering stares or direct insults. Any aggressive response is viewed as reason to fight. There are no rules of engagement either, especially if the attacker is expecting a fight.

    The Ritual.
    The attack ritual here again is quite obvious and is usually, at least for the random victim, initiated with verbal threats or challenges, much like the spontaneous attacker. The effects of adrenaline will less obvious, as the attacker is more practised.
    If the victim is not randomly selected, the ritual is far more discreet. The use of disarming dialogue and behaviour cannot be under estimated.

    The general goal of these attackers is to obtain complete domination, usually through violence, of their victims. The idea is to win. Thus it is important to note that should you fend off such an attack, you are well advised to leave the area as soon as possible as you may find your victory is a pyric one. Offenders relate stories where a friend has started a fight, but come off worse, so they return, “Firm handed”, and attack to regain the status of their friend. Remember, even though they might have respect for your fighting ability, the idea is to win.

    The Criminal Attacker

    Here I shall explore non-sexual offenders, as the motivations and methods of victim selection vary a great deal from those of sexual offenders.

    As has been stated before, offenders tend to target wealth, but this is not the only factor. From interviews with offenders the perceived wealth of the victim or the presence of visible wealth are key factors. It is of note however that some victims were targeted differently, as it was it assumed that everyone has money on them. This quote highlights this:

    “The victim and his friend were approached by a group of six males. One of these Males demanded that the victim hand over his money and his mobile phone. The Victim replied: ”How do you know I’ve got a mobile phone?” ”Everyone’s got a Mobile phone” replied the suspect.”

    More importantly they look for what they regard as weak targets, this may be that they are small in build, young, drunk or just not a fighter. When pressed to explain further, offenders tended to point out other individuals as examples, unable to identify what characteristics generally identify easy targets. The individuals they pointed out, tended to not carry them self or speak confidently or aggressively, this was irrespective of their build. In addition to this, they appeared to be concentrating on their own affairs, far more than others. They were in Code White, totally unaware of their environment or those within it.

    Victim selection is done in two ways, either opportunist or planned. The opportunist attacker will prowl until a potential victim presents its self, usually an impulsive reaction, often the offender would state, “I didn’t think about it. I just did it”. The planned attacker has already picked his target and puts into action a preconceived attack method, for instance:

    “You’d sit there in the Social (Department of Social Security) and talk to people. People’d tell you anything. You just ask them if they are here for a loan, they’d say, “Yes” so you’d follow them to the Post Office then hit them”

    In both cases the target is usually stalked until an appropriate area is entered or to gauge the target’s “situational awareness”. This level of awareness is key and attacks can be preceded by a number of explorative passes to assess how aware the target is. To confuse this awareness further, offenders admitted to altering their appearances:

    “You wear hooded tops and that, to pull around your face, so they can’t ID your face. Or like if I usually shave, I’d not shave for a while”

    There are a number of different attack methods. Each one relies on surprise and control of the victim to be successful and have different methods of achieving this.

    Blitz Violence is used to overwhelm, stun or control the victim prior to the removal of any property or prior to any demands to hand over property. Violence is the first point of contact between the victim and the suspect. There is no prior verbal exchange between victim and offender, though threats and abuse may follow the initial assault.

    Confrontation A demand for property or possessions is the initial point of contact between the victim and offender, e.g. ”Give me your money and your mobile phone.” This may be followed through with threats and on occasion with force.

    Con The suspect ”cons” the victim into some form of interaction. This typically takes the form of some spurious conversation, e.g. ”Have you got a light/the time mate?” This is the initial approach to the victim regardless of how the robbery subsequently develops.

    Snatch Property is grabbed from the victim without prior demand, threats or physical force. This is the initial contact between the victim and the suspect. Physical force is used to snatch property from the victim, which is nearly always on display, e.g. handbag. There is no physical search of the victim by the suspect.

    Victim initiated The victim initiates contact with the suspect and becomes the victim of a robbery, e.g. a drug deal, procuring sex etc.

    The majority of approaches by offenders is from behind or blind side. This is particular in Blitz and Snatch robberies where the attack comes at speed.

    It is interesting to see how the age and sex of the victim affected the type of attack used.

    Blitz was used evenly between men and women, but was used mostly on older victims, the older the victim the more likely this method was employed.

    Confrontation was used mostly against younger males (less than 21); the effects seem to lessen with age.

    Con was used mostly for male, young ones in particular, but also evenly for older victims.

    Snatch was used primarily for women, the older the victim, the more likely this method was likely to be used.

    Conversations with offenders revealed that even though they might employ a less violent approach, if they were offered any resistance, or the victim simply did not comply, then they would “give them a few digs” in order to gain the victims compliance.

    A Note on Weapons and Other Research.

    The use of weaponry in attacks is not uncommon and certainly becoming more prevalent. The use of weaponry is also dependant on the location, not only of country, but the town or city in that country. For instance the use of handguns is more common in the USA than, currently, the UK.

    Weapons are common in UK street violence (about 33%), the most popular being the knife. In the case of the “Random Attacker” the end result of the conflict is undisputed domination of the victim, thus anything may be used as a weapon in order to achieve this goal. In terms of “Criminal Attackers” weapons are produced to obtain the co-operation of the victim with little effort, not to injure them. It is rare that the victim was directly threatened with the weapon (e.g. held at the body) and rarer still for the weapon to be used to inflict injury.

    Weapons tended to be used mostly against men.

    There have been questions asked of why simple street robberies can turn into homicides. I have not found any clear answer to this question, but some theories include that the attacker becomes impatient for some reason with his victim and decides that killing them or seriously injuring them will gain quicker results. It is not implausible to assume that the attackers nerves or mental state may also have a serious impact on the situation, leading to over reactions on their part.

    In terms of other, essentially non-criminal situations, there is also some interesting research. David Luckenbill’s research in to homicide (1977:177) he noted that many deaths were a result of "a confrontation in which at least one, but usually both, attempt to save face at the other's expense by standing steady in the face of adversity". He noted that the victim initiated two thirds of the transactions that led to death. This was supported by Marvin Wolfgang (1957:2), who noted that the eventual “victim” was "the first in the homicide drama to use physical force directed against his subsequent slayer".


    From the research I have read and from the conversations with offenders, it would appear that the threat from violence is a little misunderstood.

    Street robbers are more interested in your property than you. It’s not a personal attack. This is to in no way diminish the terrifying experience that this sort of attack can be, nor belittle the very real risk of injury.

    It would appear that the most deadly form of street violence is to be found in and around the local bar/pub/club. The majority of murderers I have encountered relate their cases as being “an accident”, either following a drunken altercation that got out of hand or they defended themselves and the conflict resulted in death. Others relate emotional events that caused them to “lose the plot” and kill.

    As Humans have long since lost most of the inhibitions about entering into physical conflict with each other, it is thus advisable to avoid it as best we can, for as has been indicated, each physical confrontation carries a very serious risk of death and thus should not be entered into lightly. This is particularly pertinent when you consider the motivations of criminal attackers. Criminals very rarely wish to be caught and face the possibility of prison. As a result if threatened with this possibility they will become quite desperate in their fight for freedom.

    From these findings it becomes more and more apparent that the thought behind much street violence is not as simplistic as first thought. Criminals are not always driven by the same motives or indeed wish physical harm on their victims. In the same way predators have always hunted in the most effective way, so do criminals, choosing the appropriate method of attack dependant on the victim and the environment they’re in, which expends the least amount of energy, whilst exposing themselves to the minimal of risk.

    We would do well to re-examine our approach to self-defence and make it our own.

    *Authors note:
    It is important to remember that the statistics and offenders consulted are based primarily in the UK. Some aspects of this article may not apply as fully to other countries. The list of methods of attack by criminals is certainly not exhaustive, but it has been found that those listed constitute the majority or basis of attacks.

    As has been stated the victim selection and ritual of sexual offenders has been excluded from this article as has the motivations of those with mental heath issues. The reason is that both areas are extremely complex and difficult to get insight from offenders.
  2. nzric

    nzric on lookout for bad guys

    Excellent article!

    The motivations of attack are the most important element. Back in New Zealand, many attacks are dominance ones, where the attacker wants to improve his status among his peers (e.g. group of guys hanging out on the street). Even the economic gain may be secondary to the "reputation" value of bullying a passer-by.

    When I was younger (16-21) there was a term called "stocking" in our area. A bully would approach someone, ask for their cap/basketball shoes, the shoes would be handed over, the end. The transaction would even be done with a confident smile - the threat was entirely implicit. On the other hand, there was the random attack... someone may approach you and unload in an uninstigated attack (cheapshot hook to the back of your head), out of no other motivation than boredom or to impress friends.

    Also important to note that unless the person is clearly a "street fighter", their actions are heavily influenced by what they've seen in others. If the attacker isn't used to being the instigator of a fight, they're in a large way acting a part of "what an attacker is supposed to do" and "how a fight is supposed to progress", including pushing, gesturing, trash talking.

    Some people take to the fighting ritual like a duck to water but if the pre-attack posturing seems strained/performed, there's more likelihood you can diffuse the situation by talking the person down. A good example of this is the montage in Fight Club, where the club members try to start a fight with a complete stranger and lose.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2004
  3. wcrevdonner

    wcrevdonner Valued Member

    Excellent. Absolutely superb. Permission to print off, copy, and give it to my fellow students?
  4. Judderman

    Judderman 'Ello darlin'

    Of course, print away...:D

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