prepared

I have been challenging myself recently to ascertain if I am truly prepared to “be able to” survive.

This attitude is different from ensuring I have everything I need to be prepared. I have my bug out bag, the tools and items (such as water, fire implements and food) to help me if needed and have educated myself in those things that I think are important for urban survival; self-defense, fire making techniques, water purification, etc.

Although I have tried to challenge myself and put myself in situations that could test these skills, it proved difficult to do. You simply can not create a realistic survival environment in an occupied city. Yet, I wanted to try and really test my own personal preparedness. The only way to truly do this is to endure an urban version of Les Stroud’s “Survivorman.” Not so easy in our everyday city environment. I learned this the hard way when I tried to start a fire in a public place with a battery and steel wool in NYC and ended up having a long conversation with New York’s finest.

So how does one test their urban survival preparedness? I came up with a few ways and this series will chronicle these experiences. Today, we will talk about testing how I can move around the urban environment without using conventional means. Next week, I will report back on my diet experiment (do you know a city squirrel has 26 grams of protein?) and how that effected my ability to perform critical urban survival tasks.

So, the scenario is that the city is not safe to travel in the usual manner (streets, sidewalks and open areas). How can I get around to obtain the necessities to provide myself with food, water, shelter? More importantly, will I be able to travel this way if needed?

Okay, in the wilderness there may be trees and mountains that can be traversed if one did not want to walk on the forest floor. How can we move off the city floor in the urban environment? The most obvious solution is to go vertical using the buildings that are in every urban environment. Not so easy. Doors are locked and windows are barred and I unfortunately lack the spiderman ability to climb walls. The solution I found was fire escapes. Many building have them but they are especially designed for people to escape fire and go down and to prevent people from using them for going up. There are many versions and Wikipedia has a good article on the variations. If you study them carefully you may be able to figure out how to get the ladder down from ground level. For a more detailed lesson you will have to take my course Zenshin, Urban Survival Tours. I can’t go into detail here because the information can be used to actually burglarize apartments!

The fire escape lesson proved challenging in that it required a lot of upper body strength and more importantly, balance. To help me with developing this skill I took to the ropes. I spend the day at one of the largest rope courses in the northeast. The course uses a tether so it is safe but is loose enough so that it requires you use your core muscles and focus on balance. The workout was surprisingly rigorous and in the end, the practice really gave me the confidence to not only be able to scale up a fire escape but possibly use ropes to navigate around. I suggest going to a rope course that provides many different difficulty levels and several heights. There is a rope course at the palisades mall that is 85 feet high and has over 75 different courses. Take a look at their course and if you are not near them look for one similar in your neighborhood.

If you would like me to try out a particular urban survival technique send me a comment and I’ll give it a try and report back. If you have done one recently, let us know about your experiences.

Next post: the Urban Survival diet.

Since the Summer is upon us in the northeast many of my fellow urbanites are heading back to the gym. There are gym membership discounts advertised all over the place. This got me thinking, “is there a workout that would address the needs of an urban survivalist?”

Gym Meathead

I asked a personal trainer at a gym that advertised one of those special rates what he thought was a good workout for an urban survivalist. Okay, he never really did not understand what an urban survivalist is but he went on with his sales pitch anyway. He said all said the same things trainers have been telling me for years; strength training with cardio training…. duh. Of course now there are all these new machines in the gym that my money would be well spent on.

When I looked at all the meat heads at the gym, it reminded me when I was in the police academy. There were some very large muscle-bound guys there. The funny thing was that they consistently failed gym. They couldn’t run, do push ups or sit ups and could not hold up their own body weight for pull-ups. Wait a second! That’s it…. those are the skills one would need to employ to be a successful urban survivalist. You need to be able to run from danger, lift your own body weight to escape various situations, the strength to carry heavy objects and the stamina to not gas out when you are defending yourself. Frankly, the gym machines are not the answer. But I did find inspiration in the most unlikely of places.

Inmates exercise at the California Institution for Men state prison in Chino

I remembered many years ago there was a park in NYC that was a block away from the “tombs” …. the local jail. Every day there were these guys who would work out in the park using only what was in the park as their equipment. It reminded me of how inmates worked out. They even had the quintessential convict physique. If you live in any urban environment, you know what I mean. You can tell when someone just got of the joint just by the way they look. Now, they had no choice on the equipment, that is a given; but they adapted to their environment and were able to condition their bodies to do what they needed to do. Run, jump, carry and fight. I am not going to glorify what these guys do. Instead I will take what i learned from them and adapt it to our needs. Given the light-hearted theme of this blog…. I present the manly art of playground workout (see below). If you can get past the guy’s mustache, it is really a good balanced workout. As you progress, you can add other elements. My friend has taken to lifting boulders on the beach….. If you have any other good workout ideas, use the comment function and share with the rest of us.

Playground Workout

flame thrower

I grew up in the era of Saturday morning Kung Fu theater.  This means I had my share of nunchuck and kung-fu star injuries.  That was until the good politicians of the state of New York decided that enough was enough; too many crotches were in danger so they outlawed nunchucks and threw in the kung fu stars just for good measure.

Lately, the talking heads on TV have all joined on the bandwagon of outlawing all types of weapons.  Fortunately, there are still some weapons that have slipped through…..  so, go get your flamethrower before it too is outlawed.

Here are 10 weapons that are surprisingly still legal (except of course in New York).

The Ten Legal Weapons

photo credit: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Media/Slideshow/2013/03/28/10-Weapons-You-Wont-Believe-Are-Legal.aspx

AED sign

One thing that differentiates urban survival from wilderness survival is the availability of technology.  If you find yourself in a situation where you need to help a loved one or you just want to be a Good Samaritan, would you know what to do?

You can certainly take a great CPR course….

If not, you can at least try out this great AED simulator.  Thank you to my friend Ted who sent this to us.

So, go ahead…..give it a shot……. AED Simulator

The Alabama Department of Homeland Security published some helpful information on surviving an active shooter scenario.  Many thanks to my friend Ted for sending it to us.  Feel free to comment after you watch the video and read the information on the site.

Here is the link to the Alabama DHS webpage that has additional information:

http://www.dhs.alabama.gov/activeshooter.aspx

Warning:

The video below is a security camera view of an actual unprovoked attack on a 16 year-old girl in the UK.

The victim was interviewed after the attack and gave this account.

The perpetrator was subsequently arrested.

This girl is an innocent victim and did not deserve what happened to her.  Given that the attack was caught on tape, it gives us a rare opportunity to learn from it. So now we can discuss both the actions of the perpetrator and the victim.  This does not mean that I believe the victim is any way at fault. The only one who is at fault is the person who perpetrated this crime against her.

There is one constant to predicting human behavior.  A person’s past behavior is a good indicator to a person’s future behavior. There are of course some exceptions, such as when a person strives and works on their own personal growth. Most people, unfortunately do not.  So when we have opportunities like this to dissect a crime between one victim and one perpetrator, we take it.  Knowing a little bit of history between the victim and the perpetrator allows us to predict what may happen in the future to others under similar circumstances.

For instance, the victim recounts the interaction between her and the perpetrator before the attack.  This interplay, whether conscious or unconscious, led the two of them to the end result.  Although there may not seem like a lot of interaction to analyze here, there is.  Unfortunately, discussing it all will take up more space than would be permissible in this blog.  However, we can look at one very crucial time in the attack and analyze it.  The moment just before the perpetrator attacks.

Slow down the video (you can press pause a few times). Look at what happens as the perpetrator comes within a few feet of the victim.  What does the victim do? (it’s okay, go back to the video.. I’ll wait).

She clutches her handbag……….  What does this mean?  It means she was aware of a danger prior to the  physical encounter.  She may not have actually been conscious of this danger but she reacted to it by protecting her possession, her purse.  Remember what I said earlier about human behavior?  The victim throughout her life probably had many more experiences protecting her property then her physical self.  So when she felt a danger, she did what she had learned to do, guard and protect her property.  That is why at Zenshin™ Urban Survival Training we teach the Psychology of Combat.  We teach our students to identify and pay attention to their unconscious driven behaviors that often help them “see” a danger before they are consciously aware of it.  With this extra time, we then teach them the best way to react.  Although this was an unprovoked attack, the victim had some time to react.  She did… she clutched her purse.

What would you have done? What are you doing to prepare your loved ones in the event this happens to them?

Since I began this blog, I have been fortunate to receive a great deal of support.  In honor of the new year, I thought I would share these words of inspiration I received in 2012.  Happy New Year!

“Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air,

but only for one second without hope”

                                                                                                                                                      Anonymous

courage quote