Blitzdefence for the judiciary – physical threats as an occupational hazard

Sifu Frank Rieker has been teaching WT in his own school since 1994, and learned the BlitzDefence programmes from the ground up when they were introduced by the EWTO. Recently he was given an assignment by the justice department to teach approx. 40 male and female employees working in the Tübingen, Rottweil & Hechingen areas the BlitzDefence deescalation methods at his WT school in Bisingen.

These court employees are in day-to-day professional contact with individuals who have been sentenced or imprisoned for crimes. In these circumstances they may inadvertently become involved in escalating situations, as their opposite numbers may be used to other forms of communication to assert themselves under stress, or are used to the rituals involved in asserting themselves and never giving way. Fortunately physical threats have only been a traumatic experience for these employees in rare cases, and they are not an everyday occurrence in the working lives of the participating judges, probation officers and social workers. However, the seminar provided an interesting and knowledgeable framework for a mental and physical awareness of such situations, as well as the development of solutions if they should occur.

The main objectives for the day were to draw verbal and physical boundaries in the event of insults, and to patrol these personal boundaries by verbal means and natural physical gestures in the event of a threat. In an informal and humorous atmosphere, the participants were given examples of solutions for the reception are, the discussion table and the interview room by the team of instructors. There was a lively response in the form of questions about their specific risk situations.

They were able to obtain some useful ideas concerning the aspects of “professional programming“ and “perception patterns for dangerous situations“, based on publications by the police psychologist Uwe Füllgrabe and the books by GM Kernspecht.

For reasons of public proximity, and like public service employees, personnel working in the judicial system are professionally obliged to employ a strategy of cooperation. Accordingly they do not expect to be subject to violent, unprovoked attack. This friendly approach is fundamentally correct, as the first impression is important when establishing a relationship based on confidence. Their thoughts and actions must however also take into account the second step, namely to take immediate action against violence. In the past these employees continued to use a strategy of remaining cooperative when attacked, therefore they had a limited repertoire of responses. Naturally this could go badly wrong if they encountered an uncooperative, aggressive person/strategy.

For the participants, hearing about a pattern for danger perception was like being given a radar system with which to obtain specific and subtly differentiated information. In practice this is what it is, for anybody in possession of it can observe others and filter out what is dangerous about them and why, and when a danger might occur. This also involves an inner examination of how the other party might see the situation, and whether an action in the course of duty might be seen as arbitrary because it was perhaps not properly explained.

The seminar participants found one image particularly useful, namely to behave in the same way as they would in road traffic, where everybody is instantly able to read a situation. With this same awareness it is also possible to perceive another person with relaxed alertness when communicating.

At this point the instructors pointed out that it takes a great deal of practice to act effectively with automated responses within fractions of a second. The participants realised why BlitzDefence students spend so much time in training to acquire appropriate reactions, so that they need not waste time in thinking and can defuse a threatening situation confidently and in line with legal requirements if need be.

During the subsequent, practical part of the seminar there were exercises relating to correct distances, body language and verbal expression. This gave each participant a feeling for movement sequences and how he/she might do things better.

Professional instruction was given by Michaela Faltin and Daniel Müller, who both have more than 10 years of WT martial arts experience.

The participants quickly realised that deescalation strategies can be learned within a few months, irrespective of age and prior sporting experience. The major consideration is to encourage a response which refuses to lose the initiative in the face of provocative remarks and insults, but rather creates respect. A person who is potentially prepared to resort to violence must recognise that it is better for him if he remains peaceful.

Again and again there was applause for the demonstrations and detailed analyses given by Sifu Frank Rieker and his WT team consisting of Michaela Faltin, Daniel Müller, Matthias Bühler and Gregor Spitzmüller. The participants left in the full confidence that they had been shown realistic and appropriate solutions.

Text + photos: Sifu Frank Rieker & Instructor-Team