An interesting experience

The other week I was contacted by a gentleman who had read this blog and asked if I was interested in a paid gig writing short self-defense related articles “aimed at beginners interested in protecting themselves against random attacks” for another website. From the vagueness about the website in question I figured it was probably a content farm, but I went ahead and submitted a proposal with my qualifications and the rates I would charge. Shortly thereafter I received an enthusiastic e-mail from the owner of the website, stating that he was interested in a long-term collaboration and providing me with links to his website.

I was wrong. It wasn’t a content farm. It was, to be blunt, a scam. The front page of the website was nothing but a video with a sales pitch. The speaker opened with an account of being woken up in the middle of the night by home invaders with a gun pointed to his head and how those invaders proceeded to brutalize his family while he watched helplessly. (Really, the whole thing could have been lifted from a movie script.) He then went on to explain how this event motivated him to create a remarkable self-defense system which would allow anyone, regardless of age or fitness, to effortlessly defeat anyone from armed gangs to trained MMA fighters. Since he was now too busy training celebrity bodyguards to teach everyone who needed this information, he was offering an instructional video which would confer invulnerability for the following, low, low price …

I used occasionally to see these sorts of spiels in the martial arts magazines ads. I wonder if you can still find them there or if the search for suckers has entirely moved to the internet.

The owner of the site had thoughtfully provided me with a link to the actual video being sold. This was possibly even worse. A guy who had obviously never practiced any form of martial arts in his life appeared to read from an off-screen prompt while demonstrating moves that he might have found in a basic self-defense book but didn’t understand how to peform correctly. Judging from his thick accent, he was not the same person who had delivered the sales pitch.

I wrote back to the owner asking why he thought any legitimate martial artist would want to be associated with such a scam. We ended up talking for a bit. He swore that he had just bought the site from someone else and was looking to “improve the product.” I made it clear that the “product” was beyond improvement and that he would have to start over from scratch if he wanted to offer something legitimate. I declined the opportunity to record a new video for him, but said I would be willing to write some articles if he started a new website that wasn’t built on blatant lies.

Amusement factor aside, I thought I’d highlight some tidbits from this bit of silliness that are worth pointing out to the unaware.

1) “…protecting themselves against random attacks” – Violent attacks are generally not random. They have reasons, they have patterns, they have rules. If you don’t understand them, then they may seem random. If you do understand them, then you are on track for learning how to defend yourself before the violence even starts.

2) Focus on the most likely situations, not the scariest. The scamster’s story starts with home invaders who had silently gotten past locked doors and an expensive security system in order to wake up his family with guns to their heads. Later on he mentions that his system would enable the buyer to protect his family after the government fails, society collapses, and armed gangs openly roam the streets. These scenarios make for exciting movies, but they aren’t anywhere near the top of the list of things to worry about in real life for most people.

3) There are no secrets. If there really were some simple technique that you could easily learn from a video that would enable you to instantly destroy an armed attacker, then who do you think would be the first to learn it? That’s right – the same people who you would want to defend yourself from. In real life there are no magic tricks to fighting. If you want to defeat someone who has the advantage in size, weaponry, numbers, or surprise, then you better be willing to put in a lot of hours of hard, hard work. This leads us to …

4) There are no guarantees. You might be the best martial artist on the face of the planet, but if you are taken by surprise by a gang of bloodthirsty, well-armed attackers then your odds are not good. Dedicated practice with a good instructor may give you a chance to defeat an attacker who is bigger and stronger, or who has a weapon, or who has a couple of buddies, or who catches you by surprise. It does not make you invincible.

Ultimately, scams like this one are aimed at people who find the world scary and want something magical to eliminate that uncertainty. Because this particular example is so overblown, it’s easy to point and say that only the most gullible would fall for it. It’s good to bear in mind that there are more subtle ways that we can all fall into the same trap of wanting some perfect guarantee of safety and success. Life is inherently uncertain. It’s best to accept that and move on.

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