10 Questions with Andy Holmes (Kombat Cave UK)

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1) Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at the Kombat Cave – what’s the Cave all about and how did it come to be?

I have been training for 12 years and started my interest in martial arts in the 80s at the age of 13, with Judo, then Wado Ryu and Shotokan.
Then discovered cars and girls and had a 20 year lay off!
When I started again at the ripe old age of 35 it was in Chinese Kickboxing. During my time training I was attacked at work with an axe and started to realise the shortfall of sport based arts on the street.
I started attending Krav Maga seminars in Leeds whenever I could and also started attending seminars with the best reality based instructors in the UK.
After obtaining my first Dan in kickboxing I decided I wanted my training to go down the reality route, but could not find any clubs locally, so decided to open my own.
A chance meeting on Facebook and a phone chat with Simon Morrell lead me to make the three and a half hour drive to north Wales on a regular basis to become an Instructor under Fight Fortress worldwide and the BCA.
The Cave was finally born in April 2012.

2) How does self-protection fit into what you do?

Self Protection is the basis of everything we do, we teach people to defend themselves in the real world.
We cover everything from awareness and the law to adrenaline and aftermath, and students have to demonstrate knowledge and ability through physical and written gradings.

3) What motivates you in your training? How do you get yourself going when you’re not in the mood or you have other things to do?

I want to be better than my students so need to put in extensive personal training.
I’m also not getting any younger so want to achieve a lot more in the arts before the bath chair beckons!

4) What would you say is your greatest skill or attribute as a teacher?

Honesty with my students, if I don’t know the answer I will say so, we will then work the solution.
I’d like to think I am also good at communicating with students and always striving to evolve my syllabus based on their needs.

5) What would you say is the most important aspect of your training, skill you develop or attribute you cultivate at the Kombat Cave?

People are able to develop skills that are natural to them and are more likely to be delivered under pressure, I don’t believe in changing their skills but building on what they already have.
The CSD (Cave Street Defence) syllabus is built around making defences that deal with attacks and we offer various solutions, it’s up to the student which strategy works best for them.

6) What is your favourite exercise, training method or drill?

I love Pyramid drills and pad work, punching and kicking drills using the length of the Dojo and increasing/decreasing in intensity.
We start each session with Kombat Fitness designed to improve the skills/endurance used in training and defence situations as well as overall strength and fitness.

7) What do you like to do aside from training and teaching? What interests you?

I read a lot (martial arts books I’m afraid), watching movies and I like to go to the theatre with my long suffering Wingman (the misses who is the brains of the club).

8) What advice do you have for the students out there reading this?

Make sure you are training in the right art for you, work out what you want to achieve and ensure your art will deliver, if not, find one that does.

9) What advice do you have for the instructors out there reading this?

Teach what you are happy teaching and be adaptable as the arts are changing.
Many people no longer want to spend years studying one art, I believe with the quick fix mentality of today we must evolve to meet the student’s needs.
Don’t get drawn into the world of the keyboard warrior and be honest about your ability, leave the ego at the door and don’t get involved in martial politics.

10) What is your ultimate goal with the Kombat Cave? Where do you want it to lead?

Ultimately I would love a dedicated Centre and teach on a full time basis.
I want the Cave to be a recognised reality based club that teaches people from all walks of life the essential physical and mental attributes to protect themselves and families.
As well as a fun and friendly place to train.

Simon Morrell and Andy Holmes Simon Morrell and Andy Holmes

You can get in touch with the Kombat Cave on Facebook or on Twitter (@KombatcaveUK), see them on YouTube or visit their website at http://www.kombatcaveuk.com/.

The Evolutionary Self-Protection ‘No-Touch Knockout’ Open Invitation

The Evolutionary Self-Protection

‘No-Touch Knockout’

Open Invitation

Preamble:

The ESP is based on no principle more important and pervasive than that of open and honest questioning. Without it, evolution cannot occur as learning will inevitably always be guided away from honest progression towards obscurity, inefficacy and invalidity.

My name is Josh Nixon, and I am the founding instructor of my methods, which I call ‘Evolutionary Self-Protection’. It is not perfect, will never be and will continually try to be. It is only through open and honest questioning that this continually evolutionary approach can truly be adopted, and so I have been led to this current moment and this message I am writing in it.

It has come to my attention that many instructors of different systems from around the world are teaching methods of causing knockouts or similar loss-of-consciousness effects without physically touching the target individual. These kinds of teachings often fall under levels of ridicule perhaps unsurpassed in the martial arts community. The general consensus seems to be polarised between two parties; one saying that it is rubbish (to put it milder than most) and that these instructors are lying to themselves and everyone else, and one saying that it’s true and above question.

I am, if nothing else, a questioner. I do not merely question the validity and efficacy of these methods, but I question those who default to ridiculing too. I also question myself and my methods. As such, I am always looking to learn from those who know things that I don’t.

If these ‘no-touch knockouts’ are true and valid methods for self-protection, then they would completely revolutionise the entirety of the current paradigm of self-protective methods, or at least certainly the ones I teach. It could empower many individuals to protect themselves who struggle with physical methods due to health or age. In fact, such ability could potentially render everything else taught in self-protection methods such as mine utterly obsolete.

This is not a challenge, a joke, an attempt to poke fun or anything of the sort. It is a genuine attempt to understand something that I currently don’t and strive for true progress in the field of self-protection through open and honest informal questioning and testing.

The Invitation:

I, Josh Nixon, would like to hereby invite anyone claiming the ability or knowledge of being able to induce a loss of consciousness in a human being without touching them to a fair, honest and open demonstration. The subject will be myself.

I would very much like anyone with this ability to help me find out whether or not it does exist. Following are the rules I would like to attach for such a demonstration:

Terminology:

‘Subject’ – the participant allowing the demonstrator to perform a no-touch knockout on them.

‘Demonstrator’ – the participant demonstrating the ability to perform a no-touch knockout on the subject.

The Rules:

  • No physical contact is to be made between the participants:
    • By ‘physical contact’ it is meant that no molecular structures under the direct control of one participant may touch those of another during the demonstration. This includes, but is not limited to:
      • Bodily touching: striking, manipulation of biomechanical weaknesses (often referred to as ‘pressure points’), striking with clothing or other objects, thrown objects…
  • No technological aids may be used to induce effects on the subject:
    • By ‘technological aid’ we mean manufactured devices, overt or concealed, however powered. These are prohibited and could have a negative effect on the subject. This includes, but is not limited to:
      • Emitters of electricity (Tasers, static charges, etc), projectile-launching devices, emitters of electromagnetic frequencies (such as light, heat, microwaves, x-rays, etc)…
  • No substances that could be potentially damaging to the subject’s health are to have any part in the demonstration.
    • By ‘substances’, we mean molecular chemical compounds. This includes, but is not limited to:
      • Gases, liquids, powdered solids, anything ingested through inhalation, anything ingested through the digestive system, anything ingested through the bloodstream, anything ingested through a mucous membrane…
  • The event must be open to be watched by spectators.
  • Those participating in the event must consent to being filmed for documentation purposes.
    • Anyone participating in the event can request a copy of footage, in which case all reasonable measures must be taken to comply with such a request.
  • The subject is allowed to organise various health and safety measures. This includes, but is not limited to:
    • A crash mat or similar soft surface to minimise risk of injury from falling in the event of loss of consciousness.
    • Attendant/s to guide the subject to the ground/to the safety surface in the event of loss of consciousness.
    • First aid supplies and those with medical knowledge to assist in the event of loss of consciousness.
    • Attendant/s to maintain the subject’s personal security.
  • The subject’s position, state and activities prior to the demonstration of no-touch knockout ability is his/her choice, and all participation is done of their own free will. Any compliance with the requests of the demonstrator is of the subject’s free choice.
    • Compliance with any requests of the demonstrator may override any rule, but must be announced to all present beforehand.

Get In Touch!

If you would like to demonstrate the ability to perform a no-touch knockout, simply have a go, watch such an event, try an idea you’ve had for inducing such an effect or prove yourself in a documented event with evidence you can post online or do whatever you want with, I’d love to hear from you!

This event can happen anywhere (within reason) and I will do everything I can to organise a venue and time that is convenient for both of us.

If you’re interested and would like to organise an event or just know more about it all, get in touch via any of the following:

Email:                                                   evolutionaryselfprotection@gmail.com
Facebook Page:                                facebook.com/EvolutionarySelfProtection
Facebook Group:                             facebook.com/groups/EvolutionarySelfProtection
Twitter:                                                twitter.com/EvolutionarySP
Google+:             search for              ‘Evolutionary Self-Protection’
LinkedIn:                                             uk.linkedin.com/in/JoshSchamaelNixon
YouTube:                                             youtube.com/user/EvolutionarySP
Website/Blog:                                   evolutionaryselfprotection.com

I hope to hear from you soon!

Yours with respect,

Josh Nixon

Founding Instructor, Evolutionary Self-Protection

P.S. It has come to my attention that similar claims of being able to knock people over, push, pull or otherwise move a person around without touching them, from a distance (not relying merely on inducing the flinch response) are numerous, and so this invitation is also extended to those with any such abilities or skills.

10 Questions with Douglas Graham (50/50 Fitness)

doug 50 50 logo1) Tell us a bit about yourself and 50/50 Fitness – what’s 50/50 Fitness all about and how did it come to be?

50/50 came with my evolution in teaching. It’s the old saying that ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’. I can help you but you need to meet me half way. Otherwise you will always falter in your journey. Without that mentality, it is tough to commit to the way. With that said, I like to think I can show anybody that the mentality is there at their core. People are just bogged down by, or hide behind, the modern way of life.

2) How does self-protection fit into what you do?

I mentioned the way in my last answer. People can call me cryptic or old fashioned if they like but the fact is that everyone is searching for it. Self-protection, Self-defence, martial arts – call it what you like – it fits perfectly into what I do as the art of learning these disciplines can and should be a journey of self-discovery. Much as health & fitness has become in the modern age. Indeed, I found my way to being a Personal Trainer through my study and teaching of Martial Art. And lets be clear, there is only Martial Art for me when it comes to Self-Protection. This led to a love for understanding body mechanics. Naturally this led to a deeper study of the human body and ways to improve performance. Initially in certain areas and movements, but that gave way to a deeper understanding and approach as time marched.

3) What motivates you in your training? How do you get yourself going when you’re not in the mood or you have other things to do?

First off. I am rarely in this magical mood I hear of that people seem to be in. I motivate myself every time. It’s about balance. It’s not about going to the gym/dojo/hall and ‘smashing it’. Not for the average person. Too much emphasis is placed on the kick-ass mentality or the killer workout. Its tough for people to continually motivate themselves for something they just don’t want to do. My self-defence class is not one that seeks out new folks to train; I have never really been that way inclined unless it could do with another body or two to help with training. But if somebody seeks out the class, well then you pretty much have that 50 I am looking for. Motivation is often relative to the task at hand and comes in different forms. Do you motivate yourself to go to a job you hate every day? You may have more than you already know ;-)

4) What would you say is your greatest skill or attribute as a teacher?

Probably best to ask someone that trains with me to be honest. I am sure it varies from person to person.

5) What would you say is the most important aspect of your training, skill you develop or attribute you cultivate in 50/50 Fitness?

Tough question for me. I have a very blurred line between these two. People define it but I still can’t, not really. In general though, I stick my hand up for attributes. Because I don’t specifically define, I won’t say more than this.

6) What is your favourite exercise, training method or drill?

In exercise HIT style workouts have been without doubt my favourite for years now. It’s a style that can fit you at any level or age. The name ‘High Intensity Training’ tends to scare many. That is unless you brand it ;-) Interval Training is an umbrella term but fits fine for me in this case. For my SD training it is also without doubt, free-form multiple attacker drills in full gear. They can be very serious and testing like nothing else. Also very fun and amusing. You very quickly learn where you make potentially fatal errors. It shows up differences between say, perceived speed and real speed, power, accuracy etc, etc.

7) What do you like to do aside from 50/50 Fitness? What interests you?

Outside of MA and Fitness I enjoy growing herbs and spices. I like reading although in the past couple of years I have read only research. It’s something I need to address and enjoy reading for reading again.

8) What advice do you have for the students out there reading this?

Be wary of YouTube. Seek out good teachers, they can be anywhere.

9) What advice do you have for the instructors out there reading this?

Be wary of YouTube. But in a different way. Be thankful for good students, they are your greatest teachers.

10) What is your ultimate goal with 50/50 Fitness? Where do you want it to lead?

Corny as it sounds, wherever it takes me. My goal is to help people improve themselves and understand that ‘perfect’ is a saying, not a finish line. In my eyes there are not many out there on a big scale that are truly achieving this. If I can reach that type of scale, with my approach, it will be an accomplishment indeed. But even on the small scale I am happy if I can pass on knowledge to a few, that will pass through the individual and on to another few. Money is a burden we all share. I like to bear it as simply as possible. The goals and philosophy of 50/50 are an embodiment of myself and the legacy I leave for my children. If it reaches only them, I die a very happy man.

You can get in touch with Douglas Graham about 50/50 Fitness on his Facebook page here or you can email him at fiftyfiftyfitness@hotmail.co.uk by clicking here.

CSPS Training Log–PT Session 27.01.2013

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Sunday saw one student’s return to regular training after a few weeks over Christmas, and so we got straight back into it with training the basics in new and interesting ways – biomechanical drills, specific and generalised movement concepts and their application, etc.

As this student has two-hour sessions we had plenty of time to get through a lot, and so we broke back into some aggression-fuelled drills involving use of the shoulder, elbow striking, hammer fists, knee striking and I don’t even know how many other striking methods. Taking an initial contact as a reference point, we used a set framework of movements to efficiently train the different muscle groups of the body to work together efficiently to present a functional combative response.

What that means is, the pad got bashed hard, fast and lots!

We also went through some sensitivity drills using a (training!) knife and then finished with an open-ended finish where we went through some concepts around striking with the knees and how to use that tactically with a biomechanical awareness to gain useful advantages over an attacker. All in all, an excellent session and some good progress made!

‘New Violent Crime Tactics’ Fake Crimestoppers Message

imageTHIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN UPDATED – SEE BELOW.

A friend posted this recently in a Facebook group I am part of and I thought it was worth mentioning. As anyone who has undertaken any good self-protection training knows, criminals will often work with deception and distraction tactics in order to get what they want, whether that’s your money, your vehicle, your body, your life or whatever else. Deception and distraction are often the key to their successes.

This is nothing new, and I’ve heard of these tactics before, but it’s always good to keep an eye on the current trends with crime if we want to be prepared to deal with or prevent it.

You can click the image to the right to see it larger (or go to where I got it from: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152312346350293) and read what it says exactly, but here are the key points:

  • This was noted in a rural area.
  • Gangs are using different methods of distraction to get people out of their cars.
  • There is a gang initiation that has been reported by the police where a car seat is placed by the road with a fake baby in it, waiting for someone to stop and check on the ‘baby’.
    • The location of this seat is usually beside a wooded or grassy (field) area and the victim is dragged into the woods, beaten, robbed and/or raped. They are left for dead. It has been reported that female victims are more likely to be raped and males are more likely to be robbed.

Aside from this distraction tactic, there is another that is mentioned in this letter:

  • Gangs are now throwing eggs at windscreens in order to force you to stop.
  • This works because the windscreen wiper smears the egg across the windscreen in a wide arc and if the egg comes into contact with water they become milky and can, according to this letter, block your vision up to 92.5%. I’m not sure where they get that figure from with such accuracy (Simple milky-egg opacity test? No idea.)but we can ascertain at least that milky eggs blocking your vision at all is not good!

The advice given for both situations is simple: DON’T STOP. Don’t even slow down. If you see the baby seat by the road or if you get egged, get to safety and dial 999 as soon as possible and tell them what you’ve seen and where. Don’t get complacent with the feeling of getting away. You did, but if you don’t call then the next person might not!  If you get egged, don’t use the wipers and definitely don’t use your spray. That’s what they’re counting on. If you do have to stop somewhere, of course do so safely for everyone else as well as yourself and keep your doors locked and windows closed. Pick where you stop wisely if you absolutely must stop. If you can see well enough to drive to safety safely, then do so.

This was posted to Facebook on the 11th of December 2012, and came to my attention yesterday.

Update: The Importance of Checking Information and What This Means to Us:

Now, as I’ve heard of these and similar tactics many times before, I took this seriously which is the approach I would advocate everyone take when hearing these things. Take it seriously until you hear otherwise, and then learn what you can from it. I had doubts about it, but shared it anyway for the useful information that can be taken from it regardless.

I contacted Staffordshire Police about the issue and they replied informing me that it is in fact a hoax (hence the poor grammar in the letter). According to this website:

This email did not originate with Crimestoppers, and the content of the email is false.

So now we know that the information is in fact fraudulent. However, let us not take this as an impetus to become blind to the possibility of such a thing happening, and thus place ourselves in a victim-state. If someone throwing around an email can think of it, so can a criminal! We know for a fact that distraction and deception tactics are widely used from small to large scales by criminals to victimise people, so take this as a warning and as inspiration if nothing else of something that theoretically could happen, and is theoretically possible.

Review: ‘The Pavement Arena Part 2′ by Peter Consterdine and Geoff Thompson

Consterdine, Peter and Thompson, Geoff. The Pavement Arena Part Two: ‘The Protection Pyramid’. Legend Video Productions. 1993.

Review: The Pavement Arena Part 2: ‘The Protection Pyramid’:
by Josh Nixon, ESP

This review is part of a series. Part one can be found here, this is part two, part three can be found here, part four can be found here and part five (sort of – it follows on from part four but isn’t part of the Pavement Arena series) can be found here.

’Confidence […] from simplicity of approach’ – that sums up the efficiency of Peter and Geoff’s approach to self-protection, and indeed the approach of this series. Early on in the video Peter Consterdine advises people that if they bought a self-protection video that’s just a series of ‘physical tricks’, they should go and get their money back because that’s not what self-protection’s about. He’s spot-on. This video in the series deals with the psychological and conceptual side of self-protection; the proactive, preventative aspect that is often missing from or inadequate in many approaches. Going beyond the often-heard and easily-said ‘just stay aware and run off if you can’ that some still consider enough for this area, this video introduces the ‘Protection Pyramid’.

This video goes through concepts around personal security (as an umbrella term for threat awareness, threat evaluation and threat avoidance), attack scenarios, fear, types of attack, assessment (numbers of attackers, weapons, etc), perceptions, reaction (tactics, response and environment), lineups (‘the fence’), adrenaline switches, ranges and tools, targets, pre-emptive striking, multiple attackers, strategy and tactics in that order. As I’m sure is evident, this video is a highly useful and well-thought-out resource for anyone to learn from. The concepts above may sound complicated or even confusing at first glance, but the way they are explained makes the information readily accessible and easily understood.

The ‘Protection Pyramid’ is a graphic and visually illustrative way of presenting the complex problems and solutions of self protection. The Protection Pyramid continues the ‘no nonsense’ theme established in part one of this series and with re-constructed ‘street attacks’, the viewer can see clearly the reality of how traditional, unabridged martial arts systems will not work in such confrontations.

Each section of the pyramid illustrates a separate concept and build up to a comprehensive system for defensive tactics. This video does not only cover the physical aspects of self defence, but tackles the often forgotten aspects such as fear and how not to be psyched out by opponents. (Information taken from http://www.peterconsterdine.com/arena2.htm, 31.12.2012.)

I can’t recommend this enough. If you get any of the Pavement Arena series, get this one. The amount of information packed into this video really is phenomenal and it is essential for students, instructors and untrained members of the public alike. If you’re not well-educated in the theoretical side of self-protection then I recommend you invest in this video. If you are, I would anyway because you could learn something regardless. I did.

This video is available on DVD or for digital download (much cheaper, understandably) from http://www.peterconsterdine.com/store.htm. Further information and a download link can also be found at http://www.peterconsterdine.com/arena2.htm.

CSPS Training Log–PT Session 04.01.2013

IMAG0196 (2)Over 2012 I didn’t publish very many posts, out of a mix of laziness and busyness. I intend to make up for this by returning to the act of publishing these little training logs. For me, it’s a useful way to see how things grow and progress over time. For my students it’s a useful way to monitor their progress and easily look back on their sessions and for everyone else it gives an idea of what you might expect from a CSPS session.

Today started off with a nice personal tuition session with Matt, a fairly new student. An hour long, this session was fast-paced and intensive and we got through a lot of material. We started off with some simple pyramid-progressive striking in combinations to get things moving on the soft, knackered pads pictured above. They’re my first pair, still alive after about 11 years! Best Christmas present ever. Anyway, back to the training. We then moved onto a more taxing section of fast, randomised padwork encouraging instinctive responses without lengthy decision-making or memory-accessing thought processes getting in the way. See the dot and bash it! He did very well, with some nice, accurate kicks too.

The rest of the session was concerned entirely with ground mobility, as due to the constraints of the venue for this student training is outdoors and he didn’t want to roll on wet ground (understandably). Weather doesn’t stop him for anything else – padwork, partner work, exercises, etc – it’s all good. We’ve just been waiting for a dry day to get him started with the ground mobility. Today we went through forward and backward rolling from various starting positions and Matt made some excellent progress.

At the end, as always with this student in particular, I ended up chatting with him for a while instead of rushing off as he asked me about knives and this entered into a general chat about violence, weapons, the law, etc. Knives and surviving edged weapon attacks are a point of particular interest for this student so we’ll be focussing on that soon at his request.

Until next time,

FCIns. Josh Nixon, CSPS

8 Crucial Considerations For Getting a Taxi

http://openphoto.net/volumes/lukestodola/20050126/openphotonet_1_pict0020.jpgIt’s that time of year when the nights are getting longer and colder, the days are getting shorter and colder, and the weather is getting wetter and colder. Oh yes, and it’s getting colder!

One result of this is that at the end of the day (or night) a lot of us will be getting into a taxi for our journey home. Let’s face it, it’s either that, get home wet and/or freezing cold after an unpleasant walk, or wetter and colder after a worse wait at a bus stop. If your bus service is anything like mine, then it could be a very long wait followed by a disgruntled walk anyway!

This reminded me of the fact that I’ve been meaning to throw these ideas up for absolutely ages, ever since I saw a little flyer made by the union at Staffordshire University (www.staffsunion.com) on the subject of staying safe while getting a taxi. As a result, here are eight small but absolutely crucial personal security considerations when using taxis:

1) Always pre-order your taxi. If you can, try your very best to pre-book your taxi in advance with a company you know and trust. Preferably one you’ve used before. This way your lift is more easily verifiable (if you order an ‘A-Team’ taxi and you get a ‘B-People’ one at your doorstep peeping, you may have a perfectly justifiable reason to distrust the taxi and not go out for it.

2) Don’t get in unmarked cars. This should be an obvious one but it was on the flyer so I’ll say it here as well just in case it isn’t! Whatever you do, don’t get into an unmarked ‘taxi’. You have no idea who is driving or what they want. You can, however, be pretty sure it isn’t a taxi. You can also be definitely certain that it isn’t worth the risk to find out!http://openphoto.net/volumes/petanjek/20111111/openphotonet_P1090581a.JPG

3) Make sure the driver’s badge and license number are clearly visible. This is information that you can get while booking as well, which provides an easy way to verify that the car you’re getting into is indeed the car you ordered. Ask the company to text or just tell you the licence plate number of the car, and/or the driver’s number. That way you can check it’s your driver.

4) Sit in the back. This is advice I often see on things pertaining to taxi safety, and I’m in two minds about it. If you’re in the back you have advantages in a combative situation in that it’s more difficult for him to twist around to attack you and also more difficult for him to see what you’re doing behind him. However, if your driver is on a mad rampage wanting to send you both into a wall then you can more easily gain some control of the wheel or handbrake, or even (maybe) the pedals if you gain a lot of control over the situation combatively. Sounds ridiculous I know, but let’s not discount such an event as impossible. That would be an example of us leaving ourselves a severe weakness. We are very vulnerable in situations we previously discounted as impossible, so consider it seriously for a moment. Could you, for example, brake with an unconscious driver’s leg? How might you do that? How else might you try to stop the car and get out without death or serious injury? Aside from all that, sitting in the front means you can more easily see the dude’s (or dudette’s) hands. That’s something many people who’ve had the displeasure of being attacked with a knife (or indeed any other weapon) hadn’t previously thought of. Afterwards, most do.

5) Keep your mobile to hand. Common sense, but often not done. If it’s to hand, and unlocked, ready for you to dial emergency services at a moment’s notice, something serious could well be averted or made less serious. At the very least, it could mean that once whatever crime was in the driver’s mind has been committed, he may be more likely to be caught so he can’t do it again to someone else. In the best-case scenario, however, it may act as a deterrent because he may have noticed that you’re obviously ready and not an easy victim. Making yourself a ‘hard target’ is crucial to your personal security.

6) Avoid travelling alone. I’m sure I don’t need to explain this one! It’s pretty much instinctual. Do you feel more scared walking through the house in the dark alone or with a friend? That feeling is what I’m talking about. With others, you’re simply making yourself a harder target. It should be said though that you may want to be choosy with this, as there are those who are so deeply in a victim state that they can pull the people around them into danger (I’m sure most of us will know at least one or two people who might be considered ‘liabilities’ for whatever reason) and generally get people into trouble. From the perspective of your own personal security you want to avoid these people, and from the perspective of your social responsibility (don’t worry, I’m not about to get on my soap box) then you may want to consider educating them! That way they stop getting themselves into horrible situations and you get yourself a friend you can depend on when you’re out. Worth thinking about.http://openphoto.net/volumes/lukestodola/20050126/openphotonet_1_pict0019.jpg

7) Don’t throw your details around. When you’re booking your taxi, do so somewhere where it would be difficult for anyone to overhear your name, address or number. It may be possible to text these details instead of say them over the phone with some taxi companies, and thus avoid anyone overhearing if you can’t get away. When you’re waiting for your pre-booked taxi outside, if you’re asked by anyone claiming to be an unknown waiting taxi driver (or indeed anyone else) then don’t tell them. Instead, ask them for the name and destination of the fare they’re waiting for. If it’s your name and destination then that’s probably your driver! If not, it’s not so don’t go with them or tell them anything.

8) It’s your taxi – nobody else’s. Unless you know and trust them, don’t let anyone elbow their way into your taxi. You simply don’t know them or why they want to be in the taxi with you. If you want a good example of why you should think about this, go and watch Luc Besson’s ‘Taken‘ (2008) if you haven’t already.

Of course there’s many more considerations for when you’re getting taxis, but these are just a few thoughts prompted by a flyer. If you have any others you would recommend, then you’re more than welcome to furnish us all with your ideas in the comments below! If you have any questions then the same is true. Whatever you do, whether you’re getting a taxi or not then the kinds of thought processes that have led to these ideas are absolutely crucial for your general personal security. If the reasoning behind anything here doesn’t make sense, please make sure you get in touch and ask me what I’m thinking and why! If you disagree with me then that’s fine, but if you can’t even understand where the ideas are coming from then that’s an important issue that needs to be addressed! Either for you or for me.

Until next time,

Josh Nixon, ESP

Images courtesy of Luke Stodola and Jasenka Petanjek:
’Toronto’ found at http://openphoto.net/gallery/image.html?image_id=7176
’NYC Cab’ found at http://openphoto.net/gallery/image.html?image_id=24337
’Toronto’ (2) found at http://openphoto.net/gallery/image.html?image_id=7187
used with thanks.

Spelling It Out For Them: Personal security tips from a discarded letter

A few days ago I went to see The Bourne Legacy with my brother, which I enjoyed very much. On the bus coming back from the cinema I just happened to see a letter on the floor, and thus chanced upon a great opportunity to open discussion on the very real dangers of leaving documents that contain personal information around. Of course the best thing to do with this information is to destroy them if we don’t need it, however this person had either never been told this or had failed to uphold his vigilance this time. Luckily for him, it was me who picked it up instead of an identity defrauder! Originally I was going to merely take it and burn it to protect his identity, however I noticed just how much personal information was on there when I was about to, and so I took the opportunity to make this post. Of course, I have removed all of the information itself from these images to protect his identity and have destroyed the original document.

Letter Part 1 Letter Part 2

So let’s take a closer look. After all, you might think a simple letter (or printed email in this case, strictly speaking) probably wouldn’t have too much information on and so wouldn’t be overly important – what’s the worst that could happen, right? I’ve gone through and labelled the relevant sections A-S (including repetitions). Let’s have a quick run through and look at them. One aspect of the psychological side of self-protection which is extremely useful and powerful is to cultivate the ability, through research and the ensuing logical thought processes, to see things from a criminal perspective. The classic example is to look at a crowd and identify victims from various criminal perspectives. Here we will be using this technique to identify how these various pieces of information could potentially be seen from a criminal perspective.

imageA – Name and address: Here not only do we have his gender and full name, but his full address with a postcode below. This alone is not good to throw around. Simple as it is, you should remember that this simple information tells a criminal a lot about you. More than merely where you live, we need to see this in more depth. With this information, the criminal can find a spot to watch you from and easily build up a profile of your habits – the times you leave for work, the times you get back, the arrival and departure times for other regular activities (gym, regular social meetups, etc) and the routes you take whether driving or on foot. The postcode makes it quick and easy to search for your address, and even with the simple usage of Google Earth’s Street View they can see what your house looks like, identify weaknesses, hiding places, escape routes, etc from the comfort of their own homes. With this an attack or stalking can be planned with ease.

imageB – National Insurance number: The top one of the blurred pieces here is simply his National Insurance number. This of course is just another piece of information that a criminal could potentially use when building up their profile of personal details with which to make changes to your accounts or it could be a security question they could be asked when attempting to get into an account, or when requesting information, etc.

imageC – Date: This may seem unimportant, but often when making banking inquiries you are asked for details of the specific message/s that you have pertaining to whatever you’re discussing. One of these is often simply the date of the correspondence, which in this case is helpfully left here.

imageD – Name: The mention of such a repetition here may seem irrelevant, but it is not. In a physical hard copy of a document such as this, it is essential from a criminal’s point of view. If the document is damaged, even mildly, obscuring any information then having it repeated is essential to verify or fill in missing bits that could be smudged, burnt, partially shredded, torn or simply worn off. In either hard (physical) or soft (electronic) documents, repetition is also important as it serves as a quick and easy verification: if an unusual name is there, it may well have been mis-typed, particularly if it seems an unusual spelling of a common name. In this case, a repetition of the name can offer some verification as to whether it was a typo or just an unusual name. This is of course important as the criminal wants to minimise the risk of making any mistakes and thus minimise the risk of sounding the alarm and getting caught out.

imageE – List of the documents attached to the email: This in itself of course is not personal information, however it would help someone making enquiries using this person’s identity sound more believable, for example making an enquiry about losing their ‘Give Me Some Money Please Pack’ (fictional and not on the actual list). In addition, they can give further ideas of the document’s context and the nature of the situation in general.

imageF – Sender’s name and position: Again, while this isn’t personal information to the recipient of this message it is useful for a criminal. When making an enquiry, it sounds much more believable to be able to casually say ‘I’ve just got a question about something in an email I had from Mrs Whatsherface, your Customer Relations Manager’ as opposed to something less specific.

imageG – URL: If an email has been printed by hitting File –> Print from an Internet browser, by default it’ll have the URL of the file you’re printing in the footer. URLs can include a lot of personal information, which varies between different websites. One example is what I have noticed with my university’s in-browser email access system: the URL for my inbox has my full university email address in it, which is simply my university username followed by ‘@student.staffs.ac.uk’. This is assumedly true of all Microsoft Office Outlook Web Access setups by default, but regardless the important thing to remember here is that URLs can hold a lot of information. Even if it looks like a random bunch of letters and numbers to you, to someone who knows what they’re looking for there could be useful clues hidden away in there.

imageH – Date: Again, this is another repetition of information which can be useful for verification.

imageI – Name: You get the idea.

imageJ – National Insurance number: Once again, another repetition here of a key piece of information.

imageK – Date: Yet again, you get the idea by now.

imageL – Name: I know. I’ve mentioned this before.

image

M – Date of interview: This is crucial information. With this, a criminally-minded attacker could have known what his or her target would be doing on a particular day. A few ideas to take away from this: beforehand the recipient of this message is likely to be in a rush and they won’t be at home for a while on the day in question. Perfect. That’s bad enough, but let’s look further…

N – Time of interview: Now not only does the criminal have the date but the exact time that their target will be away from home, so they could use this as a time to attack them while they’re likely to be distracted and in a rush or they could simply take advantage of knowing that their house would be unoccupied at the time in question (or at least that this person specifically wouldn’t be at home – with their previous stalking opportunities they could have ascertained whether they live alone which adds other elements to this information’s usefulness). With the added knowledge of the duration of the interview, and that the target has to see someone else beforehand, they can work out a considerable window of opportunity.

O – Place of interview: This is even worse than the other information – now the criminal knows exactly where and when their target will be, so setting up any number of situations is rendered easy for them. What makes this worse, however, is the addition of the next piece of information:

image

P – Documents: Here the criminal reading this message finds out what his or her target will have on him when he attends the interview – more personal information. The claim form mentioned will undoubtedly have a wealth of personal information in it, and the other information will almost invariably include a form of photographic ID such as a driver’s licence or passport. Through mugging or subtler methods of theft, these documents could potentially be taken and copied. It may sound far-fetched, but it is far from impossible.

imageQ – Sender: Again, the name and position of the sender here. More verification.

imageR – URL: See above (G).

imageS – Date: Once more, just a repetition useful for verification. This is the date the document was printed of course, not necessarily the date it was sent or received.

Some Important Things to Remember:

Let’s keep this simple:

    • Documents contain information, and sometimes this can be useful to people who don’t hold your best interests at heart.
    • This information can be used to stalk you and build up a profile of your habits. This is useful for a criminal who wants to attack you, attack someone you live with, steal from/damage your property or use your identity for other reasons. That’s not an exhaustive list by any means – just a few ideas.

What we need to remember here is that simply put the information in these kinds of documents, or indeed potentially any other, can be used for criminal activities against you. I’m by no means an expert on this – I haven’t got a degree in criminology and I’ve had no experience of dealing with identity fraud – however I do know what to look for in terms of security holes and how criminals could exploit them.

The simple solution to this is to do everything you can to not leave any holes for them to exploit – this concept extends to all aspects of your life but let’s keep to the example of documents and information for now. When you don’t need these documents any more, burn or shred them. Better yet, shred and burn them! It’s not impossible for shredded paper to be put together by a committed individual, especially if you only shred one document at once. Shred documents along with random pages from an old magazine, or off-prints of unimportant things from when the printer last played up – anything to throw confusion into the heap. If you burn your sensitive information, make sure it’s fully burnt before you throw away the ashes! We’ve seen here from even a fairly cursory glance at the information in this letter how much can be gained from even an address.

The simple rule: if you wouldn’t shout it from your roof, tell it to a random person in the street or post it online publicly, then it’s sensitive information. Don’t leave it for the wrong people to find.

You can find more information on fraud and how to protect yourself and others against it at http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/CrimeJusticeAndTheLaw/Typesofcrime/DG_181626.

Stay safe!

Josh Nixon, ESP

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