A few months ago I was walking into a local Panera for lunch. There were several police cars parked out front, and I was a little concerned as to what I would be walking into. Hunger, however, got the better of me and I went in anyway. Inside people were talking about a guy in a green sweatshirt walking around the parking lot with a gun. They seemed shocked and concerned, with frequent glances out the window and back at the police. Without seeing Green Sweatshirt Guy, I can’t comment on what was going on other than to say I didn’t feel the level of concern some of the other patrons felt, and for three reasons. 1) Most importantly, the police did not seem overly concerned. 2) Ohio is an open carry state. 3) What seemed most overlooked by my fellow patrons was that on the other side of the parking lot is a sporting goods store where a wide variety of guns are sold.
Maybe Green Sweatshirt Guy was doing something else that seemed creepy, but from the snippets of conversation I picked up, it seemed the people in Panera just saw the guy walk by with a gun and called the police. In this day and age, I don’t blame folks for calling the police out of an abundance of caution, but it made me reflect on recognizing threats and one of the ways we teach that in To-Shin Do.
We have four beginning postures we teach new students as a way to introduce them to recognizing raising threat levels: Natural (meaning relaxed, but aware), Cautious (meaning more aware, something has caught our attention and our hands may begin to come up, just in case), Warning (now we have perceived a threat and hands are up, knees are bent, and voices are on in order to prevent violence that may be about to happen), and Defense Ready (violence is happening and we are now in the middle of defending ourselves)
Those four steps don’t have to be a straight line. You can jump right from Natural to Warning for example (as it seems these folks at Panera did) but the more of these steps you skip, the clearer the threat there needs to be. (Anyone remember a video from about a year ago of a man tackling a legal conceal carry holder who was walking into a store in Florida because the conceal carry holder ‘had a gun’?) It can go the other way, too. Waiting too long to be alarmed can be devastating to you and those you care about.
Make sure you practice going through all of those four stages in your training. Sometimes go through one after the other. Sometimes skip from the beginning to the end. And watch how others react to stress and potential threats when you are outside the dojo. You’ll learn a great deal about how valuable this training is by watching others, and also probably find that in your own life you are more and more reacting to what is really going on, not what you fear may be going on.