The Ambush: Lessons I’ve Learned

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“Better watch yourself, you’re about to get fucked up!” This 30-something who had checked me with his bike from behind now peddled in a circle around me.

I didn’t know why this was happening.
I had been walking to work, nonchalantly listening to my Ipod when BAM! I was being accosted by a seemingly deranged man who was now issuing threats of violence. Adrenaline surged. I felt shaky and mildly focused with a bit of anxiety, anger, and fear shadowing the current of the situation. I didn’t know if this guy was on drugs or had confused me with some other hated individual, either way, I knew I had better ready up for an altercation.

I betrayed my confusion to him and replied, “For what reason?” He continued to circle menacingly and croaked back, “Any reason!”

What happened next? He just rode away.
Weird.

I finished walking to work and notified the police of what had just occurred. I was fine. No injuries, other than those inflicted on my Ipod which had been spurned to the ground when the guy checked me with his bike. The police didn’t apprehend the guy, but it was of no real consequence to me. I was fine and just thankful it wasn’t worse (i.e. what if the guy had a weapon?). This was a wake-up call to the reality that random, unexpected violence can happen anywhere at any time.

Though undoubtedly this was a strange happening, in my book it could not be counted as a street altercation. Still, I wondered whether there were lessons in violence to be salvaged from it. There were:

What I did Wrong
1. Situational awareness error. I was not at all paying attention to my environment. My Ipod was blaring metal. Had it been off or playing at lower volume I may have picked up on the threat before he got close enough to ram me with his bike. Keeping my head on a steady swivel was also an easy and more valuable fix. Visual orientation to what is going on is more important than sound, especially in a gun-fight (so I’m told). I noted the need to be more aware of what is going on around me as well as awareness of what I am doing. Shinobi Fact: Master anything and all that you can. This instruction descends to us down through the centuries from Natori Masazumi. A shinobi would study himself and how his own mind worked in order to understand others, recognize the limitations of oneself, and the gaps intrinsic to one’s psychology.

2. Disturbed inner state. I was overwhelmed with the ambush. My emotions were all over the place. I was angry, anxious, fearful, and compassionate at the same time. This was a really awkward position to be in. I did not have the intense focus necessary to deal with the threat swiftly, nor did I have the tools at the time to resolve the situation with minimal violence. I had briefly thought about rushing the guy to knock him off his bike, but my mind hesitated with numerous ‘what ifs’. Ultimately I proceeded to keep walking and use verbal de-escalation. Looking back, I don’t recall if this was a conscious decision or not. I just asked a question (not yelling but with relative calm). I noted a development of mental focus for situations like this was a worthy investment of my time. I took up meditation and visualization practices. Fear and anxiety are natural in ambush encounters and even mutual altercations, but one should learn to not allow emotions to overwhelm oneself because it will distort thinking and action. Shinobi Fact: Masazumi exalts a serene, calm mind as a benefactor to your reasoning and strategy.

3. Used the same route to work. I walked the same path to work each day of the week. This was a big mistake. For all I know, this man had been accustomed to seeing me on my route and might have even planned an assault. If not, it would have still served me to change up my routine (which I did) and make my presence in the area unpredictable. Had I taken a different route, the situation might not have transpired. Shinobi Fact: A shinobi would travel as many paths in his area as he could to gain meaningful intelligence of the area.

Note that none of the above mistakes have anything to do with the actual act of inflicting violence on another. The mistakes I made were all mental in nature.

This event aided my self-development by elucidating flaws in my defense disposition. Notable changes in lifestyle I have made which specifically relate to this even include:

1. I scan my surroundings
2. I know an ambush can occur anywhere
3. I carry weapons in case the scaling up of force becomes necessary
4. I know how easily a potential assailant can conceal a weapon and deploy it
5. I am unpredictable in my routines
6. I strive to control my emotions
7. I recognize violence is not always the appropriate solution against violence
8. I train to be more ready for the physiological effects of adrenaline
9. I keep learning about violence

I am thankful to my assailant for giving me these lessons.

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