The self-defense instructor invited people to play a game on the Red Line. She told them to adopt the way of thinking of a bad guy and search for the most suitable victims.
She was on a downtown train on the way to her class when she made the proposition.
There was a young woman wearing a hooded jacket and jeans by a door. Her one hand was busy loosely holding her cellphone which she was staring at while listening to something through her wireless headphones, and she used the other one to hold on to the pole. Her backpack was carelessly swaying off of one of her shoulders.
A bad guy would take advantage of her attitude when the train pulled into the station. He would wrench her backpack and her cellphone which he would throw through the open door.
According to the instructor, when you attempt to figure out who could be a troublemaker, you should not base your conclusion on their looks, characteristics, or race. Instead, you ought to concentrate on their behavior. Observe whether a person you think may be dangerous is standing suspiciously near someone, breathing strangely, or looking as if they were plotting something.
According to the storyteller, no one but a guy wearing dreadlocks and black leather sneakers looked suspicious. As she was looking at the girl with a cellphone in an attempt to warn her, she noticed the man coming toward her own bag. She held it close to her and left the train, followed by the man.
People in Los Angeles are somewhat jumpy and tense at the moment. They are anxious and their nerves are shot. They look through the windows of their cars, trains, and buses and happen to see unpleasant things. There are people lying on the L.A. sidewalks, and setting up tents below freeways and in some neighborhoods, wherever they can find a green surface.
People seem to be in distress, with no place to go, and with possible mental disorders or drugs-related issues that affect others. However, when one gets scared, they tend to forget plenty of things.
As claimed by the LAPD, the city of Los Angeles has not been safer than it is now in decades. The exception to this are homeless people, whose situation makes them exposed to damaging influences. However, many people who are not nearly as vulnerable as the homeless have become far too careful.
Everyone is familiar with the feeling of fear that emerges from within while they are walking down the street. In such situations, we tend to speed up, look in front of ourselves, and ignore everyone we happen to pass by.
In the middle of the chaos, we may forget that those people are not a shapeless mass, but persons, just like us. Some of them are good, some of them are bad, some of them are really sick, and then there are some who have been marginalized by society.
The storyteller claims she understands the stigma, but would like to be able to differentiate people better.
That is the reason she considers the self-defense instructor’s course that has the purpose of teaching people how to decode certain patterns involved in the urban lifestyle.
“Asphalt Anthropology: Essential Safety Tactics for City Life” seemed to be able to provide a useful way of analyzing the city and its residents.
The storyteller was not allowed to take part in the course until the instructor was sure she would not use her newly acquired knowledge to talk about how scary Los Angeles is.
The instructor is a martial artist whose intention is to share her knowledge about the urban lifestyle with others. According to her, the more people know about analyzing everything they see outside, the more relaxed and able to enjoy their environment they will be.
People who are street smart usually grow up in the cities where they cannot avoid the crowd. Their instincts are sharp, and the storyteller states that hers is being sharpened through the interaction with Beverly Baker, the self-defense instructor.
Some useful pieces of advice would be to close your bag, keep your money away from the eyes of others, and wear comfortable shoes in which you can easily move.
Baker works in an office in Los Angeles, but at the same time, she shares some useful tips on how to be street smart with adults who need that knowledge.
During the course of the past year, she has taught both big and small groups. She has worked with individuals with different backgrounds, jobs, and interests. Their students have been tour guides as well as people enrolled in the LAPD’s Central Area Community Police Academy.
The goal of her course is to make people realize that they are capable of surviving. Instead of teaching them how to handle a dangerous situation, she teaches them how to recognize one and manage to avoid it.
The territory of the city of Los Angeles is very well familiar to Baker. She has acquired her knowledge about handling conflicts from Rory Miller, a famous martial artist and a former corrections officer, who has written greatly about preparing for violent situations and handling violence in general.
She volunteers to assist women who wish to have an abortion in terms of escorting them to a clinic, and is capable of negotiating different perspectives. She used to be in an abusive relationship, and although she is physically prepared for various situations, she was not in an emotional state to handle it. Moreover, she has an undergraduate degree in sociology.
Baker has been practicing martial arts since she was a teenager. She does Krav Maga in addition to boxing. She has been a self-defense instructor for two decades, and she invests her energy in teaching women in need of an ability to defend themselves at the L.A. Mission.
However, “Asphalt Anthropology” does not involve special physical skills. It concerns being smart, alert, and able to observe and notice things.
You are not supposed to turn your back to a potential threat. She advises using window reflections so as to see what is happening around you.
In Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles, and similar neighborhoods in which Baker has taught the majority of her classes, there are police stations in addition to everything people see on a daily basis. There are set-up tents and beggars standing in the way. Baker is used to having both men and women tell her they feel tense because of not knowing what they may face next.
She claims that the clues exist and that potentially dangerous people always reveal themselves somehow. Some of them are the manner in which they stand and gesture, ask questions to people not interested in communicating, follow their targets while observing the environment to make sure nobody will witness their deed. She highlights the importance of familiarizing with their behavior and protecting yourself in order to be able to spot the threat long before it reaches you.
She has claimed, during one of her recent sessions, that the world becomes less frightening when you learn what to look for.
Several days later, she is having a big audience at the South Park headquarters of the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles. People have come to hear her talk from all over Los Angeles in the middle of the week. The majority of them are women. According to Baker, women are the ones who usually attempt to be nice and polite. She states that is not always the smartest option.
She shows them footage of violence in the streets of Hollywood and downtown L.A. on the big screen. She requests that the group analyze it and answer whether the victims could have seen their attackers earlier.
34 years old Karen Masini who lives in the area and works in the Girl Scouts headquarters is among those people who openly talk about their concerns. She gets anxious when she is outside with her child in their stroller, in spite of loving downtown Los Angeles in general.
She claims that she is not afraid of the homeless people, but rather of the unstable and unpredictable ones.
She added that Baker had shared some valuable pieces of advice with her and approved of her good instincts.
Masini continued by saying that she observed her surroundings more attentively instead of blocking the noise with headphones.
Some general tips would be to look in front of yourself, put your phone away, avoid the possibility of being cornered, and monitor the environment.