UK riots – lessons of common sense – Parvez Alam, PhD
We’ve all seen the pictures and heard the sensationalised media stories on the UK riots. Some stories bring about a sense of unease, others pure revulsion whereas some of the stories bring about a chuckle of some form. Whatever your individual view is on the causes and solutions to the UK riots, the fact is that when faced with situations of rioting – you need to prepare yourself.
This summer, I found myself in a slight predicament – I was tasked to go to Croydon during the midst of the rioting. While Croydon was set alight, rather than drive far from the scenes of rioting, I was actually tasked to go there. This brings me on to why I am writing this article for my brothers and sisters in the Miami Arnis Group. I happened to contact my long time friend and teacher Guro Tony Torre a few hours before making my way to Croydon. We had a little discussion on preparation in situations of urban conflict and agreed that this would be an interesting topic to discuss/bring to light. Needless to say, I saw no violence at all whatsoever. But wasn’t Croydon on fire? – well some of it… here is how one can go about getting prepared for situations of urban violence when travelling:
1. The power of the internet – there’s a lot of worthless rubbish floating about on the internet, however, when it comes to preparation for travel, it is indispensable. In the case of finding out where rioting is taking place in real time, you can’t get better than google and youtube. Videos on the rioting were appearing every few minutes and a general picture of rioter-movement is estimated by simply pinpointing targeted areas. Avoid these areas and you don’t even need to start fighting anyone.
2. Improvised weapons – this is something Tony and I were discussing a while before I left for Croydon. Some interesting thoughts went through my head after our discussion. Of course it is imperative that we try to keep weaponry legal and the laws differ from country to country – state to state. If you’re walking around with a knife or gun in the UK… you are the enemy. In volatile situations such as riots police may question anyone even slightly suspicious looking. Improvised weapons therefore, are critical. Have good solid well structured pens that will work like your “dulo dulo”, have fitted trousers/short “with” a belt in case longer range whipping or tying people up becomes necessary, have an awareness of your surroundings. Look to see what weapons are available in the streets – bins, stones, dirt, bottles, sticks, bricks etc. Everything is there for your taking and your training should bring about an natural and intrinsic feel for their use. Awareness is your periphery, be sure to not get suckered, eyes open whether inside a car, train or just walking to your destination.
3. A full tank of fuel – if you’re driving, make sure you have enough “get away” fuel. Things can become hairy and the last thing you want is to run out of fuel when it’s time to leave.
4. Know the public transport system – whether you are driving or not, knowledge of the public transport system is an absolute must. When one or two escape options fail, you should have some more in your back pocket.
5. Inner wallets – an interesting but highly useful contraption that I use often when travelling to underdeveloped or volatile countries. The inner wallet sits comfortably between your underwear and your trousers. Many muggers will be happy to receive your external wallet, which can contain some coins, a few disposable cards and some paper money. It is less likely that they ask you to take your pants down, especially so if you’ve already given your external wallet – but know – your internal wallet contains sufficient money to travel, eat and lodge. The inner wallet contains your real cards, like credit cards etc – your inner wallet is your actual lifeline and should never be taken for granted.
6. Functioning phone fully recharged – this is really self explanatory but think about it – how many times have we run out of battery life when we needed to speak to someone? Well it could be worse if in a volatile situation. Do you have a charger in your car? Do you have a solar charger available if there are no other options? I have taken my solar chargers to some underdeveloped countries and quite honestly, they are so useful and yet usually far smaller than your phone.
7. Know the location of a hospital with an emergency unit – all it takes is one good hit from a glass bottle and you might find yourself bleeding profusely – perhaps even to the point of death. Make sure you have basic first aid training for wounds – patching, pressure, heat, cleaning. Ambulances can be very busy when riots are going on, so don’t expect that you’ll get one on time – know what to do with your wound and where you are going to go – then go there imminently.
8. Have some basic food and drink supplies – shops might be shut, you might not have anywhere to go – if you have a car like I did that day, just take some water bottles and extra food. I have experienced mild starvation in the past and the facts are that your body goes into a survival mode, your metabolism slows down to a snail’s pace, you become sleepy and almost completely unable to function as normal – this is NOT what you need, not even when there is peace in the surroundings. Simple things can make the biggest differences.
I hope this article on common sense helps everyone to realise that “physical combat” is actually a last option – and you want it to be – when you just use a little common sense.