Saturday, July 25, 2009

Urban survival hype

Some of the stupidity being sold as preparedness and survival skills these days is amazing.

The amount of trash is too big to go through all of it. Survival is on the spotlight these days, specially urban survival, and there’s an entire market for it.
Seems that these days being thrown into a trunk and learning how to pick handcuffs is one of the most valuable skills to be learned.
Mostly people that don’t know much about realistic survival situations, they eat all of this up like hot chocolate fudge.

People want to be Jason Bourne. Its cool, sounds great and the market appeal is terrific.
I loved the Bourne movies people. They’re a blast… but its just a MOVIE! Sorry if I burst anyone’s bubble.
Where to start? Picking handcuffs and being thrown into trunks?
Kidnappers don’t throw you into trunks guys, they seat you between two other guys in the back seat and if you move you get shot.
Why throw you into a trunk where you can make a lot of noise whenever they stop (that thing called traffic) and alert everyone near by?
The only cases I know of people that managed to escape, most of them managed to speed away before getting caught, a couple jumped out of the moving vehicle (and got seriously hurt, unlike TV ) because the kidnappers didn’t plan right where everyone would seat and set the door on childproof.
One neighbor that got kidnapped, he escaped by bending the metal sheath roof of the shack where he was held and escaped from there.
Now serious kidnappers, they’ll chain you to a bed and have someone watching over you all day.
Newsflash folks, if eight guys seize you with intentions of kidnapping, you’re going no where, you wont pick your way out of anything.
Instead of worrying about opening trunks you’ll never be thrown into unless you’re a movie star and picking handcuffs, worry about not getting caught, because that’s worth the time and money invested.

Fooling alarm systems, I mean who comes up with all this? who convinced people this was useful… other than for thieves? Oh, yes, I could come up as well with some far fetched scenario that will never occur even if I get to live 1000 years.
At the end of the day you’ve practiced a bunch of “cool” secret agent tricks, you feel like “The Jackal” with your disguises and fake IDs, but you spent your time and money on something of almost no value in much more realistic, more likely situations.

There are skills worth learning, starting a car without the proper keys may as well be one… AFTER you learned the other 200 or so skills that would prove more valuable and are much more likely to be needed and used.
Want to learn a valuable urban survival skill? First, learn to shoot, learn to fight, learn CPR, visit your red cross chapter (or your local hospital) , learn to navigate and know your location and the surroundings like the palm of your hand. Know your own culture or the one of you AO and network for friends. Learn defensive driving and have REALISIC plans.
Most of all THINK. It’s something so rare these days. People wouldn’t do ½ of the stupid things they do if they followed that simple advice.
What I’m saying here is, all skills may come in handy on day and are worthy in their own way. Leaning to build a canoe using fire and stone tools is a honorable skill, but is it a skill worth my time?
Freeing yourself from a knot maybe be useful one day if mugged in your home, but how worthy is it to someone that doesn’t know home and personal security safety measures, or defensive gun fighting and doesn’t practice daily concealed carry?
Classes that teach you what you see in action movies, leave those to actors and stunt men, and put your money and time to better use.



Anonymous said...


You are right on target. Living in Latin America is no spy movie. A friend invited me to an IDPA pistol match while in the states (which was fun but not realistic, only a game played with a pistol) and one stage had 5 "bad guys" in a row. I said, "That is what you would see where I live." Multiple bad guys with a plan are your attackers. It would be shear luck if they were close together. Hopefully, if you made hits on the first one or two the rest would run but you can't count on that. Because the country where I live is NPE I only carry a Glock 19, which is 15+1, with no extra mag, so I'm in no position for extended shootouts. Until people live in a society where there is a significant amount of violence happening to people they know, it is difficult to get a perspective on how important it is to be vigilant and alert at all times.

DaShui said...

Que Pasa FerFal!

Again amazingly good advice.
One guy I know had a bad feeling about going somewhere but his friends talked him into going. He was kidnapped, he was sat in the back seat of the car, while a guy pointed a pistol at him. My friend played college football and could bench press 500 pounds- what could he do? Nothing much. The lesson is ignore your inner voice at your own risk.l
In college a had a girlfriend whose 80 year old grandmother was kidnapped. They rolled her into a carpet. Never found the body......

Keep your head up!

Stephen said...

Amen Brother....Watching action movies may be fun to watch and boosts your adrenaline a notch or two...But ...IT WAS JUST A MOVIE!

You can learn more from a Boy Scout manual about staying alive than the movie!

Water ,Food and shelter and good common sense are where you start!

Don Williams said...

1) I think some of the executive protection techniques are useful --an attack, robbery or kidnapping is usually preceded by enemy surveillance and that is the best time to detect and disrupt. So countersurveillance techniques can be useful -- e.g, drive through two or three narrow corridors ( where there are no sidestreets) Have a friend stationed there to see if anyone is following you.

2) Similarly, have your neighbors watch out for anyone watching your house or any strange vans parking down the street.

3) Although these old-fashioned techniques have been partially overcome by new technology -- e.g, the GPS beacons that can be bought online and which, when fastened to your car , allow people to track your location on a laptop from miles away -- see where you go during the day as a precursor to an ambush. Lots of wives are buying these things, for some reason.

4) In his book and earlier columns, Ferfal talked about the need to learn evasive driving techniques -- moonshine turn, how not to be forced off the road,etc.

5) Finding out about lockpicking and compromising security systems can be useful if you need to steal ..er .."commandeer" supplies. Although it can also be a good way to get your ass shot.

6) But it is useful to learn something about those things just so you realize that you should NOT trust most locks or security systems -- that they are sold more to give you a false sense of security rather than because they are effective.

7) But in the scheme of things , these things are mostly secondary. However, they are not as boring as the work you really should be doing.

8) Another thing it is good to learn is the various con games --so you don't get victimized. Learn to trust no one who has not been checked out --including that nice postman who is delivering a special package to your door and wants you to sign for it.

Anonymous said...

What you don't get is that people in the US are not generally afraid of kidnapping. It's not generally a problem. What we are afraid of is our government turning into a police state. If it does and we are picked up by a military or police unit in a nation taken over by fascists, then being able to get out of cuffs etc might be useful.

FerFAL said...

If you get picked by the police. They’ll cuff you and keep an eye on you. You wont go anywhere.
It’s like planning to escape prison instead of learning how to avoid ending there in the first place.
I think this is selling well because of all the secret agent thing going on that the media digests much better than regular self defense shooting and fighting. Guns are still taboo.


Don Williams said...

Hey, Ferfal, maybe you would like to buy a CIA Escape and Evasion Suppository Tool Kit. Several drills, saw blades, bolt cutter, etc. I'm waiting for someone to make a Chinese knockoff and sell it on Ebay.


This was a actual CIA kit. I suspect it went out of favor the first time someone was running across a field and the cap came off.

Strangely enough, I've never heard of a CIA officer or military person escaping from their kidnappers.

Bones said...

Great stuff as usual FerFal. If someone kidnaps and cuffs you, you are probably screwed but the odds of thing happening are nearly zero. Preparedness is useless without priorities. The most likely extended SHTF scenarios here would be weather related, power outages or disease epidemic so plan accordingly. Crime might also be an issue but the risk can be substantially reduced by increased awareness. Specialized skills are really not necessary but basic first aid and CPR are indispensable. Why learn lockpicking when boltcutters and sledgehammers are so much easier? Why would you learn lockpicking but let yourself bleed to death from an injury?

Anonymous said...

"First, learn to shoot, learn to fight, learn CPR"

CPR is overrated as a survival skill.

Cardiac arrest (usually v-fib) typically needs cardioversion. No AED, no paramedics, no hospital, you can pump away until you collapse and the victim will still die.

Cardiac arrest from trauma (whether a GSW or fall or motor vehicle accident or blood loss) never ever reverses with CPR.

I'm not saying CPR is a worthless skill to have for today's world, just that if self-reliance during periods of civil unrest is what you're preparing for, CPR really has no place.

Bones said...

CPR is so simple to learn there is not reason not to. How hard is it to remember 30 & 2? Certainly if there is no medical help available you have a serious problem. If you're anywhere near civilization there will be doctors somewhere except in the most unlikely emergency scenarios.

FerFAL said...

Of particular importance is knowing how to aid asphyxiating children.
My wife cleared a coin out of my son’s throat when he was choking, holding him head down, taping hard between the shoulder blades.
A friend of my family saved their child that had fallen into the pool. Instinctively gave him mouth to mouth and saved him.
Not as fancy as a fake pasport but saves lives :)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you are talking about OnPoint Tactical's Urban E&E class. Well, I took it and it wasn't so bad. Organized a lot of knowledge I already had and had been practicing.

Your points are very valid, but there was a lot more to it than the lock picking E&E stuff (which is usually what gets written up because it's more exciting than AO Awareness, counter surveillance routes, caches, social dynamics, cultural/surroundings awareness, matching local baselines to blend in, etc.)

It was originally designed for security operators deploying overseas, hence the Jason Bourne flavor. Lots of useful info for that scenario.

For the US lay person, it's exciting, it's an eye opener (especially how easy it is to defeat your average door lock) and gets people thinking out of the box.

Don made a number of good points as well, so I'll stop there.