Using your voice as a self-defense tool
One of the things often overlooked in self-defense training is developing the use of your voice to help in a self-defense situation.
Yes. It may seem a bit odd but training to use your voice in the correct way is an essential tool in controlling a possibly violent situation.
If trained specifically and in isolation, it can have a positive effect on all aspects of any training system. This is because it has a direct route to increasing confidence and with increased confidence you,
- breath better under pressure
- you have better self-control
- because you have a higher level of control, you have a clearer focus and deal better with the tunnel vision that pressure brings
- project a more all-round confident persona which can affect your assailant’s belief in their own ability to carry out an assault
How would training your voice work in a “real” attack situation?
If we go back to The 5 stages of violent crime or The Attack Triangle, we can see that often there is a verbal and psychological set up prior to an assault or attack. This very often involves the “interview” situation where you as the potential victim are being set up, tested out or scanned to see if you are the ideal “victim”.
Often an assailant simply wants to lull you to carry out an attack, but they are also checking to see if you are sufficiently weak enough to be no trouble. This is where your demeanour and the clarity of your voice come into play.
Here is a good quote that backs this up,
“Good verbal skills are an effective self-defense tool, one you’re likely to use more frequently and successfully than any physical technique. When a predator engages you in conversation, he’s actually “interviewing” you to see if you’ll make a good victim. An experienced attacker is practiced at using his words to freeze you with fear, thus reducing the chance that you’ll try to defend yourself.Although an aggressive verbal confrontation can be terrifying, you have to be strong enough to show the attacker he’s picked the wrong victim. If you stand tall, remain calm and respond confidently and assertively, you’ll probably “fail” his interview. The power of your voice alone can cause him to seek an easier target”Veteran self-defense instructor and Black Belt Hall of Fame member Meredith Gold
Someone who talks very confidently really does project an air of confidence and this is sometimes enough to create doubt in the attacker’s mind. This is something that can be worked on in training. By setting up various attack scenarios you can integrate voice training as part of an overall strategy.
You can work on,
- Matching your speech to confident body language and vice versa
- learning set speech patterns tailored to certain forms of aggression
- develop good breathing habits under pressure
- training to control the distance whilst using your voice to calm or distract
Different voice techniques for different scenarios
Voice training is directly connected to the use of psychology in self-defense.
It is a very wide subject but at the core of it, the main point is understanding that what you say and how you say it can not only affect you, but can also affect and manipulate your attacker.
Look at these different voice descriptions that your prospective “victim” might use and imagine how they would affect you if you were the attacker.
- shouting loudly and gesticulating
- talking very timidly and not maintaining eye contact
- talking clearly and directly whilst maintaining eye contact
- not responding in any way whilst maintaining eye contact
- slurring speech and odd body movement
- clearly discussing what a bad idea it would be for you to attack because you will get hurt
- explaining very clearly that you should think about your family if you get caught and how bad this would look
- very calmly saying how happy they are to test themselves against you and have been wanting this for years
- crying and asking for mercy
Various possible reactions
As you can see, every single one of the voice scenarios there creates a different and natural response in you, and it’s only theoretical. Think of them in a real situation and how they would affect you as the attacker in a good or bad way. The results might look like this,
- shouting loudly and gesticulating: you might read the aggression as fear and be happy with that, but you could also see it an unhinged and dangerous person
- talking very timidly and not maintaining eye contact: obviously this would be seen as the perfect victim, but it could also be a trap
- talking clearly and directly whilst maintaining eye contact: a confident person, so that would possibly affect your confidence, but might also prick your pride if the person keeps talking
- not responding in any way whilst maintaining eye contact: a difficult one. Is the person waiting to attack? Are they scared? Is it a sign of confidence?
- slurring speech and odd body movement: Drunk? Or is it a trick?
- clearly discussing what a bad idea it would be for you to attack because you will get hurt: You become engaged in a conversation here. Is it a distraction? A stalling tactic? Are they right?
- explaining very clearly that you should think about your family if you get caught and how bad this would look: This is an attempt to tap into your human side. It’s a tactic, but it can work and it can play for time. This person is experienced.
- very calmly saying how happy they are to test themselves against you and have been wanting this for years: A trick? A psycho? Or really someone that confident?
- crying and asking for mercy: Again, on the face of it, a perfect victim but it could also be a trick.
There certainly is something to it
So if you look at the scenarios there, they all have something in common. That if you are the potential attacker, you will be forced to react IN SOME WAY. It might be only a tiny distraction or it could be a major one, but something happens.
So as you can see, training the voice to work under the pressure of a hostile situation is very useful as part of an overall self-defense strategy. With correct training under pressure testing situations, a person can develop skill with the voice and associated body language.
To finish off, have a look at this video from Nick Drossos. He explains that being verbal and using the voice is an essential part of any form of self-defense.It can create space for you, de-escalate a situation and help you form a plan of escape or attack.