The Cornered Cat
At the Mall

Had fun yesterday. A group of us got together at an urban mall for a small class in awareness and avoidance with Rory Miller, author of Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected and a half-dozen other excellent books about self defense and related skills. As far as class reviews go, this one’s tough to write so you’ll have to forgive me if any of it sounds fuzzy. It’s a hard write-up because the class covered a huge amount of territory in a short time, and – as is frighteningly common with lessons from Rory – the material it covered mostly reminded us of stuff we should already have known. Rory’s strength as a teacher is sliding ideas into your brain so deftly that when they arrive, you think they’ve always been there. That’s a subtle gift.

Meanwhile, there were lots of “d’oh!!” moments for me and everyone else.

Want an example? Not long after we got the group together, Rory showed us his cell phone. He’d snapped a picture of the map as he walked into the mall, and thus would always be able to find an alternative way out of the mall should he need one. D’oh! 1

One of the assignments was simply: “Find a fire extinguisher.” Do you know, even though I’m really good at checking for exits and remaining aware of ways to leave an area, I’d literally never before looked for a fire extinguisher in a public space? D’oh!

Standing in the parking garage, we discussed how to spot someone loitering near the cars and looking for potential victims – for mugging, carjacking, kidnap, whatever. It took Rory about two seconds to point out that cars are made entirely of reflective surfaces. It’s really really hard for someone to sneak up behind you, or to hide behind a support pillar in a garage, without you spotting them if you make a habit of using those surfaces to look around you. D’oh!

Dropped on the table while you're eating, the reflective surface on mirrored sunglasses help you easily see what's going on around you.

Dropped on a restaurant table, reflective surfaces on mirrored sunglasses help you easily see what’s going on around you.

When we sat down as a group in the food court area, Rory steered us to a table in the open, not a corner booth. Then he asked us why he’d done that. Several theories came up, but the kicker was this: as a group, we could easily see in every direction without any effort at all. There’s no need to wedge yourself into a corner and limit your ways to leave, when you can instead choose to sit where you can see all around you and have more routes to get away should it become necessary. D’oh.

Lots more there. Those were all little things, small aha! moments dropped into the day, huge value in small chunks. During the day, we discussed the basic strategies for dealing with catastrophic bad events such as mass shootings or mall bombings. In many cases, deliberately choosing to shepherd others to safety while remaining prepared to defend yourself and others — rather than running directly to the sound of gunfire — might be your best option, improving both your personal survival odds and the overall situation in some very specific ways. I hope Rory chooses to write about that sometime soon, if he hasn’t already.

In the mall, we learned how to use our peripheral vision to see farther behind us. We also played a few awareness games (including one that Rory called ‘tag for grownups’), learned to use all of our senses to remain aware of the world around us, and made up stories about the people we saw which helped us become more aware of details the subconscious might see that the conscious mind might not recognize. That was all tremendous fun, and led straight into a discussion about training from a place of love or joy rather than from fear or other negative emotion (that’s huge, and something tremendously important to me on many levels). We also talked about how to manage our own risk factors in public, including the risk factors we can’t eliminate.

Lots more happened that I’m still processing. But in the meanwhile: if anyone ever offers you a chance to take a class or seminar from Rory Miller at Chiron Training, don’t pass it up.


  1. And yes — that’s where today’s Facebook tip came from. Thanks, Rory!

4 Responses to At the Mall

  1. Dann in Ohio says:

    Thanks for the report and excellent reminders…

    We my daughter was small we taught her many things about her personal safety, often through games… to make sure she was always alert…

    We play games as adults or with our kids… “How many EXIT signs can you see?”… and see who can see or count the most… “How many people do you see wearing blue shirts?”… “Who is the shortest person you see?”… “Where’s the coolest place to hide that you see?”…

    My 18-year-old daughter can spot most CCW folks right off… and notice many things that a lot of people don’t and I think it’s the awareness games we played…

    A lot of people who don’t work in offices don’t know you need to dial a “9” or an “8” or a “5” to “dial-out” on a company phone so if you are in an unfamiliar office or building and need to dial out in an emergency… hmmmm!

    Sounds like a TERRIFIC class at the mall…

    Dann in Ohio

  2. don says:

    I was in the class too and it was excellent. It’s easy to get caught in the mindset that self defense training is all about going to the range and firing some rounds at a target, or going to the gym and throwing a few punches and kicks at a bag. But it is actually much, much more than that. It’s about understanding when, where, why, and how violence happens and knowing how to avoid or avert it.

    Failing to get the kind of training like Rory is offering is like having a first aid kit that contains nothing more than a tourniquet. Tourniquets are important when you need them, but by far the most sought after item in the first aid kit is the boring old band aid. It’s far easier and safer to ward off violence before it escalates to a level where only a gun can save you.

    Thanks Rory, it was a great class.

  3. topshotlady says:

    Log this idea. I’ve bought the book and may use the idea as a training session for my own women’s shooting chapter. Thanks!

  4. kparker says:

    Facebook? You have a page there we can subscribe to?

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