‘The A to J Method’
Scrolling through the week’s newspapers today, I came across an article written about a recent spate of attacks in the South Dublin area. The article broadly states the following:
The Irish police force – an Garda Síochana – have issued a warning to people in the area to be vigilant due to the increase in such attacks over the past few weeks. Both men, and women, have been targeted. In one case a knife was held to the throat of one of the victims while he was relieved of his possessions.
As we Senshido instructors continuously reaffirm to our students: it is ‘you the individual’ who is responsible for your own personal safety. The police can only be relied upon to arrive at a crime scene after a crime has been committed – then collect evidence in the standard format to help them catch the bad guy.
Ok – to the point: I am not here to preach about how vital it may now be that you take up self- defence classes. Nor am I here to cast aspersions on peoples’ life choices relating to self-defence – or lack of. How people choose to live is what makes a free society the envy of those who enjoy no such thing. What I am here to give is a valuable life-lesson if you are ever unfortunate enough to endure a violent attack, but fortunate enough to remain able to something about it afterwards. The latter could be from a variety of reasons – previous training, natural ability, or an external interruption to the attack.
The first thing that a law enforcement officer will ask for following a reported attack is a description of the attacker. Most people struggle with this – an understandable result considering the overwhelming sense of shock – but hey – let’s not beat ourselves up… I have often stood in front of groups of new students and spoke to them for 10 to 15 minutes, then called one of them out in front of me and asked him/her to turn his back to me and provide the class with a description of me. Its lucky for me that I have a good sense of humour, as the answers are often hilarious – at my expense – but they are rarely accurate.
So, if a person in a calm and attentive state of mind cannot provide an accurate description, then what chance does a traumatised victim have? An accurate description might mean the immediate apprehension of the attacker, or the subsequent arrest further down the road. It may also increase significantly the victim’s psychological recovery time.
Part of Senshido’s Fundamentals of Personal Protection Curriculum is to teach our students how to provide two types of descriptions of the bad guy. The first is what we refer to as a ‘Flash Description.’ This is a quick-fire way to bring attention towards an individual. For example: ‘A guy over there wearing black on blue, 5’10” – 6’ tall with dark hair is causing trouble.’ Ok, so now everyone is looking is looking for precisely that – a tall guy wearing a black top and blue trousers/jeans with dark hair. Again, I repeat, this type of description is used to draw attention to a person in the moment. It does not have a lot of information in it, but more than enough to dismiss anyone who does not match it. That’s what giving a description is all about – zeroing in on the bad guy.
However, a more detailed description is what we call the ‘A-J method.’ This is a system where every single piece of information we can recall about the attacker is given to the police. I will explain each part:
A) Age: Always try and bracket the age. ‘’He was approx. 30-35.’ ‘He was approx. 35-40.’ etc. Now, anyone not matching the age description is eliminated from the search and the net is closing in on that age group.
B) Build: Try and use your own build to judge the bad guys, I am an average build so if he/she is more lightly built than me he/she would be of a slim build. If bigger the converse would apply.
C) Clothing: What was the attacker wearing – black jacket on blue jeans – dark baseball cap – with dark shoes? Remember, however, that it is easy for an attacker to quickly change his appearance by, for example, removing his jacket, or placing a hat on his head. The fundamental point is that the more information you can provide the better.
D) Distinguishing marks: Anything that makes this individual stand out: ear rings, nose rings, tattoos, scars, print on clothing – anything!
E) -Elevation – height: As with build; always try to compare your own height to the attacker’s in order to help determine height.
F) – Face: Everything you can remember about his face. This will align with distinguishing marks. Consider the face’s shape, nose, eyes, facial hair, scars, ear/nose/lip rings – again – anything!
G) -Gait How did he or she walk – hunched over, with a limp, swagger etc?
H) – Hair: What was the colour – bald – tight hair – long hair – short curly hair etc.
I) – IC Code: Identity Codes are standard throughout the UK but are not used in Ireland. However they are employed by military units worldwide. I will provide a break-down of the IC codes, but for now, don’t be too concerned with them, unless of course you feel the need to remember them. All you should need to know when it comes to an IC Code is what nationality the attacker was, when he/she spoke did he/she have a foreign, Irish, English, Eastern European accent etc. Remember it is all closing the net on the bad guy – giving the police something more specific to work off:
IC1 White – North European
IC2 Mediterranean – South European
IC4 Asian (in Ireland and the UK Asian refers to people from the Indian subcontinent like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal)
IC5 Chinese, Japanese or other (South) East Asian
IC6 Arabic or North African
J) – Just like: When using a ‘just like,’ it must be somebody well-known. If you think he looked just like your auntie Mary – well unless you have a photo of Mary to reference with its not going to be much use, unless of course the police officer knows your auntie Mary. On the other hand; if the comparison is with a well-known celebrity the chances are the officer might very well know him/her. It is important to employ the ‘just like’ formula only if the assailant looks like someone well-known.
As I said, this is part of our Fundamentals of Personal Protection Curriculum, which covers many topics: from understanding what an attacker wants/does not want, victim selection, most common types of attacks, to proactive offence. Please feel free to share this information with your loved ones, family, and friends. Hopefully they will never need to use it.
Senshido, So much more than just self-defence.