Inside Your Personal Space

The first part of this article on Police reminded me of something I learned a long time ago, but continually forget. I’ve always disliked being touched, at least when I haven’t explicitly authorized it. I’ve often chalked this up to my dad’s behavior. He was always very grabby, especially when he was mad. But even when being “playful”, when I was a kid, he’d palm my stomach and squeeze … his version of tickling, I suppose. And any sports were always very contact-based… even soccer, where, as a coach, he encouraged tackling. If we weren’t supposed to kick each other, why did we wear shin guards?

I didn’t really understand this behavior until I started my martial arts training. I think I was 14 or so. My master was a cop and taught us the power of stepping inside an opponent’s personal space. It was odd because this was Tae Kwon Do, which is normally quite distant. Yet he insisted on teaching us very close-in punching and wrestling techniques. And I learned that it works very well. My dad had been golden gloves back when he was in the Air Force. And I suppose that he was good at that precisely because he knew how to fight inside someone’s personal space.

To this day, I sincerely appreciate it when a normally grabby person restrains themselves around me. And I am intuitively … instinctively suspicious of those who consistently pat you on the back (men) or touch your arm (women) when talking to you. I also notice the tendency of many (usually emotionally insecure) men who seem to be trying to express dominance by shaking your hand within both of theirs. I much prefer the macho, crushing, single-handed handshake to the passive-aggressive double hand handshake.

But take these methods seriously. It’s not just the cops who are trained to get inside your personal space. It’s a well-known technique used in all contexts. And, to me, it’s like a gun. Never point it at anything you’re not willing to destroy.

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