When discussing the subject of the world's most dangerous cities, places like Moscow, Lisbon and Calcutta easily come to mind; but Paris should be on your list as well. Whenever I mention this to anyone, their first reaction is to laugh; the second reaction is that they're stunned. This rising tide of violence is being meticulously hidden from visitors to France; but to the French it's no secret. That's why Jean-Marie Le Pen, the extreme right wing candidate, received 18% of the vote -- because he promised to stem the rise of crime by reintroducing the death penalty.
- Hundreds of tourists a day are victims to pickpockets
- Violent crime against women rose by 40% from 2001
- Pick pocketing on the subway is up 40% from last year
- Murders and attempted murders are up 35% from 2000
- 6000 violent assaults per year in the subway system alone
- An African immigrant carries severed head around in Paris
- 400% increase of HIV infected needle attacks against police
- People on the subway are found openly carrying bows and arrows
- Gangs torched 1,100 cars and attacked firefighters who arrive on scene
- A man carrying a Japanese sword in the open was traveling on the subway
- Hundreds of youths with axes, bats and guns fight in busy malls near Paris
- While I was visiting Paris [in October 2002] the mayor was stabbed in public
- Immigrants from slum districts go to Paris to attack armored cars with rockets
- Assault rifles are being used on a daily basis; police use heavy-duty flak jackets
This is not the whole story; I'm only skimming the surface. If the soaring crime wave isn't abated sometime soon, Paris may resemble a war zone in the not too distant future. The great majority of the violence stems from the immigrant population living in slums called Gennevilliers. These immigrants, (from former African colonies) have access to a vast array of illegal weaponry; but their most potent weapon by far is the cell phone, and they are experts in its use.
Whenever police are about to make an arrest, the cell phones are employed, calling dozens of professional instigators that suddenly appear out of the woodwork, growing to hundreds in a short period of time. Police are surrounded, they have to retreat and quite often riots ensue. Due to the government's overzealous program of political correctness, the police are helpless to deal with these incidents. They can't even use their firearms in many cases to defend themselves for fear of being prosecuted, or even losing their jobs.
Since the police cannot defend themselves as they do in the U.S., their only method of staying alive is to become completely familiar with the tactics these criminals employ, placing them out of harms way.
This is where Fred Perrin comes in. Five times a year he teaches courses and seminars about awareness (on covert weapons) and edged-weapons defense to the military, and various police units. He also travels to Belgium and Switzerland to teach the military police there. In addition, Fred runs his own school outside of Paris and regularly teaches about twenty students, strictly reality based defense.
Fred is also a skilled knife maker and a covert weapons designer. One of his knife designs was just released by Spyderco, the Perrin model. He is also the originator of the La Griffe, an effective claw like weapon designed for self-defense use. Fred started training in self-defense in 1979, he joined the army for two years and is currently a reservist. He also studied Taekwondo and silat. He was national Taekwondo champion and all-Europe stick fighting champion.
When you meet Fred for the first time you may think he and James Keating grew up in the same house. They talk the same way, they have the same level of enthusiasm for what they do, they are generous with their time and knowledge and they are both consummate warriors and survivalists at the top of their game. Both men have gone so far beyond the normal confines of self-defense and martial arts. Serious students of reality fighting should make it their business to seek them out to learn what they have to offer.
During my stay in Paris Fred was kind enough to spend several days showing me around as well as discussing the state of violence and self-preservation in Paris. He takes this subject matter very seriously because he's exposed to the problem day in and day out. Fred's opinions are based on first hand knowledge.
* On criminals:
Fred says, "there's a commonmis perceptionn [everywhere] that criminals are stupid, they're not, a good majority are very capable. That's theirfull timee job; they don't do anything else all day except dream up ways of taking your money and hurting you when you resist." Some of them have access to guns and knives, but the majority of criminals have makeshift weapons that are just as deadly. At a minimum every criminal in Paris is carrying a box-cutter, and civilians are completely unprepared for sudden assaults by these thugs, the majority of which are scared to carry even a penknife.
* What gangs do
Gangs run rampant in Paris, it's very similar to the '80s in the U.S. where there were car jackings, gang warfare, home invasions and hard-core criminal activity. Gang fights within the confines of Paris are almost a daily occurrence. And the first course of action is not to ignore it but to be aware of it and prepare yourself.
A favorite weapon of gangs is super glue. The run up to go, squirt it into your eyes, then roll you and do whatever they want.
They often put OC spray on the car door handle, follow you by car then attack you when you stop to take care of the problem. A major concern for criminals in France ID checks by police. Since so many aliens are illegal they don't wish to be stopped. As a method of escape they attach one or two razors on the edge of the passport of credit card, and if stopped they swipe the officer.
Just like in the U.S. years ago, criminals in France train attack dogs to do their work for them, but here it's done in a special way. The dog is trained with a laser pointer, so whenever the light beam hits the victim, the dog attacks that area of the target. You can't pass without giving up your valuables.
Many gangs use fishhooks and weights in caps, they slap their targets then hook them on the head and pull them down. They also smash victims with weighted sap caps, then slash the throat with a penknife. Criminals also wear bandanas with heavy metal bands hidden inside which can open large gashes in the face and head. Screwdrivers, table knives, and simple tools from hardware stores are all used in sudden attacks in Paris.
* On martial arts
Fred is not connected to the mainstream martial arts in France because they are still not able to face reality. The philosophy and attitude towards martial arts here is at the same stage it was in the 1980s in the America. People pay too much attention to the movies for their examples of real fighting. If the arts are not exotic people think they're automatically ineffective; if it's simple and works, they couldn't care less. Western fighting is not respected in the least, and forget about cross-training, the majority of martial artists are quite content studying and teaching one style for life. Like everywhere else, traditional martial artists don't practice for reality. If most martial artists [in France] were attacked with a knife, ice pick or a razor blade, they wouldn't know what to do.
* On Reality Defense
One of the renowned pioneers of self-defense in Europe is Charles Joussot. An experienced silat and edged weapons instructor and designer, Charles created FISFO, an organization dedicated to teaching civilian as well as police defense. Charles has taught many police agencies in Europe as well as the U.S. But besides Charles and Fred, there still isn't that much interest in reality-based defense.
One good sign is that during the last decade, mixed martial arts have been attracting interest. Things like the UFC, Vale Tudo and even combatives, vis-à-vis krav maga is getting attention. The topic of grappling vs. standup has also been making the rounds. In France 70% of altercations with the police end up on the floor.
Fred states that the most important component of self-defense is not technique at all, but the mind. Your awareness, your state of mind and how you deal with the situation comes before everything else. The second thing is technique, but with the use of "very few - simple techniques," because you can remember them at anytime. Most people only use 10% of what they learn anyway. In real situations, people respond with rapid reactions and movements, there will be lots of mistakes, but it's much better to employ a few effective techniques now, than too many later. And don't use only one approach; constantly practice at all distances using all styles. You also need to practice many different scenarios with and without weapons. Don't move too much, it's not necessary, 80% of self-defense is good footwork. People who have a gun don't move around like rabbits.
* On Knife Fighting
The mental attitude is much more important than great technique. For those who say fencing is completely different than knife fighting, Fred disagrees, he says, "fencing and knife fighting are really the same, except for the gap. In fencing you can use kinesthetics for feel, but for knife it has to be sight." Fred states, "the goal of knife fighting is to cut and not be cut, but the reality isn't so. Be prepared to get cut, but don't rush into it either."
When fighting with a knife, the first target should be the hand and forehead. You want to attack their vision, stop their mobility and cut their breathing. Fred often uses a training knife (a drone with a dull blade) to fight because it can still do extensive damage without cutting someone open. Fred says, "how can you tell the judge you were only defending yourself, when the guy has more than 40 deep cuts on his body?"
Many people learn to use a knife but very few people understand what to do when they're cut. For this Fred carries around his own survival kit, with antiseptic bandages, medical stapler, clamps to hold arteries, and other life saving tools. "It only takes a two-centimeter cut in the right place for a person to bleed out, and that only takes two minutes."
* On all-out fighting
Just like Kelly McCann and James Keating, Fred is a firm believer that the mind is the most important self-defense tool. "Remember to use your mind first, then use any tool around you, use the environment." Anything can be used as a weapon, a chair, a pen, a rolled up magazine or newspaper. One of Fred's favorite weapons is a medium size rubber snake. At first I thought he was joking, but that thick rubber snaps like a whip and you can easily entangle someone in it. Don't forget about throwing objects either, they don't have to land, they have to distract, so you can branch off and use other weapons. Some favorite objects he likes to throw are credit cards, small sharp objects, anything, these are meant to give you time.
Fred also believes in body protection whenever possible and when I met him he had shin and arm guards (with metal corners) under his clothes. This is necessary in Paris, especially when you enter dangerous neighborhoods. Muaythai is very popular with much of the youth and you need that edge to survive.
Finally, the most important factor is awareness, that is, knowing where you are, your environment, checking your surroundings, being aware if someone is following you, not flashing your wallet or money around, checking for exits wherever you go. When in a hotel, using a rubber wedge in addition to the lock on the door. And whenever possible at least carry one type of weapon.
Fred Perrin can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
To see photos of covert weapons used in Paris click below: