Self-Defense in 2 Super Simple Steps; STFU and BTFU!


While simplistic in the approach, and street style in the choice of verbiage, no truer words have left my lips.

All across the country when presenting, I ask the group if they have “that one guy or gal” that a scene may be going perfectly until that person shows up… then everything goes downhill or it’s now a “fight”? Everyone in the room will nod their head in agreement. I will then say “If you don’t know who that person is, it’s probably you.” The group will then laugh. Any of those here? I suspect if STFU and BTFU were used in most of those cases, they would have probably never even happened.

STFU: Be Quiet

Think about the last time you witnessed a loud argument between two people. Two are yelling and no one is listening. The yelling keeps getting louder and sometimes escalates to a physical encounter. The simplistic approach of STFU on the job can certainly keep us from becoming part of an argument, be career saving if captured on camera and is simply good customer service when you get down to it. Too often we witness or ourselves fall into the “telling” people what to do that are supposed to be in our “care” and not requesting their assistance.

Another important piece of STFU is when you listen, really listen you will pick up on specific verbal indicators of underlying problems or issues. You will also become keenly aware of something not said. All of which you may miss if you are too busy telling someone what to do. The best care givers listen to a patient and their complaints to find the underlying cause of a problem do they not? What about police officers trying to solve a crime?

BTFU: Create Space

Think of BTFU as “personal space” for you and for the patient or potential attacker. BTFU makes even more sense if you are claiming self-defense. It is sometimes more difficult to claim self-defense on the job if you are moving forward in your use-of-force. If your actions are caught on camera and you are backing away, you will appear more “defensive” in nature. It is the awareness of the possibility, and nowadays, likelihood our actions will be captured on video, shared on social and mainstream media. BTFU cannot be stressed enough when a situation is escalating to the use of any force. I say this because once the FIRST TOUCH happens, no matter how slight -everything about that entire situation just changed. BTFU also creates space. Space allows us a “moment in time” to respond to any given stimulus. Most importantly- it is hard to get punched, pushed, grabbed or kicked if you are out of arm/leg reach.

Notice at no time are we asking anyone to become a victim of violence. We are simply stating that you must not appear to be the aggressor. At DT4EMS, we stress this because there are 4 separate battles every provider must prepare for when it comes to the use-of-force on the job (Mind, Street, Media, Courtroom). You must be prepared for all four. It would be tragic to win on the street only to lose in the media and in the courtroom (which we have multiple reports of).

By using these two simple steps of listening (STFU) and creating space (BTFU) a provider can help mitigate many of the use-of-force situations that are becoming much too frequent in emergency medicine today.