The signing went well. Just under forty people, including a few who drifted by, heard parts of the talk and stayed until the end. Then good talks and food at the nearby McMenamin's pub with a few friends.
One of the attendants asked a good question. It's one of those questions that has real depth into some of the underlying issues. The hypothetical: You're traveling out of country, taking pictures. You find yourself triangulated by three people who want your camera and money. What do you do? How do you prepare?
The rote answer is that you give it to them. Which is fine, I don't have a problem with that answer... but it's important that you understand why that is the reflex answer for most instructors, NOT what most people actually do, and the dynamics that underlie the answers that exist, the options that are seen, and the answer that is chosen.
I see six potential responses: To acquiesce, to run, to bargain, to struggle, to fight or to destroy.
1) Acquiesce is what most instructors would advocate, and in many situations it would be the safest thing. In much of the world, violent crimes are investigated more thoroughly than non-violent crimes. Killing tourists drives away tourists. Because the set-up described has all the ear marks of resource predation, it is probably safe to give up the goods... but every situation is different, every place is different.
There is an ego cost to acquiescing as well, and that ego cost drives many of the other options. Being mugged is just resources, on one level, but there is a dominance aspect. Many people, especially young men will feel like they should fight or they aren't men at all.
2) Running- If you're quick, not over-burdened, not cut off (and sometimes even if you are) and there is a safe place nearby (lights and people, generally) a sudden sprint can be a good option. The key is that sudden part. The bad guys expect a little hesitation as you decide if there is enough risk to keep you submissive. They might even expect backing away (and so it is likely, if they are experienced that there will be one behind you)... but taking off like a jack-rabbit with no hesitation usually buys a second of surprise. You might even be able to go through the people cutting you off. Few people do this, but it is on the table.
3) Bargaining is not about stuff. It is about ego. "Okay, I can't fight all three of you, so let me just give the camera and my cash. I need my passport..." This is one of the methods used so that it feels like you have some power in the situation. The power is actually an illusion, but some will let you keep a token if the threats are feeling generous. Not because you had a chance if it came to a fight. There is a similar dynamic in some sex crimes where the victim draws a line, sometimes a non-sensical line (actual example, a woman terribly assaulted and abused but she refused to 'talk dirty') to maintain some dignity.
It can work, or, if you either are disrespectful or the threats are NOT feeling generous, they can throw in a beating to teach you a lesson.
4) Struggling. This happens, for some reason. A bad guy grabs a woman's purse or a tourist's camera and the victim holds on to it, refusing to give it up, but also refusing to do any damage to the attacker-- They death grip on the camera strap but don't bite or punch or kick. Maybe it's instinct. Maybe it works sometimes, it's possible it could draw enough attention to make the bad guy run (witnesses are bad.) But in most cases, it just forces the bad guy or guys to use violence. The snatch becomes a beating. I'm not sure (pretty confident, but not sure) that this is another ego thing, your limbic system trying to prevent you from the "I shoulda done sumthin" blues of merely acquiescing.
5) Fighting. This is the overly-confident alpha male approach and what every teenager fantasizing (and, I suspect, many martial arts and self-defense aficionados) think they will or should do. Make 'em pay. Give 'em a good fight. Stand up, be a man. Sometimes it even works. You hit one or two of them or you get lucky, or you don't go down easy and they may decide the price is too high and scurry away, which will nicely reinforce the tough guy image. It's rare, though. Most three-on-ones, they just beat you down. With weapons (this is cultural, a lot of places in a mugging, the weapon is implied, not shown. It may not be there.) there is almost no chance.
6) Destroy. This goes back to flipping the switch and qualitative differences. Very few people just run. That's what makes the tactic so effective. Even fewer can just explode into violence. Destroying is not the same as fighting. You explode while the threats are expecting you to think, vacillate or agree. You do fast, extreme violence. It is not fighting. You don't defend yourself in anyway, confidant that your attacks will give them no time to react.
It can work. If it is not a simple mugging over stuff but, say, a group taking a hostage for later filming of a beheading, it is one of the few things (along with running) that has any chance at all. At the minimum, with this level of aggression and mindset, you will force the threats to make a choice: they can run or they can kill you then and there. You allow nothing else to work.
It's an alien mindset and there are more people who believe they could do it if necessary than actually can. Many, probably, that will think this is just like #5, fighting, only harder and more serious. It is nothing like fighting. It is slaughtering. And if you go there, you will kill or cripple someone... For a camera.
This is why the question was hard to answer completely in a short session. It's also an example of why prescriptive answers set students up for failure. If I tell him, "Just give up the camera, you'll be okay" that might be the right answer, 70% of the time. But if he is sure it is the right answer, he quits looking for all the little clues that this one is different.
I (or any other instructor) won't be there if he needs to make the decision. We won't see what he sees. He need to show what to look for, not tell what to do.