Using random words to save your life

karate random words self defense

A couple of weeks ago at my Tang Soo Do Class (Korean Karate), we were practising some self-defense. I was learning ways to try to free myself if someone grabbed me by my wrists or by the neck. Then the instructor said that first, you need to decide if you really need to fight. If they want your money just give it to them, but if you think they mean you harm and you can’t just run…

try asking them “what they watched on TV last night.”


He explained that if you talk about something completely random, it is so unexpected that it takes a person’s brain a while to process and work out. It basically confuses them and puts them in a different state. That confusion could be just enough to allow you to get away.

I remember reading about a similar thing in one of Derren Brown’s books

I was coming back from a hotel at about 3am one night and there was a guy in the street with his girlfriend. He was really drunk, clearly looking for a fight and he started kicking off at me. I had a routine ready in my head for this sort of situation and it worked a treat on this occasion.

He asked me that typical aggressive rhetorical question — “Do you want a fight?” You can’t say “yes” or “no” — you’ll get hit either way. So, I responded with, “The wall outside my house is four-feet high.”

I didn’t engage at the level he was expecting me to, so immediately he was on the back foot. He came back with, “What?” and I repeated my bizarre response. I delivered the line in a completely matter-of-fact tone, as if he was the one who was missing something here. Suddenly, he was confused. All his adrenaline had dropped away, because I’d pulled the rug from under him. It’s the verbal version of a martial-arts technique called an ‘adrenaline dump’, whereby you get the person to relax before you hit them.
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So how does this relate to creativity?

Random words can help boost creativity

Using random words to assist with idea generation, can help change your typical thinking patterns. Normally you would do some research and then draw on past experiences. A random word throws something new and unexpected into the mix. Your brain is forced to come up with new connections it wouldn’t have otherwise made.

How can you connect the random word with your challenge in some way?

Let me give you an example, let’s assume you wanted to come up with new furniture ideas for round the home.

Go to a random word generator and generate a word (I tend to use nouns more for this, but experiment a bit)

random word generator creative thinking

The first word I got was transportation. So off the top of my head, I could perhaps start thinking about:

• wheels – more portable furniture

• double decker bus – could there be things stacked on top of one another, a shelf built into the top of a sofa.

• tracks – Could there be some sort of track system on the wall where you could slide on different storage units. Maybe furniture could be made of old railway sleepers.

• kids furniture could be made in the shape of vehicles – a bed within a bus shape

• car seats – refurbished into gaming chairs

• furniture built from old aircraft engines or parts

What ideas could you come up with?

Once you’ve exhausted your first word try another until you have lots of ideas to work with. You can also use random words in conjunction with Mind Mapping which I will talk about in a future post.

One of the things I like about using the random word creative thinking technique is that you can use it alone. Instead of needing another person around with an additional point of view, it injects fresh thoughts into your head. I have also found it useful when I have had to work on the same or similar projects multiple times.

If you try it let me know how you get on.