In essence, defense is an aspect of preservation, be it of your person or of something else, and as such, should be considered in relation to the whole. Just learning how to handle a physical assault, while arguably a potentially vital competence to have, is not going to do much on its own, in terms of safety.
In this article we will take a look at some of the things that are valuable to consider in the context of self-preservation, besides a competence in physical altercation.
While second and third priorities may differ, the first priority of any fight is to get out of it with as little damage as possible to that which you fight to protect. The best way to do that is obviously to avoid the threat altogether.
All Good In Theory, But What Can I Actually Do?
There are many factors to consider, and much to be said about each factor, but let’s begin by lining some of them up:
- Don’t provoke unnecessarily
- Don’t act like a victim
- Stay in control
- Stay aware
Don’t Provoke Unnecessarily
The basic principle of it is “Don’t walk around Harlem with a shirt saying ‘White Supremacy’ in big, obvious letters”. While in reality the choices you are faced with may be less extreme, they will often be about as obvious, if you simply take the time to consider them.
Can what you are doing, saying, wearing or carrying be provocative in the context, either in the form of an insult, or in the form of a challenge? Both of which can get you in trouble.
This, unfortunately, includes dressing in a way that may be seen as a sexual invitation. Dressing according to promiscuous stereotypes, may invite attention from men whom it can be dangerous to reject. While in a perfect world this would not be true, it is the world we live in, and while the fault of an assault always lies completely with the offender, from a perspective of self-preservation it is a factor that should not be overlooked.
Don’t Act Like A Victim
The other side of the coin of not being provoking, running away from confrontation can also make you look weak in a way that invites so called “predatory” behavior, so how does one avoid being challenging while still giving an impression of strength?
A key guideline is to be determined and strong when it comes to yourself, but not trying to boss someone else around. An example is using the phrase “I would like to be left alone, please”, in contrast to for example “Get away from me”. The difference being that the second phrase tells the other person what to do, showing that you are putting yourself above that person, whereas the first one does not.
In the example, we see also an example of another key guideline: Be nice.
Being clear and determined, repeating yourself in a clear, not too quiet voice, looking someone straight in the eye, turning towards someone with an open body language, etcetera, are all signs of strength that go very well with politeness. This allows you to avoid looking like a victim, while also not being provocative in any way.
Stay In Control
So, it’s Friday night, you want to go out, and you want to appear attractive, which can mean dressing and acting in a way that may be provoking. You are aware that there is risk associated with this, but you decide that it’s worth it. Following the above advise can get you a long way, but there is more you can do:
- Stay with people, whether they are your friends or just crowds and people in general. The more the merrier. Not just in the bar/club or wherever you are, but also on the way there, and on the way home.
- Don’t get too intoxicated. If you do get intoxicated while out, try to get a chance to sober up a bit before heading home.
- Use clothes you can move in, particularly when it comes to shoes. Being able to run can be a deciding factor not just in escaping a situation, but in avoiding one. Victims who look like they can run are less inviting that those who can barely walk.
In the next and final part, we will look at awareness, as well as some other important factors.
“Stay aware” does not mean “develop clinical paranoia”, but is more in the spirit of “apply course you can go into things like natural guards when standing, covering sensitive areas in a natural way when in close quarters with strangers, sitting in corners, and so on, but unless you’re in a really dangerous area, measures like that may be unnecessary. In any case, here’s James Boyd with some thoughts on the subject:
Awareness is at its most immediate about enabling all senses. Meaning that for example, when walking home alone at night, wearing headphones could be a bad idea. You want to be able to scan your surroundings using your ears, as well as your eyes.
Of course, enabling the senses is merely creating prerequisites for awareness. Awareness also means engaging your senses. For example, wherever you are in public, scan your immediate vicinity occasionally, and subtly. Is anyone talking about you, looking, pointing? Is anyone throwing you angry glances? Again, don’t expect it, or fear it, just keep a sober eye on things, and many situations will be possible to avoid.
Awareness doesn’t have to be this immediate, however, but also includes preparation. What are the most common crimes in your residential area, for example? When you go out somewhere, or even just at your workplace, do you know where the emergency exits are? Backdoors or other escape routes? Fire-extinguishers?
It’s also about being aware of common scenarios. A car lightly bumps the back of your car, you step out, the driver asks “is there any damage?”, you bend over to check, get hit over the head, and a second person steals your car.
A person asks for the time, you raise your arm and take your eyes off the person, at which point your arms are grabbed and the person in front of you attacks you.
Two people argue loudly and aggressively right next to your table. You have nothing to do with the situation, so you mind your own business and ignore them, but all of a sudden you get punched in the face.
You’re withdrawing cash at an ATM, and suddenly someone rushes at you, strikes at your face a few times, and then tears your wallet from your hands.
Always watch out for the infamous “unmarked van”, which will eat you up if you’re not careful.
These and other scenarios are among the many classics, but they differ depending on who you are, and what environments you frequent. Having a basic knowledge of what is most likely to happen to you makes it easier to know when to perk your ears up, and what to keep an eye open for.
Have alarms and smoke-detectors. Don’t tell people when you’re going away and if you do set up your lights to turn on and off during the night. Dogs are one of the best deterrents to intruders. Keep your doors locked, have a plan of action during emergencies and practice it with your family so that everybody knows what to do.
Get at least a basic knowledge of first aid, from cleaning wounds, positioning an unconscious person and the Heimlich-maneuver, to more difficult situations.
Health and fitness
Stay healthy and in good shape, and help your family to do the same. Eat right and stay active.
If you’re in a fight, for any reason, you’ve already failed, and chances are you’re going to have to pay for it, but with enough study and training you may get a second chance. Generally, this is the by far smallest part of self-preservation, but it may also be the most difficult, which is why it gets so much attention.