When saying goodnight to a group of friends after dinner, you have to walk alone across the dark street to where your car is parked. You get off work very late on a Saturday night, and have to wait quite awhile before the bus shows up. You decide to take the scenic route to meet a friend at the park, and you walk on a path that weaves through an isolated forested area. Deciding to meet someone for a blind date, you wait on a park bench. An unfamiliar cab driver takes you home. A stranger stops you on the street, and asks for directions. You are alone in an elevator with someone you don't know.
These are just a few of the scenarios we put ourselves in every day. Some of these situations seem innocuous, and we will barely give a second thought to them. The more regularly we find ourselves in these places, the more run of the mill they will become.
Eventually we might not notice how sketchy some of these situations can be. And of course, some might seem more obviously risky than others, but perhaps we can't avoid them due to a work schedule or the area in which we live.
Check out the tabs below to review the self defense guide we put together.
There is no way to ensure your
safety in any situation. This is just one of the facts of life. Although
we can't control what goes on around us, there are many decisions we can
make in an effort to secure our own personal safety. The problem is, you
can be in what seems like the safest environment in the world, and still
come into danger. Being near home, in broad daylight, in a public place or
with a group of friends seem like situations in which you might feel
safer, but the truth is that you never can control what a dangerous person
might have in mind, what he or she would do to get what they want.
are a number of different practices of self defense that anyone can learn
to use. Physical self defense is commonly associated with various martial
arts, in unarmed situations, and there are many martial arts weapons
available that are small enough to carry on your daily tasks, should you
want the feeling of safety and security that comes with being able to
physically defend yourself. Defending yourself while under attack requires
a quickness and preparedness of mind. It is common for people to freeze
when under stress, therefore being unable to defend themselves properly.
Having the knowledge and ability
to defend yourself physically against an attacker is imperative, though it
is the most dangerous solution, and the last situation we want to find
ourselves in. It is important to take whatever steps we can to avoid
finding ourselves having to make the difficult choice of fighting back. A
lot of this is knowing how to pay attention, and how to look like someone
who shouldn't be messed with or like a person who is simply not an easy
target. It is important to be ready to react to a possible attacker who is
approaching you, as the right words or body language can work in your
favor to scare someone off. This is the goal, when someone is coming at
you, for the risk that you will get hurt increases greatly when physical
contact is made.
a weapon for self defense on your person is just like having insurance.
It's an incredibly important back-up that you hope to never have to use.
Many people are turned off by the idea of carrying a weapon. And while
violence should regularly be avoided, it is important to remember that it
can sometimes save your life. It's important to remember that just because
you have a weapon, it doesn't mean you will ever necessarily have to use
it. And if you do have to, it is important to have the mental clarity and
the knowledge of how to use your weapon correctly at a moment's notice.
we get into the different options for self defense weapons, let's talk
about the steps we can take to avoid having to use them. First, as simple
as it sounds, you must be aware of your surroundings. Sure, you walk the
same few blocks every day from your home to get to the subway or bus, and
vise versa. In the morning, the streets are crowded, well-lit, and
everyone moves at an even pace, focused on their individual tasks. But in
the evening, the crowds have dispersed, and you find yourself alone for a
Clearly, avoiding being isolated
on a dark street is best, but you can't always do that. There are
circumstances that are out of your control such as the unavailability or
irregularity of transportation, and at what inconvenient hour you might
have to leave work or school. These things that are out of your control
might mean you will find yourself in this situation often.
So what to do? Look around you.
Keep your eyes open. If you travel the same route every day, pay attention
to the people you see. You will likely notice others on their routines.
The man working at the corner store who you see bringing the trash out
every evening, the woman who buys coffee every morning. Becoming familiar
with how others move can come in handy, if you ever find yourself in a
dangerous situation. These strangers could end up being your allies, and
you might be able to help them, should they need it.
someone takes the same bus as you, and this person also lives in your
building. You can make eye contact, smile, and introduce yourself. Simple
introductions to people who you see daily on your routine will make you
more familiar to them, more of a person. Putting a name with your face
might mean they will begin to look out for you each day.
If you live in the same building
with someone and take the same transportation home, suggest that you walk
home together. Another set of eyes can never hurt, and it works both ways.
If you don't have anyone on your route to befriend, having friends meet
you at the subway station or bus stop is a great idea.
Of course this isn't always
possible, but it is worth looking into. Your chances of being attacked go
down significantly when you travel in groups. And no matter what your
situation is, it might be wise to arm yourself with a weapon for self
defense, just in case the unthinkable happens.
Aside from keeping your eyes
open and noticing everything around you, it is important that you walk at
an even, confident pace. People who look like they know where they are
going, or who look physically strong and quick (even if you don't believe
you are, having confidence makes you look street-smart to other people)
are less likely to be victimized. Distracted, intoxicated, or confused
people can seem to be easy targets.
think about a roommate of mine who was mugged just outside the door to our
apartment. We lived on a busy street corner, and the time was about 10 pm.
She was getting off her bicycle, was wearing headphones, and had been out
drinking with friends. I'm guessing she looked more distracted than some
others on the street, and she must have stood out to her attacker. Or, she
was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The assailant stood in
front of her and demanded her purse. She said No, thinking that would
scare him off. It didn't. He punched her, grabbed her purse, and ran. We
are all very thankful that nothing worse happened to her.
It's difficult to say what you'd
do if you found yourself in the same situation. Popular opinion says to
play it safe; if someone demands something that is yours, especially if
that person has a gun or another weapon pointed at you, you give them what
they are demanding of you. It's generally thought that it isn't worth
finding out what this person is willing to do to get when they want. If my
roommate had just handed the purse over, for example, the man probably
would have just taken it and run away, without becoming violent with her.
And if she hadn't had those drinks, hadn't just gotten off her bicycle
with the rush of endorphins from the exercise, would she have said No so
defiantly? Your mood, state of mind, and level of intoxication can greatly
affect how you will react to a stressful situation.
friend of mine got held up by a person with a knife. She had just gotten
off her job and was feeling annoyed and slightly aggressive about her
lousy day at work. She laughed in the guy's face, saying No, I'm not
giving you anything. This, she admitted later, was not a smart choice, but
she was feeling pretty sure of herself, and very tough. She said she
wouldn't have made that same decision if put in the situation again.
Luckily for her, the attacker (a teenager, probably not much of a trained
criminal) turned around and ran away.
When someone has a weapon
pointed at you, it's impossible to know if it's for looks or if it's
something they're willing to use. Although it is impossible to know,
having a plan for how to act in a dangerous situation is a major part of
having good situational awareness. And trying to get into the head of an
attacker before something happens can be a very useful tool.
is important to remember that you have no idea what is going on in the
assailant's mind, or what they may be capable of. Who knows if the man who
stole my roommate's purse was desperate for drugs? Maybe he was so
desperate because he had to feed his family? There is no justifying
threatening someone, stealing their property, or harming them. But it is
important to remember that people don't usually attack strangers unless
they are truly desperate. In the case of the attacker having a mental
illness, there is just no way to say how he or she will react to you.
Having situational awareness is
paying attention to what's going on around you. Seeing what could happen
to you at a given time, in a given place, and figuring out how to deal
with it before something bad happens, is a must. Looking around you is the
first step in being situationally aware. When you get off your bus and
head home, what do you see in front of you? To your left? Right? And, very
importantly, behind you?
the streets are empty except for you and another person, what are they
doing? Are they staring at you, are they cutting across the street to walk
where you are walking? Sometimes, your instincts can save you from having
to deal with an aggressor. Making eye contact with someone can let them
know that you are aware of them. Crossing the street can let them know you
would prefer to not pass them. Sometimes these things can be seen as
aggressive behaviors, and this can work in your favor.
Avoiding distractions while you
are walking alone, at night, or through sketchy areas is imperative to
having good situational awareness. This means avoiding texting while you
walk. A recent study had volunteers text while walking on a treadmill, and
the results were a 50% decrease in the ability to walk at an even gait, or
to walk straight. Anything can happen if you have your face down, and your
mind somewhere else.
on the phone, too, can prove dangerous, though it is not a bad idea to
have your phone in your pocket, with a text or call ready to send to
someone nearby if you should get into trouble. Listening to music in
headphones can signal to an attacker that you are not paying attention,
and this should also be avoided. It is good to be able to hear what's
going on around you, too. Listening to footsteps or a bicycle speeding up
behind you can often give you just enough time to be prepared.
When driving to the store, avoid
parking in lots where people could be sleeping. Park as close to the
well-lit fronts of stores as possible. Many big-box stores have huge lots,
but some have security guards standing by, or are watched by closed
circuit televisions. Even so, you are still on your own and need to be
aware of everything. Where you parked, the route you'll take to get to the
front of the store, and if you see others in their cars, just sitting
there. Hold your weapon in the palm of your hand on the walk there, and
always make sure you know what's going on around you, 360 degrees.
defense weapons should only be used on another individual in the event
that you find your life is threatened. Many people are turning to self
defense batons, knives, brass knuckles, and various weapons for martial
arts. When used as they are intended to, these weapons can be great
protection. You should practice with these tools and become good at
finding them easily, and using them efficiently before you ever have to.
Before it comes to fighting back physically, it is useful to know how to
diffuse a dangerous situation, whenever possible.
If you see someone coming toward
you as you're loading groceries into your car, that is a red flag. Anytime
a stranger makes a beeline for you, it should be a red flag. Now, of
course not everyone is out to get you. But having good situational
awareness also means asking why is this stranger approaching? It is useful
to be aware, and slightly suspicious of, the "good samaritan." It's just a
man who wants to help you load groceries into your car. Do you really need
the help? Why would a stranger be coming up to you at all? You have to
remember, that although you are in public and anything can happen, you do
have the right to let someone know that you don't want to talk or to be
best thing to do with your body should a stranger be approaching is to
hold your hands up in front of you. This is the universal sign for STOP.
Any person who doesn't have it in mind to attack you should back off when
seeing that. If they keep coming, there is likely danger here. Saying "I'm
sorry, I can't help you!" even if they are still talking is a firm and
polite way to put your foot down. Time and distance are your friends in an
attack situation, so when possible create space between you and your
would-be assailant while using this command response.
If they keep coming, or keep
talking, it will be wise to have your weapon available should they make a
move. Being vocally loud and clear here can help, especially if you are in
a parking lot or a place where others, who might not notice what's going
on, are moving from place to place. Causing a scene will usually draw
attention to you and often, if a commotion is made, the attacker will get
scared and move on. Sometimes it is possible to diffuse a situation before
it goes horribly wrong, and keeping your cool and trying to stop a
situation from going from bad to worse is one of the most important
actions you can take for good situational awareness.
are a lot of weapons for self defense out there, and there will be at
least one that fits well with your lifestyle or situation. There are many
small, but powerful, weapons available that you can have on your
day-to-day keychain. Small, seemingly innocuous, and easy to get to, these
weapons are increasingly popular. Self defense batons, or kubatons, can be
readily available in your bag or on a keychain. Cat keychains and brass
knuckles are also very popular, and effective. These can be worn unnoticed
in defense while you make your walk the few blocks to your house. A small
bottle of pepper spray can disarm an attacker, long enough for you to make
your escape or draw attention to your situation.
Using self defense knives and
other more specific weapons can take a lot of practice. When it comes to
knives, especially, it can be unrealistic to think that it will be useful
in a defense situation. Attacking or threatening someone with a knife is
certainly more common than being able to defend yourself with one. For one
thing, unless you have a knife in your hand when you find yourself under
attack, it is unlikely that you will be able to pull it out in time to use
It might be useful to show a
knife to your attacker if they are unarmed, and to announce that you have
a weapon. In certain cases, the threat coming from you, the victim, might
be enough to scare away your attacker. It might be enough to scare them,
but it also might just make them more angry. This is why brass knuckles,
pepper spray, self defense batons and other keychains are good to have.
Carrying one of these items, or having it in your pocket or purse is more
realistic than carrying a knife in your hand. These weapons are easier to
get to, and require only force, which your body can produce in a highly
stressful situation, while the sharpness or bluntness of the weapon does
best preparation for an attack is having complete awareness of where you
are, and what is around you. Street smarts are important, and having the
skills to get yourself out of a bad situation can be constantly learned
and reevaluated. It is necessary to remember that your safety begins with
your ability to be prepared for anything that might come your way. Having
self defense weapons to give you backup is great insurance. With this
combination of situational awareness and a small weapon you are
comfortable with, you will gain the confidence that anyone can pick up on,
that you are not to be messed with.