The following will eventually form part of a larger work covering, self defense techniques, self–defense and the law and personal safety strategies. The following is included in this website to provide some useful pointers to personal safety.
Obviously avoid being alone late at night in dangerous areas. Even if in a group of people you can get trouble in some places at daytime as well as night; it can happen in good areas too so the statement of the obvious isn’t that useful in these circumstances, and sometimes there’s some stuff worth seeing and doing in dodgy areas so you have to go there. The following provides some tips re avoiding trouble beyond the obvious.
- Look confident – This can be tough but human predators are just like their counterparts in the animal world: they’ll pick on a target they believe to be easy prey. You look confident by, inter alia:
- walking purposefully with your head held high, observing that which is happening around you
- having smart and tidy clothes and an all-round neat appearance, these make you appear more powerful and less victim-like to a potential attacker.
- wearing black or very dark clothes: in our culture people associate black with power, confidence and a little bit of danger; this goes for predators too and can help put them off.
If you’re not a naturally confident person – and many of you reading this will not be – the above can be very difficult. I get annoyed with self-defence manuals that glibly recite the mantras about strong, self-confident bearing without giving any indication as to how you can achieve a convincing imitation of this whilst being actually pretty scared. Some suggestions follow;
Get to a good self-defense school where you can pick up some tips early on about defending yourself. Look for a good supportive instructor who encourages rather than gets off by telling the class that they’re not very good. When you’re out, think about the successes you’ve had in the class, how you knocked that big guy holding the pad back on his heels with a single punch, how the perfectly executed groin-kick would have put the other guy down of you hadn’t pulled it at the last minute, how you got up the ground so quickly when they were trying to keep you there.
Before you take up any challenge, whether it be doing an exam, a presentation or walking down the street unmolested, think about anything that makes you feel good about yourself, either good things that you have done and are proud of or of these people that love you and value you as a person. Every decent person has a very important value to every other decent person; you are one of those people so be aware of it, feel it show it, and you will greatly reduce the chance of your being a victim.
- Street Positioning and Strategy – Walk on the outside of the pavement, less chance of opportunist attacker grabbing you and pinning you to a wall. Also, re flight from this position, the road offers an option albeit a dangerous one. Run along the side of the traffic first rather than straight into it, shout and try to attract motorists’ attention, when you see the chance, try to cross the road. An attacker is unlikely to pursue in these circumstances.Remain alert to all dangers and adjust accordingly. Example, a couple of days ago I was carrying a large heavy bag through Stratford on the way to a lesson and had to turn down a rough looking backstreet to get to the customer’s house. With the heavy bag I feel more vulnerable than usual and the area is known for street attacks. There were a couple of unsavory looking young men on the corner wearing hoods – by no means all young men who wear hoods up are potential attackers/thieves, but many of the latter do so to avoid identification from cc tv, so be aware – rather than go straight down the street I walked on and found an alternative route. Don’t take any chances you don’t have to. Also, if carrying a large bag in a dangerous area – take a cab. It might cost a bit more but is worth it, as predators love people who have encumbrances that stop them from fighting or running away.Give corners a wide berth, whether you be on the street or in a multi-story car park, walk around corners as far away from them as you can.
On public transport, either stand or get an aisle seat near the exit; if trouble walks onto your carriage in any form, change carriages as soon as you can. On a bus, move away as best as you can, this is easier if you stand near an exit or sit by the aisle.
- Don’t Give them an Excuse – Be aware and be observant but avoid eye-contact with people passing you, some young guys – particularly those with drink inside them – can take eye-contact as a challenge. If you walk past a crowd and some of them give you lip or jostle you slightly, don’t stop to give them your best one-liner riposte or jostle them back. Keep on walking briskly forward in an untroubled fashion. It can be very hard to do this, particularly for men, but what is the point of having a go back? You run far more chance this way of ending up in a physical confrontation, you’ll probably be outnumbered and fighting of any type is dangerous- only do it if you have to! So what if some low-life thinks he’s put one over you? He has nothing in his life- don’t endanger your safety for his sake. (I’m assuming all potential attackers are male here, I realize that this is not 100% true but the vast majority of them are, so for ease of expression I will continue with this.)
- Develop your verbal skills – There’s normally some verbal preamble to most confrontations so practice accordingly – for example, to handle a knife attacker shouting at you practice a self-defense style like Krav Maga which teaches this specifically. In general it’s good to have some phrases in the arsenal which break an assailant’s script (attackers often have a certain verbal scenario in their head such as: “you looking at me you ****? you want a ******* photo? I’m going to ******* do you …”) You can break the script by asking something absurd such as “what’s your favorite form of sherry, dry or sweet?” in the split second this gives you can hit them with a pre-emptive strike and run away or begin to make good your escape straight away. (Re pre-emptive strikes, this document is not about techniques but one doing so will follow soon)Have replies ready to questions such as “what are you looking at” which won’t escalate the situation. Something like “I’m sorry I though I was just staring into space, Apologies if I caught your eye” delivered with a firm confident voice can help. If the guy still wants to fight he’ll carry on, here you need to get into the “fence” stance which I will talk about in the next document and is now quite a large part of what I teach.
- Don’t be left incommunicado or isolated –The following points are very importantCarry a spare mobile and/or a working ‘phone card, next to your skin if possible, (not in a handbag if you’re a lady)Memorize the number of a local trusted cab firm and if you’re away from home, make sure you pick up the local firm’s number and keep it close to your skin. (not in a handbag if you’re a lady)
Make sure that at least one contactable person knows where you are going and knows when to raise the alarm if you’re not back by a certain time. In the real world not all of us are wholly honest with people around us re what we’re doing – this can be dangerous, make sure at least one trusted person knows where you are and when you’re supposed to be back.
People often get in real trouble if they become isolated for any reason and vulnerable to all kinds of dangerous people – make sure you have an escape route. This applies particularly to women who have had their handbag stolen, hence the emphasis above on keeping spare communication devices next to your skin. Buy a travelers money belt and store spare cash and communication devices in there; I travelled a lot in South and Central America a few years ago and learned to love my money belt.
- Have a Password – Sounds dramatic but if you’re in an extreme position and are not able to speak freely if somebody contacts you, have a password or phrase such as “my knee still hurts” which alerts that person that something is wrong. May sound a bit like the movies but no harm in having one as grim things do happen and not just to other people.
- ATMs – Take your cash out during the day when it’s nice and busy around the ATM. Try and avoid using ATMs in dangerous areas, pay for your round by card if you need to. If you must use them, check the surrounding area before you go to them, have your everyday object weapon ready (see below) and get in and out very quickly. Best to have spare cash always available next to your skin (see below)
If Attacked or Threatened
This is not a manual of fighting skills or techniques so the following just gives advice on how to get out without getting hurt or damaged.
- Hand something over then run – Many schools recommend a good loud guttural scream in the mugger’s face once you know you’re under threat and then hit them and run or just hit them. This may work for some people but not for everyone nor does it work in all circumstances. I much prefer the following: carry readily available a purse or wallet with some coins in, some notes, preferably foreign, and an old mobile phone. Throw this to one side of the attacker, say “there, have it” and run hard the other direction, scream loudly then by all means, hopefully he’ll pick up the purse quickly and then run off away from you.Some people recommend full co-operation with street robbers but bear in mind that more and more attacks these days are accompanied by violence even after the successful theft: it’s a judgement call given the circumstances but I would recommend that, unless wholly impossible, get away from that situation as soon as you can.
- If taken down or grabbed, struggle like hell – Various figures are quoted, but in general it is believed that about 70% of women who struggle violently against potential rapists avoid that hideous assault. Most of these ladies have had no formal training, they’ve just gone for it, made a lot of noise, bit, scratched etc. Obviously it’s good if you have some self-defense background to fall back on in these circumstances but even if you haven’t, fight back. to give yourself a chance.
- Finally, learn to use everyday objects as weapons – Minimal training is necessary to make the following effective. Carry readily available – maybe in the emergency purse or wallet described above – a strong biro which has run out so you can expose the nib, putting this through someone’s eyeball will ensure that they do not chase you for a while. A credit card cut in two with a nice serrated edge is a very useful weapon if applied with a hooking strike to the carotid artery on the side of the neck..A set of keys is OK to use but nothing like as traumatic to an aggressor as the pen nib and the credit card.
A lot more can and will be written on this subject by me and by others. Please take the above as an intro which I will soon be following up. I will be very grateful for feedback by all the recipients of this document.