By: Trevor Thrasher, Director of Training
Here are everyday personal safety tips you should be aware of at all times.
Everything starts with awareness. Keep your head up and out of your phone. The first thing criminals or predators look for is potential victims who are unaware and easily surprised. Watch animals in the wild — they take turns keeping their head up when grazing. Don’t be a media grazer. Check your phone when you have a bubble of safety, not when walking down a dark alley. It really can wait.
2. Choose your route.
If you feel like it’s a dangerous place, it probably is. Why take a chance? Picking a better route might allow you to burn a few more calories as well. Park in well lit areas, walk where the public can see you, and avoid areas where criminals can easily hide or isolate you for an attack.
3. Spot the threat early.
Most criminals and even terrorist go through a cycle of attack where they select their victims, gather information about how they behave, wait for the right moment, then attack. If you pay a little bit of attention, you can spot the “tells.” Are they doing one thing but paying attention to something else? Are they loitering or hanging out where there is nothing to do? Are they following someone? Do they seem out of place? Is their behavior odd? People who multi-task often look awkward and their movements are not smooth and natural. If criminals are watching you, looking for witnesses, and trying to act like they are doing something innocent, they are multi-tasking and can be easily noticed.
4. Pay attention to your intuitions.
All of us, in the words of Gavin Debecker, are born with the “Gift of Fear.” Our instincts guide us to pay attention to certain things and use caution when appropriate. People will feel this alarm system in different parts of their body. Some will feel lump in their throat, some will feel tightness in their chest. It’s like your own personal “Spidey Sense.” Anytime it kicks in, pay attention to it and do something about it. Unfortunately, social conditioning makes people easy targets and they often ignore their feelings of fear because they don’t want to seem rude. If you feel someone is unsafe, they probably are. Find a way to keep your distance and prepare yourself casually to take immediate action without drawing notice.
5. Be Assertive.
Criminals will often use a ruse to get close to you and distract you before an attack. If someone tries to distract you or invade your personal space, keep or gain some space using your your voice, face, and posture. Master the art of assertiveness which can be used for a polite but firm response against annoying solicitors, or even as a warning and personal alarm that lets the person know you aren’t the one to attack today. Get in a strong stance, get your hands up palms out, and practice saying “Back Off!” in a deep, “bad dog voice.” at various levels of volume. If someone keeps coming at you after you have done that, they are probably a serious threat and you need to take action.
Many women carry OC spray, tasers, small knives, high intensity flashlights, and various striking devices in their purse… somewhere. When you need it fast, somewhere is not going to cut it. Keep your defensive tools in the same spot in your purse separate from other items. Make sure you can get to it quickly and practice covert methods of getting it ready without exposing it. This will enable you to get it into action immediately. You must practice! On a side note, avoid stun guns that shoot an electrical arc. They are nearly worthless. Shake up you OC Spray/Mace can once in a while and test it once a month with a short spray. Nearly half the cans I check in ladies purses are clogged and useless. A high intensity flashlight with a quick activation button is a great addition to your purse that can be used to blind attacker or to find your way to safety and alert others.
7. Practice your acting skills.
At 88 Tactical, we say that compliance is always conditional, temporary, and deceptive. When you find yourself in a situation where compliance is the best initial option, don’t get stuck in the mental loop of only being a victim. Look for windows of opportunity to escape or attack, or lure the criminal into letting their guard down, then take decisive action. You have to have a balance. Appearing too cooperative may encourage the criminal to escalate the situation and being too much of a pain or resisting half way may cause the criminal to violently react. I have stated that a good actor is more dangerous than a good tactician and it has unfortunately been confirmed at various points in my life. On a side note, this deception works in reverse as well. Do not believe the good words of a bad man. Believe it or not, rapists, murderers, and other felons will lie to you. Just because they promise not to hurt you if you cooperate doesn’t mean you will be safe. They lie and deceive as a profession.
8. Avoid secondary locations.
If a criminal gets a chance, they will try to get you somewhere isolated where they can do whatever they want to you and no one will be around to save you. Do everything you can to avoid being taken to a secondary location. If the criminal has a gun and tells you get in the trunk of your car, most of the time you are going to be better off running away and dodging bullets or even getting shot where someone can find you. I have even heard one self-defense instructor say he would drive his whole family off a cliff and take his chances rather than let a criminal take his family somewhere isolated away from help. The best time to escape is most often early when things are still chaotic.
9. Get mad dog mean.
This is a line from an old Clint Eastwood movie and it is completely relevant to self-defense. When you are under actual attack, fight with all of your heart. Aggressively go for the vulnerable areas of your attacker like the eyes and groin with full force, using anything and everything you have. Scream, make noise, and draw attention. These are all things criminals hate and will avoid. Don’t think of defending yourself as the last option; it may very well be your best option. When the time comes to go on the offensive, get mad dog mean.
10. Lock your doors.
Many, if not most, home invasions start when someone in the house opens the door for a stranger. Don’t do it. The same goes for car doors. As soon as you are in, lock the doors, start it up, and put it in gear. If danger approaches, hit the gas and drive, drive, drive. If you are going to jump on your phone, rearrange things in your car, or do anything distracting, lock the doors, put it in gear, keep your foot on the brake, then look around and check your mirrors first.
11. Train like it’s real.
Seek training from a competent organization that prepares you for violence through realistic training that simulates real world events. Focus on easy, practical skills and courses that teach you when to act and prepare you to do it immediately and decisively. Also, get serious about your fitness. You can’t be concerned about your personal safety if you don’t worry about your health and fitness. Bad diet, lazy lifestyles, and smoking kill way more people than criminals.