10/14/2012: "Strategy: awareness"
Pretty much everybody agrees that the first strategic line of self defense is awareness. Herewith, some of the things we point out both in class and to attendees at our self-defense seminars. We'll be posting other entries on strategy in the near future.
Your brain is your single biggest weapon.
Awareness is the single biggest part of self defense. Make it a part of your daily life to observe what goes on around you and it will become a habit - and you will also begin to notice how unaware many people are of their surroundings.
You're at the ATM, waiting (and waiting...) for it to go through its motions. Use the time in between steps to look and listen around you. If you're at a drive-up ATM, turn off the radio, and use your mirrors. If you're at a walk-up ATM, does it have a reflective surface that helps you see behind you? If you go out for a walk, don't wear headphones, which block out what you can hear - pay attention to what's going on around you. (See the Read beyond the article entry here on our blog.)
When you go to your car - at home or work or when you go shopping - what do you see? What do you hear? The sound of a car being unlocked? Keys? Footsteps? The rustle of a grocery bag?
Pay attention to:
- Distance. You know how close is too close - there's a reason for that: you are vulnerable at close range.
- Where are you?
- What time of day is it?
- Are you distracted? Tired? Not feeling well?
- Are you wearing shoes that you can run in?
- Does something seem out of place - even if you can't put your finger on it? If you're uncomfortable, even if you don't know why, stop what you're doing and leave.
A story from one of our instructors:
I drove to an ATM one evening after class. It was about 9:30 p.m., and dark out. As you turn to the bank, you pass an assisted living facility, which generally has a few cars in the parking lot. One drew my attention - to this day I'm not sure why. I continued on to the ATM, and shortly after I pulled up, a vehicle pulled in behind me. Partly playing a game, and partly curious/suspicious, I did not make my deposit, and instead proceeded out of the ATM and to the light at the main road.
The other vehicle did not immediately follow. I was waiting at the light long enough for it to come up as well - in the lane to my right, and off to my right rear, out of immediate visibility. There was room for it to have pulled even with me, as a car usually would. I went through the light and into the area across the road, where there were various establishments, including, at the far rear, a restaurant. I headed for that, as if I had been lost on the other side of the road. The other vehicle followed, but turned around about halfway down to the restaurant, then turned onto the main road when it reached it.
A couple more stories:
1. A gentleman stopped by the dojo one Saturday after class to check us out. Two of the instructors (one male, one female) were there. As we talked about the dojo and his interest, and he informed us that he had at one point been a bouncer, his attention was on the female instructor, who was in front of him. He did not appear to be aware that the other instructor had moved to a position slightly to the his rear, where he was not immediately visible. We were not testing him, it just turned out to be where we all ended up standing. The gentleman did not turn to see the other instructor or adjust his position to see both of us, though there was room to do so. Had the other instructor been intent on attacking, he could have easily done so. Be aware of your surroundings even if it's a friendly place - plenty of things happen at malls and parties (and when alcohol is involved, the probability of something happening is increased).
2. Two of our instructors, one of whom was not feeling at all well, were walking down the hall at their workplace. They ran into a friend and chatted for a few minutes. The area where they stopped to talk was where the wall bumped out, along a hallway. One instructor noticed that, although the other instructor was feeling ill and his attention was on the person with whom he was talking, each time somebody appeared at the other end of the short hallway (perhaps 25 or 30 feet away) - to his rear where he could not see them, and on a carpeted surface where he could not hear them - he moved sideways to let the person pass, well before they got there, then moved back slightly out into the hall to continue talking after they walked by. When this was pointed out to him afterward, he hadn't even been aware he was doing so. He was clearly keying on something without being conscious of it.