I often tell people that having “street smarts,” does not mean you know how to fight. True street smarts is knowing how to avoid a violent situation altogether. I apply the same strategy to self-defense. Violently and physically defending yourself should always be a last resort, when all other options are exhausted. By adopting a mindset of prevention rather than reaction, you can learn to avoid potentially dangerous situations altogether. Although there are several other strategies one can employ, the four mentioned below are what I consider to be the most important, and I practice them every single day.
1. Situational Awareness
The first step to self defense is being totally aware of your surroundings at all times. Immediately upon entering a building, locate all exits. Scan for suspicious persons, or people wearing loose or heavy clothing (a great place to hide weapons). Look for possible ambush sites: a dark alley, a large van with tinted windows, etc. Listen for sounds of distress, loud bangs, shouts, etc. The goal is to avoid placing yourself in a dangerous situation, or to quickly find a way out of one.
2. Trust Your Instincts
If a situation makes you uncomfortable, there is probably good reason for it! Listen to your gut. If you need to relocate your position, go across the street, take a different route, or simply go home, then do it! It is better to be safe than sorry.
3. Have a Plan
The best way to plan for having to employ self defense is to play the what-if game. In your mind, ask questions like: “What will I do if that person approaches me? What will I do if he has a weapon in his hand? Where can I go? Can anyone help me? Am I able to fight?” By mentally role playing, you can minimize the startle affect if you are faced with a self-defense situation, which can cost you valuable seconds. Reacting quickly is an essential component to your safety, whether you are going to run away, or be forced to fight to defend yourself. If you suspect you may have to fight, make it your goal to strike hard and fast with the intention of then getting away quickly. Self-defense is about protecting yourself and not about harming your attacker. Although causing to them harm may be essential to aid in your escape, once you have a moment to retreat, you should do so as quickly as possible.
“In a crisis situation, you fall back onto your highest level of training.” If you are ever threatened, and don’t have any training or experience with self-defense, you may freeze, panic, or underreact. This could cost you your life. Training prepares your mind and body for the mental and physical stress of combat. It takes away the thought process of “what should I do now,” and turns it into raw instinct. Taking a self-defense course is a great idea, but be sure to regularly practice those techniques so they become second nature. Brutal assaults take only seconds to happen. Training your body to react instinctually before your mind can fully process the situation could prove to be life saving.
Stay Alert, Stay Alive
Remember, self-defense is a state of mind and does not always have to involve violence. Practice these tactics and learn to avoid dangerous situations altogether. If the unfortunate does happen, however, fight for your life and get away.
If you found this article helpful, please consider listening to our Changecast about Self Defense, where Dennis and Joel discuss personal experiences and self-defense strategies.