This is the 3rd in a series of essays on the importance of self-defense and physical power. I am not an expert on self-defense, nor a physical fitness guru. I do not condone violence, but advocate taking whatever action or inaction is needed to survive potentially dangerous situations. Not every situation is defensible through physical force.
Today’s post will be an exercise in the obvious for most people. Be aware of your surroundings and be able to move. This means moving mindfully and being ready to react.
Look Ma, No Hands! Or Eyes!
There is no question we are a distracted bunch of humans. Just doing a preliminary search on the internet under the terms “mugging and texting” brought up a spate of news stories around the country. This guy barely noticed that a large bear was heading his direction, and would not have been in a position to defend himself against a human assailant. This is a pretty obvious tip – watch where you are going. If you can’t see a potential attack, you can’t prevent or avoid it.
Technology is addictive – I find myself checking my phone at random times, barely even realizing that I’m doing it. I decided to draw a line in the sand. When I’m on the move, out in the open, unprotected – phone calls, emails and texts can wait. Not only will I be aware, but I’m not giving a would-be thief additional incentive of an easily attainable phone.
Pack Mule or Cheetah?
From the time I was a Girl Scout through time in the military, “be prepared” was emphasized. My backpack contained a full first aid kit, umbrella, books and notebooks in case I had free time, workout gear for over the lunch hour and gadgets aplenty. I was a walking FEMA preparedness trailer, without the actual trailer. Then there was the purse. If I made any purchases, there would be additional bags. Don’t even mention the 50,000 lbs of college textbooks.
Years later, after the birth of my daughter, there was the diaper bag, the stroller, the travel playpen, a bag of toys. Not to mention the helpless, wiggling child. My hands were full and I was completely hobbled. My defense at that moment would have been the fact that an assailant wouldn’t be able to move me and my entourage from Point A to Point B without a posse.
Travel light. Less to steal, less to slow you down. Take 15 minutes. Dump out the contents of your purse, laptop bag, back pack, diaper bag onto the table or counter. What have you NOT used in the last month? Repack your bag leaving those items out.
Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag…and Possibly Shoes
Look at your travel container. Is it necessary or would something smaller be sufficient? I have a personal bias against purses – they seem highly inefficient, distracting, over-packed and incapacitating. Some require that one hand will never be free or that you will walk lopsidedly trying to keep it on your shoulder. Some provide long straps that can be utilized as a weapon against you.
I travel with a small backpack and don’t pack anything in the outside pocket that thieves could easily remove. My hands are free. I leave all unnecessary items at home. Purchases are in one hand and can be easily dropped in the event of attack and/or pursuit.
Shoes. I don’t wear shoes I can’t run in, but that, again, is a personal preference. If you’re going to insist on traveling in flip-flops or heels or other faux footwear, be able to get them off fast or make adjustments so that you can.
Other miscellaneous distractions. Bras and underwear. Seriously! If you have to keep pulling up the straps or fidgeting with yourself, upgrade. Fidgeting is distracting for you, brings unwanted attention and impacts your posture and confidence. Money clips and wads of cash. Really? You just made yourself a target at that last store or restaurant you visited. No one’s impressed except for thieves. Use small amounts of accessible cash. Jewelry. Never mind the attraction of would-be thieves, dangly jewelry can impede escape and get caught by grabbing hands, causing pain and distraction at a time when you need to focus on defense.
This Thing’s Got Wheels
Two wheels. I cycle to the Y for workouts and have seen firsthand the aggressive nature of drivers in vehicles. In addition to cases where the driver of the vehicle was not paying attention or refusing to engage in basic safety by giving the cyclist room, there have been criminal attacks on cyclists as well. In all cases, the number one rule of cycling self-defense is that helmet. In terms of crime and accident prevention, the best tip I’ve seen yet, besides circumstances of travel (time of day and route), is to attach a horn that mimics car horns – loud and unmistakable.
Four wheels. When we bought our most recent car, the remote key would unlock all four doors. This is convenient when traveling with family, but most of my driving is done solo. I took the car into the dealer and had them change the settings so that only the driver’s door would unlock. It means one more step when we travel as a family, but much more secure when I’m alone.
Notice who or what is parked next to your vehicle. The common warning is about the van parked next to your driver’s side. I’ve never had this happen, but I’ve very wary in parking lots. I park farther away if only to give myself a clear visual vantage point of not being surrounded by other vehicles. I scan constantly en route and interrupt grocery loading by frequently looking around.
The idea that we’re going to jump into our cars and tear out of the parking lot often doesn’t happen. Lock your doors once you’re in. Check your mirrors. Take care of business quickly and get on your way.
Be Able to Move Quickly.
Use Your Imagination: If you travel regular routes in the course of going to work or school, or running errands, imagine where criminals could attack. Where could you run? Would you be able to move quickly, dressed as you are or carrying what you normally carry? If you haven’t imagined what it would be like to be attacked, start now. A criminal can and has imagined it. You will react more quickly if you have mentally run through possible scenarios.