“OMG I’m getting mugged NLMAO”: Moving Mindfully

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.

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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 Aware.

Lighten Up.

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.

 

28 Comments on ““OMG I’m getting mugged NLMAO”: Moving Mindfully

  1. I think maybe just as important than not being distracted, is not feeling the overwhelming comfort of familiar surroundings, and letting them lull you into complacency.

    Love the series.

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    • Thanks. I also think that trying to see one’s regular route through the eyes of a criminal can bring a new level of awareness. It’s a tricky thing to be relaxed and alert, but routine and comfort can certainly dull one’s awareness.

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  2. Thanks Michelle for very sound but simple to adopt safety advice. When I recently bought my new car, the dealer asked about the remote key settings and I said I only want to open the driver’s door…so that’s what he programmed.

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  3. Great tips. Thanks. I don’t have a car any more but when I did I was always paranoid in parking lots at night. I always tried tobfind a spot under one of those huge spotlights. And at night I NEVER parked in an underground garage.

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    • I lived for many years without a car, which is why the “pack mule” thing came to mind. I was always hauling stuff!

      On the rare occasion that I have to be somewhere late, I’m super ninja paranoid, parking in well-lit places or near the exit/entrance of the parking garage. Anything that will make it less isolated and more visible.

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      • You can’t be too careful as far as I’m concerned. Or too prepared, as you said. There’s a movie theatre about 8 blocks from where I live. Easily walking distance. But when I go to a later movie and it’s dark when I get out I always take a cab home.

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  4. This is all good advice, Michelle. I’m just beginning to consider the parking situation on campus for the fall semester. Not leaving the building alone at night and remembering keys are for eyes, knees are for groins will be huge.

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    • I’ll be doing one more post after the weapons post regarding some basic self-defense moves. I was somewhat facetious about the keys/knees thing. There is some truth to it, but there are also easier, effective things to do. Hard to fit it all in one post!

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      • One thing I don’t know how I would react to is if someone was in my vehicle after I’d gotten in safely and locked the doors. I always look to see if there’s a lump crouched in the back floorboard. When I see that happen in movies, I wonder, how did they not see someone was in there? THAT would freak me out and I’d probably crash into something.

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        • My interior car lights turn on when I use my remote key, so that’s been a big improvement. Also, I’d like to see an assailant try to hunker down in the back of a Prius. I’d know I had a stupid criminal on my hands right there!

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        • LOL! I can see him now trying to conceal himself under a pile of canvas grocery bags. What a dope! The interior lights, yeah that’s a feature I like about my car too.

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  5. Michelle, wow, you think like my Dad did. I used to always dress in sneakers and jeans, and there were several reasons: ability to move if needed; not overly “advertising” in the sexual sense; and plain old comfort. I have shifted more to flats, loafers or boots lately but all of my footwear is quite comfortable and very mobile.

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    • I think if one is fashion conscious (obviously I am not), there are still plenty of shoe choices that have style and are comfortable. When I wore suits and dress shoes or heels, I always did the 80s thing of switching to tennis shoes before leaving my office. Now, since I work from home, I rarely have to dress in a way that would hobble me but am often amazed to see what people are wearing in the course of their daily life.

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      • I often switch footwear too! On the rare days that I wear (low) heels at work, I always have either flats or tennis shoes to switch into — mostly because I can’t drive stick in heels 🙂

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        • I can’t do much in heels myself except keep my balance and try not to look drunk while I’m doing it. Although, as spiky as they are getting these days, they might make awesome weapons (ala Single White Female, where a heel gets planted in someone’s forehead).

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        • Ha, I’ve thought about that too. Why (and HOW?) are women in action movies always dashing about in stilettos, too? I don’t mind wearing them a few days a month for a sedentary office job, but if I’m fighting crime, I’m putting on something more sensible, thanksverymuch!

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  6. Such good info. You’ve made me rethink the purse and book bag I always tote around. Time to downsize.

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    • For years, I was the consummate planner, trying to pack everything I needed everywhere I went. It’s taken me a long time to realize how little I can get by with and how liberating it is, physically and mentally, to travel light. Although I still regard having a book with me, at all times, as a necessity!

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  7. These are such fantastic bits of advice. “Be aware” sums it up. But, unfortunately, I see tons of people, tons of young women, who are paying attention to that stupid phone in their hands and to nothing else. I have to remind myself to stop daydreaming on the way to work because drivers do NOT stop at stop signs. One other thing – if you carry a big purse, don’t let it dangle there open on your arm. Wish I could force myself to carry a much smaller purse, but I’m not there yet. Thank you so much, Michelle.

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    • Awareness and mindfulness are tough practices for me, no matter the venue. I tend to be a daydreamer as well, so pulling myself into the present is something that I constantly have to do.

      After watching the women I know wrestle with unwieldy purses that seem to be like unending pits where nothing could ever be found, I was glad to change to a smaller bag. At the beginning, I was a little anxious about all the “stuff” I no longer had on hand. It didn’t take long to adjust and now I find myself constantly “decluttering” because too much stuff drives me nuts.

      Purses, like heels, sometimes seem like inventions to purposely hobble women, but that would just make me paranoid, wouldn’t it?

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      • You’re onto something, Michelle. By the way, I love your analytical mind and the way you think deeply about stuff. Yes, there are times I’m a bit paranoid with regards to the contraptions and hackles we woman allow ourselves to be adorned with. I cannot see a women in these huge high platform shoes running from an attacker. That is scary. I truly hate cop shows that include a female cop who wears heels. I am seriously thinking about getting a smaller purse, but the last time I looked the options were slim!

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        • I rarely watch CSI, but the Miami version was an eye-roller the whole way – skin tight pants and spiky heels to examine a dead body and crime scene? How could you possibly concentrate on details and protocol, while staggering about with half your butt crack showing every time you bent down?

          I don’t know if things are much of an improvement from the days of whale-bone corsets and hoop skirts, as the fashion industry seems intent on slowing us down a bit!

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