The most dangerous attack is the one you don’t see coming. If you can’t see it coming, you are caught unprepared and your odds of injury increase dramatically.
When people think of self defense situations, they think about bar brawls, or possibly muggings. Fair enough. All the focus is then on physical maneuvers to protect yourself and inflict damage on your attacker.
In fact, successful defense is a mindset, and it should be switched on at all times. It means identifying potential threats before they attack. It means keeping your eyes open all the time. And it means recognising that violence can happen anywhere.
Let me give you a few recent examples from people I know personally…
A friend of mine was walking through a subway station at 4:30 in the afternoon. It’s a weekday and it’s busy, but it’s a rough area of town.
As he walks through the station a stranger approaches from behind and tries to stab him with a hypothermic needle.
My friend caught the man’s movement in his peripheral vision and moves out of the way, pivoting and spraying his attacker with pepper spray. The threat was neutralised and the young man walked away unharmed.
There were several factors at work in this scenario.
- Preparation before departure. He had already packed the spray in an easily accessible pocket before leaving his house.
- Situational awareness. He wasn’t wandering through the station glued to a smartphone. He had his head up and his eyes scanning his surroundings.
- Readiness to act. When he glimpsed the attacker closing in he moved quickly and immediately reached for his weapon.
- Deploying necessary force. He did not hesitate to spray his attacker, thus avoiding an extended possible altercation with a deranged, needle wielding nutcase.
Consider a second example…
A young, attractive woman I know was walking through the city at night.
She was heading down the sidewalk toward the entrance of an underground parkade, where she had left her car.
She noticed a group of young men walking close behind her at an uncomfortably close range.
Instead of going into the parkade where she would have been cornered and far from help, she stepped to the side, pulled out her cell phone, and pretended to take a call. The men passed her and carried on down the sidewalk.
When they were gone, she entered the parkade.
So nothing dramatic happened here – there was no attempted robbery or stabbing with a hypodermic needle, for example.
Because she didn’t have her earbuds in or her face buried in her smartphone she was able to take action which prevented her from ending up in a potentially dangerous situation.
She used three tools to stay safe…
- Situational awareness. The woman is scanning her surroundings to identify potential threats.
- Threat identification. She has no idea if the group of men are focused on her, or if they are harmlessly walking in the same area. However, walking into a covered space ahead of them provides a much greater opportunity for them to do her harm than staying in full view on the street.
- Threat aversion. By making the quick decision to stay outside and pretending to use her phone she minimises the danger, and discourages the possibility of starting a problem with a verbal exchange. The men are less likely to stop and speak to her with her phone in her ear than they might be if she just stopped and stood there.
There are indications of potential danger that will be more obvious to you if you know a city or a neighborhood well. Locals know “bad” areas of town and hot spots, and are more likely to avoid them or take extra precautions.
While this is useful, you won’t always be in your locale, and even if you are, danger can suddenly emerge even in unexpected places.
As a result, an attitude of constant vigilance should become your default setting.
It means you pack the appropriate gear before you leave home.
It means constantly scanning to avert danger, and being ready to take action at any time.
As a Latin adage has it, Si vis pacem, para bellum. “If you want peace, prepare for war.”