The topic of this article is an uncomfortable one that people often don’t want to think about, but it is something that needs to be addressed. If you were attacked on the street, what would you do? Do you know how to defend yourself? Many people don’t.
Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. It sounds a little ominous, but holds good advice. It would be nice if people didn’t seek to hurt others. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work this way and there will always be threats out there. We cannot always rely on other people not to attack us, but you must always rely on yourself to be able to defend yourself from an attack. Here are some self-defense tips to aid you:
Tip #1: Situational awareness
Be aware of your surroundings and scan the environment you are in. Constantly process what is happening around you, at both close distances and further distances. When you are examining a person, focus on their hands (if they are empty, if they are carrying an object/weapon), their body language, and their eyes. Your own mind does a pretty good job of identifying danger and threats, but you can never be too cautious. In addition, knowing where potential escape routes/exits are can only help, especially if danger arises and you need to get away safely.
Avoid looking down at your phone when you are walking. As is the case with texting and driving, your mind will focus more on your phone than the road in front of you - making you a danger to others, while simultaneously putting yourself in danger that could have been avoided to begin with. Do not lose focus of what is going on around you.
If you absolutely have to talk on the phone, make sure your eyes are up and looking around. If you have earbuds or headphones in, consider only putting one side in. This way you can still listen with one ear, while leaving the other ear available to listen to the outside world and what is going on around you.
For more on situational awareness, see the links attached at the end of the article.
Tip #2: Trust your gut
If you feel like you are in potential danger, you very well may be. Our gut feeling can often sense subconscious cues in our environment, so listen to them and act accordingly. If your instincts tell you that you may be approaching a dangerous area or you start feeling uncomfortable/tense, stay on high alert before entering or take an alternative route if one is available.
If something doesn’t feel “right”, it’s probably not. Trust your instincts and be ready to act quickly if danger presents itself.
Tip #3: Remain Calm
If you sense something is wrong or that you may be in danger, your adrenaline levels will increase for a short period of time. This is your fight or flight response. In other words, your body is preparing you to either fight off a threat or escape from one. When you feel this sudden burst of energy, do not be alarmed.
Control your nerves and your breathing. Take a few deep breaths and focus on slow exhales. Do not panic. If you panic, you no longer have full control of your mind or body. Panicking will likely result in poor responses to threats, as our ability to process unfolding events and react in an appropriate, rational manner will be hindered.
Maintain a clear mind and be prepared for a potential attack or incoming threat. Staying calm under pressure and appropriately reacting to danger takes practice (read on to tip #5 for more).
Tip #4: Be prepared to fight
The world is a violent place. Be prepared to fight your way out of a situation.
Don’t be afraid to throw the first strike. One punch or strike is all it takes. This goes both ways. If you wait for them to hit you, one strike is all they may need. On the other side of the coin, one strike for you is all it could take to prevent and put a stop to an escalating conflict.
If a fight does take place, do anything you can to ensure that you will come out of the altercation alive. If you strike, do not stop striking your attacker until you believe that you have neutralized the threat or have created enough distance and delay to safely escape.
Do not go down without a fight. Criminals look for the path of least resistance. The more fight you put up, the more they may rethink their attack. They may find that you are the wrong person to mess with and engaging with you may not be worth the risk. Good news for you - you can get away safely.
Tip #5: Train
“We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” - Archilochus
"Under pressure, you don't rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training. That's why we train so hard" - anonymous Navy SEAL
This tip goes hand in hand with the previous tip (#4). Being prepared to fight works even better if you actually know how to fight. Combat sports training will teach you how to remain calm in high pressure situations and what to do in all areas where a fight may take place (standing up, on the ground, against a wall, etc). It is better to be prepared and not need it, than need it and not be prepared.
Consistently showing up and putting effort into your training sessions will strengthen you physically and mentally. You won’t always have the best training sessions and will most likely not have immediate success after you just start, but over time you will gradually improve. After your first few weeks/months of training, you will feel physically stronger due to the functional strength that martial arts demands and mentally more resilient as you will be put in tough situations that you will learn to endure and overcome.
Relying on muscle memory from the repetitions you get in training will definitely come in handy. You can be drained to the point of exhaustion, but your mind will take your body into auto-pilot, switching immediately into a combat-oriented machine. You will find yourself executing techniques without thinking twice about them, almost as easily as breathing, which can be a game changer in a real world situation. Knowing that you can still fight and know exactly what to do when you are tired is an incredible skill that everyone should absolutely know, especially if they want to have a higher chance of successfully defending themself.
Reasons to train:
Having the capability to defend yourself and others
Being able to neutralize a threat in hand-to-hand and grappling combat
Reinforcing your ability to remain calm in high intensity situations
Understanding how to analyze and adapt in fast-paced environments
Gaining valuable experience on enduring difficulties and learning to overcome them
Improving overall fitness, agility, and athletic ability
Building mental and physical self-confidence, self-control, and self-discipline
Do not rely on a quick 30 second self defense video you saw on social media. Focused, consistent practice is the best method with actual proven results, coming from “everyday” people and professional fighters.
If you are thinking about beginning martial arts training, look for a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, or MMA gym. To help you make your choice, we have attached an article with details on the different types of combat sports gyms around the world.
Links mentioned in article:
Fieldcraft Survival - Situational Awareness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVLv2bRbUzU
Jocko Willink on preventing potential attacks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddEF8cxc8nc
Staring combat sports and finding the right gym for you: https://sanabulsports.com/blogs/news/combat-sports-training-for-beginners
Thank you for reading - we hope you found this article helpful when it comes to safety and self-defense!