Fundamentals of Self-Defense
Lesson 1: Street Safety
City neighborhoods and downtown areas have much to offer residents and visitors. Being comfortable, while going from place to place, can enhance experiences when working or living in the city or while enjoying the city's many offerings. There are no hard and fast rules for staying safe on city streets. Although traditional safety tips are often helpful, there is not a tip for every circumstance you might find yourself in. Instead, knowing some basic principles of street safety can help guide you confidently through a variety of encounters.
Basic Principles of Street Safety
1. Be aware that people who commit crimes against others on the street typically use three things to their advantage- isolation, surprise, and intimidation.
2. Be attentive to the happenings in your environment and prepare some possible responses.
3. Trust your intuition, your "gut feeling", about people and circumstances. Be flexible. Avoid or remove yourself from situations you feel unsure about.
4. Communicate that you are assertive and that you "belong" by using confident body language and speech.
- Know your personal space boundaries. Take up space when sitting, standing and walking.
- Speak up. Use short phrases and a voice that can be heard. If threatened, be willing to call
attention to yourself.
5. Be aware of "hooks" used to engage you in conversation or to detain you. Keep all interactions on the street brief.
6. Plan ahead to maximize your chances of making a fast exit if you are detained or in a threatening situation.
- Wear functional clothes.
- Know places, in areas you frequent, that you can go to for help.
- Carry as little as possible. Consolidate bags and packages.
- Have keys ready for unlocking doors.
- Keep moving whenever possible.
- Develop techniques that will help you calm yourself in emergency or stressful situations.
- Plan some phrases you can use to communicate that you do not have the time or interest to stop and talk.
Guidelines for Specific Situations
If your are followed…
- Consider looking in back of you as this will eliminate the element of surprise and will communicate that you are not intimidated. Get to a place where there are other people.
If you are harassed by someone who seems to be looking for confrontation…
- Instead of being verbally direct, consider being verbally evasive. Keep moving and say something that confidently communicates that you cannot stop and talk. People who harass are looking for someone they can intimidate.
If you are harassed by someone who seems to want something from you without a confrontation…
- Consider giving just a "look" that communicates your answer, or being verbally direct with respectful, but honest, words. Be aware that insults, challenges and "dirty looks" can escalate a situation beyond what you might be prepared to deal with.
If your path is blocked…
- Assess the situation, including the number of people involved, the distance between you and them, and whether it is deliberate or not. Being attentive to what is up ahead can help you to avoid uncomfortable interactions at close range, with groups, and with people who try to intimidate others. If possible, change course in a matter-of-fact and confident manner. If changing course is not possible, keep moving in a confident manner, keep some space around you and plan what you might say if spoken to.
Some sample phrases, verbally direct and verbally evasive…
- "No" or "Sorry, no."
- "Not interested."
- "I need more space than this."
- "Leave me alone."
- "I don't have time to talk."
- "I have to catch a bus." Or "I'm late for an appointment."
Verbal responses can be enhanced with confident eye contact, a serious facial expression, repetition, a change in tone, and acknowledgment of what the other person wants, e.g., "It sounds like you want to talk. I don't have time to talk."
In conclusion, let me just say this: an attacker does not want to attract attention. There are plenty of easily intimidated people out there and they would rather attack them. If you look and act confident, chances are they will leave you alone and find an easier target. Walk down the street or into a room as if you own it. Be a "Presence". Look people directly in the eye as if to say, "I see you." Move from one place to the other in a purposeful, confident manner as if you know exactly where you are going. If you wish to avoid someone on the street, look them in the eye, to acknowledge their presence, then purposely cross the street.
Think about it. Which person would you choose if you were going to attack somebody? The one who makes herself look small and frightened or the one who looks you in the eye with confidence?
Japan Traditional Karate- Do
U.S.A. National Karate-Do Federation
International Shotokan Karate Federation
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