I have heard a lot of self defence advice in my 20+ years practicing martial arts. There are a many great tips and there are many… not so great tips. I’ve heard my share of average advice and by average I mean, it’s highly unlikely that I would ever be in a situation where this is the best option to take.
So, from a 32-year-old woman who has battled a few demons in the past and spends her time teaching others to do the same, I bring to you a REAL list of tactics that I use everyday. Some of these are so ingrained that I don't even think about doing them anymore. It just happens because that is my habit and you can learn to do them too.
I absolutely cannot say this enough so once more with feeling: BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS. Look around and take in your environment. There are many benefits to doing this besides being able to foresee a potentially dangerous situation. You may notice something strange you wouldn’t have seen before or find an exit point you were previously unaware of. It could also become helpful in a scenario where you or someone else requires assistance, if you know where you are or what someone was wearing for example. This also a great trick for improving memory and can also be meditative tool in keeping you present and focused in the now.
If you’re not naturally a person who looks around then this is something you will need to practice. Start by paying attention to the street names around your area. If you walk or jog you can do this easily. Once you’ve got the street names down you can start increasing your awareness of the type of cars around you. What make or model? Do some of them have funny licence plates or can you make them an acronym for something? If you’re on public transport you can distinguish people by what they’re wearing, items like a blue tie, gold earrings etc. Basically, look up and look around.
I feel that I must clarify: I’m not talking about what you think about or how you perceive yourself. I’m talking about your awareness of what your body is doing. Every woman I have talked with has experienced the “off feeling” when their gut instinct is acknowledging something that may not have an explanation just yet. If you feel this overwhelming signal react right away.
In the past you may have said, “Oh, I’m just being silly!” and dismissed the feeling because it wasn’t convenient or it would be “rude”. Trust the reaction your body is showing you and know that it’s telling you something important. Aim to react in a way that is as calm and skilful as possible.
This is about listening to your body. Take a moment in the morning before you get out of bed to check in with your body. This can be as quick as a minute exercise. Check thoroughly starting from your head to your toes. Are any parts feeling tight or sore? If they are, stretch the parts out and acknowledge that you may need to concentrate on healing parts that are sore. This exercise provides you with a base to start your day. As the day progresses continue to check in with yourself. Are you feeling relaxed, anxious, happy, calm, alert, or worried? Try to associate your feeling with a word or an action. This will help you understand what your body goes through when you are experiencing these feelings.
Criminals, like their targets, come in all varieties, but research has found that they don't choose their victims at random. "Some of these guys concentrate on people who appear easy to overcome," says Volkan Topalli, a psychologist and criminologist at Georgia State University, USA.
The following is an extract from Marked for Mayhem article by Chuck Hustmyre and Jay Dixit on the Psychology Today website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200812/marked-mayhem
In a classic study, researchers Betty Grayson and Morris I. Stein asked convicted criminals to view a video of pedestrians walking down a busy New York City sidewalk, unaware they were being taped. The convicts had been to prison for violent offenses such as armed robbery, rape, and murder.
Within a few seconds, the convicts identified which pedestrians they would have been likely to target. What startled the researchers was that there was a clear consensus among the criminals about whom they would have picked as victims—and their choices were not based on gender, race, or age. Some petite, physically slight women were not selected as potential victims, while some large men were.
The researchers realized the criminals were assessing the ease with which they could overpower the targets based on several nonverbal signals—posture, body language, pace of walking, length of stride, and awareness of environment. Neither criminals nor victims were consciously aware of these cues. They are what psychologists call "precipitators," personal attributes that increase a person's likelihood of being criminally victimized.
- Marked for Mayhem
So how do we combat this if we are not consciously aware of these cues? My answer is to get you in a powerful state. Your posture and body language changes dramatically when you feel powerful.
Your mental state has a powerful impact on your physical state. Your physical state has a powerful impact on your mental state. So, if you change one, you can alter the other and vice versa.
Declaring an affirming phrase such as “I am a powerful woman who can kick ass!” will help, go ahead and try it! Repeat it a few times in a mirror until it starts to sink in. Who’s looking back at you? Not someone you want to mess with that’s for sure!
Power posing is another very effective tactic. You only need 2 minutes for this exercise.
If you are in public and feel a bit strange striking a power pose then a simple adjustment might be a better idea.
If you have some time (21 minutes) and are interested, please watch this video of Amy Cuddy’s talk about body language.
Before I end this post I want to make clear that I am absolutely not implying that people who don’t do this become “easy targets” and are to blame for becoming victims. Predators bear sole responsibility for the crimes they commit—and should be held accountable and punished accordingly. But by being aware of the cues criminals look for; we can reduce the risk of becoming targets ourselves.