Your Greatest Weapon: The 10 Self Defense Tips You Need to Know

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We live in a dangerous world...are you ready? This brief Article outlines some very basic self-defense ideas and tips that anyone can use to stay safer in their day-to-day world.

Submitted: March 08, 2017

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Submitted: March 08, 2017

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I hate to be the bearer of bad news, friends…. but the world isn’t getting any safer. That’s not meant to be ominous or threatening; it’s just a fact. On September 11, 2001, we were introduced to a what was a new idea to most of us at the time: we no longer had the assurance of safety that being in the United States of America brought our parents. That’s not to say that bad things didn’t happen prior to 9/11; they did. But that date marked a new era of fear for most of us. Bad things did happen before then; in fact, they happened a lot. But, we were still afforded a relative level of comfort knowing that we were somehow safer inside the borders of this great land. We assumed we were safe inside our cities, our places of business, and our homes. Then suddenly, with the flash of a hundred news feeds, we were awakened to an idea that had been the reality all along…we live in a violent world where bad things happen to good people without just cause or reason. There was no justified cause to the tragedy of 9/11. The people involved were innocents. It happened for one reason: the intentional creation of fear. And it worked.  But, now we are stronger. We are better and more prepared than ever before. We are now willing to do whatever it takes to keep ourselves and our families safe. But “willing” does not always equate to “able”.

But before we move into the “able”, let’s talk a little about the “willing”. The truth is that most of us have never raised a hand in violence. We’ve never had to stand between the ones we love and someone intent on doing harm. Shoot, most people have never even been in a fight before. How can we possibly be expected to engage a violent person and come out on top? The answer is the same as with any other objective; the boy scouts were right. Be prepared.

But being prepared is only half the battle; being ready to act is the other piece of the puzzle that must be there if you want to overcome any kind of targeted violence towards you or your family. It’s about being in what the Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms calls a state of Operational Readiness. It’s defined as the capability of a unit/formation, ship, weapon system, or equipment to perform the missions or functions for which it is organized or designed. It’s also called Combat Readiness. Regardless to what label you slap on it, it means being willing and able to take the required action necessary to complete a task or objective. In this case, it’s being ready to do whatever it takes to survive an encounter with someone meaning to do you harm. Before we go any further, let me point out that being ready does not require spending a ton of cash on weapons and sophisticated alarm systems. I’m not going to debate the need for such items here; for the sake of this discussion being prepared will refer to a mental state. Combat Readiness is of the mind. That’s where is starts and that is what is necessary to overcome the odds in a bad situation. For example, you can spend hundreds of dollars on a firearm, but if you aren’t mentally in the game (being in a state of awareness) and prepared to pull the trigger when the time comes, you have basically bought a very expensive paperweight. Useless. However, if you are in a prepared state you will be able to react quickly and decisively in a crisis and often that eliminates the need for such permanent final actions like using a firearm. Your Mind is your greatest weapon. Now, let’s get started.

Lesson One: There is no shame in running away. We are not in grade school and we no longer must fear being called a chicken if we run away from a bully on the playground. There is no object lesson to be learned about standing up to the bully and making him back down. We are talking about life and death here… and how to avoid the later. So, let me be clear: the single best course of action, in any case, is to flee.  I’m a big guy with a lot of things going for me in a fight. I’ve had specialized training in multiple methods of self-defense and I proudly served among the finest law enforcement officers in the country, at least by my reckoning. However, fights are unpredictable…at best. And, regardless of your stamina or skill, the odds are that if you get into a fight you are going to get hurt. The hope is that you will get the better of your opponent and that they will receive more punishment than you do. But thinking you are going to walk away from any physical altercation with another human being that means to do you harm without injury is making a very false and very dangerous assumption. Looking for and taking any opportunity to exit the situation and flee is always going to be your best choice. As a matter of fact, most of the lessons below are just delaying tactics to provide you with an opportunity you run away.

 

“He that fights and runs away,

May turn and fight another day;

But he that is in battle slain,

Will never rise to fight again.”

~ Tacitus
 

Keeping the above statements in mind, notice that the instructions in the quote above are not simply to run away….it is to “fight” and run away. That’s one of the major takeaways you need to get from reading this article. You cannot give in and you cannot submit…in most cases, you MUST fight for your opportunity to flee. It can mean the difference between life and death at the hands of your abductor, attacker, or would be robber.  Like Tacitus, our goal is to always live to fight another day.

 

Lesson Two: Being aware of your surroundings can keep you alive. Before I move into some specific things to watch for and how to avoid and survive them; I think it’s important that we review a basic concept that everyone needs to know and stay focused on. In short, you need to always know what’s going on around you. That, believe it or not, is the single best way to avoid being the victim of a violent crime. Criminals are like wild predators. Have you ever watched a nature show on cable? The wolf always watches the herd for some time before attacking; he’s looking to pick out the most vulnerable animal. His whole focus and goal is to separate them from the rest of the herd and then take them down. They are weakest. The slowest. He’s smart about his attack, but he’s also a coward…so he does not pick the biggest, the fastest, or the leaders of the herd. He singles out the one that will be the easiest target.

Criminals are the same way.

They will sit and wait in parking lots or go inside of retail stores to browse around. They hang out in parks and at the carnival. They are at the mall and at the movie theater. They are looking for the most distracted, most oblivious and insecure target they can find. They are looking for the weakest of the herd. They know that if you are focused too much on your phone, for example, that you will not see them coming. They know that they can be on you quickly, position you into a place or situation that you cannot easily escape, and then make you their victim.  As simple as it seems, the most effective way to defend yourself is to pay attention to what’s happening around you and to appear confident. Here are some ways you can do that:

  1. Put the phone away. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as guilty as anybody else when it comes to having my phone firmly gripped in my hand at any given time. But I don’t have it out when I need to be focused. It’s dangerous. When you are exiting a building, walking across a parking lot, or just moving through the crowd on the sidewalk, the phone needs to be put away and your attention needs to be on what’s going on around you.  The only exception to this rule is this: If you think there is a reason you should fear heading out to your car, for example, it’s a good idea to call a friend. Call…not text. The difference is simple, but it can save your life. If you are on the phone with it against your ear, your eyes are free to focus on where you are and where you are going. You can still see danger coming and react accordingly. If you’re looking down at the screen or reading, you are susceptible to attack and you’ve made yourself a target. Plus, there are two added benefits. First, the criminal is less likely to attack if he thinks someone will know and can call the police. Again, these are opportunistic hunters.  Second, obviously, if someone does attack while you are on the phone then you do have that second line of defense that can contact authorities if you are unable. One tip to remember: If you are afraid to go to your car for some reason and decide to phone a friend, make them aware of everything going on around you while you walk swiftly but with confidence. For example, if you see a man approaching you or standing a little too close to your car, you should tell your friend and give them as accurate a description as possible including approximate height, weight, hair color, and clothing description. Even what type of car he got out of or was standing close to. It’s important to stay calm and be as detailed as possible; you may not want to think about it but your friend may be giving the police a statement regarding what happened and how accurate and detailed it is can determine whether you’re found quickly and safely or not.
  1. Make eye contact. This can be uncomfortable for a lot of people, but it could save your life. It shows confidence and indicates to any would-be attacker that you are aware of your surroundings…that you are aware of them. Look everyone squarely in the eyes and speak to them. A simple “good evening” can say a lot to a criminal. It says

    • I see you and know your face,
    • I’m aware of what you’re doing, and
    • I’m not timid and I will not be an easy target.

Just like a burglar casing a home to break into, an abductor or attacker wants the path of least resistance and making eye contact can identify you as anything but. This works hand in hand with the next point:

  1. Exude Confident. Stand tall with have good posture and walk with purpose. Don’t walk too fast as if you are scared, but don’t walk too slow or act distracted. Walk and carry yourself like someone that knows where they are going and is fully in charge. Even if you don’t feel it…fake it. It’s all about the other person’s perception of you, not necessarily how you are feeling inside.

Those might seem like simple ideas to follow, but you’d be surprised how few people actually do. As a test, next time you’re out, pay attention to everyone else. See if you can identify who is the most likely to catch the eye of a would-be attacker. I’m betting you’ll be surprised how easy it is to pick out a target.

So what can you do besides being aware and presenting yourself as an “undesirable” target? Everything we spoke about above act on the assumption that we are dealing with a normal (if there is such a thing), money motivated criminal. Unfortunately, there are also those out there that simply want to hurt people. They tend to pick randomly, or based on their own warped “shopping list” of attributes they deem as “worthy of their attention”. Sadly, the truth is, if someone is intent on harming you there is very little you can do change their mind. When it reaches this point, you must be prepared to act to defend yourself…remember that part at the beginning of the article about staying in a state of Combat Readiness and being willing to act? This is where that applies…where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. The following tips are simple but they do require you to be willing to take action. That’s my disclaimer…now let’s look at what the pros say may save your life. Please take note of each and share them with everyone you care about.

 

Elbow Strike.

Here’s a little tip from Tae Kwon Do – Use your elbow to strike your attacker. The elbow is the strongest point on your body and can have a much more devastating effect than your hands or fists. The same is true of your knees. So, if you are close enough to use them, they are your hand-to-hand weapons of choice…. use them! 

Make them go get it.

If a robber asks for your wallet and/or purse, DO NOT HAND IT TO HIM. Instead, toss it away from you... the odds are that he is far more interested in your wallet and/or purse than he is in you. Most likely, he will go for the wallet/purse. Then take the opportunity to RUN towards lights or people.

Get Attention.

This is going to sound crazy, but if you are abducted and thrown into the trunk of a car, kick out the back tail lights and stick your arm out the hole and start waving like crazy. The driver won't see you, but everybody else will. There are documented cases where this has saved lives.

Keep Moving.

We all tend to get into our cars after shopping, eating, working, etc., and just sitting there. We are updating our checkbook, checking our hair/makeup, calling friends, etc. DON'T. The predator will be watching you, and this is the perfect opportunity for him to get in on the passenger side, put a gun to your head, and tell you where to go. AS SOON AS YOU GET INTO YOUR CAR, LOCK THE DOORS AND LEAVE. If someone manages to get in or is already in the car holding a gun or knife to you, DO NOT DRIVE OFF. Repeat: DO NOT DRIVE OFF! Instead, gun the engine and speed into anything with as much speed as you can get going in a short space. Yes, this will wreck your car. But, your Air Bag will save you. If the person is in the back seat they will get the worst of it. As soon as the car crashes bail out and run. Messing up that bumper or fender is much better than having authorities find your body in a remote location later.

The Parking Garage is dangerous.

Here are a few more tips about getting into your car in a parking lot, or parking garage:

  • Once again, be aware of your surroundings. Look around you, look around your car, and be sure to actually look inside your car at the passenger side floor and the back seat.
  • If you are parked next to a big van, enter your car from the passenger door. Seems like overkill, but consider this: Most serial killers attack their victims by pulling them into their vans while they are attempting to get into their cars. This is documented fact; feel free to look it up. It may be cumbersome, but it could save your life.
  • Look at the car parked on the driver's side of your vehicle and the passenger side. If a male is sitting alone in the seat nearest your car, you may want to walk back into the mall or work to get a guard/policeman/co-worker to walk you back out. IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY. A paranoid person often lives longer.

Take the elevator instead of the stairs.

Stairwells are horrible places to be caught alone and are very often the scene of the crime. They are isolated and unless they have regular maintenance they are almost always dark or dim. This is especially true at NIGHT. This makes them the perfect place to ambush a target…so unless there is a fire, stick to the elevators.

Run.

If the predator has a gun and you are not under his control, do not hesitate… RUN! Now, this is going to be tough to hear, but yes, he may take a shot at you. But, the fact is a person will only hit a moving/running target 4 in 100 times. Even then, it most likely WILL NOT be a vital organ. So RUN. And yes, as cliché as it sounds…do it in a zig -zag pattern to increase your chances of not getting hit.

Don’t be sympathetic.

I know that sounds terrible. But look at the statistics; it can get you killed. Ted Bundy, the serial killer, was a good-looking, well-educated man who ALWAYS played on the sympathies of unsuspecting women. He walked with a cane, or a limp, and often asked 'for help' into his vehicle or with his vehicle. And that’s how abducted most of his victims.  I know, this flies in the face of what most of us were taught. And I’m certainly not encouraging you to turn your back on humanity. Just be smart about it. If you are alone or the area is secluded…or if you get a bad feeling. Don’t take the chance; it could get you raped or killed.

Call the police.

If something just doesn’t seem right to you, call the police. People tend to have an inherent sense of when things are “off”. Police call it following your gut or simply following up on a hunch. Regardless of what you call it, you tend to know when things are not as the appear. Trust that instinct. Here are a couple of situations that have been documented by law enforcement over the last couple of years. There are many, and criminals are getting smarter all the time. But, these quick tales should shed some light on the kinds of scenarios to be on the lookout for.

  • Crying Babies. A woman heard what she thought sounded like a crying baby on her porch late one night. Luckily, she called the police because it was late and she thought it was weird. The police told her “Whatever you do, DO NOT open the door.” The lady told the officer that it sounded like the baby had crawled near a window, and she was worried that it would crawl to the street and get hit by a car. The policeman reiterated, “We already have a unit on the way, whatever you do, DO NOT open the door.'” It turns out, as the police later confided, a serial killer had been using a recording of a baby's cry to coax women out of their homes thinking that someone had dropped off a baby. It had been attempted on several women in the previous weeks. It was always late and the ladies were always home alone.
  • The water scam. A couple was woken up in the middle of the night by what sounded like flooding or running water outside their house. They feared they had a burst pipe, but it seemed odd so they ended up calling the fire department to report it. Again, it turned out local robbers had been using this trick to lure people into opening their doors to go out and check. Once outside, they were set upon by the robbers. As stated above, if it doesn’t sound right, assume it is not…and do not ever go outside to investigate by yourself. That’s what your local police are paid to do and they are more than willing and happy to oblige.

Don’t advertise.

I was in the mall just the other day and overheard an older lady speaking on the phone loud enough for everyone around her to hear. She was bragging about the new ring she was wearing and just how much it had cost. It had been a recent gift from her husband and she was excitedly letting a friend know. Unfortunately, she was letting everyone else know as well…she had a rock on her finger worth well over $10,000. This made her a target. So, keep things like that to private conversations; the more people (especially perfect strangers) you make aware of something like, that the greater the chance is you will become a victim.

 

In Conclusion: The list goes on and on; but most of the pros come back to one thing…the very thing we started out with at the beginning of the article. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times and always be ready to take action…more specifically be ready run. Those two simple things can literally save your life.

If interested, encourage you to do more research on the topic by visiting some of the many Self Defense oriented web pages and blogs out there…just run a Google search, there are plenty to pick from and most provide about the same information and services. Or pick up Tim Larkin’s “How to Survive the Most Critical 5 Seconds of Your Life.” It’s an insightful piece of easy to read and follow literature on the subject. Lastly, I ask that you look out for each other. Much of the crime I’ve witnessed or investigated over the years could have been prevented if we just took better care of each other…we’re all on the same team out there.

Stay safe, friends.



© Copyright 2017 Mac Buckner. All rights reserved.

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