Its late at night. You just got out of a friend’s party and remember you couldn’t find parking close to the building. You had to park several blocks down the street. You’ve been to the neighborhood before and know it well. You, safe in your knowledge of the area, walk confidently toward your car. You are lost in your own false sense of security, not really thinking anything could go bad. Why should it? You’ve been down this road dozens of time before…
but that is when you notice him: he’s standing just inside an alleyway, only half illuminated by the nearest street lamp. You can’t explain it, but instantly you are gripped with fear: why is this guy just standing there? Is he waiting for me? Is he going to mug me? Something is not right about this situation. You can feel it in your gut.
What if you ARE attacked by this thug? What do you do? How do you keep yourself safe? Let’s be serious: the best self defense is the one that keeps you out of a dangerous situation to begin with. At this point you are realizing walking to your car alone was a bad idea. What if you didn’t see this guy at all? What if you walked right by the alleyway and then…
We hear it in the news all too often. People are usually attacked in the familiar territory of their own neighborhoods. A lot of this can be contributed to lack of awareness. When we are in a new area, our senses feel as if they have been heightened; actively scanning every sound and every movement. As we get familiar with an area we tend to let our guard down, and THIS is when trouble can occur.
I aim to provide you with the practical knowledge to keep yourself safe in a situation like the one described above.
A mysterious figure
Tip #1 Stay Alert
In the scenario above we are not actively paying attention to our surroundings and this inattentiveness could have you walking right into trouble. One of the first tips I can give you is stay alert to your surroundings and the people around you. You do not need to be paranoid, but don’t be walking down a dark avenue at night texting on your cell phone either.
Watch for shadows around you and use lights to your advantage. For example, when you pass under a street lamp the shadow of the person behind you will be thrown up in front of you. Passing cars and practically any source of light will do the same thing. Try to avoid areas of deep shadow and on particularly quiet streets, listen for footsteps. Always stay alert.
Tip #2 Travel in Groups
Safety in numbers. A thug is less likely to attack you if you are not alone however, couples can still be in danger. Try to travel in larger groups if at all possible. If the area you are in really isn’t safe at all, try to have someone pick you up if traveling in a group is not an option.
Tip #3 Watch Your Path of Travel
Walk on the curb nearest to the street or directly in the middle of the lane of travel. Try to stay as far away as you can from entrances to dark alleyways. This will increase your chances of either getting away or successfully defending yourself should someone jump from the shadows. If you feel unsafe passing somebody walking toward or behind you try crossing the street if possible. If this person follows you then you can be sure of their intent.
The main thing is to see the attack coming. If you are threatened you can run, scream, or do whatever you need to to alert someone in your immediate surroundings. Most of these assailant’s attacks will depend on stealth and if their cover is blown you may have just saved your own life. Be alert and you are just halfway successful.
What do you do if you are confronted anyway? What if the thug had no intent on hiding himself in the first place? What do you do if you are attacked and unable to get away?
Tip #4 Get Self Defense Training
Let’s be realistic here: the best chance in successfully defending yourself is to have training IN self defense (whether its JKD or another, practical martial art). You don’t need to be a Grandmaster, but a little training can go a long way. (You can always contact me for just that kind of training). Try to pick an instructor that is going to teach you practical forms of self defense. An assailant will rarely consider what you are capable of. Demonstrating effective self defense techniques can have a psychological impact and take the wind out of the attacker’s sails.
Tip #5 Carry a Weapon
I strongly believe that one should be armed, especially if you are a woman of a diminutive status. Check with your local law enforcement to find out what is legal to carry. A small blade is usually fine. I prefer a Karambit. Mine in particular is a folder (the blade FOLDS into the handle, switchblades are illegal), the blade is not too long and only sharpened on one side. It’s perfectly legal for me to carry such a blade. Usually the threat of a blade can be enough to make an attacker change their mind about approaching you, especially if you look like you know how to use it.
If you are walking in a dangerous area I suggest keeping your hand on the weapon but don’t have it drawn… either keep it in your pocket or purse and be ready at a moment’s notice. Speed is important: I’ve learned to draw and open my Karambit using a single hand from this position. The blade makes a loud *CLICK* when it snaps open, and that could get their attention.
In Jeet Kune Do, most of your empty hand techniques will transfer over to a blade with minimal adjustment, making it the perfect tool for self defense if you have the training.
In lieu of a weapon you can grip your car keys between your fingers and use them as stabbing implements should an assailant get their hands on you. (A car key to the face will be a nice surprise to a would-be attacker).
UPDATE: I saw these online at http://www.martialartsmart.com and thought they would be a good fit for someone that doesn’t want to carry a knife, but at least wants SOMETHING to help out in a bad situation. Now, you won’t have to worry about breaking your car key
Tip #6 Empty Hand Techniques
The situation may arise where you are either unarmed or caught off guard and unable to draw your weapon. Speed will be your most valuable asset, and that only comes with training. Look for targets of opportunity to strike: eyes, groin and throat are perfect. Don’t be afraid to grab flesh and twist it, bite your assailant, scratch (REALLY dig in), strike for the throat, knee/punch/grab the groin, or try to jam your fingers in their eyes. Show them no mercy and attack with everything you’ve got! It could be life or death.
Think about what is the closest weapon and the closest target is. Its usually your forward leg and your assailants knee. A swift blow to the knee can cripple an advancing attacker, especially if a feint is used to bring their attention elsewhere.
It is not my intention to make anyone fear going out at night, but I believe it to be important to educate everyone I can on this kind of safety. I have a wife and two children: I think everyday about what I can teach them in the hopes they will be able to take care of themselves if I am not around. Protect yourselves and protect your family.
I hope you found this article to be educational. It would not be a bad idea to take some self defense classes and learn how to implement some of these techniques in a controlled environment.