Did you know that even experts in the field of self-defense can make the same kind of mistakes that a novice might make? Invariably, the actions that put you in most danger will always go back to a handful of fundamental things that you overlooked for one reason or another. Avoiding these ten mistakes will be of primary importance no matter what your age, skill level, or income status may be.
Lack of Balanced Situation Awareness
When many people hear about situation awareness, the first thing they see as a liability is a basic lack of awareness of what is going on. Many do not realize that hyper-vigilance is just as deadly because when you try to focus on every little detail, you may well miss the most important ones that signal danger. Perhaps it can be said that situation awareness isn't just about how much you take in about your surroundings, but how you process that information.
Each and every day, you have a chance to improve your pure ability to observe what is going on around you. However, without some training and guidance from professionals, it will be a bit harder to avoid falling into the traps of over or under vigilance. Martial arts, self-defense classes, and other courses designed to improve situation awareness may all be of help to you. Even if you think you have good observation skills and a sense of your surroundings, never overlook an opportunity to improve or find out where your weak points may be.
Advertising Your Abilities
Over the years, I can't count the number of times people have talked on and on about how many black belts they have, how good they are at wrestling or the number of ways they can hurt an "enemy" in 5 seconds or less. Aside from resisting the urge to yawn, I usually figure there is probably one more method that would completely blindside that person. When someone who boasts about his or her tactical skills, they give away important information that can be used by anyone that is searching for a baseline level to achieve. Just because you know how to disarm an attacker, there is no need to broadcast it. Keep those who would harm you guessing about what you really can or can't do.
Now, some people may disagree with this and say that it is important to give people a warning. Quite frankly, if someone feels they need to give that kind of warning in a routine conversation, there is either something wrong with their situation awareness or the people around them are truly not safe to be around. Either way, advertising self-defense skills is not a viable route to securing personal safety.
Revealing Your Weapons
Even though carrying a gun or knife may make you feel more secure, revealing your weapons is not the wisest thing if you wish to use them to the best advantage. Among other things, if someone realizes you are carrying a weapon, you will lose any element of surprise that may be available to you. Never forget that when the other person knows what to expect from you, they will have time to come up with a plan to defeat you. Aside from carrying weapons in open view, here are some ways you may reveal your weapons in a way that reduces the advantage of having them:
- Practicing in your home or local area, or where people will know what you have.
- Storing weapons (or a recognizable weapon cabinet) out in the open, or other areas that can be seen through a window
- Telling others about the weapons you have.
Traveling Alone or Too Far Away from Help
While traveling with two or more people, there is always a chance that one of you can call for help if you are attacked. Needless to say, two or more people can always fend off attackers more easily than one person. In addition, lone attackers or others with less confidence are more easily deterred when they see a group.
It is also very important to remain in areas where others can reach you to assist if needed. For example, if you are out in someplace public and feel that someone is watching you with ill intent, do not hesitate to ask for an escort to your vehicle. While a few yards may seem like a short distance, the person closest to you always has the advantage. Never assume that someone else in the area will respond, let alone come to your aid. In the absence of a gun or other suitable weapon, staying away from areas where you can be isolated from others is very important.
Not Leaving Your Travel Plans with Someone Trusted
Do you remember the days when you always had to tell mom or dad where you were going, who you were with, and what time you expected to be home? As much as you may value your privacy as an adult, letting trusted people know your travel plans is very important. At the very least, if you do come wind up in harm's way, at least someone will know to call the police and can give some ideas about where you may have been in the critical time window.
Failure to Practice Defense Techniques and Strategies
Just because you buy a weapon or took a self-defense class, that does not mean you are always going to be ready to protect yourself in a situation. Always practice your skills so that you can respond faster and more effectively. Keeping yourself in the best possible physical and mental condition is also very important.
Flashing Money, Jewelry, or Other Expensive Items
Have you ever won the lottery, received a beautiful piece of jewelry, or purchased something that you were really proud of? If so, it's perfectly natural to want to flash cash or show off all those expensive items. While you may be thinking about what your friends and family will think about your new treasures, thieves, and other criminals will see a target ripe for the picking. Always avoid displaying any kind of wealth or expensive items. As with weapons and self-defense skills, what others don't know won't serve as a temptation to them. Here are some other ways to keep a low profile:
- Vehicles should not stand out.
- Don't spend too much at one time.
- Keep items in the car out of sight in places like the trunk.
- Do not unload vehicles out in the open or where neighbors and strangers can see you.
Excessive Alcohol or Drug Use that Make You Look Like an Easy Target
Few things sabotage self-defense tactics and skills more than alcohol or drug intoxication. When you cannot think straight or perceive your environment properly, just about anyone can steal from you, rape, or even kill you. Sadly, having a designated driver available, or some other chaperon is no excuse to lose complete control of yourself to a drug. If you must use drugs or alcohol, make sure you stay below your safe limit.
Bad Clothing Choices
These days, there is no question that clothing choice is a controversial topic. If you are a woman, wearing too much or too little can be interpreted in all kinds of ways that invite attack. By the same token, men that wear their pants too loose, or wear garments that suggest gang activity can also send the wrong signal to people that are looking for an easy target. Since each community is a bit different, there are not any precise rules about what to wear in order to reduce unwanted attention. Here are a few tips you can try out:
- Wear clothes that fit in with others in the area. For example, if you are going food shopping in a poor area of the city, don't wear expensive clothes.
- Always wear sensible shoes that you can run or kick in. Do not wear clothes that are hard to move in (like those loose pants), or that advertise you would make a good victim. These includes not dressing so far down that you might be perceived as a homeless person that no one would miss if something happened.
- Anything that can give another person a chance to start a conversation with you. While another person may just wish to compliment you or ask a question, it is also just as easy for a criminal to latch onto you and steer you away from others that could help you.
Lack of Variance in Routines or Travel Paths
Historically speaking, there are all kinds of movies about ambushing trains, stagecoaches, and other vehicles that always traveled the same route. By the same token, if you have a stalker or some other kind of person that means harm, they may also seek to ambush you. The best way to avoid this problem is to be as unpredictable as possible when you are traveling. Take a different road, ride to work with a friend, arrive early, or do something else to vary your routines as much as possible.
It is also very important to remain aware of what is going on in the neighborhoods surrounding yours. Aside from getting a sense of what is going on in these areas, a few excursions also make it easier to create variance in your travel paths. As you are traveling through strange areas, it may also be easier to spot anyone that may have been following you around in your local area because they will not fit in with the local population anymore than you do.
Making mistakes when it comes to self-defense may be easier than you realized. While it is not always easy to avoid them at all times, you can still do your best and look for ways to improve.
About the author:
Carmela Tyrell is an experienced prepper that enjoys spending time working in her garden and exploring new ways to generate off-grid electricity and water for her family's home. She prides herself in working hard to cut reliance on all things "municipal" and transition to a more self-sustainable living. She is also very knowledgeable about herbal remedies, surviving a nuclear disaster and bugging in. You can read more of her work on Survivor’s Fortress. You can also follow her on Twitter.