A Martial Arts instructor puts forward safety tips, ideas, and concerns.
On another site I read a blog post by a woman who expressed the feeling she was being stalked while in a store. This made me realize that I could make better, or at least a more positive, use of my blog. With my 45+ years of martial arts training and comments from you, we can find ways for us all to stay a little bit safer.
Safety is a big issue for women, and rightfully so. Oh, I know women that can kick your head clean off your shoulders. But most women do suffer a disadvantage when faced with a physical confrontation. I’m not talking about size or strength, as much as knowledge and experience.
|Table Of Contents
Rated PG – Some suggestive material
Note: There may be POSTS (rather than Articles) categorized as part of “Safety Tips.” Use the CATEGORIES drop down selector at the bottom of the page to view those posts.
In terms of safety, avoidance means simply don’t go there. One of my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructors uses this phrase all the time. Some student will ask, “What do I do if he is about to set the head lock?” The reply is always, “The best bet is to not be there.” He is trying to say avoid the issue altogether. Do not put yourself in a position that allows the opponent to set the headlock in the first place.
This is true in safety. Avoid the places and situations that present the greatest risk. Deserted streets, deserted alleyways are obvious. But there are some that are less obvious, and so very enticing.
Bars: Sorry, but bars are generally trouble. Almost every fight I have ever had described to me began with this phrase; “I was in a bar…” All bars have fights. People, egos, and alcohol do not mix well. This does not me that you should never go to a bar. It does mean, follow some rules:
1. Never go alone. It is also a good idea to inform someone where you are going and when you expect to return. If you must go to the bar alone to meet someone, have them look out for you in the parking lot – perhaps standing at the door and keeping any eye out for your car. Avoid having to travel the parking lot unattended in some way.
2. If the air gets tense, or you hear shouting or see pushing and shoving, leave. Don’t wait. Don’t assume the bouncers will handle it. Just get up and leave. Remember the drinks are the same price right across the street.
3. Become chummy with a bartender or barmaid. They will be inclined to watch out for you and give you a heads up if there is trouble brewing. They’ve seen it before. They’re use to it.
Streets: We have to walk them at times. Night is the worst and ladies have the toughest walk of all. It is always scarey.
1. Never go alone. It is also a good idea to inform someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. Sound familiar?
2. Avoid streets or sidewalks with half-height hedges, either shrubs or brickwork. Bad guys like to hide there and wait. If necessary cross the street to avoid such places.
3. Avoid dark areas. If some street lights are out, again cross the street or take a different route.
4. Be aware of your surrounds. This is very important and will be discussed in detail in the section, “Be Aware.”
Parking Lots: Treat these like streets. At night park as close to the building as possible. Park under or as close to a light as possible. Avoid parking in little back ways where people can hide and wait. If possible, do not be alone. Be aware of your surroundings.
Alleyways: Just don’t go there, even if it is a short cut.
Empty buildings and building spaces: Empty buildings are obvious, but empty building spaces aren’t quite as clear. You’ve decided to visit with a new friend who lives in an apartment complex. You arrive to find a huge, empty, staircase-filled foyer. All sorts of wonderful places bad guys can hide like under a staircase, around a corner, behind a drink machine. Just don’t go there. Not alone. Call your new friend and have them meet you at the entrance and walk you up. If they refuse, they aren’t the new friend you are looking for.
Apartment complex laundry rooms and laundry-mats present similar problems. Avoid going alone. Avoid going late at night. They are no fun to use when they are busy, but you are safest when they are busy. If you simply must go late at night, go with a friend.
Hotels present the same problems. There are all sorts of nooks and crannies bad folk can hide in. Okay, sometimes adults want to go to a hotel and not be noticed. I get it. But recognize you are taking a risk. Avoid the back entrances. Be proud, be loud. Walk through the main entrance, past the clerk to the elevator. Avoid the stairwells. If you simply must be covert, do it as a couple, never alone. If the partner refuses to meet you at your car and walk you through the back entrance, then you probably shouldn’t be alone with that person anyway.
Hotel rooms present another problem. They are often watched by nefarious folk looking for exactly what you are doing – the hook up. There you are, getting ready to get busy and there is a knock at the door, “Room service,” or more likely, “Maintenance.” Do NOT open the door. Tell them you are going to call the office to be sure it is necessary. Seriously, if you have a suspicious feeling actually call the office and ask. The hotel doesn’t want prowlers on their property and will thank you for telling them about it.
So, this first safety tip is avoidance. Avoid the places you know you should not be. There is a reason you know you shouldn’t be there. Avoid the places that give you a creepy feeling. There is a reason you feel creeped out. We all have a Spidey-sense. Listen to it. Avoid going to unknown places or through unknown or unsafe territory alone.
Avoiding trouble, even if it makes you look like a wimp, is much better than recovering from trouble.
In my previous tip, I talked about avoiding places you should not be. But sometimes, you just have to be in those places. This tip is how to handle them.
This series of Safety Tips grew out of a fellow blogger’s feeling that she was being stalked. This was her early warning system going off. We all have a Spidey-sense. Learn to listen to it.
Hunters look for the unaware prey. This is true for lions, as well as muggers and thugs. Keep your head up. Look around. Listen. Observe. Do not walk with your head down, or your nose in your cell phone. Looking around and being aware will give your Spidey-sense the information it needs to tell you if you are good to go, or need to go.
Keep your head up and look around as you shop. Not just for what you are shopping for, but to be conscious of your surroundings. If you notice that the same guy seems to be around every other isle, you should be checking your Spidey-sense. There is little difference between a deserted street and a deserted isle in a store, especially modern day big-box stores.
Go to some isle a guy would never likely go. You know the ones. Hair products, feminine products, that sort of isle. If you see the guy again, it would be wise to assume you are being stalked.
Avoid the empty isles if possible, especially if you feel there is a suspicious character in the shop. Ask for assistance. Get a clerk or bag-boy to help you. Say you can’t reach something. “Oh deary me, I actually could reach it. Well, thank you anyway.” Better to look stupid than to look beat up. Or just be up front and tell the clerk there is someone in the store creeping you out.
Look for company. Perhaps find some other woman in the store, and start talking with her. Stalkers do not like multiple targets. They are too unpredictable.
Your information is a key to you. There are times you have to give your information out, such as to a pharmacist. But there are times, especially if you are feeling stalked, that you do not want to give your information out verbally. Fake laryngitis and hand the clerk your license. Or be up front and say, “I am not comfortable saying that out loud right now. Here’s my license.” Then shoot a look toward your suspected stalker. The clerk will get it.
Report suspected stalkers to the store office. This will allow them to tag their cameras and you may save someone else’s life. This is also a good time to ask for an escort to your car.
When walking streets, be aware. Keep your head up. Listen. Look around. If you see a suspicious character heading your way or feel you are being followed, cross the street. If they also cross the street then you know you are being followed or targeted. Take action. Turn around or head toward a more populated area. If they don’t cross the street either they were not a threat or you just thwarted them. Kudos.
We’ve all heard, “Don’t look at them.” Certainly do not stare them down – that is confrontational. However, make sure they understand you are aware of them and that you can identify them. You have just prevented the surprise attack, the mugger’s modus operandi of choice.
You should avoid entering parking lots alone at night. But you bopped over to the grocery store late at night for that delicious double fudge ice cream you just had to have. The store is fairly empty. You park close enough to the door, but still… Be aware that a parked, locked car is a time delay. You have to get your keys, get it unlocked, get in, fasten the seat belt and all that. A planning attacker is looking for that moment when your eyes are in your purse, or focused on the keyhole, or focused on the seatbelt latch.
1. All women should ask a clerk or bag-boy for an escort. The store understands. They don’t want to be known as the place where people get mugged.
2. Keys out and ready before exiting the store.
3. Be Aware. Eyes up and scanning. Know your environment. Say to yourself what you see and hear. ‘Three unattended shopping carts to my right. Potted plants on the store sidewalk to my left. Light post to the left of my car. Four cars in the lot, a blue compact, red truck, white van, blue station wagon,’ and so on. This means you are scanning the area. If during your scan you see a person, or movement, or hear scuffling, stop and move back toward the store, unless you have an attendant with you, which you should. If you have an attendant with you, point it out to them as part of casual conversation. “Did you see that? Is that a cat?”
The important thing is being aware. Too often we sleep walk through our day. We hardly notice our environment. Learn to do more than look, learn to notice. Notice the cars that are usually around yours. Notice neighbors’ and co-workers’ routines. Notice what street lights work, and especially notice when one is out. Notice not only the people near you, but the people headed toward you, and the sounds behind you. Notice the sound of your place, your parking lot or other places you frequent. Be aware. Give yourself a Spidey-sense tune-up. When things are not normal is when you need to be thinking about avoidance.
Again, the hunter always looks for the weak, and unaware prey. Be aware.
I have talked about avoidance, avoiding the places and situations that present a risk.
I have talked about being aware, keeping attention to your surroundings which is your alert system for when you should enact your avoidance systems.
In a way it seems like a backward list, and it is. This is done to help draw your attention to the end goal. As such, I continue backwards with being prepared . . .
Your ability to be aware, and thus have better avoidance skills, begins at the beginning – being prepared. This means looking out for your own safety before you leave your home.
We all do this when we go on a trip. But we do it more about items of pleasure. You make a little check list and double check your suitcases to make sure you have all the things you would like to have along with you.
When it comes to your safety this preparation is far more important. You shouldn’t be running through checklists. You should do some things habitually or arrange yourself so that your safety is automatic.
Never leave your house or a store or your car unless your keys are already in your hands. Do not get in the habit of getting to the car or front door and then hunting for your keys. That time delay is exactly what muggers are looking for.
This one action will put you in a state of readiness. It is the most simple form of preparation that you can make. In doing so, you not only save yourself time entering your car or home or office, you cue yourself into being aware, and that in turn helps you to avoid.
I want you to take this one step further, especially all my women readers. I want to suggest to you a weapon that will help you to accomplish this simple task and increase your natural awareness, and give you a last resort defensive tool.
Weapons are a touchy issue, but only because of politics, especially here in the U.S. I am totally opposed to handguns as a self defense weapon, for a variety of reasons. They are beyond the scope of this particular post, but rest assured I will address them in a future post or article.
That said, I am in favor of three non-lethal weapons, two of which I think all women should carry.
Note: Tazers are one of the three weapons that I am in favor of. They are great for in the home or car, and for security guards. In your purse, they might as well be a mile away. Anything that takes time to get to and aim is something that takes too long to use. This will be discussed in more depth in a future post.
The two weapons I would like to see all women carrying are:
1. Pepper spray / Mace. Small, key-ring sized versions are readily available and I strongly suggest them when you travel. Have several. Keep one on your key ring, one in the home, and one in the car. Do not put it in your glove box or in your purse. Keep one on the seat or in a cubby on the driver’s door – a place you can reach quickly and discretely.
2. A Ku Baton. Ku Baton or Kubaton, is a small baton. There are several versions. I show several in the accompanying image.
The first one, marked ‘A’ I believe is best for women, for a variety of reasons.
1. The Ku Baton works well with a woman’s natural instincts. Untrained individuals tend to strike with a slapping, downward motion. The way the Ku Baton is held, like an ice pick, is designed for that type of motion.
2. The pointed tip improves the impact of any blow. It is not pin sharp, so you won’t cut yourself or tear or puncture anything accidently. Its sole function is to concentrate the force of your blows. However, it would take a freak one in a million chance to do any long term damage. But you will get your point across (pun intended) very clearly and slow down any attacker.
3. The short design makes it difficult to be pried or leveraged out of your hand.
4. Heck, it’s dang pretty and looks like bling. You can even find this particular Ku Baton in colors. What gal doesn’t like a fancy bobble on her key ring?
5. They are cheap, about five bucks.
With the Ku Baton as your key fob, if you simply remember to always have your keys out and ready before you leave the house or exit your car or a store, you have a self defense device already drawn and ready. This will help you to be more aware, and that will help you to exercise avoidance. If you also have a key ring pepper spray on your key ring, you are ready for small distance defense as well.
A little side note here. You’ll notice that my house key is bright orange. Keys are available in a host of colors these days. I recommend that you get a copy of your house key in some dayglow color so that it stands out and is easy to identify.
If you look up Ku Baton you will see some with a flat end and a flat barrel, like a flashlight, and some with finger spikes, like in item ‘B.’ I do not recommend those for women. The lack of deep finger grips make for less control and a less firm grip. The flat end does provide a nice strike for a strong user, but I’m thinking about women. I think the pointed tip is a better choice. The finger spikes require a proper punch to use, and when using the downward Ku Baton strike can hurt or even brake the user’s fingers.
As you look for Ku Batons you may see something called The Cat, Blackcat, Bulldog, et al. Looks nice and cute, like a little kitty cat with two pointy ears. You put your fingers through the “eye holes” and punch with the ears. Seems great, I know. DO NOT GET ONE! These little devices have problems.
1. It must be “put on” which means you are less likely to use it regularly.
2. It requires a firm PUNCH which isn’t natural for the untrained. A poorly slapped punch will result in the Cat having little effect and could result in hurting your fingers.
One other nice little device that most people don’t think of as a self defense tool – one of those little LED key ring flash lights. LED’s are darn bright these days. When shone in someone’s eyes they can disorient or at least blind them to whatever you might be doing, like aiming your key ring pepper spray. I always have one in my pocket. I would suggest that you have one too.
The point of all this is be prepared before you head out. Think about your safety before you leave the home or before getting out of the car. With a simple tool like a Ku Baton, that preparation will become instinctive, and that is a good thing.