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Situational Awareness

The first rule of self-defense is to be aware of your surroundings and situation. Obviously, if you do not place yourself into a situation that is threatening you are less likely to be threatened! Think about the types of environments and situations that can be a problem for you. You can look at crime statistics and see where the problems occur. Other than the issue of domestic violence, many of the problems occur when people are drinking too much or are high. Where does that happen? My suggestion is to stay away from those environments. If you look at the section on Your Lifestyle you’ll see that you probably shouldn’t spend a whole lot of time in these places anyway, if you want to be healthy. There are other places to avoid, too. There is the proverbial “dark alley” and other unsavory parts of town, especially at night. I’m not saying to live in fear, but instead, live smart.

One way to live smart is to know who and what are around you in your immediate environment. Here are some hints to keep you aware of your surroundings. First, dump the cell phone when you are walking or sitting in your car. Save it for when you are at home or in a very safe, public place and not moving. Use it in a restaurant if you have to but I think that it extremely rude unless you are by yourself and don’t bother anyone else. But when you are walking in a parking lot to your car, and especially in a parking garage, if you are texting on your cell, you aren’t going to notice someone coming up from behind. Pay attention to getting to your car safely and know what is around you at all times. Take the open path to your car rather than through densely parked cars. If you are walking on a city sidewalk in a commercial area, do some “window shopping.” I use the windows as mirrors to determine who is around me. You don’t have to be paranoid, just aware. Be aware in elevators and stairwells. One thing I like to do if I find myself approaching a few tough-looking people, is to look them in the eye and say “Hi.” Don’t appear afraid, even if you are. Look confident. Others will say to cross to the other side of the street. I think that doing this could invite trouble. Don't look scared. Do I really need to say that if you are going to an area you are not sure of, don’t dress in a way that says, “I’ve got money and expensive jewelry. Come and get it!” Even if you are in a public place and someone you don't know approaches you, don't have all of your attention go to that person who just happened to run out of gas and has to get to the hospital because their daughter was admitted last night because she was beaten up by .... blah, blah, blah. Don't get involved in the conversation. Keep an eye out for an accomplice. Don't let someone come up behind you. You must be aware of your surroundings at all times. Later we will talk about when it is too late and you have not averted an attack. But even then, you still must be aware of your surroundings.

There is a whole lot you can do if someone tries to involve you in a conversation or even says something insulting. Sit down and think of some standard responses such as "I only carry plastic" in the case of a panhandler.

The preceding was primarily aimed at adults. What about kids? Parents should talk to kids about situations in which they may find themselves. I don't believe in sheltering kids from the realities of the world. It's not how I raised my own kids. I think kids should know that there are bad people in the world and that they, also, just be aware of their environment. If you think you kid can already handle this sort of thing, please check out this video on YouTube: or look up " CHILD ABDUCTION (Social Experiment) - Child Predator." It was so easy for this guys to get kids to follow him out of the park with parents right there. So what can can be done? First I think you need to find out how much your child believes and trusts you and how much you can trust your child. This may sound stupid and counter-intuitive, but when my older son was about 3 years old, I wanted to know how much he would mind me. I would take him to the mall every once in a while and would let him wander. But I would tell him what area he had to stay in and that he could not go into any stores. He didn't know it but I was just a few feet behind him, ready to jump in if anything went wrong. He never strayed outside his area. I wanted to make sure that I had voice control over him at all times (we have all heard about kids stepping off the curb into the path of a car). So the first step is to have a high level of trust between you and your kid(s). Next you need to explain what the boundaries are, i.e., where they can go and where they can't go. As they get older, establish rules such as notifications. But another thing that I strongly believe in is teaching them to defend themselves in case of trouble. We will cover that later. In my Taekwondo classes at the Horn YMCA, as the students get some experience we do some role playing in order to get a good feeling for various scenarios. Hopefully they will learn to handle any situation without paranoia.

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