Some self defense experts call it “yellow alert:” the state of being constantly aware of your surroundings and ready to use them for self defense. This might be a bit worrying for the average person though, so I like to think of it as “full experience.” What does that mean, and why do you need it to protect yourself after you buy pepper spray or purchase another self defense product?
Think of all the times you’ve walked around deep in thought, your mind on bills, relationships – everything but actually walking, where you are and what’s around you beyond the space you need for your next step. When you walk around “looking inward” you’re sharing something in common with many victims of muggings and other street attacks. They didn’t look around either.
Street criminals look for these signs of inattention. While you might visualize street violence as a face to face confrontation that’s the last thing an attacker wants. Leaving aside the kind of stupid fisticuffs you might get into at a bar over a point of pride (helping you with those isn’t really our focus as a company) your attacker isn’t doing what he’s doing for the sake of a fight. He doesn’t want to fight. He wants to win by using ambush tactics whenever possible.
Getting paranoid about this won’t help you. Instead of looking around, you’ll picture possible dangers, and this is just another way of “looking inward” instead of being aware of your surroundings. Instead, you need to actively take in your surroundings. Use the following guidelines:
Four Senses: Don’t just look. Listen, and try to identify what you hear. Notice the ground beneath your feed through touch to avoid unpleasant slips. Even a smell can be a hint that there might be trouble – booze, stale sweat and other scents belong to people you want to avoid. (We can’t think of how taste will help – sorry!)
People: You see people all the time, but do you really notice them? Why are they in a particular spot? What are they talking about? Are they watching you? What do they look like? Don’t stare, but don’t look at your feet (a sign of submission) either. You have a better chance of noticing potential troublemakers and identifying them for police.
Light and Shadow: Stick to brightly lit spaces and notice dark spaces, particularly if people can get into them easily.
Places to Go: Don’t narrow your idea of where people can move to streets. Look at trails, short retaining walls and alleys. You should be aware of them in case you need to use them to escape and as a way to detect ambush spots.
Even though you’ll apply these steps with a self defense orientation, don’t fixate on it. Develop an eye for detail ad a genuine appreciation for your surroundings and you’ll know when to walk, when to run and when to use a stun gun or other self defense tool to effectively protect yourself.