Today I want to discuss Self-Defense & Personal Protection. I want to start by talking about communication. This may seem off topic, but I promise you it is very relevant.
First, you should know that you are always, always, always communicating. I mean it is impossible to not communicate. Everything you do or say is sending a message to someone, (maybe that someone is yourself).
Second is that 55% of all communication is non-verbal, meaning body language and facial expressions. 38% is tone. Which leaves 7%. Only 7% is words.
The part we will be discussing today is that first 55%. How we hold and move our bodies communicates to the people around whether or not we are confident and strong. Our facial expressions can also tell someone if we are scare or not.
It generally takes a predator about 7 seconds to decide whom they are going to attack and they use these cues to decide. If we are walking or standing confidently i.e.: back straight, head up, shoulders back, full (but not too long) stride, these movements send the message that we are confident and not easy targets.
Let me be perfectly clear. Just because I am talking about how to not be chosen as a target does not mean I blame the victim. The only person to blame for any attack is the attacker.
This lends itself to the 1st “A” of self-defense – Attitude! Believe yourself to be formidable, someone not to be messed with and it is far more likely than not that this will be the case. Our body language mimics our self-image, so see this to be true and believe it to be true. The short cut, however, if you have a hard time believing it is to fake it. Our brains and our bodies are wired together. What our brains believe, our bodies will reflect, but it also, to some degree, works the other way around. Standing strong for a long enough time changes the chemistry in the brain, elevating serotonin and lowering cortisol, causing us to feel more confident, at least in the moment. Do this frequently.
Work on your posture and your confident walk. Practice standing up straight, shoulders back, chest out and extending your neck. Practice walking with a confident stride (not to short, not to long). When your stride is too short you can be seen as timid and an easy target. When your stride is too long you can be seen as scared and an easy target. If your arms don’t swing properly with your opposite leg you can be seen as uncoordinated and an easy target. There was a study done by 2 sociologists, Betty Grayson and Morris I Stein, where they filmed a busy street corner in Manhattan for about 15 minutes and brought that footage to, I think four inmates who were incarcerated for attacking strangers and asked who would they choose to attack and why. The answers all had to do with posture and stride. The above information about strides came from that study. The paper written from that study is called Attracting Assault: Victim’s Nonverbal Cues and it is referenced in a great article through which I found it called The Seven-Second Rule: How to Avoid Being an Easy Target.
The next “A” of self-defense is Awareness. This, of course, is a matter of knowing our surroundings, also knowing ourselves, our tendencies and our reactions. Trust your instincts. If something in you tells you that something is wrong, it probably is. Even if it is not you are better off not taking the chance. Pay attention to how you react to situations, keeping in mind that you can control how you react. It is always best to react appropriately so things that do not warrant fearful reactions don’t trigger the same reaction as those that do. Brain chemicals react to how we think about a situation, not the situation itself so it is important to accurately identify situations that are dangerous and those that are not. We want to be able to trust that reaction.
“Spinning the Silk Thread” Breathing Exercise is designed to open your focus and widen your peripheral vision. This exercise has additional benefits as well. I’m sure we’re all aware of adrenaline and its effects on us: The freeze, fight of flight response. Adrenaline is secreted by the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands also secrete cortisol, the chemical that helps us respond to stress. So many of us are stressed so frequently that it only makes sense that these glands are being overworked, This exercise and really any breathing exercise will replenish the adrenals making our reaction to stressful situations more conscious. These benefits, of course, happen over a time of doing it repeatedly.
Here is the “Spinning the Silk Thread” Breathing Exercise.
This brings us to the third “A” of self-defense – Action! This is where we get in to the techniques. Without getting instructional here as this is not meant to teach techniques, I will mention that the 3 most effective strikes (in my opinion) are elbow strikes, palm strikes (with the heel of your palm – immediately above the wrist) and knee strikes. Practice using these on target like punching bags, or even pillows or cushions. Build up your force or power. When striking a target, to make maximum impact, strike through your target. This means finish your strike about 6 inches beyond your target. I will also mention some effective targets: knees, elbows, throat, eyes, and groin are the ones that come to mind right now.
So to wrap up a quick review of the 3 “A’s” of Self-Defense
The 1st “A,” Attitude is key. If you get this right you will be much less likely to be targeted in the first place, so practicing standing and walk with strength and confidence is very important, plus it will get you felling better about yourself.
The 2nd “A” is Awareness, which is why doing the “Spinning the Silk Thread” breathing exercise is important. While on this subject I feel the need to mention that our phones are a distraction from this awareness. When we are staring at our smart phones it’s like we have blinders on because we get so hyper-focused. I recommend leaving your phone in your pocket while walking, especially at night. Honestly even if it’s not increasing your chance of being attacked it is increasing your chances of slamming into a pole or something.
The 3rd “A” is Action. I covered effective strikes and targets. There are other actions you can take. One would be to seek out and start self-defense training. It could be finding a safer means to get where you are going. It could be to go in groups whenever possible. If you do go out in groups, make sure everyone you arrive with you also leave with. It can be to practice your Attitude and Awareness exercises so you are better prepared.
All of these things when done will lead to a safer way of life.