Posted on 15th, August 2015
By Prageeth Thoradeniya - Coordinater and Senior Instructor Damini project- Sri Lanka, Organizer Sri Lanka School of Jeet Kune Do
We would all like to believe that the world around us is a safe and beautiful place, inhabited by sane, moral and logical individuals. Unfortunately the reality is that while there certainly is much good in this world, there also is evil which exists just as abundantly.
Much like the big cats of the wild who stalk their prey, predators roam around us in human form, often waiting for the opportune moment to pounce upon an unsuspecting victim, ready to perform physical acts of violence such as harassment, assault, robbery, rape, abduction, torture and even murder.
While steps should be and are been taken to change the paradigms that exist with society that contributes to the existence of predators, the focus of this article is to provide you with some insight as to what needs to be done to safeguard your life and that of your loved ones against this prevalent threat.
In this article, I hope to share with you some valuable insights on how to prevent a situation before it happens, how to respond to it if it happens, and how to recover from it after it has ended.
The best way to survive a dangerous situation is to avoid it in the first place, and we cannot do this if we are not aware of our surroundings.
Awareness is your first line of defense. It is alarming how little awareness most people in the modern world have in day to day life. Our eyes are often glued to our smartphones, our ears to our headphones and our minds to our worries, memories and fantasies. We have seen and heard of numerous instances where people end up getting attacked, injured or even killed simply because they had no idea what was going on around them.
Take a look and listen around you right now. What do you see? Take note of the environment around you. Is it an open area or a closed one? How many entrances does it have? How many people are with you? Do you know them? What sort of people are they? What are they talking about? Are they paying attention to you or ignoring you?
Practicing this attitude of awareness in daily life helps you take preventive steps to identify and avoid potentially dangerous situations. For example, if you spot an unsavory looking individual approaching you from afar, you can then choose to move to a safer location such as across the street or into a crowded place such as a shop to try and avoid or minimize the danger involved.
Possessing Strong Body-Language also helps to deter the attacker. Predators of the wild stalk the weakest herbivores of the herd, usually the youngest or oldest or ones that appear to be sick or injured. This is because it is easier for them to take down an animal that is weak rather than an animal that is strong, for even a predator is afraid of being injured in the process and would like to avoid it at all costs. The predators we deal with in human form are no different. Studies have shown that they prefer to stalk and attack people who look weak and afraid.
Practice keeping your back straight and shoulders wide when you stand up or walk. Look about you and keep practicing that aforementioned sense of awareness of your surroundings. This naturally signals any potential attackers that you are not weak and that you are paying attention to what is around you, deterring them from viewing you as a clueless victim.
De-escalation is also a very valuable skill to learn in self-defense as well as conflict management in day to day and professional life. Some people are naturally calm and are able to de-escalate most conflicts by simply talking to their potential aggressor. Saying phrases like “Hey, let’s sort this out” or “Be cool” or “Chill” calmly may be enough to calm most aggressive people down. But this technique is more applicable to an aggressor who wants physical or verbal conflict rather than a predator. A predator would probably ignore any attempts at de-escalation and try to get what he/she wants. You do not see gazelles negotiating with lions in the wild!
Sometimes, no matter how much we try to avoid the danger, we inevitably end up having to face it and to respond to it. Perhaps you saw your potential attacker or attackers and attempted to avoid them moving into a more secure location, yet they followed you there and cornered you. Perhaps you did not see them due to being distracted, and you suddenly find yourself face to face with them.
This is a very frightening experience for most of us, and when we are afraid, our bodies react by dumping loads of adrenaline into our bloodstream. Our heart beats faster as it pumps more blood into our muscles preparing us for “fight or flight”. In this situation, most people freeze and are not sure what to say or do beyond that.
Freezing is a natural reaction to being suddenly confronted by something we did not expect. When we “freeze” with fear, we stop whatever we are doing (including breathing), our eyes widen and our pupils expand too. The purpose of this reaction is to stop the body from “moving into” the danger, and opening the eyes and other senses more to better assess the situation as fast as possible.
When this happens to you, Breathe. Breathing naturally brings back your sense of awareness, centers yourself, and allows your body to begin moving; thereby allowing you to respond to the situation at hand.
Remember that your goal here is to Escape and Survive. We are not looking to engage in some sort of a cinematic battle where one person takes on three using flying kicks, karate chops and what not. This is not a movie, this is real life. In movies when the director yells “Cut!” the scene ends and the actors walk out of the set, shaking hands. In real life, when you get stabbed, you die. You are not looking for a prolonged confrontation; you are looking at getting to safety as soon as possible.
We are not going to cower, begging for mercy and become a victim either. Never beg for mercy or expect it from a predator. They do not have compassion, and most likely they do not even view you as a fellow human being. Therefore, do not waste what critical time and energy you have to escape the situation by appealing to their sense of compassion which does not exist.
Another natural reaction we as humans have when we encounter something that frightens us is screaming or yelling. This too has several useful purposes for survival; it can deter your potential attackers by causing them to panic at your reaction as well as attract attention of people around you to your situation. It can also be channeled into an even more positive effect, allowing you to become more assertive and aggressive to face the situation. When you find your attacker moving towards you in an aggressive manner, put your hands up, palms facing your attacker, breathes deep into your diaphragm and yell “STOP!! GET AWAY FROM ME!” as loudly as you can.
You must now focus on your escape. This is where the aforementioned awareness of your surroundings really comes into play. Where are the exits? How far away are they? Is your attacker blocking your escape? Or is there a clear route?
If the route is clear and your attacker isn’t blocking your path, RUN AWAY.
If your attacker is demanding your valuables such as your wallet, purse, watch or jewelry, throw it towards them, away from the path of exit. This will distract them enough to provide a clear path to your exit. Once the route is clear, make a run for it and RUN AWAY.
If your attacker is in your way however, or has grabbed or is holding you in some way, you will have to fight them off to clear your route of escape. This is probably the most daunting aspect of the whole scenario. Not many people are trained in martial arts or possess the physical conditioning required to engage in a fight, and most predators choose victims who appear to be weaker and smaller than them.
The key here is to be aggressive. Be as aggressive as you can. Remember that you are protecting your life here. You may get punched, kicked, grabbed or even cut, but no matter what happens, you have to keep fighting and NEVER GIVE UP.
Use your body or anything around you as a weapon, and attack their weakest points. The weakest points on a human body are the eyes, throat and the groin. Throwing a hand out at the eyes of your attacker with your fingers outstretched can poke their eyes, causing pain. Punching them the throat to temporarily disrupt their breathing. Kick them in the groin (especially males) can cause immense pain and temporary immobilization. Attacking all these targets allows you to cause a substantial amount of pain on your attacker, clearing your route of exit. So hit them hard and fast, and RUN AWAY.
You can also attack other weak points of the body, such as the face (which you can punch or claw, causing pain and disorientation), the ears (which you can slap, causing pain and disorientation), the solar plexus (for which a good punch or elbow would cause difficulty in breathing), and the shins (which you can kick or stomp with your shoes, causing immense pain). Again, strike these areas hard and fast, and RUN AWAY.
If an attacker has grabbed you or is holding you close to their body, bite them. Bite down hard. Your teeth are capable of tearing apart flesh and causing immense pain and damage to a potential attacker. Bite them hard until they release you, strike them in a weak point of their body and RUN AWAY.
Be aware of everyday objects you carry that can be used as improvised weapons. Got an umbrella? Use it as a club and whack your attacker hard on the face or groin with it. Got a pen? Stab your attacker. Got high heeled shoes? Take them off and hit your attacker in the face. Got a heavy handbag? Swing it at your attacker. Got hairspray? Spray it in your attackers eyes. Act fast, use your weapon, and RUN AWAY.
Surviving the attack itself ensures that you are able to live another day, yet if the resulting physical and psychological trauma is not dealt with appropriately, it could cause many undesirable long-term effects that would impede you on enjoying your life.
If you engaged your attacker physically and you are injured, seek medical attention immediately. Ensure that first aid is performed on you either by yourself or by someone else. This is absolutely essential especially in cases where an attacker may have used a knife to cut or stab you, as bleeding out is not a pleasant experience. Be sure to wrap up any cuts using bandage, cloth or any materials available to stop bleeding. Contact medical professionals in the area immediately by either calling emergency hotlines local to the area or by asking the locals for help if possible.
Simultaneously or immediately after receiving medical attention, inform the authorities of the area. It is vital that you report the incident to the local police force so that they can take appropriate action against your attacker, and to safeguard you legally. It will also help deter any “revenge” attacks by your attacker or their associates.
Inform your loved ones about your experience. Your close family and friends are a part your life. If you are able to communicate to them about what happened, they will not hesitate to provide you with their love and support, which in the case of surviving physical assault, can be invaluable in deal with post-traumatic stress.
Finally, if the attack was severe and you feel depressed, afraid or anxious all the time, get professional psychological help. Many people do not see the critical importance of psychological recovery in the aftermath of a traumatic event as our cultures often encourage us to “brush it off” or “just ignore it”. Contact reputed local professionals and ask their help to make you feel safe again amongst people.
I sincerely hope that none of you would ever have to go through the horror that is physical assault. But in the event that you do, I want you to recall what I have written here so that it may save your life or those of your loved ones.
If you are further interested in learning situational awareness and self-defense or are interested in getting members of your workplace, institute, organization or school trained in basic personal safety and escape techniques in Sri Lanka or Dallas/Fort Worth area, please visit http://thedaminiproject.com.lk/ , http://daminiprojectdfw.com to book a free workshop conducted by our team of professional self-defense and unarmed combat instructors.