When it comes to Personal Safety and protecting ourselves from external dangers, particularly violent dangers, we have to ask ourselves a few questions to properly assess our potential to be successful at this endeavor.
First, what is best – Complete Avoidance of a Violent Encounter or Escaping From / Fighting our way out of a Violent Encounter? Did you answer Avoiding? I hope so, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your beliefs and practice are aligned. How much time do people put into actual firearms, knife and combative skill acquirement? Hmmm….A LOT. How much do they put into sharpening Awareness and Avoidance skills and learning exactly what to look for while they are being aware? Not much. Not much at all.
So, first, if you believe Avoidance is best, you need to engage in some honest self-assessment. Ask yourself “How serious am I about Avoiding Violence” If I really reflect on my day to day choices does it back up my initial affirmation? Don’t answer too quickly. This should take some time, days, maybe even weeks, as you observe your own patterns of behaviors and decision making in various areas.
Consider the following questions as you analyze your habits. What kind of activities do I allow myself to participate in that are often regarded as High Risk Behaviors? Am I a heavy drinker when I go out on the town or do I use drugs (both of which lower inhibitions and reduce your awareness capacity for identifying possible danger signs)? How often do I go to bars or clubs? More importantly, what type of bars / clubs do I attend? Dangerous or not? Redneck? Hip Hop? Biker? Jazz? Sports Bar? Have I considered what kind of people hang out there, how violent they are, and what types of violence they are prone to engage in? (Fist fights certainly aren’t as dangerous as shoot outs or knife attacks.) What kind of people do I choose to maintain relationships with, casual or intimate? Are they prone toward violent or high risk behaviors? What makes the high risk behaviors I willingly practice more important than my personal safety and well-being? What inside me chooses them and why?
It’s very helpful to pinpoint what exceptions we make to our Avoiding Violence position and why? Is it laziness? Will I drive through a ghetto or other high crime area to get to work just because it saves me 5-10 minutes or do I go a different route to avoid even the possibility of a violent encounter? Am I willing to wake up 10 minutes early just so I can take the safer route? Is it money? Will I drive 10-15 extra minutes to go to a theatre that is safer and has a better behaved clientele? Will I go ahead and down the drink I left unattended at the bar while I went to the restroom because it was expensive and I had only drank a little? Is it a lack of forethought? Do I regularly try to plan out where I gas up at and when so I don’t get stuck on “E” and have to pull over in a bad area of town to fuel up in a pinch? Do I research new areas I am going to be travelling to regularly, or, perhaps, on a vacation that I am unfamiliar with? Do I have utopian entitlement ideas infecting my brain? Do I think I should be able to go anywhere I want and do whatever I want without having to worry about violence? Probably not if you’re on this site, but many people expose themselves to danger every day out of egotistical beliefs that really have no authority to demand what they do of other people, and the violent ones will certainly have a good belly laugh at those pretentious beliefs…right before they victimize the person.
So what am I getting at with all these questions? Well, most people will give a hearty “amen” to the “Ounce of Prevention is better than a Pound of Cure” adage, but Prevention requires Preparation and Preparation requires not only work but also an honest assessment of reality, else your preparations will not be relevant to what you may actually encounter. A placebo may trick the brain to feel good but if you’re really sick it won’t treat the disease. Intelligence gathering is crucial to survival and Sun Tzu was a genius. He knew you needed detailed knowledge of yourself, your enemy, and the environment, as well as the strengths and weaknesses in all three.
How can we apply this concept right now? Well, Black Friday is upon us. So let’s analyze the options. Who will go? What stores will you go to? At what times will you go? Have you considered finding alternative stores to get good deals at that don’t have as much trouble present as some of the big chain stores? Will you choose a store and time that seems to have customers that are more even tempered and civil? Or will you run with the masses and risk getting gored by the bull so to say? And is it worth it?
Ultimately, without a doubt, the best way to avoid violence is to not be where it is likely to appear. If you avoid places conducive to violence like the plague you have a better chance of not being infected. But, of course, as humans, inevitably at times we will still attend those places that are more dangerous. Something else will be momentarily more important to us than securing our safety. We will choose to roll the dice instead. It’s not optimal, but we all weigh the odds and do it sometimes.
If you do choose that course of action make sure that you go in eyes wide open and informed. Watch the video link provided below. You will see that the mob mentality allows some people to do things they wouldn’t normally think of, and on Black Friday it’s often for no more reason than basic greed. However, watch others and how they act. There is a deep seated psychology of entitlement that has taken root in much of our society. And when people feel entitled to something and another threatens it, that threat is perceived as an injustice and is likely to incur an aggressive response in general. Particularly important, though, is that amidst a crowd, like those on Black Friday, the sense of anonymity makes it far easier for people to choose to engage in violence and feel more confident of escaping the consequences.
If you choose to go to the worst stores at the worst times with the worst clientele this season be aware of the potential dangers, the thought process of the enemy, how you are prone to react to aggression and what the lay of the land is and how you can use it to your benefit. Be prepared to maintain your own composure and control your ego so that you don’t fall into an escalating altercation. Be ready to ignore behavior that is not immediately physically threatening and walk away. Observe everyone in line or the immediate vicinity. Try to assess who you think are the most likely candidates to become violent and steer clear of them. When the doors open don’t be in the center where you may get trampled. Be on the outside edges next to the door frame. Position yourself near the best escape paths so when you have to go into the mix to grab an item, once you acquire your treasure you can get out quickly in the most direct fashion that creates distance immediately and allows you to disappear into the crowd ASAP. Once you have an item in your cart that is one of the big ticket deals cover it up with a jacket or other items if possible so it’s not visible until checkout. When you see arguments breaking out or people starting to get physical, move away. Where possible, make friendly conversation with those near you that creates a “we’re in this together” feeling for them. This makes it less likely for them to look at you as a threat. Criminals use this tactic all the time to gain trust. Use it to insulate yourself from possible dangers or to create a possible ally in the moment if things go bad.
A preventative approach is always the most successful approach and the least troubling and painful. I encourage people to consider all the variables and choose that course whenever possible. Put ego and desire aside and see to the core issue. The question isn’t whether I should be able to partake in a given activity or not or whether it’s good or bad to do it. The question to routinely ask yourself is whether what you’ll get from engaging in a high risk behavior is worth risking a violent encounter or not.
That’s my guiding principle, and it has served me well.
Stay safe this Holiday Season.
Recommended reading: Art of War – Sun Tzu
About the Author
After almost 12 years as a Police Officer and Patrol Sergeant, including 3.5 years on a SWAT team, Mike went to work at ACADEMI (formerly known as Blackwater) full time in 2006 teaching High Speed, Tactical and Off Road Driving as well as Hand to Hand Combatives. He has experience in Unarmed Close Protection security work, CONUS and OCONUS. He has been in martial arts for 25 years and currently trains Sayoc Kali and teaches Sayoc classes in Portsmouth, VA. He also teaches Avoiding Violence / Attack Recognition and Use of Force Legal classes. He recently became a contributing writer for Harris Publications and has written articles for Personal and Home Defense, Guns and Weapons for LE and Survivor's Edge. You can contact Mike through his Facebook page: Hard Target Sayoc Kali Training Group where he routinely dissects attack videos for pre-assault indicators amongst other content.