Anyone can become the victim of a crime at anytime. Lt. Colonel David Grossman’s On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs states that in this world, we have wolves (predators) that prey upon the sheep (prey), and the only way to thwart that is to act and think like a sheepdog (protector). Otherwise, you can easily become prey for the wolves.

In most studies, criminals often state that they size up their victims by watching their actions and body language. They look for the easy target and most often avoid the ones that may present a challenge. This is particularly true for women, as they tend to be victimized more often than men. The best protection is usually an ounce of prevention and becoming a “hard target” in thought and actions.

Always Aware

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Many people walk around this life without ever thinking of the next step or “what if.” That is a recipe for a disaster. Prudence dictates that life isn’t a matter of how you deal with the expected, but rather how you handle the unexpected. The only way to be prepared for the unexpected is to give a little thought to planning out life’s what-ifs. This doesn’t require attendance at a SOCOM school or even reading a book—just take a moment to think through “if this happens, then I’ll do this.” This is also known as developing situational awareness.

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As an example, most shopping areas tend to be fertile ground for violent crimes like robbery, kidnapping, rapes or assaults. Knowing that, when you enter any shopping area or store, look around and take stock of the area. Pay attention to what looks right and what may be wrong. Identifying entrances and exits that could be used in an emergency can also literally save your life.

According to retired SEAL Team Six member and tactical police officer Chris Caracci, “I instruct our students that it’s not enough to note exits because sometimes they don’t work or may not lead to an out, especially in other countries. Be prepared to observe the employees whenever possible, and follow them in an emergency. I guarantee you they know where they are going.”

Axis Of An Attack

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How you walk and carry yourself is always being watched by the wolves. They pick up on things most non-observant people don’t. If your head is buried in the ground or not paying attention, they see that. If you seem lost or walking around aimlessly, they notice. This can become the first step to inviting an attack. Once a wolf is on the attack axis, unless they see indications that this isn’t a good idea, they’ll continue on that axis. The best offense is to put the wolf off their axis by your body language and movement.

Caracci suggested, “I don’t think people truly value the importance of the fact that criminals are constantly assessing target potential—it is his job and his life depends on it! When one is not aware or at least observing their surroundings, you are actually broadcasting a signal with alarming tones to the criminal on his frequency, you want to be a target.”

In most cases, your eyes and ears are your best offensive weapons. They can pick up on visual and audio clues to help you avoid an encounter. These days, many people walk around with their head buried in a cell phone, two earplugs in, listening to music or talking on the phone. If your eyes are looking down and your ears are plugged, how can you know what’s going on around you?

Paying attention to your surroundings may be the most powerful tool at everyone’s disposal to avoid a dangerous situation. Lacking that posture puts you on the path with a wolf.

Combat Gap

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Most people like space and don’t do well when someone is encroaching on it. For most, this personal space exists within arm’s reach of a person, a distance of around 3 feet. When people are closer than that, it becomes an intimate encounter. Now, in many cities this is normal business on a bus or train, but despite this normalcy most people aren’t comfortable in this situation.

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In most combatives-type training, they teach about the “reactionary gap,” which is that distance an opponent could close on you but you still would have time to react, a defensive posture. Thinking defensively means you are waiting for an attack to occur to you, but it’s much better to be on offense and prevent an attack.

Maintaining a “combat gap” is an offensive posture that gives you the time to observe a threat, assess it and decide how to act. Distance is your friend, and the more you can keep, the better you can assess and react. It’s a nuanced difference, but, in reality, thinking offensively is a way to prevent things from happening to you. In reality, there are no hard numbers because every person is unique and some situations are more dynamic than others. Having a good “combat gap,” though, gets your mind thinking and gives your body time to act.

Resist Your Attacker

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A wise man once told his kids that if a bad guy ever tries to put you in a car or take you away from someplace, just drop on the ground and make them have to carry you. They probably aren’t going to hurt you in public, but once they remove you from the public’s view, you are dead. If they are going to do something, let them do it in public, and if they try to carry you, kick, scream, punch and make as much noise as possible to draw attention.

Chris Caracci trains children and women “to drop to the ground and crawl under a car and scream. It’s hard not to notice someone under a car screaming and even more difficult to get someone out from under a car.” That’s great advice for children or adults stuck in a bad situation, but even better would be to not to be there at all. If you can run away, that should always be your first option. But if not, never go with a criminal.

Unfortunately, more often than not, people confronted with a stressful situation freeze as fear takes over. That is due in large measure to people never thinking about or planning for being in a bad situation. Fear prevents people from thinking, and therefore people make illogical moves, like doing exactly what a bad guy tells them to do.

With the exception of very small children, most criminals won’t or can’t pick up another human and run away with them. They get their victims by telling them to move, and out of fear the victim moves. It is far better to be victimized in a public place where perhaps someone may help or at least receive less harm than be taken away to a private location where you are sure to wind up dead.

Target Set

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When it comes to stressful situations, the basics are often best. It’s hard to remember fine motor movements when you are under attack. In most cases, the best defensive moves include big muscle movements that are simple, direct and violent. Those moves involve striking with hands, kicks, elbows and knees onto soft body tissue areas.

All people have the same sensitive areas on their bodies. Size, build or gender doesn’t matter—these areas of the body, when disrupted, will cause pain and bodily dysfunction. Starting at the top, the body needs eyes to see and air to breathe. Interrupting either will cause the majority of people to stop to regain one or both. If you are forced to strike an assailant to defend yourself, aiming for the eyes, nose and/or throat with a strike may significantly impede an attacker.

Hinges: Fingers, elbows, knees and feet only bend one way. If you grab hold of one and bend it the opposite way, most people will either release or it will break. This comes in handy if someone grabs you or wraps their arm around you. Fingers are often the easiest thing to grab, and if you pull them the unnatural way, it will have an effect.

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Hand Strikes: Whether with an open or closed hand, striking an individual in the eye, nose or neck area will have an effect. The key with the strike is to use as much force as possible. Another option, if in close proximity, is the elbow. If bone hits soft tissue, bone wins, and your elbow is strong bone. Giving someone an elbow in those same areas should have a devastating effect if maximum force is used.

Kicks: Not all kicks are equal, and outside of martial arts training, the most powerful kicks are generally front and roundhouse kicks. Both are powerful moves due to the force of pushing away from the body. When kicking an opponent, the target set changes. The groin area on men, knee and ankle areas are all good options to hurt and possibly disable an opponent.

Caracci said, “In a serious encounter, there is no more important target for survival than the eyes. You are always guaranteed an effect. They are always there, even if you are fighting an animal. And you can adjust the amount of force from merely a poke to removal if necessary. No other valuable target is as easily disrupted. To the spiritual, the eyes are the window to the soul. To the victim in a life-threatening encounter, they are the freeway to the brain.”

While this is all very simple, if you don’t practice, you won’t be able to execute when needed. Taking the time to learn to kick and punch could be a great self-defense skill set that one day saves your life.




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