Danger

Danger lurks everywhere. I’m not talking about health risks or economic downturns, I’m talking about human predators. Most people are good human beings, but there are some who are not. They are dangerous and hunt for victims. The good news is that you can keep yourself safe by following seven simple safety rules.

I’m a 4th Dan Karate Black Belt and learned these seven safety rules during eighteen years of martial arts training. The safety rules are simple, because as human beings, we have a built-in warning system that alerts us to predator danger. This warning system is called fear. Yes, fear is our greatest ally in keeping ourselves safe.

The problem is that our natural warning system has become blunted through easy living. We’ve lost our natural ability to keep ourselves safe. Before I guide you through the seven safety strategies, let me say something about a key safety issue.

Don’t be an easy victim

Predators always go for easy victims. I’m not just talking about big crimes, but also of daily aggression, such a bullying. I remember the time my son Sebastian came home from school and told me that he was being bullied by an older boy. Sebastian was seven years old at the time and had just started karate training. He grew up in a Zen household where peacefulness is valued, so he was confused about how to respond to bullying. Here is what he asked me:

“Mum, if someone hits me, do I just have to take it and not hurt them back?”

“Here’s what to do, Sebastian,” I said. “When the bully threatens you, stand up straight and hold both hands out in front of your chest, palms toward him, and say ‘stop!’ in a loud voice.”

“Why do I hold my hands like that?”

“The open hands in front of you show that you want peace, as well as warning your opponent not invade to your personal space. And, most importantly – you’ve got your hands in place, ready to defend or punch.”

“What? To punch?” His eyes grew round.

“Yes. You need to study your opponent carefully. Wait until he’s just getting ready to throw a punch. Then get in first and punch him on the nose. I promise he’ll never attack you again.”

Sebastian followed my advice. Next day he punched his tormentor just as I had suggested. The kids at school were impressed when they saw the big bully run away crying. I must admit, the headmaster wasn’t so pleased with my strategy, but Sebastian was never bullied again.

He reminded me of my advice a short while ago. “That wasn’t exactly what a peace-loving mother is supposed to say,” he said. “But it worked!”

Remember: never be an easy victim.

7 safety rules that can save your life

1. Be alert

I’m not talking about hyper-vigilance here. Just pay attention to what is around you. Think of all the times you walk around in a day dream, or preoccupied with your problems. Those are the times when you are in danger. Because keeping yourself safe is a matter of paying attention to possible danger and avoiding it.

Keep your wits around you at all times. That means avoid getting drunk or drugged. When you’re inebriated, you turn into an easy victim.

2. Use your senses

When our forebears still lived in caves, the senses were essential survival tools. Smell could signal the approach of a dangerous animal, or lead to a food source. Hearing could alert to a predator creeping up, ready to attack. Taste could discern poisonous food.

These days our sense are blunted and we’ve forgotten to use them in order to keep ourselves safe. Let me give you an example: many people walk through streets listening to music on their iPods. What that means is that someone can easily creep up from behind and attack. I suggest that you never listen to music while walking in order to stay alert to your surrounding.

3. Notice anomalies

Impending danger often shows up in anomalies. What I’m talking about is predators often behave in odd ways. Let me give you some examples. At the time of writing, I’m in Buenos Aires, which has a rising crime rate, due to growing poverty. At times, my partner and I have to walk though streets that are less than safe. Here are anomalies I watch out for:

  • A couple or small group coming towards you whose attention is on you, and not on each other.

Normally a couple or a small group are focused on each other, talking and looking at each other. In contrast, predators hunting in packs are focused on possible victims.

  • People lurking or loitering without visible reason.

Here’s an example: a few weeks ago my partner won a couple of thousand Dollars playing lotto. When he checked his ticket in the store, the win caused a bit of a stir and the store owner paid him out in cash. I quickly took stock of the situation and noticed that two of the guys who had been behind us in the queue were loitering outside the shop. So I immediately chose the back exit to get us home safely.

  • People whose face or gait spells out severe mental illness.

Severe mental disturbance shows in the face and in the gait of a person. For example, a normal person uses diagonal movements when walking: we swing the left arm when the right leg moves forward, and so on. People with severe mental illness often walk with parallel movements, i.e., the right arm and right leg move forward.

Research has shown that we instinctively pick up such anomalies. Take note of your feelings of unease or fear and act upon them without delay. The best way to stay safe is to spot oncoming danger and avoid or evade it.

4. Avoid angry scenes and ugly crowds.

If you are at a club or a party and aggravation builds, leave the place immediately. If you are in a large crowd and the mood turns ugly, quickly move to the edge of the crowd and leave the area.

The word ‘immediately’ is a key to keeping yourself safe. Often you will be tempted to ‘wait and see’. Or someone will say to you, “You’re over-reacting!” To keep safe, you have to give your instinct for danger priority, no matter what others say, or what your mind thinks. Your marker for danger is fear. Take good note of any feelings of disquiet or fear and act upon them.

5. Keep together

I’m sure you have seen videos of lions hunting in the wild. They never attack the leaders of a herd. They attack the stragglers. Human predators follow the same strategy, they target people who are on their own. Make sure to keep up when moving across town with another person or a group. Don’t fall behind, and don’t get separated.

6. Look big and show confidence

I’m sure you’ve seen what cats do when they see a strange dog. They fluff up their fur and appear twice their size. If you sense danger, you need to do the same. Make sure your posture is upright. Let your arms swing by your sides but hold them away from your body a little in order to create a bigger profile.

If you are feeling threatened, walk fast and confidently. If you are lost in a foreign city, never stop and study a map under a street lamp – it marks you as a possible victim. It’s better to go into a restaurant or club in order to find your directions. Always appear in charge of your actions.

7. Treat people well

If you are aggressive or nasty to others, they may respond with aggression or even violence towards you. Your best defense against danger is to be a friendly and helpful person.

Safety is also heightened through knowledge. Make sure that you know which areas are dangerous and avoid them. Stick to larger streets with foot traffic, even if it takes longer to get to where you want to go.

If you follow these seven safety rules, you will have a good chance of keeping yourself safe. And they won’t make you into a nervous or suspicious person. Your heightened alertness will enable you to be more relaxed and less tense.

Finally, martial arts training – even for a short time – is a great way to learn not only how to defend yourself, but how to spot and avoid danger. It also gives you the self-confidence to know that you’re worth defending.

The unexpected outcome of good martial art training is that it turns you into a peaceful person. The ultimate key to safety is to radiate peacefulness whilst staying alert.

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