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How to Recognize Imminent Danger: 7 Essential Safety Rules

How to Recognize Imminent Danger:  7 Essential Safety Rules

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.”

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    “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.

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    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.

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    • 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.

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    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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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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