Awareness: The First Step

Written by Brian McCracken For REM Magazine

If you take a self-defence course, will you suddenly be transformed into a lean, mean, fighting machine ready to take on any situation? Are you now able to diffuse any situation and walk out with your head held high, leaving the bad guy lying in a heap on the ground as you smirk and carry on your way?

That’s wishful thinking. Self defence is messy. You might be injured in an altercation and you might be the one in need of medical care, But, and this is a big but, you just may save your life or the life of one of your loved ones by taking a self-defence course.

None of us needs to be reminded how violence in our society has escalated.

Several months ago, Kelly Herron was attacked while jogging in Seattle. “My biggest running nightmare became reality,” she says. “Four miles into my long run Sunday afternoon, I stopped to use the restroom and was assaulted by a man hiding in a stall. I fought for my life, screaming, clawing his face, punching back and desperately trying to escape his grip – never giving up. I was able to lock him in the bathroom until police arrived. Thankfully I just took a self-defence class offered at my work and used all of it. My face is stitched, my body is bruised, but my spirit is intact.”

A good self-defence course helps you understand yourself better. It helps you recognize how situations develop around you and perhaps how you can be more aware of how an altercation can develop before it takes place. Self defence is not going toe-to-toe and fighting. It is using whatever is available and whatever skills you have, and creating an opening to escape. Violence unfortunately is messy, scary and unfair but we can all try to equalize the situation enough to escape.

Let’s discuss awareness and how this may be a life saver.  I live in what I feel is a safe city north of Toronto. We have amazing jogging trails by the lake, trails through the forest, private parks and a very busy downtown and waterfront. It’s a safe place but when a client asked me if it was safe to jog alone late at night in these different areas, I said no. I do not believe in fear mongering, but I know that if my daughter was about to go out jogging by herself at 1 am, I would have a huge issue with it. She grew up in my world and has seen enough martial arts to keep herself safe, but you must use common sense to avoid getting into a bad position.

I see far too many people walking at night totally oblivious to their surroundings as they are chatting on their phones, texting or lost in their music and not understanding that the first level of self defence comes down to personal awareness. Your awareness needs to reflect the situation you are in. If it is 3 pm and you are walking to your car from the grocery store and someone says hello, you take it in the context it is in.

But if it’s the same scene at midnight and someone is hanging around your car as you are approaching, it requires a different thought process. Now imagine the same scene where you were busy texting, talking on your phone or preoccupied with other distractions.

If aware, your choices are endless. You could walk back into the store, you could make sure your keys are in your hand, you could make sure one hand was free not burdened down with all the bags.  Maybe you could activate the alarm by your car. You could make eye contact with the person so they know you are aware. You could stay on the opposite side of the vehicle or keep other obstacles or vehicles between you and them.

You could use your voice, asking them loudly why they are by your car. If it was innocent on their part they will move away – if not so innocent, they may also move away because they would rather deal with an easy target.

Showing homes and meeting strangers requires the same awareness. I tend to follow the clients instead of opening the basement door and being the first one down. Paranoid? Absolutely not, just a choice to always watch and control my environment.

Late night meeting? Bring another agent, your spouse or a friend. Why would you allow one deal to possibly take you away from your family when a little precaution makes so much difference?  Do obvious things like meeting new clients in the office instead of somewhere isolated. Let people know where you are and if you are uncomfortable, have back up plans. Trust your gut feelings with people.

When a person is attacked and victimized, the real attack usually happened long before the first blow. You can win the fight during the awareness phase.

Watch for my next article on fight or freeze syndrome and how to deal with these emotions.  Until next time, stay safe and always stay aware. Watch for new articles coming soon.