Practicing karate for personal safety requires a holistic strategy that covers far more (and sometimes the opposite) than the skills normally practiced in the dojo. Even if the practical methods taught are contextually aligned and effective for civilian self-protection, these still only represent a small part of a viable personal safety game-plan, as they tend to focus heavily on the last resort of a physical response. Of course, there are numerous options available before the requirement to go physical that unlock initially through the ability to maintain a healthy level of situational awareness and perceive potential threats before they may become a significant problem.
The ‘dojo’ for developing good awareness skills is your own environment, as you go about your everyday life. So here are ten exercises you can try out, which will help to install some valuable soft skills for personal safety. You can supplement your regular dojo training with these games by choosing one to play every day. And like anything else, the more you practice, the more they will become an intuitive part of your self-protection game-plan. These are also great to try out with family members, friends, or work colleagues. They help to broaden your appreciation of the fact that over 90% of personal safety is not about combat, but more-so about living in the present, being mindful towards your environment and conscious of the people/behaviours that share it with you.
Walk and Talk
As you go about your everyday life, learn to scan the environment and practice acknowledging/describing things using internal commentary. Literally talk to yourself (silently) about everything that comes into your field of vision and practice expanding that vision to include more.
What’s that Sound?
As you go about your daily activities, you’ll come to notice a general noise level that feels comfortable and appropriate for the environment you’re in. If a louder sound happens to pass over that noise level, then positively acknowledge it - try to figure out exactly what it is and where it came from.
Choose any situation you normally find yourself in in daily life and imagine that a threat has forced you to escape immediately. Work out how exactly you’d escape from the immediate environment, what route you’d take, what barriers you’d need to negotiate and at what point you could confirm your safety.
Spot the Victim
Whilst walking around in public, practice placing yourself into the mind of a mugger and think about who you’d choose to attack if you had to. Consider the reasons why someone may make easy prey and use that information to audit your own profile.
Not if I See You First
If you see someone you know and manage to acknowledge them before they spot you, then you earn a tick. If someone you know acknowledges you before you have the chance to spot them, then give yourself a cross. Keep score on your phone and review at the end of the week, aiming to make consistent improvements.
Find an Equaliser
Scan your immediate environment and try to locate anything that could be used as an improvised weapon or equaliser against a serious threat to your safety. Think about how you could best use these items to maximise your ability to protect yourself and escape. How would you hold or arrange the item(s), what natural strengths could you manipulate and what threats may these items be best to combat?
During dialogue with other people, practice exercising situational control, creating staggered base (to balance mobility/stability) and talking with your hands in a way that creates a physical barrier between you. It will become very evident by the other person’s reaction if what you’re doing looks strange or conspicuous, so practicing like this encourages you to be able to make situational control a natural part of any face-to-face conversation.
Strength or Weakness
Consider the people you interact with every day and evaluate them for their inherent strengths and weaknesses. Look at their frame, movement, body language, persona, clothing, any jewellery etc. Think about what natural advantages they might have against you and what possible vulnerabilities you may be able to exploit if necessary.
There are lots of times in everyday life or work when we are required to interact with strangers. In meetings, on public transport, in a shop, a delivery driver etc. Use one of these opportunities to take a mental picture of the person and after the event, try to draw or write down their main features, as if you were being asked by the police to identify them. You can also extend this to what car they were driving, recalling their licence plate, or maybe what clothes they were wearing.
When you go anywhere such as a shop, restaurant, bar, or place of work, make a mental note of details about the environment. This may include where the exits points are, how many people are in the building, details about the people you’re directly interacting with, where items of interest may be situated etc. later, try to recollect as much information you can in a makeshift de-brief. You could make a list of everything you can remember or even try to sketch a picture of the place from memory.
Being in the present moment and maintaining a healthy level of environmental awareness forms the bedrock of any good personal safety strategy. This state of being will have the greatest effect on your overall security, with absolute minimum investment. Raising your base awareness level requires no external equipment, it costs no money, and you can literally practice anywhere, at any time.
Hope this is of some value and if you’d like more information on how to approach your karate training in a more holistic way for self-protection, then you may wish to check out Volume 2 of my Naihanchi Kata book series. In it, I map a complete personal safety game-plan into the choreography of the kata, making it a perfect method to supplement your normal dojo training.
As always, my best wishes and thanks for your continued support,