10 Things to Help You Stay Safe at School and Work

Originally posted September 2016

As a medical student and a martial artist one of my biggest passions in life is helping people stay safe and teach them how to defend themselves. And one of the things that scares me the most is how my classmates talk about not knowing what would happen if they were alone in a dark parking lot at strange hours. That’s and insane idea to me.

I’ve taught multiple self-defense seminars ranging from children to sororities to LGBT+ organizations to really teach people that they have the right to fight back and how to do it in the best way for themselves. This has given the unique ability to modify and create self-defense strategies for different walks of life. That’s why I’ve taken my time to think of a way to express that online.

I can’t really show you how to take someone down, I can give you a good list of how to stay vigilant and a few intuitive techniques so that you can stay safe. I hope you find it helpful!

1. Don’t trust objects alone

“Oh, I have pepper spray.” Maybe you have a metal defense stick, or a little knife. That’s cool, I guess. But where exactly do you have it? Buried somewhere in a purse? Maybe jammed into your glovebox or perhaps on a different set of keys. In the long run, having an external force of self-protection can be useful but they’re useless unless you always have them on you. It’s really a false sense of security. It’s best to learn to use what you have including your limbs, head, rings, bag and my personal favorite…

2. Learn a new way to use your keys

When you’re walking in a parking lot the first thing you should do before leaving is pull out your keys. You should have them gripped in your hands either than the keys are sticking out from one side or the blades of the keys are between your fingers. If someone comes up to you with nefarious intentions you can literally just swing your keys across their face. Trust me, they will not put up an appreciable chase when you just slashed them full force.

3. Approach your car with caution

This one is a little specific, but very relevant for current times. As you’re walking towards your car, try to get a glance underneath. For some stupid reason there is a trend of people hanging out under cars waiting for you to talk up to they can slash your Achilles tendon so you can’t run away (how f’ed up is that?) In the unlikely event this occurs, you immediately go into a safe building, call the police and tell them there is a body under your car (not that someone is trying to attack you).

4. A distracted target is an easy target

Do not walk around with headphones in, do not play on your phone, do not absent mindedly speak on the phone in while in a dark or enclosed area. The more invested you seem in something else, the more you leave yourself vulnerable, and people notice that. Even if you are on the phone, keep your head up and looking around while speaking at a moderately high volume. This lets everyone around you know, hey I’m attentive and in-tune.

5. Walk with a purpose

If you look like you know where you’re going and are attentive you give off being a certain type of person. A person who is in control. Basically it says “you don’t want to mess with me, because I am ready to go at all times.” Like a hawk. If you walk hunched over, looking nervous and suspicious, it makes you look too afraid to be able to do anything. So even if you’re afraid, walk like you mean it.

6. Do the opposite of what is expected

What I mean by this is if say, someone pulls your hair from behind or grabs at your wrists, instead of trying to yank back and get away push towards your attacker. This will disorient them because they weren’t expecting such a reaction. You will also be in less pain, and be composed enough to do something to get away like smash your head into their nose or heel stomp them. If they want your wallet, just give it to them. They won’t expect it and if that’s all they want they’ll leave. You can replace cards and ID, but you can’t replace your life.

7. Find your voice

I’ve taught a lot of self-defense, as I’ve mentioned. And I promise, every time I tell anyone to practice yelling someone always thinks it funny. But you know what’s not funny? How many people completely freeze up when they’re grabbed from behind and or being pulled away. It’s like making any noise at all is an impossibility which is an extremely dangerous place to be. As awkward as it may be, a well-placed scream or yell is a very effective move all in itself.

8. Let someone know where you’ll be

Easy, simple, effective, but easy to forget. Also, establishing a recognizable pattern of when you come and go to people around you is a really good idea. That way, if someone is out of the ordinary the people around you will realize something is not right.

9. Take a self-defense class

I can tell what techniques to use, but honestly that’s not very useful. To really be able to protect yourself you need to know what it means to actually strike something to be able to translate that into striking someone. A good class will teach you wrist releases, elbows, knees and plenty of other ways to escape a potentially dangerous situation. It’s worth the time to go to a class, and who knows? You might really like it.

10. You are the most important person

I hate the idea that a lot of these practices are made to turn attention away from one target to another possibly. I really wish that something that weren’t the case and that we didn’t even have to worry about this crap. But that just isn’t so. As long as people are willing you to hurt others, you must remember that the most important person is you and it is your priority to keep yourself safe. If you can help someone, in anyway, that is amazing. But you are your own number one.

Stay safe out there everyone!

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