We can take care of ourselves. Self defense is not some mystical ability, far beyond the reach of the average person. It consists of practical skills, many of which you—yes, you—already know or can easily learn.
While self defense can include fighting, and while fighting skills are useful—and learnable—most self defense involves doing ordinary, practical things you already know how to do. Here are five things you can do to take care of yourself.
In old westerns, the veteran gunslinger always sat with his back to the wall. Why? Because he wanted to know who was coming in. Take a tip from the gunslingers: pay attention to what is going on around you. When you're walking down the street, be aware of the people coming toward you, and those coming behind you. This isn't hard: it's just like watching for cars when you're crossing the street. And for heaven's sake, don't wear headphones and listen to your portable tape player while walking, jogging, or biking. Headphones block a very important sense: hearing. And if you can't hear, you won't know if someone's coming up behind you.
You do know trouble when you see it. You've had years of experience in watching other people, and you know a lot about what they're going to do. So when your intuition tells you to decline an invitation from someone who makes you uncomfortable, do it. Don't let "good manners" make you violate your instincts. For more information on following your instincts, read Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear.
While most of us are terrified of being attacked by strangers, in reality we are in more danger from people we know. According to U.S Department of Justice crime statistics, women are at more risk from acquaintances, friends and family; men, though at more risk from strangers, are often attacked by acquaintances. 22 percent of all attacks on women are committed by strangers; in the case of murders, the figure goes down to 12 percent. And while the idea of the postal worker shooting up a post office has become the poster child for workplace violence--we even call it "going postal"--the reality of danger on the job is the more prosaic armed robbery of convenience stores and taxicabs. Learn what the real dangers are in your life, and protect yourself from those things, not myths.
Bullies, muggers, rapists all pick on people who look like victims. If you walk down the street (or down the hall at work) looking at your feet, slumping, and generally projecting a "deer in the headlights" look, you're advertising yourself as a victim. Walk with your head up, look at others (though learn the cultural attitudes about looking directly at people when traveling in foreign countries), and project confidence. And when you see trouble coming, change your plans. Cross the street; park somewhere else; go into a different restaurant. Don't be so set on your plans that you can't change them when your instinct tells you to. Above all, be as unpredictable as possible. Don't always take the same path to work or home. If your pattern isn't easy to follow, trouble will go looking for an easier target.
While most people rarely need to physically defend themselves, learning how to fight will give you the kind of confidence that makes you less of a target. Learning fighting skills--whether you study boxing, wrestling, or one of the Asian martial arts--will not only give you some physical techniques that could come in handy, it will also teach you that you can get hit, kicked, grabbed, or thrown without becoming completely disabled. Over several years of martial arts training, you can develop good instincts for paying attention, trusting your intuition, and projecting a strong image. If you don't want to devote years to this study, take a good self defense class. The courses offered by Impact and its affiliates offer good training.