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Wednesday, August 11, 2004 

Open your eyes

Waiting until you're attacked before doing anything about it is an efficient method of getting hurt.

Aside from training, there are two main things you can do ahead of time to minimize the risk, or failing that, maximize your ability to meet the threat. They're so interconnected that you can't talk about one without bringing up the other. First, you make yourself as aware of everything around you as possible. Second, you assess what's going on around you to make the changes necessary to boost your chances.

Here's how to do it.

Make a map in your head of your immediate surroundings. Note potential points of entry and escape. Note the positions of every person in your immediate area. Note every object that can be used as a weapon (e.g. thrown, swung or stabbed). Note your blindspots. Note who is within critical distance (minimum distance within which someone can attack you).

Good. Now do it again. And again. And keep doing it.

Make this thing in your head to a map what a movie is to a photograph.

Now, tweak things. Position yourself so that your blindspots are as small as possible, so that you can see all the points of entry and so that as few people enter the critical distance as possible without you knowing before they get there. Check the blindspots often.

This is easy to do when you think about it. Extremely hard to make an automatic habit. Even harder when you're tired, drunk or sick.

Eventually you'll find that sitting with your back to an open room makes you uncomfortable because you've effectively made your blindspot an entire room and you have no idea who is in the critical distance. You'll find that needless clutter makes you itchy because it could impede your escape if you have to run. That being tired, drunk or sick are made doubly unpleasant because of how they blur your thinking. That you'll start to lock your door even when you're home because the sound of a rattling knob will serve as early warning.

You'll also find that you are surprised less often than others because you see things coming. Or that you're surprised first. Also, you'll be more likely to spot people you know in a crowd before they know you're there.

Try it for a night. You'll be surprised what you notice.

I've done that for years.. I never thought of it being a sort of dicipline.... my family always wondered how, if something changed in the house, I was able to pick up on it... and they always laughed at me whenever I refused to sit with my back to everyone in, say, a restaurant atmosphere...

But shurely, in this age of relatively concealable guns, estimating critical distance is pretty hard? Unless you just mean for hand-to-hand attacks.

Also, warning or no, I don't want to lock my door when I'm home. And I don't want to live anywhere where it's necessary.

The concept of critical distance is primarly for close quarters combat without firearms. It's useful when facing someone who might want to injure you with the big four (i.e. hands, feet, edged or blunt weapons). Concealed weapons of any type - blades or firearms - make estimating critical distance difficult. However, if you're keeping an eye out for who is entering critical distance for the big four, then you've got a better shot at spotting someone outside that distance who is drawing a handgun. Drawing a handgun within that distance is risky for the attacker because if they're within that distance while their weapon and hand are encumbered, you have a shot - with sufficient training - at responding before they can bring the weapon to bear.

Also, while it might sound like it at times, we're not talking about guarding against assassination. It's not likely that someone will appear from nowhere without warning and take you down with a concealed blade or handgun. For the most part, there will be some kind of warning before a situation escalates to the point where someone is attacking you. However, if it gets there, you want to know exactly what and who are around you.

Unfortunately, there's no sure formula that'll make you perfectly safe. Given sufficient opportunity, resources and resolve, anybody can take anybody. No big surprise there. But the more aware you are, the better your chances.

And I'm not saying you should lock your door when you're home. Just that if you do the mapping all the time, it might start to bother you if you don't. I'm also not saying you should do the mapping, I'm writing about something I do. All of the 'you' in the post is because when I explain this sort of thing, I unconsciously fall into the language of an instructor.

On another note, many people - like Kyle - do the mapping naturally. I'm one, though not always as systematicaly as I modeled in this post. For those who aren't, making it automatic can be very difficult. Many people's focus is more narrow, on the person they're talking to for example, and to widen the focus requires constant concentration.

this is not a post one particularly wants to read at 3:40am after a pub crawl. i did, however, find it interesting the first time.

Oh, I didn't assume you were being normative - but I know when that sort of thing comes to you naturally, it can seem odd when others don't do the same.

And thanks for clearing up the critical distance stuff. The temptation to try to convince Jer to surprise you with a blowgun and a stickydart when you're in TO is nigh-overwhelming.

Time Enough for Love, Heinlein

Okay, I have to admit my ignorance. Would someone mind explaining the last comment to me?

Okay, really curious now. Is Anonymous suggesting I read Time Enough for Love, asking if I already have, or suggesting I actually find time enough for love? Something else? Why?

I haven't read it, by the way. But after finding out what it's about, it's now on my list.

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