The First Line of Defense
Defensive situations do not have to result in physical confrontations

Self-preservation is an inherent trait amongst the human race. To improve our chances, we often seek out self-defense training in hopes that we may be better prepared for the unexpected. We often perceive self-defense training to teach us how to fend off an attacker and how to punch or kick your way to safety. While these things are definitely a part of self-defense, this perception often ignores development of defensive skills that do not require a physical altercation. The skills in which we use situational awareness, social skills, and human psychology in order to avoid, deter, or de-escalate a situation to prevent it from ever getting to a physical stage. These skills are your first line of defense.

Woman Walking Through Parking Garage

Situational Awareness can help prevent a more dangerous situation from occurring.1

Prevention begins with being able to identify and assess potential (and real) threats. It is through situational awareness that this becomes possible. Situational awareness is more mindset than it is skill, and just by establishing a proper mindset you greatly improve your chances to come out on top. There are three primary mindset rules to establish situational awareness:

  • You are responsible for your own safety. Total reliance on others can be disastrous.
  • Complacency, lethargy, and apathy must never take root. They weaken your awareness and provide you with a false sense of security.
  • Take heed of your own intuition, or “gut” feeling. If you feel that you shouldn’t do something, it is best to abide.

Skill development can be accomplished through constant practice. Take mental note of your environment, the people within it, and the activities in progress. In order to identify threats, you must first be observant. Mindful of your surroundings, such as a dark parking lot or a party on the verge of becoming out of control, you can actively avoid immediate or potential threats. In the end, avoidance comes down to not doing stupid things, with stupid people, in stupid places.

Avoidance reduces our opportunity to become a target, but it does not make us a less desirable (continued) target. You can find videos online that show women being kidnapped while walking down the street, in daylight, and with a couple of friends. There are even kidnappings that occur in the middle of crowds of people. Most of these videos show that bystanders (even ones who may be friends) freeze up and do nothing to help the victim as they are dragged away (a reminder for mindset rule #1). In these cases, avoidance would not have helped since the assailant has deemed obtaining their desired target far outweighed the risks.

We defend ourselves in these situations first through deterrence. Those perceived weak and vulnerable make themselves easy targets. Altering those perceptions so that you appear strong willed, confident, and guarded will cause you to become a less desirable target. Body posture is a major indicator for these qualities. Walking with the shoulders slumped, head down, and eyes drooped makes one seem vulnerable. While walking tall and with purpose, with the head up, shoulders back, and eyes focused and determined would be perceived as too difficult. If you can deter an attacker from choosing you as their target, you have again prevented a potential physical altercation.

Suppose your attempts to avoid and deter an attacker have failed. You have one last option to prevent further conflict, and that is de-escalation. If a fight is imminent and you seek to prevent that from happening, it is wise to avoid allowing ego, pride, and aggression to cloud your judgment. Respect and humility aid one in de-escalating a situation. Whether through concessions, mutual agreement, social engineering, or other form of controlled and purposeful dialog, de-escalation only works if your attacker feels the battle is no longer worth fighting. It is important to keep in mind, that actions such as threats, dismissiveness, or acts of dominance will only lend themselves to escalating a situation; it would be wise to avoid these actions.

When avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation fail, your first line of defense has gone down and you should be ready to defend yourself through a physical altercation. Your ability to succeed here relies greatly on your fighting mindset and combative training. This is and always will be a risky proposition since the skill of your opponent is rarely known and physical damage is most certainly to occur. And while it is wise to develop your combative skills to be well prepared, it is also important to attune yourself with the mindset and skills to prevent physical confrontations.

Iron Phoenix Martial Arts provides self-defense education for both mind and body. Our skilled instructors train in the martial art styles that are designed to be extremely efficient and effective as well as having a heavily defensive nature that protects one from harm. If you, your kids, or your family are interested in developing self-defense abilities, our programs may be the right fit. Contact us today, through our website ( or by phone (214-701-8861).

1Photo (c) 2010, Rob Wardecc