Proactive vs. Reactive Self-Defense

As weather warms up, people start taking their spring breaks and planning their summer vacations. Some of them might be local, and others even internationally. As a self-defense instructor, I’ve realized that some citizens are taking more responsibility for their own safety. They range from using simple safety tips to educating the whole family on self-defense. However, still others live in a mental utopia, and forget about basic safety tips which can easily keep them safe and out of harms way.

I teach my clients that there are two main types of “self-defense” training, one proactive and the other reactive. Proactive ranges from home alarm systems, to taking precautions when out and about for a night on the town. Reactive are more specific techniques to deal with threatening and violent altercations. Although proactive measures are easy to do, they seldom eliminate the one to four minutes an assailant would have to commit the crime. For example, a home alarm may still allow a criminal to assault one or more family members before help arrives.

That is why learning reactive skills, such as how to personally protect yourself and/or your family, is just as much of a necessity. Educating yourself on what to do in a real life attack or threatening situation may seem like it is proactive, but it is actually reactive, because using these skills would happen after the fact. The best strategy is to use both measures, proactive and reactive, to create a safer environment for yourself and family. For the adult or head of the household, here are three proactive and three reactive measures which can be implemented fairly quickly in most peoples’ lives.

First and foremost, regardless of who you are, create the habit of being aware. Criminals love stalking those who are in their own little world. Therefore, start to look around more, as you go through your day. Your goal is not to become paranoid, but to start realizing the safety details and opportunities in your average day, whether in a busy park on a sunny day for a walk, or early morning running through an empty forest preserve. This would include walking with a purpose wherever you are at, and never looking like you are lost. Keep your head up, and look at people as you pass them. Criminals like (and need) to get into your personal space in order to assault you, so if you take that away from them, you fail their “likely target test”. Don’t get tied up while talking on your cell phone, or take short cuts through rarely traveled alleyways or office staircases. Many of these points may seem like common sense, however we easily get caught up in our own agenda and ignore the obvious.

The second is to invest in alarms. Car alarms and home alarms are a good layer to have for added protection. Do you know that most car alarms have panic buttons you can use even if you feel someone is following you? Have you tried yours out? Most car alarms also activate the locks after you get in or start up your car, which is a great habit to automatically have done for you. Home alarms are a good investment as well, especially if you can add motion lights. As you are out and about more during nicer weather, I would also suggest that you take a look at the small handheld personal alarms, especially if you are out and about on your own. Once again, an attacker s most hated thing is attention, and activating a loud ear piecing sound while out on a forest park jog, is exactly what they don t want.
Lastly, being proactive while traveling anywhere requires you to travel smart, regardless if it is for business or leisure. I train several executives who travel multiple times throughout the week, even those who travel out of the country for business into “higher risk” areas of the world. Therefore, whether you are the frequent business traveler, or family planner taking all four kids on a cruise, you must plan. Another article could be written on just on this one point, but here are some things to keep in mind.

First, travel light. The less you have, the easier it is to travel from point A to point B, and it gives you less to keep an eye on. Next, note your emergency contacts, exits when in new environments, and routes to your points of interests. This is just another level of “being aware” as noted earlier. Lastly, attempt not to be the lone traveler. Although it is not always feasible, traveling with a business or family companion when in a new location makes you a harder target. If you do have to travel alone, making a temporary contact with hotel staff or conference acquaintance is a smart move.

Reactive measures, are those skills you d wish you would have in place during or after an attack, however the time to build those measure are now. Build an arsenal of “close quarter” tools. One of the largest false beliefs of self-defense is that it is complex, time consuming, and difficult for most people to learn. It is just the opposite, as I teach people ages 6 to well into their 80 s. Effective self-defense is simple, quick to learn, and easy for almost anyone. It all comes down to what and how you learn. Remember, you’re not training to be a “competition cage fighter”, or a professional martial arts master. Your goal is to learn three to six quick moves which attack any assailant’s weak spots.

A second reactive measure is to learn why pepper is the spice of life. Pepper spray is the most effective and practical “self-defense tool” across the board. Here is the problem: Even if people do buy it, they rarely (if ever) train with it. In addition to this fact, many men think that pepper spray is more of a “female” self-defense tool. Try telling that to the 6’4″ State Police Officer who carries it everyday. The point is that it will give you an edge in any dangerous situation. Another obstacle is that solely buying pepper spray at the local drug store does nothing, except give you a false sense of security. Finding the best sprayer for you, learning how to use it, and then training with it is the only way to go.

Lastly, get in shape. Being aware, fighting back, screaming for help, running, escaping, etc., all takes energy. Now running a half marathon, or pumping iron six days a week isn t a standard I m advocating for everyone. However, basic physical fitness can go a long way of helping you survive an attack. The self-defense moves I talked about previously will definitely work better coming from a more flexible, stronger, and fit person, and you can’t write off the mental and emotional benefits of working out. Physically working out makes you stronger emotionally, which is priceless in a real life altercation.

By no means are these six tips an end all be all to self-defense and personal protection. However, they get you moving the right direction. As a wise soul once said, “Failing to plan, is planning to fail”, and in this case they might have said that people are failing to protect themselves, hence planning to get assaulted. Using these quick and easy points to educate yourself and family is a great start. Once again, the goal is to create layers of protection. This mindset of defense is many times the best offense.

Sifu Matt Numrich

Sifu Matt Numrich is a martial artist and self-defense expert, renowned for his training in Krav Maga, Jeet Kune Do and Filipino Martial Arts.