Updated: Oct 12, 2021
You can download a printable PDF version of this training with quizes below!
The purpose of preventative self defense training is threefold:
Prevention: lower your risk of being attacked by becoming a high risk target and avoiding high risk environments.
Response: understand how to respond to a real attack to increase chances of intervention and survival
Basic Street Smarts: there are some rules that should always be followed. Understand common lures, signs of danger, and predatory behaviours.
All together, prevention training is a major component of good self defense. When applied, these strategies can help you avoid having to rely on physical self defense as your last resort to personal safety. We have condensed the most important actionable steps you can take for prevention in this document.
There are three main things to understand about the attacker process.
An attacker's first priority is to not get caught. Carrying out the attack is always secondary to that.
The two things that an attacker needs are a target, and an opportunity.
Both are selected based on their risk-level and likelihood of getting the attacker caught.
Therefore, a good prevention and response strategy centres around increasing the chances that in any situation, an attacker believes that they will get caught. The following training teaches you how to become a high risk target for any attacker, and how to recognize and avoid high risk environments.
Low Risk VS High Risk Targets
A low risk target is someone that is perceived to be unlikely to fight back or draw attention. Someone who, through their body language and level of awareness, is judged to be unlikely to cause a scene, scream, fight, and make things difficult for the attacker. Our goal here is to present ourselves in a way that tells an attacker that we are a high risk target.
1. Body Language
In studies that identify what plays a role in victim selection among violent offenders, body language has repeatedly shown to be the number one factor. In one Ontario study, offenders were shown videos of hundreds of different women walking down the street. They were asked to rate each woman from 1-10 on their perceived level of vulnerability. Essentially all of the offenders gave each woman the same rating, and narrowed down their ideal target to the exact same woman. When asked what it was that they were looking for in each candidate- how they could tell a woman's level of vulnerability to an attack- the clear factor was not size, race, looks, or age, but by the way each woman walked.
The way that a person walks conveys essential ‘non-verbal cues’ that attackers can pick up on extremely well, and tell the attacker whether a person is likely to fight back or not. So what does a ‘vulnerable’ walk look like? A vulnerable walk can be seen as an in-confident, defeated walk. Shoulders slouched down, head down, slow walking pace, arms that are covering the torso, stuffed in pockets, or nervously fidgeting. A vulnerable walk doesn't take up space, doesn't want to be noticed, and doesn’t move with purpose.
How can we walk better for preventative self defense?
The most important thing we can do is convey confidence.
Shoulders back, head up.
Arms naturally swaying with every step- not being used to hide or cover ourselves.
Wider leg strides that signal that you move with purpose, and you have a place to be.
Don’t be afraid to make quick, natural eye contact with people you pass. This shows that you don’t fear confrontation- and that you are aware of what’s around you.
Walking confidently tells predators (and bullies) that you are a terrible target!
Being unaware of your surroundings makes you a great target. Since you will not see the attack coming, you’ll have less time to run, resist, fight back, or draw attention- decreasing the chances that the attacker will get caught. Today, everyone is guilty of low awareness, especially in public. Our phones, our music, our busy and stressful lives that keep us distracted and living in our heads- not in the moment- deprive our senses of their capacity to see, hear, and even smell signs of danger while we still have time to avoid or escape it.
Good awareness increases response time.
How can we be more aware?
Remove your distractions- put your phone and earbuds away so that your eyes and ears can do their job.
Scan- always keep your head up, looking forward to see what's in front of you, beside you, and behind you.
Stay Sober- drinking and drug use significantly lowers your awareness levels and your ability to think straight and defend an attack.
Sound Mind- being lost in your thoughts, daydreaming, or caught up in emotion (i.e. taking a walk after a heated argument with a parent or spouse), lowers your awareness and increases your vulnerability.
Ideally we should improve our awareness all the time, no matter where you are. However the most important places to maintain high awareness are high risk environments (see below) and everyday routes (like your walk home from school, work, or to the bus stop).
Low Risk VS High Risk Opportunities
3. Identify and Avoid High Risk Opportunities
When assessing environments, we use the IP scale [1-10]. IP= Intervention Probability, which identifies the probability of a bystander intervention in any setting. Low IP means that there is a low chance of someone witnessing the attack and the attacker getting caught. High IP means that there is a high chance of a witness and a bystander intervention- making an attack much riskier. Our ability to assess this quickly and habitually is a very important skill for preventative self defense.
What contributes to a Low IP Ranking [High Risk Settings]?
Low Visibility. Dark settings where it is difficult to see clearly raise the risk level (night time, dark rooms, poor weather)
Bystanders. Fewer people around means a lesser likelihood of someone intervening or witnessing the crime. The more people around, the lower the risk level.
Cell service. No cell service means no ability to call 911, raising the risk level.
Remoteness. Environments that are hard to get in and out of or far from towns or cities (a remote beach, hiking a mountain, pit stops - think, how long would it take police or an ambulance to get here?)
Low IP: An underground parking garage at night, with few cars, and limited cell service.
Low IP: A party at the beach of bluffs, with no cell service, it is dark, remote, and people may be drinking or smoking, lowering awareness levels.
Low IP: Walking to your car (or the bus) late at night after an outing, it is dark, there are not many people or cars on the streets, and you may be tired, or may have been drinking or smoking.
High IP: Walking down a busy street with your friends or parents in the middle of the day.
High IP: A classroom or workplace where there are dozens of people around.
High IP: A store, bank, event, or restaurant where there are lots of people, cameras, and good visibility.
Medium IP: Walking home from school, work, or the bus. It may be the middle of the day, but there still may not be many people around to witness an attack, especially if you are taking a back route/shortcut.
*Important Fact: Most kidnappings happen within 5km of the victims house, and occur between 2-7 pm. This makes your walk home the most important place for you to be aware, confident, and prepared.
Our goal is to make a habit of assessing the risk level of the places we go. This way we can actively avoid high risk settings, and apply appropriate awareness and prevention strategies. Please note that just because a setting is high IP (lots of people around, good lighting, good cell service, cameras, etc.) does not mean an attack cannot take place. Many attacks still occur during these conditions, so maintain awareness as often as you can.
Be Smart: Street Safety Guidelines
There are some guidelines we should always follow no matter where we are. This section includes the most important street safety rules based on the facts.
1. Never approach a car that stops for or approaches you.
The majority of abductions happen by car. Kidnappers use the same lures to get their victims to approach their car or house. For example:
The ‘Help Me’ trick: an attacker asks for your help and may pretend to be injured or distraught. This can include needing help with loading something in the car, finding a lost pet, directions, or anything else that requires you get close to their car.
The ‘Free Stuff’ trick: an attacker offers you free money, food, animals, etc.
The ‘Parents Friend’ trick: an attacker pretends to be friends with your parents to gain trust.
The ‘Emergency’ trick: the attacker pretends that there's been a serious emergency (ex. a car crash) and that you need to go with them to the hospital or police station right away.
2. Always take the route with the most people.
The more people around, the higher the chances that a bystander will witness the attack and come to help or call 911. This lowers the likelihood of an attack happening in crowded settings. Children should always be encouraged to walk in pairs or with a group.
3. Everyday routes are the highest risk setting for an attack.
The huge majority of kidnappings happen within 5km of the victims house. For children, the most common site of abduction is on their walk to or from school. Predators know everything about their intended victims' walk home: the time, the conditions, and the victim's behaviour, which makes it easier to plan an attack. Most people feel overly comfortable in their own neighbourhood, which also leads to less awareness.
4. Judge people based on their behaviour, not their relationship to you.
The vast majority of predators already know their victim and are not strangers. Learn how to identify predatory behaviours so you can spot them with clarity no matter who they come from.
Examples for kids:
Normal adults do not try to flatter kids through social media comments/messages. Adults are not usually interested in following minors on social media or commenting on their photos.
Adults should never tell a child to keep secrets.
Predators use ‘harmless/ innocent’ private messaging to open communication with a minor. Take a martial arts club for example: a purposeful message from an adult instructor that includes necessary information is one thing (i.e. information about a student's upcoming competition or a class being cancelled). But a text saying “hey, what’s up?” or “you looked really good today in class” with nothing but the intent to start a private conversation with the minor is not normal behaviour and should be discussed with the parents. This applies to all adults including doctors, teachers, parents’ friends, parent’s new spouses, religious leaders, etc. Unfortunately, because of the strongly established trust between the minor and the predator in these situations (which are the most common ones), the inappropriate behaviour goes unreported for way too long. This happens because:
The minors does not see the messages as dangerous, and may find them flattering at first (“my coach said i’m the coolest girl on the basketball team! That’s so nice!”).
They feel guilty about ‘snitching’ or ‘exposing’ the predator because they believe it would destroy the team/church/relationship/family/ etc.
They are afraid to tell their parents because of the predator's relationship to the parent (parents’ best friend, uncle/aunt, parents’ spouse, religious leader, boss).
This is highly likely when there is a cult-like following or deep reverence for the predator in public life or at home. Predators look to take advantage of this power imbalance. Discuss with your children what would constitute an inappropriate conversation, topic, or interest between various adults and a child.
Behaviour > Relationship. No exceptions. No immunity. No ifs ands or buts.
Examples for adults:
Someone pressuring you to drink or do drugs
Someone who pressures you to do anything you aren't comfortable with
Someone who insists on taking you for a date in a Low IP setting (remote, dark, with few people around, poor cell service).
Someone who tries to take you somewhere alone when you are not sober or highly emotional (unsound mind).
5. When in doubt, call your parents or a friend.
Before getting in anyones car for any reason, ask your parents for permission first. This is such a small, but lifesaving and effective effort. If you’re an adult, text a friend names, locations, and license plates before going out with someone you feel unsure of, or when you don't know the person well yet.
6. Don’t give personal information online
Social media is fun, but it’s also a very useful tool for predators. Never reveal your address, phone number, or school online. Secondly, remember that predators always disguise themselves as someone friendly and ha