Goth Guide to Self-Defense, Part 1: Awareness

Awareness isn't paranoia. (Featuring model Leslie Jenkins.)

Awareness isn't paranoia. (Featuring model Leslie Jenkins.)


This world is dangerous with everything from terrorism and hate crimes to violent flash mobs, domestic abuse, rapes, muggings , break-ins and countless other forms of violence. There are several forms of prevention, avoidance, and self-defense against such violence. In this article, I want to explore the one thing that we all can use even if we are unarmed with a weapon or knowledge of open-handed self-defense: awareness. One of my favorite characters from the Harry Potter series, Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody, is known for is yelling, “Constant vigilance!” which is another way of saying to keep a constant awareness of your surroundings and situation. In this article, I want to look at ways to be aware of your surroundings (both in and out of your home) and ways to use your mind to avoid or prevent getting yourself mixed in with most dangerous situations. These methods aren’t guaranteed to work for every act of violence. There are situations where someone, no matter how aware and cautious they are, can still get thrown into a bad situation. However, awareness can help get out of most bad situations.

Awareness is just that, using your given senses to become knowledgeable of what is happening around you. Attacks happen everywhere. They happen in the malls, parking lots, your workplace, the park, stores, restaurants, and on the street in broad daylight or in the middle of the night in a dark alley. Awareness helps you avoid getting into bad predicaments.

Before we continue, let me make it clear I am not saying you should be paranoid. The vast majority of people go to the mall, a store, a restaurant, or wherever and don’t get attacked. All I am saying is that bad things do happen even in the best areas and it is a good idea to keep aware of your surroundings.

Many crimes occur in the parking lot or in a parking structure-there are cars a crook can use for hiding (both behind and under) and the security cameras don’t give the clearest picture even if it does capture someone getting attacked. There are many simple precautions one can take while looking for a parking spot. Look for people gathered in an area. If there’s a good place, but there is someone or a group of people that aren’t moving, move on and find another spot. Even when you have found a spot that doesn’t seem to have people around, when you get out, look around casually and make sure things look good. Is there someone who looks suspicious between you and the door? Is there someone loitering and not looking like they are on their way to their car or into the store or mall? Either get back in the car or take the long route to the door (providing it looks safe). When you’re coming back to your car, you’re much more susceptible to attack. You’re fiddling for your keys, have your arms full of bags or items you just bought, you’re virtually asking to be attacked. Your defenses are down because you’re busy looking for keys or car, your hands are full which means you can’t use them to defend yourself and running is not going to be easy. If you’re on your cell phone, talking or texting, you’re not paying attention to your surroundings. If someone is coming towards you, and it doesn’t look right, get out of the way, go through cars, find a decent spot that you can defend yourself, put your things down or even be ready to drop them in order to defend yourself or run, watch the person or persons pass by. If they are after you, trust me, whatever you bought in the Apple store isn’t worth your life or bodily injury.
Once you’re in your destination (mall, office, store, restaurant, etc.) is that it? Are you safe? Should you let your guard down? Not really. Again, paranoia isn’t called for here. If paranoia is truly called for, you wouldn’t go to your destination.

So, if you’re at the mall, store, or restaurant, know where the exits are located. Just in case there’s a fire, flash mob, or nut job deciding to do damage to anyone or anything nearby. I know the chances are so slim, but flash mobs have occurred and there have been mall shootings. Sometimes, I treat it like a game or a scenario. Where are the exits located? Which way is the best way to leave in a hurry if need be?

It’s also a good idea to watch the people. Watch how they move. If it’s a group, do they seem coordinated? If it isn’t a group that are packed together, is it a collection of people who look like they know one another and are moving in one accord, coordinated? How do they keep their hands? If they’re wearing coats or jackets, do they have them close to themselves like they’re holding something? Are they keeping their coats on and closed like they’re trying to hide something? Are they still wearing items like hats and sunglasses that hide their identity? Are they looking around a lot like they’re looking out for something or looking at each other for a signal? Even keeping your ears open helps. I’m not saying eavesdrop, but listen for things that may give a sign of wrong-doing. For example, one night, I was out with friends and a group of four people were walking by us. As they approached, one of them said, referring to us, ‘They look like they have money.’ Two of us were on our guard, kept our eyes on them until they passed. They saw us watching and nothing happened. Were they going to jump us? I don’t know. But if they were, we would have been ready to defend ourselves.

You would think these are obvious things to see and, sometimes, they are. The problem is, in most public places, people are too wrapped up in what they are doing. They are on the phone, texting, talking with friends, looking at their food, a menu, looking at storefronts, shopping, involved with each other, or just have their heads down not wanting to be involved in anything but themselves. Again, constant vigilance! Don’t get paranoid; just keep your eyes open and aware of your surroundings. The incident I mentioned earlier, only two of us noticed the group of four while the other two in my group weren’t paying attention to them at all.

The same ideas apply when you’re outside, like at a park, on the main street of a city, keep your easy and ears open. I am sure you have been told many times to travel in groups and where you can be seen by people so crooks will think twice about attacking and not wanting to be seen and able to be identified.

Whether you live in an apartment that is a part of an old house, an apartment in an apartment complex, townhouse, house, condominium, do you feel safe in your own home? It is said that a person’s home is their castle. Regrettably, that isn’t, literally, the case. It would be awesome if my home was a castle with a banquet hall, library, great hall, turrets, towers, big walls, a portcullis, and a drawbridge over a moat. I’ve been to the Tower of London. When it was the residence of royalty and had fully armed guards, I wouldn’t want to be someone trying to storm the castle. Most of us don’t have the luxury of owning a large plot of land where we can dig a moat and set up large stone walls and a drawbridge, but we can lock our doors and windows. We still have better control of who we access ourselves to rather than when we’re outside. Yes, crooks can break in through windows and weak doors, break the glass panes located in the door or next to the door (if applicable), and gain entry, but that makes noise, causes attention and you can probably defend yourself better in your own home. You probably can’t make your place invader-proof, but you can do a few things to make it difficult on them. It would be a good idea to consult your local police department. Many police departments offer a service to go through your home and point out areas that you can make more secure. If they don’t, I am sure they can point you toward a company who can. Also, awareness is still key in home defense. If someone rings your doorbell or knocks on your door, use the peepholes if your door has one (I would imagine most apartments do). If in a house, look through other windows to see if it’s someone you know and trust. I can see who is there and if he or she isn’t alone. If it is someone I don’t feel comfortable about, I can speak to them from my windows until I feel comfortable opening my door or telling them I am not interested in what they’re selling, signing their petition, joining their religious organization, or telling them to leave or I am calling the police.

Crooks can think of many different ways to attack you whether you’re in your house, a parking lot or some other public place. They will attack at night or day, just as long as it looks like they can get away with it. They will attack in large groups, smalls groups of two or three people, or singly. Most of the time, there will be more than one so they can support each other and it’s harder to fight against two or more than it is with one person. In this article, there were several suggestions on what to do in several situations. This is not, by any means, an exhaustive list of situations or ways to keep safe. However, if you keep your eyes and ears open, you will be able to avoid more trouble than you think. When all is said and done, Mad-Eye Mooney’s words from the Harry Potter series, again, come to mind, “Constant vigilance!”

-Kevin Letts

Author: Kevin Letts

Kevin Letts is a Steampunk writer from upstate New York with his wife and is continually learning how to shoot and archery. He is a lifetime member of the NRA and enjoys using arrows or bullets to put little holes in pieces of paper with concentric circles on them.

Legal Notice: Kevin Letts is not a lawyer or a law enforcement officer so his articles are not advice that should be taken as fully legal. If you need to know the laws in your local area or state, consult a lawyer to understand what you are able to do. Each area has its own laws regarding self-defense.

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