By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2016, All Rights Reserved
One thing I can say about our society is that we are definitely a society of people who want everything right now. We, as a whole, don’t seem to want to wait for anything and it seems that the people that can give us what we want the fastest are the ones who succeed the most. As someone who teaches martial arts this is a problem I’ve been dealing with for many years.
Since the martial arts can take a long time to learn (although there have been people like Kano Jigoro who, after just 6 years of martial arts training, developed his own system of martial arts, called it Judo, and it became one of the most popular systems in the world, and Peter Urban, one of the most respected masters in American martial arts history, who went from white belt to “grandmaster” in just 13 years) people always ask me for my “best” technique or my “best” advice hoping to find a shortcut for years of hard work. The problem is that there is no one technique or piece of advice that is a fix all and something that might be great advice for one situation may be totally inappropriate for another.
However, I get asked all the time for my “best” advice or what one single piece of advice is most beneficial. So here I wanted to go over the five most popular pieces of advice that I give on the topic of personal protection. It should be noted that I’m not saying that these are the best pieces of advice or all that someone needs to know, rather these are bits of advice that people seem to like the best and get the best response from my clients.
So here are my five personal protection tips that are most popular:
My first tip is to do a Personal Threat Assessment. This is a great piece of advice and this generally is the second thing I recommend everyone do in their journey towards becoming safer. The first thing I recommend that everyone does (I’m sneaking an extra tip in) is to take a moment to officially decide not to become a victim. It seems odd but most people never do that so when they’re actually being attacked or victimized they have to decide what they’re going to do on the spot so often they end up doing nothing and then pay the price. If you make the official decision that you’re not going to be a victim right at the beginning then that is already going to be done and when you’re in the face of danger your brain will then be freed up to look for openings and opportunities.
Getting back to the Personal Threat Assessment, this is hands down one of the most important tools a person can use to keep themselves safe. Most people have no idea what crimes they need to be concerned with, what activities they do that put them at risk, and which crimes are most likely to befall them. In a personal threat assessment you look at who you are, what your behaviors are, where you live, the conditions you live in, who your friends, family, and coworkers are, what job you have, etc. and you see how these things increase or lower your chances of being assaulted, murdered, kidnapped, and/or robbed. For most people this is an eye opening experience and they have no idea how the little things that they do put them at risk for various crimes.
I have client that I’ve done quite a bit of consulting work for mostly over email and he expressed the need to become safer because he started to get a feeling in his gut that he was in danger. After we talked a little and did a threat assessment we discovered he was a high risk for kidnapping. He had never considered that before but when he did it made perfect sense. With my help he was able to change certain behaviors that greatly reduced his risk. While he is still a high risk for kidnapping because of who he is and what he does for a living, by changing his behaviors and making a few other simple changes he has greatly reduced his chances of being abducted. If he would have never done a personal threat assessment he would have never known he was at risk and if someone did want to abduct him they would have been able to do it without a problem.
An easy way to do a pretty good personal threat assessment is online at http://www.rateyourrisk.org/ I’ve been recommending this website for years because here you can take a very well designed quiz to rate your personal risk for being assaulted, murdered, and burglarized. Your results will even point out a few of your biggest risk factors so you can address them.
The second tip I give that people seem to like is to vary your routines by picking them out of a hat. Most people that are abducted are taken early in the morning within three miles of their homes. The reason for that is first people are groggy early in the morning and they have their defenses down. Also, most people follow the same routine every morning making them predictable. In fact, in a recent interview with a Mexican hitman who had confessed to killing over 30 people, he stated that he always struck first thing in the morning. If someone is targeting you and they know what they’re doing then the morning is a likely time for them to strike.
Whether your threat is a hitman, a kidnapper, a stalker, or even a rapist the way they operate is by observing you, learning your routines, and then using your routine to their benefit. For example, if you go jogging every morning along the same route they might watch you for a couple days to make sure that you always went jogging at the same time and took the same route and then they’d simply get there early, hide behind a tree or a corner that you passed, and then grab you when you went by. Or perhaps if they knew you got back from your jog at the same time they’d be waiting for you in the bushes ready to attack when you put your key in your front door.
In these situations the vulnerabilities can also be strengths. From police and FBI interviews we know that predators like consistency in their targets and when they don’t get it that can throw them off completely. There was a case where a group of men planned to abduct a businessman when he left for work in the morning. Every day for two weeks they sat in a car just down the street and documented when he left for work and what route he took. Every day it was the same, like clockwork, but on the day they planned to strike he didn’t go into work. Unbeknownst to them he was promoted at his job and his new positioned required a schedule where he had to work early some days and late on others. When the abductors didn’t see him leave for work like planned they thought maybe he was on to them so they left. Over the next few days they saw him leave at varying times and lost all confidence in their plan and called off the kidnapping.
That might seem ridiculous but criminals need a certain level of confidence in themselves and their plans in order to pull them off. If they see their target suddenly act strangely or vary their routine that is often more than enough to make them pick a different target.
Here the tip I give is to take your take your daily activates that involve leaving your house such as jogging, walking, getting the mail, etc. and decide what you’ll do that day and when by picking it out of a hat. That way it is random and you’re hard to predict.
For example, let’s say you jog every morning before going to work. When you’re planning your week you would pick out of hat, or some other way to randomize it, to decide what days you will jog, whether you do it before or after work, and what route you will take. There are a lot of predators who hang out around jogging trails and they watch people to follow patterns. By being unpredictable you will greatly lessen your chances of getting their attention and being attacked.
One of my clients does this and she has envelops that she keeps her cut up paper in. She has one envelop labeled “jogging routes” where each route is written on an individual piece of paper ready to be dumped in a hat. She also has envelops labeled “days of the week” and “before or after work” so when she is planning her week she has all of her options ready for the hat.
Granted this may seem a little extreme to some people so it depends on the results from your personal threat assessment and how seriously you want to take your safety. This particular client is very concerned with her safety as she is very attractive (often getting an uncomfortable amount of attention from guys) and has an ex-husband who she believes is legitimately crazy. She plans out her entire week in advance; her and a coworker tradeoff who will get coffee in the morning so she can vary what times she leaves for work, she has 4 different ways to get to work and the one she takes is random, and her jogging is completely random. She said this was a pain in the butt when she first started but it has become empowering and she even likes not following the same pattern each day, she said changing up what she does each day has become fun.
You can take this to whatever degree you want it all depends on your personal level of threat.
The third tip is look at burglary as a competition between you and your neighbors. Burglary is a very common crime and a fact of life. However, burglary doesn’t just happen, the way burglars work is they carefully pick their targets. The will walk or drive around neighborhoods looking for the homes with just the right vulnerabilities. There is an old joke that if you’re attacked by a bear you don’t have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun your slowest friend. This is how it is with reducing your risk of being targeted by a burglar too.
Take a walk around your neighborhood and look at the homes. Ask yourself if you were choosing a home to break into which would you pick? Which homes make it easy to look inside the windows? Can you see any valuables just by looking from the street? Do they leave windows or doors open? Your goal is to have the least attractive home for burglars in your neighborhood. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that if you have a few houses that are screaming to be broken into that you can slack off; you should take break-ins seriously and try to burglar proof your home to the best of your ability, but you should also walk your neighborhood now and again, put yourself in the mindset of a burglar, and make sure that you don’t have the most vulnerable home on your street.
My fourth tip is to get, or fake, a dog. I’m not talking about a small dog here; I’m talking about a dog big enough to be capable of scaring a human being. If you go jogging or walking having a dog with you will greatly decrease your chances of getting attacked. Having a dog will also decrease your chances of having your home broken into because no criminal wants to kick a door in and then be confronted by Cujo.
If you don’t have a dog then you should fake one. Since most criminals break into homes by walking right up to them and using the front door put a “Beware of Dog” sign in your front yard. Also, right by your front door put a dog dish and make it a big dog dish. Perhaps tie a leash to your front porch, and maybe buy some dry dog food and sprinkle some in the bowl and on the ground next to it. Your goal is to make it seem like a dog, a BIG dog, lives inside that house.
Most burglaries happen between 10am and 3pm while you’re at work so your home will be sitting empty and vulnerable. Even alarm systems aren’t foolproof; some criminals will cut the power to your home to turn off your alarm system and even if your alarm has a battery backup it is still vulnerable because if it is wireless (never get a wireless home security system) then all a criminals has to do is kick in your door and smash the alarm pad with a hammer (the alarm pad is the brain of your wireless system and if that gets smashed your alarm doesn’t work). Even with a wired system with a battery backup there are still ways to bypass it. Dogs however, especially big dogs, scare the shit out of burglars.
My last tip is also for dealing with burglars. When a burglar breaks into your home (most often by kicking in your front door which is so easy it is scary) they want to do two things: 1.) get as many valuables as possible, and 2.) get out as quickly as possible to limit their chances of getting caught. This is why the first place a burglar goes to is the master bedroom because that is where people keep most of their valuables like jewelry, cash, expensive clothing, and firearms. They will most likely ransack your drawers and closet then they’ll normally go to the living room and the kitchen looking for electronics and silver.
No criminal wants to leave empty handed so if they can’t find anything in one room they’ll just look harder in the next. So my 5th tip, which I got years ago from someone else, is to plant valuables for them to find. Invest a little bit of money, maybe $30-$50 or so and purchase decent quality fake jewelry. Get some gold chain necklaces and costume jewelry rings and put them in an envelope and put it in your top drawer. You can also go online and purchase fake $100 bills and put a stack of them in there too. I bought some good quality fake money from http://www.rjrprops.com/prop-money.html and apparently this company makes fake money for movies and rap videos. I got a folded stack of $100 bills for $39.
If you purchase some fake money make sure it is colored and full size. If you purchase fake online always read the descriptions carefully because most of the time the money is either black and white or it is smaller than real money. The problem comes with getting money that looks real enough but isn’t also illegal. The fake money that is made for Hollywood comes in two types, money that is double sided and designed to look real from 4 feet away or further but you can tell is fake up close and money that is designed to look real up close but is only single sided so you know it is fake. I suggest getting the double sided version and then rolling it up or folding it so hopefully it is not as obvious.
Ideally if (statistically when) your home gets broken into and the intruder runs to your master bedroom and starts opening the drawers and finds that envelope sitting right on top and thinks “jackpot!” and hopefully leaves without taking anything else or at least doesn’t take as much as they normally would. If you get real lucky (and you purchase good looking fake money) they might try to spend it and get arrested.
Years back I worked as the general manager for a company that bought gold and silver and the clientele was amazing. Our single biggest source of gold and silver was from young people who would come in and dump a whole load of gold chains and other jewelry on the desk and you knew it was stolen. These kids either stole it from relatives or broke into people’s homes and sometimes they would almost admit it. Most of it, sometimes all of it, would be fake and anything that was fake they would just leave on the counter when they walked away. We had a whole box of fake jewelry that was just left there because they didn’t want it and those same people would come back the next week with another handful.
Like I said at the beginning these are the tips I give that people seem to like the most but are not necessarily the best or most useful tips for the common person. However, all these tips are useful and I do all of these to some degree myself.