Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Self Defense on Vacation

Research your accomodation thoroughly

Source: select-a-room.com

oing on vacation? Don’t forget your flight confirmation, your passport, your credit cards…and most importantly, please don’t forget your self defense!

Self defense as in a self defense state of mind.

Too often we avoid trouble through a combination of luck and good timing. But that can run out.

One of my Black Belts was pickpocketed in bright daylight. Just a moment’s diversion and his wallet was gone. The French couple seated at the table next to me in an outdoor café had the food stolen off their plates.

Theft, kidnapping, assault...along with tons of scam artists. In some places, tourists seem to carry a neon sign above their heads that spells out the word TARGET.

A traveler, who ordinarily might be quite adept at steering around trouble at home, might find herself in trouble in a land where the rhythms and textures change all-too-suddenly in confusing ways, where icons of safety (police stations, hotels, taxis, buses, trains…) may not be the safe havens she expects them to be or where the seeming innocence and pace of life might draw her into a false sense of security.

Violence sometimes has a way of leaping out of flowers. If you ever get a chance to read some of J.M. Coetzee’s work, do so. He is a master of describing menace.  V.S. Naipaul does the same in Guerillas. In fact, take their work along as reading material to remind you what can happen on a sun-drenched day when you just happen to turn down the wrong street.

"Read" the crowd flow and remain alert

Source: masterfile.com

I’m sure seasoned travellers have their own stories to tell. And they will likely offer up a lot more suggestions than I can manage in one small post. Nevertheless, here are a few ideas –

1.  You may be on vacation but those who might want to harm you aren’t. In fact, they’re fully awake and alert.  There’s plenty of time for them to rest…once they have what their looking for. And remember that sign above your head – TARGET.

2.  Lower your sense of  trust a notch or two. Always step back and assess what someone is trying to tell you. Remain friendly – but sharply critical. Do not become swept up in rising emotions. Be polite – and firm.

Be critical and careful about all modes of transportation

 Source: sopo-angelozi.blogspot.com
 3.  Thoroughly research the place you are going to beforehand. There are government travel warnings with advisories on anything from local laws to health emergencies. Do not be a blind – and trusting – traveller!

4.  Develop an appreciation for crowd flow…in airports, train stations, out in the streets. Never get caught up; always take your time. I’ve found that strangers who a searching for a victim usually judge you by your body language. Appear alert (even though you’ve just come off a 24 hr. trip in a crowded train). Constantly look around you (never walk gazing down at your tired feet). “Read” the street: look up ahead to see what’s about to happen…and look behind you to see who’s coming up behind.

(I’ve heard of good and kind folks totally absorbed by the beauty of the site in front of them who had their pockets picked from behind).

5.  Never go along with strangers who are trying to lure you into the next drink…into a better bar…to a better party…to someone’s house. Drugs and alcohol often don’t mix well with new found “friends”.

6.  Never…ever…leave your luggage unguarded. The reasons can go far beyond theft.

Please don't get lulled into a fasle sense of security

 Source: newjerseybabybommer.com

7.  Sometimes the type of hotel you thought you’d booked isn’t as safe as it appeared to be online. Always have a back-up plan ready.

8. Be careful with taxis. Make sure they’re registered. Once you’re in a safe one, lock the doors. There are places in this world where cars carrying tourists are attacked while stopping for a red light.

9. Register with your home consulate or embassy. Carry copies of every piece of ID you have. Handle money or credit cards judiciously. Don’t flash expensive watches or jewellery.

10. Carry some sort of “everyday weapon” - a pen, nail scissors, keys, a pin, etc. (One of my students recently had her Kubotan key chain confiscated at the border she was crossing). Go over how you would use your “everyday weapon” in a self defense situation.

Please notice how I haven’t singled out a “foreign” country or city for concern. Good people are to be found everywhere. I don’t like the “them” and “us” perspective.  Please be careful when you’re vacationing - anywhere.

You may be mugged as easily on your own street as you would stepping off a cruise ship!

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