Posted by on April 22, 2020

Let’s face it. Overall, our spatial awareness is horrible. We see an increasing number of accidents involving people who are distracted – often by mobile devices. When I walk in busy areas in Toronto – Dundas Square, Yonge, and Eglinton – I find myself evading approaching pedestrians, their heads down, oblivious to me, and all others. Great self-defense training for me but irritating and potentially dangerous. 

From a self-defense point of view, this trend is disturbing. For an aspiring assailant, it is an opportunity. Allow me an analogy. When a predator (e.g. lion, leopard) stalks its prey it strives to avoid the prey’s sensory alarms by:

  • walking quietly (hearing)
  • approaching from behind or the side, under cover of grass, trees, etc…. (sight)
  • approaching from downwind (smell)

Predators also look for an opportunity when the prey is distracted and has limited escape routes. For example, a wildebeest grazing or drinking at a waterhole. When the predator gets into the striking distance they do so with great force and speed. 

Human predators, at least the cunning ones, often approach victims in similar ways, from surprise directions, approaching quietly, and striking quickly. A distracted person simply makes their job easier. Some examples. 

  • headphones and cell phone conversations reduce or eliminate your ability to hear footsteps or warning calls
  • texting compromises your vision, severely reducing your ability to perceive potential and real dangers 
  • all of these activities severely reduce your spatial awareness – e.g. finding the nearest exit

We don’t want you walking with your head on a swivel. Nor do we expect this article to lead to a widespread reduction in the irresponsible use of communication devices. What we do ask, however, is that you strive to reduce the advantages and opportunities that your distractions offer potential assailants. 

Awareness and prevention. Two cornerstones of practical self-defense. 

 P.S. Don’t read this while walking, biking, or driving!

Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay


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