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Personal Defence Methodology - #1. AVOIDANCE

Our methodological approach to personal defence fits into 4 simple strategic responses:

#1. Avoidance #2. Escape #3. De-escalation, Diversion and Distraction #4. Targeted and reflexive physical responses

In this article we will discuss the necessary capabilities required for the most basic and primary of our strategies, specifically that of AVOIDANCE.

In all aspects of personal defence knowledge is power. If we can, through awareness and understanding, make accurate assessments, decisions and take the appropriate action we can avoid confrontation entirely. We strongly advocate this approach. AVOID first, if you can't avoid then seek opportunity to ESCAPE from the situation as quickly as possible.

Awareness is simple. It is a ‘state’ where you are open to taking in information about your surroundings and people in them. Acquiring, assessing and acting on this information is the foundation of any successful strategy for personal defence.

To make this ‘state’ more measurable we use a colour code profile to quantify your level of awareness at any time: WHITE: 'switched off' unaware and open to attack. GREEN: 'switched on' ENVIRONMENTAL ALERTNESS. Alertness is more than just information gathering, it's a full awareness of your environment (access routes, people in it, potential threats, dangers, obstacles and issues). AMBER: 'Specific Risk Assessment'. This is where a danger has been identified. The situation is assessed and decision made on your best method of personal defence. For example, you are assessing verbal and body language, solo or multiple attackers, distance and direction of potential attackers, speed, size, presence of weapons, available escape routes, opportunity for assistance, or diversion of attackers etc. RED: Fight or Flight stage. Having identified and assessed the threat this is the action stage. You decided on the best method for personal protection, now you complete that plan to the best of you capability without hesitation. Awareness vs Alertness

Awareness as we have outlined is information gathering. It is generalistically concerned with maintaining a overall view of your surroundings and the people within it. This is generalistically a good idea in all aspects of life, for example if you are setting off to cross a busy road it’s generally a good idea to be aware of the traffic on the road.

However, ‘code GREEN’ is more than just a simple awareness, it requires alertness. To be alert is a more specific ‘state’ of being. In this we are now actively seeking information about the environment. We are looking for identifiable cues and signals which may indicate and warn about potential threats and dangers. In our simple example of crossing the road, we are now actively seeking information about the road alert e.g. volume of traffic, it’s direction, speed, proximity and signs of erratic or dangerous driving etc.

Here also we are actively seeking the opportunity to overcome this obstacle (threat) safely and in this avoid any confrontation. Again in our analogy of crossing the road, we are actively seeking information on the nearest pedestrian crossing or available breaks in traffic which may provide us safe opportunity to cross.

In respect of physical assaults and attacks, the indicative ‘signs’ and signals pre-warning of an incident may not be a readily obvious as those in our example. However instinct and ‘gut feeling’ is often a great place to start. If something looks and feels wrong or out of place, typically it is wrong or out of place. Typically referred to as pre-incident factors the type of information we need to be alert to includes (this list is by no means definitive or exhaustive):

  • unnatural obstacles, individuals or groups creating a hindrance

  • stalking behaviours (people following, repeatedly passing by)

  • sudden changes in an individuals behaviour or direction towards you

  • dialogue (many physical attackers will follow ‘rituals’ to distract prior to their assault, verbal exchanges, typically questions are often used distract the would be victim from their intentions)

  • targeting behaviours (people who are focused on you - either visually or physically approaching you)

  • unnatural walking postures or hidden hands (which may be used to conceal a weapon)

  • glances between apparent strangers as they approach, impede or interact with you

  • unnatural attention towards your presence (or that of your car etc.)

  • available exits and escape routes from the current environment

  • proximity and availability of support, other people or police (this includes being alert to the absence of such too)

  • baiting behaviours - verbal comments (aggressive or otherwise) directed towards you, physical bumps, pushes, shoves or grabs (again many physical attacks are contrived by the assailant engaging in a seemingly innocuous initial verbal/physical assault, which opens the door to a greater, more gratuitous attack)

In a perfect world all things would be predictable and avoidable. This is clearly not the reality and as such we need to ensure that we have as much information available to us, on which we can make our assessment and then act. There’s a really simple conceptual decision model to keep in mind here ADA.

Assess the situation

Decide on a plan of action

Act out that plan to the best of your capability

Being alert to the environment and its changes greatly enhances your ability to make the correct informed decisions and actions.

Understanding Attack Scenarios

A further factor to be aware here is the different scenarios a physical attack may take. There is an almost infinite variety and permutations to consider here, however if we employ a strategic view we can place physical attacks into one of 4 broad categories of threat:

#1. Immediate Physical Threat

A direct physical attack which occurs without warning or obvious reason. This may or may not involve a weapon and typically starts suddenly, as such they are challenging to preempt and predict.

#2. Intended Physical Threat

This can be verbal abuse or physical gesturing which escalates into a physical attack. Typically these predictable, with distance from the threat often determining the actions taken.

#3. Undue Attention

This includes stalking behaviours, unnatural or unnecessary eye contact or other physical attention. There may be no aggression or obvious tension here. Instinctual feeling (gut feeling) is often key to determining the appropriate actions here.

#4. Area or Location

Simply this is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Environmental awareness and alertness is key to the determination of the correct actions to maintain your personal safety.

Having determined the category of threat it is further possible to more specifically model attack scenarios, for which we can then determine and repeatedly train counter strategies and responses. Broadly speaking attack scenarios are concerned with the immediate and intended physical threats detailed previously. Each scenario requires us to undertake a different response in regards to it’s assessment if we are to avoid confrontation, or ensure opportunity to escape if the former is not possible. Although the following scenarios are not directly concerned with solo or multiple attackers, any personal defence programme must allow for and train for both of these potential eventualities.

Specifically within our personal defence programme the attack scenario models we consider are:

(i) Attacked with complete surprise

Here there is no warning, time or opportunity to avoid/defend. This is the ‘unavoidable’ attack for which no amount of physical skill will assist you with. The underlying opportunity here is should you survive the initial assault, your subsequent physical responses need to be reflexive and explosive. The sole defence to this type of attack is to be fully aware and alert (code GREEN)at all times.

(ii) Taken by complete surprise

Here you have allowed yourself to become a victim,through maintaining a code WHITE approach and being switched off to your environment. In this scenario someone has been able to ‘close the distance’ and erupt in your face with demands, threats of violence, violent physical gesturing and posturing. This is all designed to make you compliant and capitulate to their demands, physically and psychologically forcing you to shut down and freeze.

The main line of defence here is the same as the previous, do not allow yourself to be taken by surprise, maintain a constant environmental awareness and alertness (code GREEN). However, the physical response here also must be considered. Where there is opportunity, this type of situation having being role-played and rehearsed in training hundreds of times, the physical response should again be reflexive, explosive and preemptive to allow the opportunity to escape.

(iii) Aggressive Escalation

This is an increasingly aggressive verbal exchange, which may be accompanied by physical gestures and posturing. The fundamental key to defence in this scenario is to maintain distance and seek opportunity to distract the individual (and subsequently escape) and/or de-escalate the situation through dialogue. Self-confidence, control of your inner voice, doubts and fear, is often the challenge in this scenario and through rehearsed role play and repetition this can become a well trained, learnt response which can be employed to verbally de-escalate this type of confrontation and avoid any physical assault.

(iv) Third Party Involvement

This may involve going to the assistance of another person or preventing a crime from happening. Your assessment here will be largely determined by the character of the person requiring assistance, your personal skill, fitness, experience and confidence. It is worth noting that whilst your intention here may be to involve yourself to control the events of this situation, it is quite possible your actions will become controlled by those very events and as such you are forced in a reactive behavioural pattern. Fundamentally, the good samaritan approach needs to be considered, realistic and that decision made from a personal safety first perspective. You gain nothing by engaging in a scenario where you become an additional victim.


In this article we have attempted to present an insight into the methodology that governs our primary strategies for personal defence - AVOIDANCE and ESCAPE. Our belief is that if we can maintain a high state of awareness and be alert to potential threats, we provide ourselves opportunity to take action to avoid the situation before it begins. Much of what we have covered is very much a common-sense approach to understanding our modern environment and the potential dangers and threats it presents. Finally we would suggest that whilst we can never truly predict a situation, being informed, aware and listening to our gut-feelings is a really solid place to begin.

For any further information on our Personal Defence classes and workshops please contact us today!

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