The purpose of this article is to discuss what we at Protect consider the first stage of real self defense/personal protection; Avoidance through awareness and intuition.

Often in our industry there is a lot of lip service paid to avoidance and awareness, but not too many really understand the depth of what this means or just how vital this aspect of training really is. This is self defence in its purest form. There is no way we can cover anywhere near the full scope of this topic in one article so the aim of this article is to get you thinking a little deeper on the subject and encourage you to seek out the information for yourselves if you don't already have it…

Avoidance starts with acceptance. Acceptance that violence in all of its many forms is real, prevalent and happens to anybody, at any time, regardless of age, gender, social status, wealth etc.

It is an unfortunate reality that most people live their lives in complete apathy when it comes to the subject of learning to protect themselves. Apathy is the attitude of "It will never happen to me", "My boyfriend will protect me" "I don't need training, I'll just set the dog on ‘em", "I live in a safe neighbourhood" etc etc…

Sound familiar? Hospitals, sexual assaults centres and cemeteries are full of people who lived their life with this attitude of indifference.

Because it can happen to them. And when/if it does, and they have never been prepared for it, what happens? Denial. The first thing that goes through their mind in that crucial moment is "I can't believe this is happening to me". And while they are going through this thought process, their attacker is capitalising on their inaction and things get very bad very fast.

So often people come to us for training after they have already faced violent situations, and so often we hear them all say the same thing: "I wish I had known this information before".

We tell people that our training is just like another form of insurance, you may never need it, but if you do you'll be real glad you have it.

Awareness is the first element of defence. The majority of victims are caught completely unaware. But how do you maintain a constant state of awareness? After all, life happens around us and we get caught up in our daily lives, and at the same time we don't want to become paranoid nervous wrecks expecting someone to jump on us every second of every day, that is no way to live life.

At Protect we utilise Senshido's specially designed ‘colour coded risk evaluation guide' to help our students determine which mindset they need to be in dependent on the situation. This helps to create clarity in the moment as they go about their day to day lives, keeping them sharp, and ensuring that their state of awareness is relevant to the situation they are in (time, place, environment, people etc). It is a very simple system which has excellent benefits.

A big part of avoidance is understanding the criminal mind and understanding how attackers choose their victims. One of the most simple strategies that should be implemented all of the time is that of making yourself a "hard target". Understand that prey behaviour attracts predatory interest. Any 10 year old who watches Animal Planet knows this. But so often people are unknowingly manifesting unwanted criminal interest by the way they behave.

What do I mean by this? Well, one example is body language. It accounts for at least 60% of communication yet most people are completely oblivious to the effects of the way they carry their body.

Let's look at an example of two separate girls walking alone through a park. The first is walking at a slow, meandering pace. She has her ipod on and her head down while she texts on her cellphone. She looks like…the perfect victim.

The second is walking at a brisk pace, looking as if she absolutely has a place to go. Her head is up, shoulders back and she is obviously aware of her surroundings.

If you were a "would be" mugger/rapist/attacker which of the two girls would you attack? The answer is obvious, the "weak" one right? The one who clearly has no situational awareness, doesn't look at all confident or aware, and really transmits the signals of an "easy target". This applies to everyone, guys and girls.

If an attacker perceives that you are too much of a "hard target" they will move on to an easier prey. Three things an attacker (on a criminal level) absolutely doesn't want are to be hurt, to have attention drawn to the situation, or to be caught. If you appear a hard target which could potentially risk any of these things to the attacker they'll move on to someone else.

Another example of avoidance strategies in action is developing an understanding of the pre-contact stages of a violent confrontation. Do you know how to spot a set-up when it is happening to you? Do you know what the most common "sucker punch" attacks are? I am NOT referring to the physical act itself as that is irrelevant, I am talking about what happens before the physical attack is made.

Do you know how to read pre-contact indicators in an attacker? How to identify if the attacker has a concealed weapon? How to survey an environment to identify potential threats, exits, natural weapons, environmental variables? How to know if you are being followed and if you think you are how to handle that situation? Ladies, do you know how most "date rapes" happen? What the most common date rape drugs are, how they are used and how to avoid them?

These are all things that we cover as part of our training, but I mention them here to get you thinking. If you don't know what I am talking about, and you are serious about self defence, you'd better learn. Fast. Because I don't care how good you are physically with your techniques, if you don't understand the behavioural aspects of violence your physical techniques will mean stuff all. Apart from having first hand experience at this, we have had 7th degree black belts and every dan level below that, champion grapplers, golden gloves boxers and many others train with us and we have proven this every time without fail. Those of you who have attended one of our seminars know what I am talking about.

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself "If I was an attacker, where would I attack me?"? That is a really useful question to ask yourself. There is in most cases a stalking stage to an attack. That could take place over a matter of months, weeks, days, hours or just minutes. The problem is that most of us live our life by routine. We tend to do the same things everyday, get up at the same time, same morning routine, make our way to work/school the same way etc. If a stalker has you in their sights, it is not hard for them to work out the "weak spots" in your routine, so if you can identify them beforehand you can modify them. It is about being proactive. This is self defence.

These are just a couple of examples of avoidance strategies. These are in addition to the myriad of safety and personal security strategies which should simply be part of your day to day routine.

The purpose of this article is to get you thinking and questioning yourself about how you can stay safer and live a more confident and empowered life. For more information visit

Take care and stay safe


Author's Bio: 

Phil Thompson is co-founder of Protect Self Defence. A keynote speaker and highly regarded self-protection expert, Phil leads seminars and instructs a huge variety of students in Protect programmes all over New Zealand and Australia.

Phil has over 25 years experience in martial arts training, achieving Black Belt level or higher in multiple styles. So he knows a bit about physical self-defence techniques. But Phil's impetus with Protect goes far beyond simply memorising techniques for physical conflicts, to dealing with the causes and effects of violence in a truly holistic way.

Phil believes that beyond the physical, effective self-protection involves a variety of behavioural, emotional, psychological, ethical and legal aspects. To understand them all is to truly feel safe.

He is a member of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association and an acknowledged expert on the pre-contact stages of violent confrontation.

He is also the sole male in New Zealand to be certified by Richard Dimitri as a Senshido instructor (2006). Senshido is a highly influential form of self-defence that uses the body's own natural rhythms and responses to create easy-to-learn instinctive techniques.

Phil has taught self protection to many thousands of people through regular seminars and training sessions.

Students include members of the general public, as well as professionals not new to violence, such as police (including special tactics units), ambulance officers, armed forces personnel and customs officials.

He also regularly teaches corporates, businesses of all sizes, schools, special needs organisations and everyday men and women concerned about their safety and the safety of their loved ones.

Phil can be contacted at