Self-defense courses are essential for the well-being of any American citizen, male or female, whether you’re living alone in the city or starting a family in the suburbs. It’s just as important an aspect of self-care as smart dieting and exercise; exercise serves as defense against muscle atrophy and advanced aging, and a good diet serves as defense against illness and adverse health-these are physical threats to your well-being, just like an assailant on the street, in a bar, or on the train.
If you can afford self-defense courses and make the time in your schedule, do so; if for whatever reason you legitimately can’t, the least you can do is teach yourself to be aware of your surroundings and identify threats. A good way to think about self-awareness is to use the system of classification popularized by Jeff Cooper, a forefather of modern handgun technique whose principles can be applied to all forms of self-defense. Cooper delineated four states of mind related to threat detection: conditions white, yellow, orange, and red. White is the default state of mind for those who have never considered self-defense courses: defenseless and carefree, lacking any mind to note potential areas for threats to wait in ambush, no advance preparation in the way of hiding expensive belongings or wearing clothes conducive to fleeing. Yellow, by contrast, is the state of calm for those who have a fundamental understanding of self-defense: they’ve ascertained any possible danger zones around them and have assessed the situation as stable, but they continue to be aware of their surroundings. Orange is the state of having located a potential threat: a rustle behind a dumpster, the shadow of someone trailing them. Red is an altercation in progress.
You can adopt the condition yellow mindset even without knowing how to handle a condition red situation. Whenever you enter a public space alone, take a moment to look around you and ascertain any potential threats. At night, your eyes will need to adjust to the darkness; take note of any unlit routes and avoid them, along with any unpopulated streets. If you see anyone suspicious lurking near you, reenter a private space, seek an alternate exit, or wait for the figure to leave. If you’re leaving in a car, peak underneath and inside it for potential attackers in wait before entering. If you’re walking home, glance behind you now and then, or watch for shadows; if you feel you’re being tailed, sharply cross the street as soon as possible and observe any changes in behavior of whomever may be behind you. And of course, make it easy to flee: wear comfortable shoes and clothes that won’t impede your ability to run. (Additionally: do not wear headphones. This should be a given.)
Ultimately, you will need to take the initiative to empower yourself with self-defense courses. Until then, the most you can do is live in awareness of your vulnerability and account for it.