A few years ago I attended a self-defense class designed for women, and taught by an Israeli Army veteran. As the only male student I was volunteered to attack the instructor, who then absurdly flung me around like a stuffed animal. After three humiliating and painful results I concluded the path of good was altogether superior for me.
He taught techniques the Israelis have developed over fifty years in a hostile environment. Not karate, kung fu, or other stylized systems, but a scientific approach to incapacitating an attacker as efficiently as possible.
He maintained that many men and women–but especially women–do not know how to react when attacked, and have never considered what they might do in such a situation. Of course travelers are only very rarely physically attacked, but the consequences are such forethought is imperative.
Following are a few points on defensive techniques. You may want to attend a good self-defense class.
THESE POINTS ONLY RELATE TO A PHYSICAL ATTACK UPON YOUR PERSON. If they want your money or belongings, let them have it.
1. Attackers often test victims before assaulting as they are looking for a good victim. He may shout or curse at you, and/or bump you. He wants you to become rattled, to stop in your tracks, and, in effect, turn yourself over to him. Mentally prepare yourself now for such a test. You want to look tough, confident, and unflustered.
2. In a fight for your life you cannot be squeamish about inflicting injury. You have many tools at your disposal, including fingernails, fingers, thumbs, teeth, elbows, and legs.
3. Get a finger in his eye and gouge. Get fingers in his mouth, dig in with your nails, and rip his cheeks out. The same for nostrils, ears, and balls: rip, tear, and gouge. Run when you get the chance.
4. Don’t delude yourself that “knowing where to kick a man” is going to save you. That is a difficult or impossible blow to deliver in a fight. In reality you would need to use fingers and nails to gouge and tear.
5. Scream at maximum power to startle, frighten, and alert. Men should do this, too. Think banzai battle cry.
6. If the attacker has a choke-hold around your neck, don’t grab onto his arms or hands to pull them off. Instead, join hands at your waist and swing upward to blast his grip off, then come down with a blow to the nose. Otherwise gouge eyes or rip apart balls.
7. Fighting back may induce your attacker to greater violence, and some women have talked their way out of harm. No one can tell you what your response should be. You must decide then and there. Prepare now to make that decision.
8. Many Department of State Travel Advisories for various countries state that tourists who quietly accede to bandits’ demands are usually not harmed. Do not argue, but give whatever they want, including your car. The rule is: Do what they say, hand it over, and get away.
In the Middle East if you come across a sign telling you to keep out of a place or town, keep out! I learned this after coming a hair’s breadth from being stoned to death by a group of Palestinians who thought I was Israeli. Since tourist dollars are much desired, there is good reason for any such warnings. Robin, Brownsville, Texas
When booking airline, bus and train tickets try to arrive at your destination during daylight hours, especially in some large American and developing world cities. There can be dangerous people at bus stations looking for vulnerability. If you become a target, don’t show weakness–instead look arrogant and confident. Even in times of dire poverty, sometimes money spent on a taxi is a great bargain. Slam, New Zealand
Crime finally caught me after traveling in more than sixty countries. After locating a seat on a very crowded train leaving Yogyakarta, Indonesia I set my daypack on the seat and placed my bag on the overhead rack. Within those few seconds the daypack was gone. I obtained a police report at my next destination, beat myself up for a day, and continued on to have an amazing trip. My new rule is to not let go of my property until the train leaves the station. Indonesia is a fantastic country despite that one unpleasant encounter. Curt