Stay Safe – Travel Self Defence

Adventurous travellers often find themselves in areas where crime is common, risk of mugging or an attack maybe considered an unavoidable even acceptable hazard of adventure.

Basic self defence techniques against an attacker on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

Grabbing a top is a common aggressive act

“a little knowledge can be dangerous”

Despite using Kash Lee and Jet Lowe as my models for this post on basic self-defence for traveller’s use of it is to be avoided. In the event of being robbed the best option is always to merely hand over any valuables and stay safe. Such situations are unpredictable and just because a weapon is not brandished does not mean one is not being carried. Regardless of financial or personal value it is not worth getting seriously injured or worse over.

Basic self defence techniques against an attacker on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

‘Break’ the wrist, it is irresistible if done correctly

There may be situations however where the intent of the assailant is to cause injury or in the case of women there maybe a sexual motive. If a physical attack is imminent and cannot be avoided then hopefully a little knowledge may help, but remember; “a little knowledge can be dangerous.”

The best form of self defence is always avoidance! Remain alert whenever in an unfamiliar area, watch for dark areas, streetlamps which have been damaged, alleyways which are ideal ‘ambush’ zones or pairs/groups of people congregating in a quiet area. Take a wide berth of these potential risks, cross the road; take a different route even if it means retracing steps to find a suitable alternative. It may later cause feelings of foolishness, but that is preferable to the possible alternatives.

“The best form of defence is always avoidance”

Basic self defence techniques against an attacker on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

Once control is gained get away

Do not to appear to be a ‘victim’ which requires walking around confidently. Most attackers are essentially cowards. They will be looking for easy targets; if they feel a person may fight back they will almost certainly look elsewhere.

Flash and brash is a common mistake, avoid showing the ‘bling’. Expensive cameras, smartphones, valuable jewellery and designer clothing will all attract the attention of the criminal element. Keep it out of sight wherever possible and they will again look for other targets which for them will be a better return on their ‘investment’.

Basic self defence techniques against an attacker on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

Not a friendly hand on a shoulder

“attack can be the best form of defence”

If confronted by a potential attacker that appears intent on violence then make plenty of noise in an attempt to scare them off. Do not call for help but instead initially shout “FIRE”, bystanders tend to take more notice. If this fails and the mugger persists, stand sideways on, hands ready to fend off the attack and call loudly “STAY BACK” repeat this several times. This can deter a coward as they will be concerned by the aggressive stance taken and by the possibility of assistance arriving.

If the worst happens and it is obvious that despite all precautions an attack is a certainty then swift, aggressive and decisive action is required. This attacker is determined and possibly desperate so attack can be the best form of self defence.

Basic self defence techniques against an attacker on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

Grip the hand and use your other arm to ‘break’ the arm at the elbow

It will be difficult in such a high stress situation where the ‘flight or flight’ response is kicking in, but attempt to remain calm as the person with the coolest head usually finishes on top in a conflict situation.

There is only one aim however, to escape! Do not press any advantage gained, the initial action may provide this. However once the attacker is temporarily surprised or off balance run as fast as possible to a more public area.

Basic self defence techniques against an attacker on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

Time to get away

There are a number of vulnerable areas to aim for; soft and hard tissue areas can provide a quick, painful and effective opportunity to escape.

Pressure points are useful, but not for the untrained, as for them to be effective pressure has to be applied to exactly the right spot. This is difficult in a high stress situation and for those unfamiliar with the technique required it will not easily be reproduced.

A quick blow to the throat with just two fingers, stamping on their instep, dragging a foot down the shin or a well-aimed blow to the knee-cap of a potential attacker can provide the diversion needed to escape.

Soft tissue areas especially require a degree of care, being over aggressive may result in the attacker pressing charges against a ‘victim’. Anything more than a short, sharp jab to the throat or eyes can cause serious, long term injury. However if in genuine fear for your life, act first and worry about charges later.

This article merely scratches the surface of self-defence. If interested in learning more attending classes at an approved school or club is highly recommended. Jiu-Jitsu is effective or perhaps find a class teaching Krav Maga or SCARS which can be taught to those without any previous experience and are also effective.

Basic self defence techniques against an attacker on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

Defence against from an attacker from behind

Basic self defence techniques against an attacker on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

Grip the elbow and wrist, then twist as you slide downwards

There isn’t any substitute for common sense; keep away from obvious risk areas, remain alert, hide the bling and wherever possible attempt to walk away without it escalating to violence even if it means handing over a wallet or valuables.

Basic self defence techniques against an attacker on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

Once control is gained get away fast

My thanks to Kash @BudgetTraveller and Dylan @TravelingEditor for agreeing to be willing and photogenic models for this post.

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Comments 13

  1. kate nivison

    Much appreciated, Iiain, and much needed advice these days, especially the bit about knowing when not to fight. A writing student of mine got shot in the face in Guatemala City a few years ago when he tried to hold onto his bag containing his camera. He’s still not fully recovered, and I felt dreadful when he mentioned almost jokingly that he’d hung onto it because he remembered my saying how important it was to take pix if you wanted to be a travel writer. When mugged by an alpha male baboon and his girl friend for my ice cream in the Cape of Good Hope car park, I remembered and flung the thing as far as I could. (Stupid of me to eat anything at all with any large animals in the offing, but that’s a slightly different area of safety . . . )

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      Iain

      Thanks Kate I am glad you found it of use, but really want to emphasise that avoidance is always the way forward, it is not worth risking a confrontation unless it cannot be avoided. Sounds like you have some stories to share though.

  2. Faith Pepper

    The best advice I think which can be offered when traveling abroad is to not look like a victim!

    Potential muggers are very much like the big predators in Africa, they don’t want to take on anyone who may give them problems, so they pick either the young, old, or those who look like they will be no problem. However, if you walk tall and confidently there is a far less chance that you will be thought of as a target.

    Kind regards

    Faith Pepper

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      Iain

      I am glad you agree Faith the cowards look for easy targets, as you say the weak, frail or old, it is the best way to avoid a potential attack. Only the desperate will usually take on somebody likely to fight back.

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  3. Cindy

    I agree on not looking like a victim. It is not only a posture, it’s also a facial expression. Gotta train in front of the mirror to like a serial killer. 😛

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  4. Louie

    My friends, here are some tips from somebody who is old, a war veteran, and travelled all over the world:

    1.- When you arrive to a new place, get to know your surroundings ‘during the day.’
    2.- Try to blend with the locals, dress alike.
    3.- Do not flash your money. Place different denominations in different pockets, and make a pocket in your underwear for big bills.
    4.- Carry self made weapons that are not obvious:
    a.- A powerful little (pocket) flashlight will blind your attacker for few seconds, enough to escape.
    b.- If you are in a dangerous area the best defence against animals and people is fire.
    Carry a small spray bottle, with alcohol and a torch lighter. Fire is always a good deterrent, and if you are lost is useful.
    You may spray the attacker with one hand and torch the bastard with the other.
    c.- Be aware of your surroundings, if you see a stick, grab it and defend yourself, same thing with bottles, stones, etc.
    5.- If you run make sure to run where to a public place, do not corner yourself. Churchs, religious places are always safe, markets, etc.
    6.- Don’t be paranoid, chances are that if you are not drunk, alone, or buying illegal merchandise, nothing will happen to you.
    7.- Do not trust people because they are nice, try to avoid giving the time, information, or stop often to respond to estrangers.
    8.- And finally…have fun…walk with somebody or in a group and you will be safe.

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      Iain

      Thanks for sharing these Louie though not sure all can be described as self defence, in some case might be considered overly aggressive. Anybody using a spray bottle as a blowtorch needs to be very careful they don’t end up with thrid degree burns as well. The best form of defence is still avoidance.

  5. love spell

    Hi there,I read your blog named “Travel Tips; Self Defence for Travellers – Mallory On Travel” like every week.Your writing style is witty, keep doing what you’re doing! And you can look our website about love spell.

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