There is a selection process when a bad guy is picking you. If the attacker is someone you already know, there is a different selection process. But we are going to talk here about random selection.
Let’s just say the individual who is going to attack you does not currently know you. There is a major selection process, and it is called Opportunity. I am going to dip into the animal kingdom for an example. We have all watched Animal Planet or Discovery Channel. You are watching one of these shows, and the lion is the king of the jungle, the strongest and the meanest and the most ferocious. Well, if he is so tough, let’s talk about his selection process for a second, because it is the exact same process which is used by the criminal that walks our planet. They do not know you, so they really do not care about you. They want you as an easy opportunity. If you ever watch one of these lions hunt, what they do is they wait for an animal to fall behind. He is going to catch one drinking, not paying attention. He is going to catch one injured and limping. He is going to catch one that is newly born and is a soft target and just cannot keep up with the herd. He does not want the fastest, he does not want the strongest. You do not ever see this lion running to the head of the pack, passing up all the other gazelles to try to take down the biggest and strongest one. Why? They want an easy opportunity. They are not going to work hard when they do not have to. There are a ton of easy opportunities out there. So, the easier the opportunity, the more likely we are to become a victim.
Think about the decision-making process of the average person. Humans thrive on opportunity in all things. Here are some examples:
- You park in the closest open spot to the store instead of accross the lot.
- You invest when asset prices are down to make more money.
- You save money by shopping when there is a sale.
- You apply for the highest paying job available.
I could go on and on, and so could you. The point is, it is the same with self-defense.
“Whatever opportunity you give, someone might take”
Imagine a fortress. Now think like an attacker for a minute. Are the gates locked? Are the walls too high? Are there guards, dogs or rivers to cross? Did someone see you coming and sound an alarm? If your chances of success are low, you will probably move on, because there are always a softer target right down the road. This is how a potential attacker evaluates you.
Constantly think in the mind of a bad guy: What would I do? How would I victimize myself right now? Am I making myself an easy opportunity? Am I not around a lot of people? Is it dark outside? Does anyone know where I am? Am I jingling my keys? Am I sitting in my car too long? Am I taking my time when I should be speeding up? Have I given myself an out in traffic with my vehicle? Have I ever had any kind of training? Am I putting myself in a poor time, in a poor place, around individuals who do not have my best interest in mind? Do I understand pre-attack indicators? All these things add up to either becoming an opportunity or not becoming an opportunity.
And right off the bat there are a lot of us who are already opportunities. Soft targets. Women, children, we can go as deep as individuals who wear glasses, people who look down at the ground, older men who have gray hair or may be balding. Why? A lot of individuals, a lot of attackers, they might see this as a sign of weakness. Gray hair? Guess what, maybe not strong enough to defend themselves as much as a young guy, a 25-year-old or a 23-year-old. Many women are inherently smaller and physically less strong than males. A lot of people do not like to hear that, but it is a biological fact, and once we recognize it is a fact, we can do something to make a difference. We teach women in the C.O.B.R.A. Self-Defense Program how to ultimately bring down any male attacker, and it is not by out-punching and out-kicking him, because that cannot work very well.
Criminals generally look for 4 easy opportunities when selecting their victims:
1. Physical weakness i.e. small posture, old & fragile, physical disability, poor body posture;
2. Distracted persons i.e. checking your social media status in public, applying make-up at a busy intersection, talking on your cellphone in a public place;
3. Relaxed persons i.e. you are at home, your guard is down and your home alarm is switched off;
4. Uninhibited persons i.e. you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs and tend to do/allow things you would not normally do.
In 1984 Betty Grayson and Morris Stein conducted a now famous experiment in New York. They set up a video camera, and filmed people walking along a street (nobody was aware that they were being filmed). They then took the footage and showed it individually to prisoners who had been incarcerated for violent crimes including GBH (Gross Bodily Harm), rape, and murder. They then asked them to identify who from the footage they would select as a victim. After interviewing all of the prisoners, they found that there was an 87% agreement amongst them as to who they would select as a victim, and the process took no longer than 5 seconds to complete. When asked why they choose who they did, none of the prisoners could explain the reasons. To try and gain a better understanding, Grayson and Stein took the footage to two analysts to find out what it was that separated the chosen victims from the non-victims.
The analysts came up with three things that marked people out as potential victims. These were:
1. Walking with the head down, and the eyes pointed at the ground
If you are walking with your eyes pointing at the ground, you are not going to see what is going on around you. It also is clear that you are lost in your own thoughts. If you are walking with your head down in a crowd, you may think being around people makes you safe, however this is not the case. The other thing which walking with your head, and your eyes towards the ground communicates, is depression and a lack of self-worth. If somebody is depressed or does not feel good about themselves, then they are less likely to fight back, or refuse an assailant what they want.
2. A stride length that was too short or too long, relative to their height
If you shuffle and your stride length is too short for your height, you are going to give off further signals of depression and lack of self-worth. If you strut about, taking long steps (something people do to make themselves look taller/bigger) you may give off the impression of arrogance, or that you are not to be challenged. If this is the case, you may well meet the mugger who wants to take you down a peg or two, and show you who the real power player in the environment is. If we understand that in incidents of mugging, anger, power and control are at play, we can understand how overly bold and confident people may attract the attention of such criminals. Muggers will admit that they have targeted people in expensive suits and wearing expensive jewelry and watches because they wanted to show them that they were not as big or as important as they thought they were, rather than for any actual financial gain.
3. A disconnect between the way a person’s top half and bottom half moves
Normally when you walk, your opposite arm should swing, as you step with the opposite leg, and it should move in time with this movement. In the study, it was shown that those individuals who had been classed as victims, moved in a less coordinated fashion, with their arms moving out of time and without relation to their legs.
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