Learning 52 Blocks for self defence has many advantages over other promoted self defence seminars. A self-defense seminar generally contains more lecture time than an ongoing martial arts class, particularly if it is geared toward a specific part of the population (women, for example). But if the instructor simply reads from a book, you might as well buy the book and sit at home and read it. The material should be introduced the way it is to be used, and not the way it is printed. An instructor who includes a scene that you can relate to, preferably from your own area or neighborhood, will get your attention more easily. For example, if a knife-wielding assailant recently attacked your neighbor in his home, you will feel a stronger urge to learn self-defense than if your instructor simply reads a list of statistics from a different part of the country. We hear about muggings every day, but few of us give it much thought . . . until it happens to one of us.

In order to understand how to avoid an attack, we must discuss the types of attacks that most often occur and how they are triggered. How can you avoid getting into the situation in the first place? If you do get into a situation, what can you do before it escalates? Divide awareness drills into segments:

1. Okay, I know I am in trouble. If I do this particular 52 Blocks technique now, then I have a chance to get away before anybody gets hurt.

2. The attack is imminent or is already happening. What is my best course of action? Why?

A few years ago, I noticed that I was being followed on a moving pavement at the Orlando airport in Florida. It was late at night, and only my mother and I were in the terminal. Our follower remained a few steps behind us and slowed down his walk when we stopped momentarily. When I looked directly at the man, he turned and walked the other way against the direction of the moving pavement. How could we have prevented getting into this situation in the first place? How were we carrying our purses? Other luggage? Were we engaged in conversation that sidetracked our awareness? Had it turned into a robbery or other encounter, what could we have done? Where was the closest help?

1. Where is violence most likely to occur? In the home, near the home, in parking lots, with strangers or with people you know, daytime or nighttime, at places you frequent often, or at unusual places that you don’t frequent often?

2. Who is your typical assailant? Male or female, what ethnic group, what age group, rich or poor, on drugs or sober?

3. Who is the typical victim? Male or female, a child, a person with a disability, young or old?

4. How should you behave? Be assertive or give in, act afraid or stay calm, scream for help or remain quiet? Why?

5. Should you report the incident even if nothing happened? What precautionary measures can you take to avoid getting into the same situation again?

When you sense danger, start by assessing it. Many nonverbal cues can tell you what type of attack to expect. Does the attacker seem confused or angry? What is his motive? Does he want to rob you, rape you or kill you? Is he seeking revenge? When people seek revenge, they commonly bring friends and attack as a group to ensure revenge is certain. Assess your assailant’s position. Is he blocking the door that is your only escape route? What, in the immediate vicinity, can he use as a weapon against you? Might he be hiding a weapon? Does he keep his hands in his pockets or behind his back?


A car stops and the driver asks you for directions. How should you respond?

1. Answer any questions and help the best that you can.

2. Ignore it and keep walking.

3. Walk closer to the car so that you can hear what the driver is saying.

4. Maintain your distance. Consider these issues: What if you can’t hear what is being asked? What if the driver reaches for a map and asks you to show him directions? If you do go near the car and it turns out to be a bad situation, are there any escape routes available? Can the driver cut off your escape route with the car? Does it make a difference whether the person asking for directions is male or female, young or old?

When I was walking to my car at night after work, a police officer on a bicycle followed me. He told me that there had recently been a rape incident in this particular parking lot. In a situation like this, how do you know that the police officer is really a police officer, and not just somebody dressed as such? I recommend maintaining a safe dis-

tance from any stranger. Don’t let your guard down just because he is wearing a uniform. However, maintaining a safe distance does not mean that the situation warrants panic and running. Just be aware.

Surprise attacks from the rear are probably the most difficult to avoid or defend against. Since you don’t know in advance that you are in a potentially dangerous situation, you can’t start defending yourself until the attack is already under way, which leaves you a step behind from the start. Many other attacks can be avoided or defended against at the early stages.

1. Being aware means recognizing that danger is imminent. Who is dangerous? Maintain a safe distance from strangers who roll down their car windows and ask for information. Cross the street if you have to pass somebody suspicious on the pavement, or turn around and take a completely different route.

2. Maintain a safe distance from strangers when you are alone, especially if they stop to talk to you. Does it make a difference who the stranger is? Should all people be treated as equals before you know their motives, or can you use your prior experiences, education and gut feeling to determine with whom it is safe to talk?

3. If a stranger invades your personal space and forces you to back up, be aware of what is behind you. Don’t back into a dead end or corner. How do you leave yourself an escape route? Next time you are out walking, look around and determine what to do should you need to defend yourself at that moment.

4. If a stranger comes toward you in a threatening manner, tell him to stop. The earlier you can see the attack coming, the better off you are. If you tell him to stop and he ignores it, what would be your next move?


A stranger sees you light a cigarette and asks you to give him one. What should you do?

1. Tell him to buy his own.

2. Say, Sure! And hold out the pack for him to take one.

3. Dig in your pocket for the lighter.

4. Say that you don’t have anymore.

If somebody asks you for a cigarette, chances are he is just trying to get a smoke. But don’t assume that it is safe to divert your attention. If it is dark and nobody else is nearby, it might be better to throw him the whole pack and the lighter and let him help himself. Keep your distance!

My aunt was standing outside the mall lighting a cigarette one day, when a stranger asked her for a smoke. But my aunt, rather than offering the stranger a cigarette, told him to get lost. As it turned out, the stranger wanted only a smoke and nothing else, but the offensive comment escalated the situation. He smacked my aunt across the face so that her glasses broke and she got a fat lip, and then he took off running. A little bit of common courtesy, too, can help you stay safe. Make awareness practice a habit.

1. Go to some indoor and outdoor public places and note where an assailant might hide. Behind a trash container? Behind a van or truck? Where are the blind spots?

2. Note possible escape routes. Is there a dead end? Is there only one way out? Are there other buildings with people nearby? Every time you visit a potentially dangerous area, be on the lookout for escape routes, the nearest human being, blind spots and potential weapons.

3. When you stop at a gas station at night, is it well lit? How far away are the pumps from the building? How can you pump and be aware of your surroundings at the same time? Is it a good idea to leave the doors to your car unlocked, or is it better to lock the doors while pumping? Does your decision change if you have children in the car? Why? How should you carry your money? When returning from the cashier, check your car before entering. Lock the doors once you’re inside.

4. If you want to take the elevator inside a building, should you do so if a stranger wants to get in with you? How do you determine when it is safe? Does it make a difference whether it is night or day, whether the stranger is the same sex or opposite? Does the age of the stranger make a difference?

5. When faced with a threatening situation, identify weapons on your opponent or weapons in the environment that can be used to your or his advantage. Continue being aware of potential weapons both when an attack is imminent and after the attack is already under way, if possible.

6. Identify targets you could strike on a stranger you see on the pavement, in the parking lot or at the mall.

7. Look at a stranger for a few seconds and then try to describe him from memory. How accurate is your description? What types of things do you remember? Try to make a note of license plates or other items that may make it easier to identify the person later. Does he have any unusual qualities: long hair on a male, body piercing, odors, accents, etc.

After an attack or imminent attack is over, you need to remember things about the assailant that will help you make an accurate police report. Remembering looks, clothing, height, etc. when under stress is not easy. Advance planning can help you with this. Note the details of people you pass on the street every day. It only takes a few seconds to do so. After some practice, remembering details will become easier.

I was out walking my dog on a grass field behind a school one Sunday morning, when two pit bulls appeared from out of nowhere and started attacking my dog. The owner, who was a few hundred yards away, rushed to his car and sped toward me. When he had regained control of the dogs, he asked if I was okay and then drove off. I knew that I was okay, but I didn’t know if my dog had been injured. Fortunately, I had trained myself to look for details, and was able to memorize the license plate of the car as it drove off. On my way home, I told myself over and over what the man had looked like, how he was dressed, his build, and how he wore his hair. When I got home, I wrote my observations down on a piece of paper for future reference. As it turned out, neither I nor my dog were harmed in the incident.

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