Off The Cuff: Vigilance and Agility

pic of night

The Hidden Vanguard

By Emma Gabriel
The City can be a scary place, especially at night! There’s lower visibility, and many aggressors will use the dark conditions to target other people. That’s why in this month’s Off The Cuff, we explore how to use vigilance, adaptability, and agility to train smart and keep safe in public.
In Krav Maga classes, we remind ourselves that “space equals escape.” In terms of protecting the body, we need some space to maneuver it out of danger to avoid and fight off threats. That’s what we train for, day in and day out. So it’s no surprise that we need to be able to get our bodies in and out of situations rather freely, or at least within the confines of measured risk.

How to Respond Quickly to Your Surroundings

Training for unpredictable situations requires some creativity on our part. We have to think and model training scenarios constructively, and in different contexts. If I want to be good at evading unwelcome attention or advances, I need to train effectively, and it needs to be flexible. I need to be somewhere I don’t know well, and I need to adapt to some challenges that are difficult but also safe to engage with.
How do we make sure we are in a situation we can get out of? That question’s key to staying safe in general, and particularly with regard to spotting and reading body movement, openings in the environment, and other people’s intentions, while also being cognizant of your own. Each of us needs to know the limits of our abilities and what kinds of maneuvers we can perform in standard and substandard conditions. To that end, we propose some modeling!

Modeling Response Through Reflection, Practice

Suppose it’s midnight, and you’re walking up a deserted part of Bush St. You’ve been out late with friends.  There’s a sole figure just ahead of you, on the other side of the street. walking the same direction you are. He hasn’t seen you behind him. He’s wearing a red hoodie and walking. You don’t know him. He hasn’t posed any danger. Your instincts don’t alert you to any threat presenting itself, and your head agrees.
You’ve been walking on the left side of the block, up the sidewalk. There’s a white SUV to your right, a some boarded over scaffolding to the rear left of the van, a three-foot-high “No Stopping” sign to the rear left of the scaffolding, and the side of the houses to the left are boarded up with oriented strand board. Overall, you’re approaching a narrow stretch to traverse on foot.
In this situation, there is no clear threat, you have been drinking, but you are pretty comfortable. You are also walking alone at night in the City. Trusting your instincts and judgment, you decide  that you can get some good practice in spotting someone before they spot you. You are using a bit of counter-surveillance in a minimally risky situation–besides, it’s good practice. You step to your left, so that the scaffolding is just between the line of sight by which the man could spot you in his peripheral vision. You lower your body just a bit so that the stop sign blocks your body from view. Staying still, your hearing informs you that the man’s pace remains steady and untroubled; his attention does not veer from the distance immediately in front of him; his breathing does not alter, and so his line of sight likely doesn’t, either. He doesn’t see you. The man saunters away from you, unknowing, down the street. That’s it for supposing.
Anticipating what happens in your surroundings can help you react under less danger. Do this by quickly identifying and reacting to objects and patterns in your environment. This could be anything–exits, stairs, openings, props, clutter, or obstructions. Try using them in subtle but unexpected ways to alter your approach to a place, your gait, line of vision, and the balance of your weight. Train using props as safe zones or mock weapons. Always be ready to identify what’s happening around you.

Relax and Train Harder… It’s the Best Way!

Staying relaxed while assessing and performing tasks also contributes to your success in an unknown situation. Make sure to train yourself outside of your comfort zone as long as it’s safe and effective. Good training is invaluable when you find yourself needing it most.
In Krav Maga, we train under stress  so that we can be fit and adapt to the most desperate circumstances if need be. It is, of course, much more sensible to avoid such circumstances in the first place. It’s helpful to reflect on our training and ask ourselves, “how else could being seen play out for someone at night?”
Where might our training, alacrity, our crisp sense of danger and of empowerment be then? The facts of any given situation vary with chance and awareness. So does its actionability. Ultimately, the responsiveness and positioning of your body in a situation is what keeps you safe the most.
Reflecting on classroom training, paying attention to our instincts, and increasing awareness and agile thinking management in public can bring the Krav Maga mindset to a new level. Always keep your training and values in mind out there, KMSF! Until next time, stay smart, safe, and