Self Defense Walking - How to Walk Confidently, Safely, and Smartly

Girl Walking with Backpack in Foreign Country Safely

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends walking at least 10,000 steps a day to prevent chronic disease which is approximately 4-5 miles per day. In the snow, ice and cold, these numbers might be hard to reach, but during the summer months, more people opt for walking to their destinations even if it adds a bit of time.

While this brings more people into the streets and adds a vibrant energy into the air, it also increases the number of potential targets for predators and the likelihood of crime.

Self defense walking typically means walking with the goal of staying safe from physical harm and verbal harassment, but it also means avoiding dangerous situations in the first place. Therefore it's not just about reaching your destination by escaping dangerous incidents; it's a proactive strategy to prevent potential dangers before they arise.

The manner in which we carry ourselves when we walk can significantly influence how we're perceived by others. By implementing the tips outlined in this article, you can deter would-be attackers and aggressors who tend to target people who appear vulnerable or distracted.

We'll discuss easy-to-follow strategies for self defense walking including body language, pace and speed, maintaining eye contact, managing distractions, and being prepared with defensive tools, as well as choosing safe paths and smart routes, maintaining situational awareness, dressing appropriately for mobility and safety, and what to do with our arms and hands to enhance our readiness to respond to threats.

Without further ado, let's tackle one of the most important aspects of self defense walking and communication in general: body language.

Body Language

    Confident Beautiful African American Woman
    55% of communication is body language and non-verbal cues according to Albert Mehrabian, a scientific researcher of body language and communication. Therefore it's no surprise that confident body language can play a large role in deterring potential aggressors. It communicates to these bad guys that you are self-assured and alert, which will make them look for a different easier target.

    An ideal self defense walking posture is one where you are standing tall with your shoulders back and your head held high. This posture not only projects confidence but it also provides you with better peripheral vision and faster reactions to any changes in the environment.

    Lastly, maintaining a calm and serious facial expression can further reinforce your outward display of self-assurance and capability that you are not to be messed with.

    Pace and Speed of Walking

      Confident Walking

      The pace and speed at which you walk can play a significant role in how you're perceived by others and your ability to remain safe and alert.

      The most optimal walking speed is one that balances assertiveness with the ability to scan your surroundings effectively.

      Walking too fast and too quickly can signal panic, fear, or distraction, which can make you appear like an easier target to predators. Conversely, walking too slowly might indicate vulnerability, incapability, or lack of purpose, and can also signal that you are an easy victim to predators.

      It's best to find a balance between walking too fast and too slow, by maintaining a steady, purposeful speed that allows you to observe and react to your environment, while also signaling to strangers that you are calm and confident.

      You should also adjust your speed according to the context of your surroundings, and always be prepared to change your pace according to the situation. For example if it's pitch black out in the middle of the night, you may want to walk with a quickened pace to wherever you are going.

      Eye Contact

      Confident Eye Contact from Woman

      The eyes are the windows to our souls, and can sometimes communicate more than what words can.

      Eye contact can be a very powerful element of your self defense arsenal while walking. Making deliberate eye contact can signal to potential threats that you are confident and assertive, and not to be messed with. It helps you to establish a strong presence and can discourage someone from considering you as vulnerable.

      However it's important not to make eye contact with everyone. In situations where someone appears threatening, overly aggressive, or is looking for a signal to approach you, prolonged eye contact might be perceived as a challenge or provocation, which could escalate a risky situation.

      Instead of the extreme prolonged eye contact or no eye contact at all, it's best to give the potential threat a quick fleeting glance to notify them you are aware of their presence. This allows you to maintain an optimal level of engagement with your surroundings while also respecting the fine line between assertiveness and aggression.

      We find that many people, especially women, avoid eye contact all together since they believe any eye contact at all is a sign of welcoming advances or potential confrontation. In many situations this is perfectly fine like if you are walking in a busy area, then you will still be safe due to the environment and the presence and volume of others. However, in other instances when you may be in more danger due to desolateness, a quick fleeting glance may serve you better.

      Reducing Distractions

      Man and other people distracted on camera and phones in public

        In today’s digital age, distractions such as smartphones and wireless earphones can really compromise your safety while walking. Having your face glued to your electronic devices not only reduces peripheral vision but it also signals to potential aggressors that you are not aware of your surroundings and are an easier target.

        It's important to minimize these distractions, especially in unfamiliar or potentially dangerous environments. Keeping your phone in your pocket and your earphone volume low or off completely allows you to stay alert to auditory noises and changes around you.

        Additionally, practice scanning your surroundings actively, not just passively observing. This means regularly looking around the streets and sidewalks you are walking on (including behind you) to maintain a high level of situational awareness. You can "keep your head on a swivel" by looking at stores, cars and signs to your left and right so that you can have a wide angle of peripheral vision range.

        Self Defense Tools

        Pink Self Defense Tool Kit

        There are so many compact, effective, and practical self defense tools on the market today, there is no reason to not always have one on you whether you are going for a morning jog or walking your daily commute to work.

        Self defense tools allow you to increase your physical capabilities and self defense abilities which will increase your safety when walking. Tools such as pepper spray, a personal alarm, or even a tactical rod are not only effective in warding off an attacker but they also boost your confidence when you are out and about, which in and of itself may deter an aggressor in the first place.

        Choose a self defense tool that you are comfortable using and can easily access in an emergency. Regularly practice how to retrieve and arm the tool quickly and safely. And if possible, experiment with using the tool. For instance with pepper spray, you should practice spraying the capsicum liquid to test the strength needed to squeeze the trigger, the distance the liquid sprays, and the coverage of the spray. For personal alarms, you can evaluate the loudness of the siren and the ease of pulling the activation string. For kubatons, you can test different hand grips like an ice pick overhand grip or a forward grip to see what you are more comfortable performing.

        Before purchasing a self defense tool, always familiarize yourself with the legal implications of carrying and using such tools. Different jurisdictions have varying self defense laws regarding what is permissible, and understanding these regulations is crucial to ensure that you remain within legal boundaries.

        Choosing Smart Paths and Routes

        2 Park Paths Split in Road

        Choosing smart paths and routes is essential to avoiding dangers in the first place. It’s important to select paths that are well-lit and populated, especially during the evening or at night. Avoid areas that are isolated, have poor lighting, or where visibility is compromised by obstacles such as overgrown vegetation or poorly maintained infrastructure. This can be a double-edged sword when running or jogging since many people like to perform cardio in scenic and serene environments with less people, so it's important to try to find a balance.

        Familiarity with your environment also plays a crucial role in your safety. Try to explore and understand the areas you frequent often during the day so you can navigate them more confidently under less ideal conditions.

        Knowing the locations of police stations, fire stations, public spaces, and local stores that are open late can also provide reassurance and options for seeking help if needed.

        Additionally, using smart apps and maps to plan your route ahead of time can prevent last-minute decisions that might lead you into less secure areas.

        Keeping Your Head on a Swivel

        Woman Walking in Overpass Traveling Abroad

        Keeping your head on a swivel is a metaphor for maintaining high situational awareness to identify and react to potential dangers while walking. This technique involves continuously scanning your environment, not just directly ahead, but also to the sides and behind you. A practical exercise to enhance your situation awareness is the "10-second scan": every few steps, take a moment to consciously observe your surroundings in a full 360-degree sweep. Note any unusual activities or individuals who seem out of place. Another effective practice is the "landmark identification" where, as you walk, you identify specific landmarks or features around you. This not only keeps your mind actively engaged but also helps in creating mental maps of your routes, which can be important in emergencies. By incorporating these situational awareness exercises into your regular walking routine, you build a habit of vigilance that can significantly improve your ability to stay safe in various environments.

        Dressing for Safety and Mobility

        Woman Dressed in Casual Relaxed Fit good for Self Defense

        Dressing for safety and mobility is often an overlooked but essential aspect of self-defense walking. Your clothing choices should allow for full range of motion and should not restrict your ability to react or move quickly. Opt for outfits that are comfortable and fit well; overly loose clothing can catch on objects, while overly tight clothing can restrict movement. Shoes are particularly important—choose footwear that provides stability and comfort, and avoid high heels or flip-flops in situations where you might need to move swiftly. Additionally, consider the environment and situation: darker colors might be better for blending in during the night, while reflective materials are advisable if you are running or jogging near traffic when it's dark out. Also, practical accessories such as cross-body bags that stay secure against your body are preferable to dangling purses or loose backpacks, as they are less likely to be snatched or cause imbalance.

        We understand that clothing choices reflect our personal styles and freedoms, so we would never advise you to ignore or suppress those liberties, but just to be conscious about finding balances between staying safe and stylish depending on the situations you will be in.

        Arm Position and Hand Usage

        Woman Walking in Park with Hands and Arms at her side for optimal safety

        For optimal self defense readiness, keep your arms relaxed but ready, with your hands free from pockets and able to move quickly. This position not only prepares you to defend yourself but also prevents you from appearing vulnerable. When it comes to using your hands for defense, basic self-defense techniques such as palm strikes or pushing away an aggressor can be effective. These actions require minimal training but can be very impactful for both deterrence and actual fighting off an aggressor.

        Practicing these movements in a self-defense class can boost your confidence and abilities, and many self defense classes are affordable or free nowadays.

        Keeping your hands open and ready can also aid in quickly accessing your self-defense tools.

        Final Thoughts

        As summer heats up and we find ourselves traveling more or just enjoying the beautiful weather, walking in unfamiliar environments will be more common and hence the reason why crime and violence also spikes during warmer months.

        Walking confidently and safely involves a blend of careful planning and situational awareness, and will allow you to stay as safe as possible while enjoying all of the joys that the summer months bring.

        Implementing and practicing the techniques we listed here can significantly improve your security and empower you to move through different environments with confidence.

        Stay safe and soak up the summer sun!

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