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Self-Defense Starts with a Street Smart Mindset

Photo by Kylie De Guia on Unsplash

How are your people-ing skills? As we emerge from our COVID cocoons, the recent SNL skit, "Post Quarantine Conversations", has resonated with myself and a lot of folks I know.

While we can laugh and see ourselves in the actors' awkward interactions, it is time to shake the dust off our street smart skills.

We could certainly argue that those skills never got a break over the past year with non-stop stories of anti-maskers behaving badly and an increase in hate crimes (1). But it is the very collective stress and trauma that we've all experienced, in varying degrees, over the last year that leaves us more vulnerable than ever. When left unresolved, stress and trauma accumulate giving us all shorter fuses and less resilience in the face of even "minor" conflicts. (2)

In other words, just because we can see the finish line with the pandemic, doesn't mean things are going back to the way they were.

In the aftermath of the devastated economy we have seen a staggering increase in violent property crime (3) and gun violence in interpersonal conflict (4). Los Angeles alone has seen a 73% increase in gun violence during the first four months of 2021 (5).

There are many street smart tactics I've shared with you over the years, but for this article I want to bring it back to basics: it starts with your mindset rather than any bad-ass physical self-defense technique. All that practice of punching, saying "No!" and setting boundaries can make us feel empowered - but feelings of empowerment alone will not save you.

A Street Smart Mindset is More than Empowerment

An example of meaningless empowerment is the story of two young women getting into a fist fight with a jerk in DTLA. The women came to the defense of a hot dog vendor that the jerk had been verbally abusing. I won't say that the jerk didn't

deserve to get punched, but I will say that despite good intentions, the women made some choices that didn't align with avoiding three months with a jaw wired shut and eating through a straw. It feels good to hit a punching bag in class, and the guy did end up getting convicted (6). But remember, if a jerk is out there being a jerk, he'll punch you - your empowerment be damned. The street smart mindset take away here: pure physics is the reason there are weight classes in professional fights.

If being street smart isn't empowerment, what is it?

It is a mindset.

Being street smart means being a hard target and identifying trouble before it sucks you in. In this three part video series, I break down some of the most frequently asked street smart questions and share daily mindset practices that will support you in making good choices when seconds count! Each video is 5 minutes or less so they are a digestible and easy way to brush up on your skills . Be sure to share these with someone you care about!

Street Smart Mindset, Part 1

In 4 minutes we cover:

  1. Addressing why you should be street smart - shouldn't people just behave themselves?

  2. Eye contact: one of the most frequently asked questions - should I make eye contact with a threat or not?

  3. Sorry/Not Sorry: a minor habit change that can shift your mindset

  4. Recognizing a common "bad guy" tactic

  5. Practical application of Gavin de Becker's The Interview to avoid con artists, hustlers and more violent threats.

Street Smart Mindset, Part 2

In 5 minutes we cover:

  1. Not all self-defense advice givers are created equal! A tip on discerning who to take self-defense advice from

  2. Avoiding social violence

  3. Some hard truths about sexual assault

  4. Ruthless self-defense

  5. Making street smart advice work for YOU

  6. You are more powerful than you know!

Street Smart Mindset, Part 3

In 5 1/2 minutes we cover:

  1. Best practices for pepper spray and other weapons

  2. Why you might be afraid of taking a self-defense class

  3. A game to increase your situational awareness

  4. The science behind building street smart habits

  5. Can you out-sourcing your safety to someone else?

  6. Boundary setting from both sides of the equation

  7. More ruthless self-defense: using others to read the room



(1) US hate crime highest in more than a decade - FBI

(2) Widen the Window: Training Your Brain and Body to Thrive During Stress and Recover from Trauma. Elizabeth Stanley, Phd

(3) Attack on Lady Gaga’s dog walker fits ‘disturbing trend’: More L.A. robbery victims being shot

(4) Gun violence is up. It's been up for more than a year.

(5) LAPD: Shootings in LA Increase 73% During First Four Months of 2021

(6) Man caught on video punching women at DTLA hot dog cart is charged with battery.

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