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The Asphalt Anthropology Manifesto

Photo by Anubhav Saxena on Unsplash

Don’t go out alone! Always run with a buddy! Be home before dark! Keep your head on a swivel! Don’t look at your phone! Stay away from that bad neighborhood! Walk with confidence so you don’t get mugged! Avoid public transit!

The advice above is what we commonly hear when it comes to personal safety. But for anyone seeking a rich, full, adventurous life, that advice is utterly impractical. In fact, traditional self-defense, centered from a male, able-bodied and socially conservative perspective, limits opportunities for living for women and other marginalized folks who are most likely to be targeted for harassment and assault. 

Asphalt Anthropology is on a mission to re-center the conversation of personal safety to the perspective of everyday people who successfully navigate cities - those complex and often chaotic public spaces - daily. Cities have their inherent risks; but they also provide more opportunities for education, employment, entertainment and socialization. Asphalt Anthropology is committed to helping you access personal safety skills so that you can step into your own power and go for what you want in all areas of your life!

Through teaching people how to move and own their environment distinctly like “a city girl”, Asphalt Anthropology is committed to your personal expansion and freedom. With Asphalt Anthropology skills you can move through your environment with embodied confidence, self-sufficiency and trust in yourself that you can handle whatever comes your way. 

Asphalt Anthropology was developed by a former (reformed!) self-defense instructor, Beverly Baker. Beverly began training and competing in martial arts in the late 80’s. In the ‘90’s she began teaching self-defense to martial arts schools, women’s shelters, community groups and public schools and universities. She followed the self-defense template her own instructors gave her - teaching people how to kick, strike, yell and escape grabs.

But something never quite sat right with her about that approach. After all, she grew up exploring Philadelphia on her own as a young girl and the cookie-cutter skills taught in traditional self-defense were rarely used to dodge trouble on the street. After teaching traditional self-defense for over 15 years, Beverly moved to Los Angeles in 2011, right into the chaotic heart of the Hollywood tourist district. It was there in that gritty and electric neighborhood that she began to understand what was missing in her own self-defense instruction: learning to throw a punch was less important than how you relate and move through your physical and social environment.

She began deconstructing street smart habits she cultivated over decades in places as far flung as Moscow to Madrid, Gaborone to Helsinki. Through her urban explorations she observed how others, both successfully and unsuccessfully, enjoyed the city. She further deepened her expertise by volunteering as an abortion clinic escort to help other women physically navigate the chaos created by protesters who showed up to harass, intimidate and physically block access to healthcare. From the streets of some of the world’s most exciting cities, to the parking lots of healthcare clinics, Beverly gathered what she learned from the brave, courageous women determined to make their way in the world on their own terms.

She created Asphalt Anthropology to share their wisdom with you. 

Asphalt Anthropology consists of three core pillars that will have you navigating your environment with confidence!:

  1. Social 

    1. Experiential learning: Improvisation, people watching bingo and city-wide scavenger hunts

    2. Learning objectives: 

      1. Identify when you have been targeted for distinct types of threats and apply the appropriate mitigation strategies;

      2. To be adaptable to other cultures, communities, neighborhoods, mores and practices;

      3. Ability to read social cues - body language, facial expressions, etc;

      4. Risk assessment: identity dangerous places, situations, relationships and people;

      5. Recognize the role of systemic social structures in violence and equip students with tools for broader social impact. 

  2. Emotional

    1. Experiential learning: Evidence-based tools designed to enhance your brain’s ability to manage complex and dynamic environments and situations.

    2. Learning objectives: 

      1. Stress management for navigating complex and dynamic environments (like the subway!);

      2. Bottom up problem solving: tapping your brain’s inherent threat detection and mitigation strategies for lightening fast response times;

      3. Mindful situational awareness that enhances your enjoyment of the environment with the added benefit of early risk detection;

      4. Learn to tap your intuition and distinguish it from implicit biases (we all have them!) and trauma.

  3. Physical

    1. Experiential learning: Move like a city girl! This means being 100% you while embodying physical skills to navigate the unknown with confidence.

    2. Learning objectives:

      1. Unconscious habits: Cultivate habitual ways of moving that enhance your personal safety. Examples include pie-ing corners,  distance management and managing intimate, personal, social and public space.

      2. Street dodges: You’ve spotted trouble so now what? Going hands on risks injury so street dodge it instead! Street dodges use the environment and other people with cunning and creativity. Examples include: concealment, cover, voice modulation and the magic elbow.

      3. Physical self-defense techniques: how to throw effective kicks and strikes, identify best targets on a threat, escape grabs and getting to safety. While unconscious habits and street dodges are used with more frequency, physical skills increase your confidence and are the last line of defense. 

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1 Comment

Mohammad Nikkhah
Mohammad Nikkhah
Apr 19, 2022

Great article. In my country, those pieces of advice are common too. I used the advice above to demonstrate a narrow line between two words "security and safety"

Again, I found this page on my search for these two words 😀

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