Self Defense – Why Knowing How to Defend Yourself is Important

While driving to an upscale tourist area of Clearwater Beach Florida near Tampa one winter night, I was involved in an odd series of coincidences. At an intersection a few miles from my destination a car pulled in front of me from a side street and I ended up following it into the wide traffic circle that leads to the waterfront. As coincidence would have it, the car in front exited the circle in the same direction I was going. At every turn over the course of about five miles, the car in front seemed to be anticipating my turns and leading to my own destination.

The coincidences didn’t end there. As I approached the condo tower where I had family visiting, the car in front, to my continued astonishment, turned into the building parking area ahead of me. The driver pulled forward and casually entered the code for the security gate with my car idling behind. I’d seen this gate in action before and knew it would linger in the up position long enough for me to coat-tail in after them, so I did. I assumed the two occupants of the car had noticed, but as I harbored no ill intent, I gave it little thought beyond that.

I drove in past where the driver of the other car parked, to the opposite end of the guest parking area and headed to the security lobby entrance for which another code must be entered to gain admittance to the building lobby. Two women were approaching from the area where the other car had parked and as it was after 10:00 pm it was an easy bet that they were the occupants of the vehicle I had followed in, there was no one else around.

As they approached I entered the code as I remembered it but as these were only temporary accommodations for my visiting family I forgot the correct entry combination and tried the wrong code twice with no success. The women stood back, regarding me a few paces away where they could see the security screen and they continued to eye me warily. One asked in a suspicious tone what I was doing and I explained I was visiting family, but had forgotten the code. They looked dubious, and after having followed them so far to reach this point, I’d say for good reason.

It was cold out that night and I had just come from a Krav Maga class, (a form of hand to hand combat training) dressed in black sweat pants and a black hooded sweat jacket, not that black is my favorite color, it’s just what I happened to wear to class that night. I must have looked suspicious and considering that I had just followed them to this point from five miles and many turns away, circumstances didn’t improve my case any.

They waited in an uncomfortable silence not knowing quite what to do next. After a long moment one woman stepped up to the security pad and with one eye on me, punched in the code to open the doors and they both quickly entered. Not knowing the correct code, I again coat-tailed in after them, their anxiety appeared to increase. The bolder one, the one who questioned me, summoned the elevator but stood surreptitiously watching me out of the corner of her eye.

When the elevator doors opened the two quickly entered, and once again, I entered after them. There we all were; two women and a strange man late at night with no one else around, a stranger who had followed them for miles, coat-tailing them at two separate security points and displaying no actual knowledge of necessary entry codes.

These two women broke every rule of urban survival; first they disregarded the highly suspicious (though purely coincidental) circumstances of our meeting. The two then continued to put them selves at increasing danger by entering ever more secluded areas, knowing they were being followed by a suspicious character, and apparently ignoring their own better judgment. They were dubious enough to challenge my entry into the building, but were too intent on making their goal of the 8th floor to consider the implications of walking into that elevator with me. These events had all the possibility of becoming a very dangerous situation.

As an instructor of self defense and hand to hand combat, as well as being involved in the personal security business, I could have advised them on a much different way to handle the situation as it had developed.

What should they have done?

First; they should have exited the parking area and driven to a populated location where there were witnesses. They might have also exited the parking lot and observed whether I followed them out, and then dialed police if in fact I did. They failed to act at this first opportunity when it appeared that I was tailing them in a suspicious manner.

Second; after approaching me at the secluded outer entrance of the building, and seeing that I didn’t know the code to get in, they should have turned and made their way quickly back to their car. They could have alternately made their way out into the open, lighted, area of the parking lot where if the situation deteriorated, they could be more easily seen and might have called for help. They did neither; they entered the secluded lobby, allowing me to enter in after them, a very bad mistake given the circumstances.

Now there we were, isolated from the street and any possible help from a passing stranger. At that point they had gone in deep and it could have been a very bad situation if indeed I was a rapist or a murderer. One of them might have escaped out of the lobby but not easily, and neither of them took any measure to ensure their survival. They essentially offered themselves up even though they seemed vaguely aware that they were doing just that!

The last and final point is when they entered the elevator: As soon as I followed them in they should have rapidly exited. If I exited with them, it would have been all the indication needed that they were at that moment, in serious trouble and in a possible life threatening situation. With all the coincidences that had led us here, you would have thought the situation would not have gotten this far. But it did!

Neither of the women produced a stun gun or pepper spray. Even at this late point, either of those items would have been a game changer. Simply holding a hand over a pepper spray can, just inside a purse would have allowed one of them to spray and temporarily blind me before I could effectively act. As it is I feel lucky they had no such protection, because at that point in the elevator they should have produce a stun gun and let me have it, or sprayed me with Mace and asked questions later.

Lucky for us all it was just a bizarre coincidence between two women late at night and a suspicious looking stranger, who, fortunately was only a regular family guy going to pick up his wife and daughter from a family gathering. Nobody got hurt and we all lived happily ever after, but it might have ended very differently.

As advice for women, I highly recommend Krav Maga or other self defense classes, especially those tailored for women. Do not however attend a few classes and assume you are prepared. You must train diligently and build muscle memory so that your training will keep you acting in an emergency even if your mind submits to the chaos of being attacked.

If you haven’t the time for the dedicated training required for real physical self defense, then tools such as pepper spray, a mini stun gun or a personal alarm can save your life and should be carried with you at all times. Remember; it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.