• Leon Pantenburg | Survival Common Sense


Urban Survival Skills: Don’t be a victim – come up with a plan

150 150 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

You may end up  in a survival situation in an instant. It can start out very innocently…

by Leon Pantenburg

“Why are we walking down the middle of the street?” my girlfriend asked. I didn’t answer, being busy scanning the situation. I didn’t let her hold my hand, or take my arm.

Up ahead,  alongside the alley on the dimly-lit,  deserted street, a dark figure lounged. He was half-concealed in a door frame. Up ahead of him was another figure.

Passersby on the sidewalk wouldn’t see the lurkers until it was too late. I sensed something bad was about to happen.

An urban survival situation can develop from an apparently harmless, routine activity.  In this case, I took a date to go see a play  and we were late leaving afterward.

The performance had been at an obscure  theater in a seedy, low-rent  section of Washington D.C. Leaving after the show, we took the wrong exit into the dead-end alley behind.  The side door locked behind us before we could go back in.

The scene before us was scary. The high-crime area was dimly-lighted by a street light, and there were all sorts of shadows and dark places on both sides of the street to conceal assailants.

We started walking rapidly and my years of  Taekwondo training kicked in.

I already had a self-defense plan, thanks to Jim Brockway, my Taekwondo instructor at Iowa State University. In class, we practiced multiple-attacker defense, and my intention was to maneuver any assailants into a one-on-one situation. Staying to the middle of the street eliminated the element of surprise.

As we drew even with the nearest person, I paused momentarily and he got the Martial Arts stare – the one we practiced in sparring and for tournaments. It’s a kind of dead-pan look  that betrays no emotion, but is designed to project a confident, “don’t mess with me” attitude. After a moment, we resumed walking. The other figure looked away as we got near him.

Nothing developed from the situation, except a shaking in my knees!

Given a choice between traveling through a remote wilderness with wild animals, or a bad part of any big city, I’ll take wilderness every time. But most of us live in urban areas, and nowhere is a survival mindset more important. Knowing how to avoid a confrontation and staying safe requires prior planning. Accept the fact that you could become a violent crime victim, and take steps to reduce that risk.

A great educational resource is the National Rifle Association’s “Refuse to Be a Victim” program. The training has nothing to do with firearms, but rather teaches the skills and mindset to avoid potentially dangerous or violent confrontations. Check it out  here.

Urban and wilderness emergency situations have many commonalities. A plan can help you survive either.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.