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Preplanning Distractions for Self Defense

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By Linda M. Gilbertson

Everyone is vulnerable when approached by unknown individuals. Are they nefarious? Are they just “ordinary Joes” trying to get through life? Are they a threat or not? These are questions which you should always consider. However, many adults are preoccupied and not paying attention to what’s going on around them.


Preplanning Distractions

When taken unawares, people generally respond to a situation by freezing in place, crying and begging for mercy. Crying and begging is a normal behavior, and it is what the perpetrator hopes for. The inability to resist, or lack of attention in the first place, leads to victimization. Preplanning how you may respond to a situation will help you confront a threat. To change the outcome, “distractions” are a gun in the arsenal of personal protection. They can buy you time until either help arrives, you’ve escaped or secured your handgun to meet the threat. Planning and visualizing alternatives may save your life.

If you’ve ever watched a Jackie Chan movie, he uses items around him as a “distraction.” His purpose is to disrupt the perpetrator’s plan and to delay it as he gets the next distraction on board. He uses many objects in different ways, which totally befuddles the threat. He can neutralize or escape. Of course movies don’t mirror real life, however, the theory is solid. Distractions work. Preplanning and visually or physically practicing what needs to be done in a variety of situations will get you closer to survival. With all possible scenarios in mind, recognize “a way out” and propel the body to take it.


A Way Out

On the sidewalk or at the shopping center, assuming you’ve allowed a perpetrator to get close to you, self-defense experts encourage women to force themselves to vomit. A disgusting distraction might dissuade the perpetrator. Claiming that you have a communicable disease, or a pregnancy may also dissuade contact. These are great verbal tactics, but not good enough unless you follow up with a physical distraction, one that you’ve already preplanned. If you’ve practiced self-defense moves, following with a kick to the crotch, the knees, elbow to the head, or fingers to the eyes will distract long enough for you to either deliver a second blow, activate your pepper spray, pull your firearm, or run for your life. You’ve also got physical things to throw such as a coat, an umbrella, a bag of groceries, a purse or briefcase. Shouting vulgarities will strengthen your resolve and hopefully intimidate the perpetrator.

Get Angry

In a public place like church, visualize what you will do in the event of a shooting. Place yourself with access to a door from which you can leave and circle behind the perpetrator. Using concealment or cover, stop what is happening as quickly as possible. If you don’t have a firearm there are always objects to throw, or personal items like a coat, a pen, a purse can distract. This gives you time to motivate people to wake up, act and subdue the intruder. It can also provide time to get them out the nearby door. When people are surprised, their response time is long, and often it turns to shock and disbelief. They are slow to act. Shouting orders to people may be necessary to get compliance on their part. After all, they’re afraid, and fear leads to paralysis.

Take Command

In a restaurant, sit with your back to the wall and a view of the exits. Visualize where you’ll go in the event of a situation. Take note of the things accessible to you that can be used to hinder or stop the perpetrator’s progression. In a restaurant, items like chairs, condiments, utensils, table cloths, hot food, drinks, kitchen knives, pots and pans might be accessible. A second exit usually exists near the kitchen or bathrooms, so while you distract, you may have to yell orders for people to vacate the premises. Continue to use distractions to help you get the upper hand on the situation.

Into The Fight

The problem encountered in a theater is the proximity of people to each other which hinders movement. Position yourself at the end of a row whereby you can easily move out of the row and respond. Sit near the rear of the theater so that you can profile people as they enter. Popcorn, soda, cell-phones, coats, and other defense items should be considered viable options to distract. Also remember that some if not most theater seats have metal backs to them, which dependent upon composition, might act as cover from incoming rounds for a short period of time. Make sure you continue the fight until the threat is no longer.

Finish What You Started

“The body won’t go where the mind hasn’t been” is true. People get frozen in a position because they haven’t thought about it before or haven’t thought about it lately. Visualization must be a constant endeavor. If it is not performed on a regular basis and backed up with training, we all become lazy and lose that sharpness. In addition, self-talk goes together with visualization. Positive mental messages strengthen resolve. Police Officers use visualization and self-talk messages to prepare themselves in dealing with a confrontation. Police Officers are constantly reinforcing themselves mentally to adapt to the threat they may encounter. That’s how officers can run towards the sound of gunfire and survive each day.


Here is a list of common visualizations for police officers that will also work for you:

  1. On any high-risk call, I will survive.
  2. I’ve succeeded on dangerous calls before.
  3. I know the tactics I need.
  4. I know how to make the physical moves I need.
  5. I am skilled with my firearms.
  6. I can stay focused on what I must do.
  7. I have options for controlling the problem.
  8. I can take each call step by step, without rushing.
  9. I can breathe deeply to control stress any time I become tense.
  10. I can decide not to be afraid.
  11. I can defeat any threat against me.
  12. I can use deadly force to save my life or the life of someone else.
  13. I can survive and keep on going, no matter what, even if I’m hit.

You Are A First Responder In All Situations

The perpetrator has the luxury of planning and preparing. We are at a disadvantage unless we turn the tables on the threat. Don’t allow society’s complacency to infect you. Preplanning puts responsibility for personal protection where it belongs, with the individual. You are your first responder in all situations. Doing something no matter what, is better than being a sitting duck!

Linda Gilbertson

Linda Gilbertson has been involved with firearms for almost 40 years, as a State Trooper, a Federal Agent, Probation Officer and firearms instructor. A National Rifle Association certified Rifle, Pistol, and Personal Protection Instructor, since 2002 she has been teaching women how to defend themselves, by using handguns and rifles. She competes in International Practical Shooting Association competitions locally, and founded the Ladies Shooting Organization, where women shoot together, supporting each other and sharing equipment and ideas. Linda has been a Range Officer for 3 World Practical Shooting Championships, and 5 National Championships. An instructor for the NRA Women’s Wilderness Escape, she has trained women from all over the country in the safe and effective use of handguns. As a member of the Concho Elementary School Board she instructs a Basic and Advanced Firearms Safety Course as an elective, for grades 6-8. Linda Gilbertson, NRA Endowment Life member, has been awarded the 2015 Marion Hammer Women of Distinction Award by the National Rifle Association!

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