Maintaining Distance from a Threat - Self Defense Tactic of the Month

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Maintaining distance is our self defense tactic of the month. It's a self defence mindset that's rarely talked about but is extremely important for you and your loved ones to stay safe.

Why is it not talked about often?

Perhaps it’s too obscure a term that people find it difficult to explain or think it’s not important.
However, keeping distance is an important defensive mindset to learn about, internalize, and implement, and can save your life or increase your odds of survival.

What is Maintaining Distance in Self Defense?

Maintaining distance in self defense means that there is space between you and a potential threat.

Suspicious Person in Hoodie in Shadows

The word distance specifically means the amount of space between two things, and is normally a calculated measurement in feet.

For example, we're told to never let anyone into our personal space meaning into an invisible bubble surrounding our body. That's our space and no stranger should be within that bubble. Clearly we should never let a stranger, nevermind a potential threat within that personal space.

However, when it comes to a potential threat, we need to extend this invisible bubble even further out. Potential threats should never be allowed to come within x number of feet from you. This will vary depending on many factors like the time of day, location, people around, your comfort level, and your level of self defense. However there should always be an invisible bubble that potential threats should not cross and it's your job to always maintain that distance.

Here's an interesting article about how personal space is regarded in different cultures from UC Berkeley: https://cil.berkeley.edu/close-talker-personal-space/

Maintaining distance can also refer to other methods of protection like using barriers, arming yourself with powerful weapons to keep someone away, or simply running from the threat to create distance. We’ll go over several methods of keeping distance in the next sections.

What is Distance?

  • Physical Distance

    • Staying on the opposite side of the street from a suspicious person.
    • Running in a park and staying at least 20 feet away from the shady biker in front of you.
    • Not letting anyone in your personal space, regardless of location or time of day.
    • Arming yourself with a gun and if a credible threat approaches to attack you, putting him into your sights and telling him not to get any closer. In this scenario you're holding him at a distance with the threat to shoot him in self-defense.
  • Barriers

    • Staying in your home and locking the doors to maintain distance from a potential threat.
    • Staying in your car and closing and locking all doors and windows to maintain distance from a potential threat.
    • Furniture, other people, your guard dog, objects - anything that can prevent the threat from directly reaching you is better than him having full and free access.

Man Holding Rottweiler Guard Dog

Importance of Keeping Distance in Situational Awareness

Distance plays an important role in situational awareness.

Situational awareness refers to someone’s ability to observe their environment, make determinations about the elements in their environment, and then act based on their determinations.

We wrote a previous article describing and detailing situational awareness.

Whether you’re in your office in the daytime or walking alone down a street at night, you should always be exercising situational awareness. And as you’re always vigilant, distance plays a huge role in identifying potential threats.

First, maintaining distance allows you to observe and assess a subject from far away and make a determination about their risks before moving closer to them. 

Secondly, it allows you to observe and assess a subject without visual obstructions or distractions.

Thirdly, it allows you to maintain distance or increase distance based on your determination of the subject’s potential danger. If you identify the subject as a threat, you can act accordingly and distance gives you a strong buffer and more time to react.

    Importance of Keeping Distance from a Threat

    Keeping distance is very important in situational awareness. However, after you’ve implemented situational awareness, and you identify someone as a threat, you must now use maintaining distance for personal protection.

    Once you’ve identified a subject as a threat, keeping distance actually becomes more important.

    First, keeping distance allows you to stay out of the threat’s field of vision and consciousness. If the threat doesn’t acknowledge you, he cannot target you. This is the most ideal situation. Staying out of the threat’s field of view or consciousness.

    Secondly, distance allows you to evaluate the threat’s intentions. If the threat approaches you and closes the distance, you are alerted that you may be in trouble. This will allow you to prepare for self defence.

    Moreover, if the threat closes the distance and you want to continue to evaluate his intentions, you should increase the distance. This can be done by crossing the street, walking faster, changing directions, or even jogging away. Once you increase the distance, you can observe how the potential aggressor reacts to your move. If you cross the street, and the threat crosses the street after you, you are highly alerted to his intentions and should begin to use all self protection tactics possible.

    Lastly, distance allows you to stay out of physical imminent danger from a threat. Unless he has a distance weapon like a gun, as long as there is distance between you and him, you will be safe.

      Indicators of Compromised Distance

      It’s important to realize when a potential threat is closing distance in order to attack you. However you won’t always be able to pick up on a potential threat’s intentions. Smart predators will use subterfuge to close the distance and once you realize you’re being preyed upon, it’s too late.

      Some indicators to look for in potential threats:

      • If a potential threat is closing distance rapidly
      • If anyone is closing distance rapidly
      • If anyone appears to be getting closer and closer slowly
      • If anyone enters your personal space bubble
      • If you increase distance and the other person decreases the distance

      How to Maintain Distance for Self Defence

      Keeping distance when you’ve determined a subject is a threat can potentially save your life. And maintaining distance when a threat is actively trying to subdue you increases your chances of survival tremendously.

      Here are some ways to maintain distance:

      1. If the threat is behind you, walking faster is keeping distance.
      2. If the threat is behind you, crossing the street is keeping distance.
      3. If the threat is in front of you, changing directions is keeping distance
      4. If the threat is in front of you, crossing the street is keeping distance
      5. If the threat is outside of your house, keeping the front door closed and locked is keeping distance
      6. If the threat is outside of your car, keeping the doors and windows closed and locked is keeping distance
      7. If the threat is near you in the street, keeping a car in between you and him is keeping distance
      8. If the threat is near you, arming yourself with a self defence weapon like pepper spray is keeping distance.

      Child Looking Through Front Door Peep Hole

        What to do if Distance is Compromised

        If a credible threat has closed the distance between you and him, then you're in imminent danger. The best course of action will depend on your exact situation.

        Running away is a top option if there's still enough distance that he can't catch you or can't catch you easily.

        If there are other people around, calling for help will be your top option.

        If there's no one around and running away won't help the situation, arming yourself with a self defense product is the best option.

        Overall, maintaining your distance in general is a very useful tool to implement so that you can thoroughly observe and evaluate others. Once you've determined a subject is a credible threat, you can use distance to protect yourself. If the credible threat is actively pursuing you, you can use distance to potentially save your life.


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