a fearful woman having claustrophobia in a cardboard box

When Avoidance Is Self-Defense

“The greatest victory is that which requires no battle,” said Sun Tzu in his treatise on military strategy, The Art of War. In case you’re wondering, Sun Tzu was a Chinese military general, strategist, philosopher, and writer who lived from 544 to 496 BC (Wikipedia).

Does the concept of routing your enemy without battle seem counterintuitive? Does the idea of winning by avoidance seem strange? And fascinating? And worth digging into? I agree. So let’s get into it. 

Let’s begin with a definition.





the action of keeping away from or not doing something:

“one third of cancer deaths could be prevented by avoidance of smoking.”

The action of preventing something from happening:

“a pilotless passenger aircraft would rely on computers and automatic collision avoidance”


I Was a First-Class Avoider

Avoidance? Oh, I was good at it. When I was 11 years old, my family built the house I’m sitting in right now. Log by log, day by day, on weekends, we put a huge house together. Everyone was expected to help: Dad, Mom, Bill, Rhonda… and me. We drove up to the hill where our home was growing every weekend and slept in our camper after long work days. 

kid hiding on pillows
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Our family has a strong work ethic, and seeing that house come together was so exciting. But as for me? Well, I enjoyed working in small spurts. It was fun running the foam between the logs, helping lift them, and fetching this or that tool for Dad. But after about half an hour, I would sneak off. Or I’d say something like, “I have to go to the bathroom,” and go off to the trailer. 

I did my business and then started exploring the property. Oh, there’s a pretty tree. I wonder what that plant is? I didn’t specifically intend to be gone for a half-hour or more, but I sure didn’t want to go back to what quickly became repetitious and boring. I wanted to explore! 

I crept off and didn’t come back because I didn’t like it. I wanted to do what I wanted to do. I avoided work because it wasn’t fun. 

So when I thought about avoidance, my mind went to my old tendency to be self-serving. And the word felt negative in my mind. By definition. But what if we flipped the script? What if we saw avoidance in a positive light and as a self-defense tactic? 

Let’s see what happens when avoidance is the best thing we can do. And explore how it can save our lives.

It’s The Next Logical Step

Did you read last week’s blog? If not, go here and check it out: Scanning Can Save Your Life-Here’s How. So let’s see how avoidance is the next logical step in situational awareness, what it is, and how it can save our lives. For this section, I’m pulling freely from the article “Avoidance, Awareness, & Prevention,” linked in Resources below.

In the article, the author gives us some great guidelines to drastically reduce your chance of getting attacked. Here they are:

  • Avoid dangerous places and people.
  • Don’t be a good target.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Do not argue, provoke, or allow a verbal conflict to escalate.
  • Escape or create distance if you feel threatened.
  • Give up your money or valuables if bodily harm is threatened and you cannot escape. 
  • Keep your private areas secure.
white painted house
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Avoiding Dangerous Places & Dangerous People

Do you know what makes a place dangerous? Take a look at their crime rates. High crime areas are in every city in every country. What areas near you are known for being sketchy?

You may be tempted to think, “I’m hardly a target, so I can pretty much go where I want.” Well, that’s called denial. But even if that were true, it’s better to find out where crime is highest and stay out of those areas so you don’t get caught in the crossfire. Enjoy traveling? Great! Do some research beforehand, and you can stick to comparatively safe destinations. In general, it’s wise to avoid poorly lit areas. Dark alleys… you get the idea. 

But we also need to consider lesser-known dangerous places, like parking lots between buildings, isolated trails, and parking garages off the beaten path. So here’s a scenario to run through your mind when you’re thinking about going somewhere: If I wanted to rob someone, what’s the best-case strategy? And do the opposite.

What about dangerous people? Anyone who uses substances is going to be risky at some level. Avoid people who are drunk, high, loud, and volatile. Makes sense, right? But let’s explore further. You’ll find unsafe people in high-crime areas. Staying out of high-crime areas keeps you away from them. 

What if you spot a pack of young men in your neighborhood hanging out, drinking, drugging, or both? Don’t think twice. Go the other way.

Now about your personal life? Sorry to meddle (I’m not, really), but that guy you’re dating who keeps blowing up at you for the stupidest reasons? It may be time to get out of Dodge if you catch my meaning. I realize it’s often tricky, but it’s not good for anybody if you stay there. Your physical, mental, and emotional health needs protecting, and you’re the one to do it. So it’s time to step up and walk out. You’ll avoid a world of hurt.

Speaking of blowing up, what can you do if your discussion with somebody escalates into an argument? Here’s where situational awareness comes to the rescue. Step back mentally. In most cases, you’ll realize your best move is to calm down and exit the argument.

man and woman arguing
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You do have a choice in any and every potentially hazardous scenario. I know it’s so hard because you’re probably all spooled up too, and want to vent your rage. But what good comes of that? What if you provoke them to physical violence? I’m not victim-shaming here. It may be too late if push does come to shove. What if you decide it’s not worth it and choose to exercise self-control? Scanning the situation for a peaceful solution is wise. It could save you from mental and bodily harm. Or worse. Stopping escalation can be as simple as walking away. That’s intelligent avoidance. 

Avoiding attacks can involve what you wear, how you carry yourself, and simple situational awareness. What’s going on? Who’s here? Does something seem off? And sometimes, in assessing the situation, we discover the best defense is to simply leave.

You may be tempted to think, “I’m hardly a target, so I can pretty much go where I want.” Well, that’s called denial.

Avoid Attack By Thinking Like A Criminal

What does a criminal want in a target? Someone who’s out of shape, distracted, or compromised somehow. A person on their phone with headphones in, not paying attention. Maybe the target’s drunk or high. A criminal wants someone who’ll give in easily and looks weak and scared. 

a man and a woman running
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Our strategy has to include being the opposite of all of the above as much as possible. Make working out regularly a priority, including throwing weight training and cardio endurance into the mix. Put away your phone while walking, and keep your senses aware of what’s happening. Stay sober, and don’t do drugs (I know you know better, but I’m telling you anyway). Project an image of strength and fearlessness based on your training.

Change What You Can

We must be honest as we assess ourselves and figure out how to be a bad target. There are certain things we can’t change, including:

  • Our age
  • Our height
  • Our race
  • Our gender

But we can change things, like wearing the right clothes and shoes, honing our awareness skills, and going places with friends instead of alone. So I’m going to show you two people. Which would you choose as your next target if you were a criminal?

Millie is an Asian lady in her mid-sixties who works out six days a week. She’s only 5 feet 2 inches tall but seems taller. She’s wearing jeans and sneakers, taking in the sights, sounds, and neighborhood people as she strides down the street. Today she’s with her best friend Sue, who she met at the local senior center.

Alex is in his mid-twenties and about 50 pounds overweight. He’s shuffling down the street in flip flops, earbuds in, phone in his hand. His gaze is on the ground or his phone. 

So what do you think? Who’d be your best target? Why?

When Fear’s Your Friend

Fear often gets a bad rap and, yes, can create more problems than it solves. But at a fundamental level, fear is protective. It keeps you from touching a hot stove. It keeps you out of the road when a car’s coming. And it can caution you to cross the street when a sketchy character approaches you.

So befriend fear and let it counsel you to avoid danger. If you’re feeling something off, pay attention. If you’re feeling something or someone is off, pay attention. Better to be safe and wrong.

driver of truck with cargo
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Why We Teach Avoidance

Our heart for every woman who enters our class is for her – you –  to be increasingly strong and courageous. We want you to be able to take care of yourself in any and every situation so you can go home safe every night.

We curate every class with this goal, including practicing tactical avoidance. We employ various awareness-enhancing exercises and role-play scenarios to explore where, when, and how to avoid danger. We practice worst-case scenarios in a safe setting to train in new and effective responses. It’s often fun, sometimes silly, and always helpful. Vital, even. 

Let’s Bring This Home

I know you’re busy. You may believe you don’t have time or space to add another activity. Maybe you can’t afford another expense. I get it. But what is your personal safety worth? What could you move or cut out so you can add training that could save your life? Or, at minimum, transform your confidence and competence from the inside out?

Become a Tigress with a cadre of like-minded women who’ll have your back. Our doors are open to you, and you’re always welcome here.

Join us!



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