Originally published 02FEB2011 on Examiner.com

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in Examiner.com. As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

There is an old adage in the martial arts world: Wherever there is a fight, the true martial arts master is not there. While this statement seems contradictory, a true martial arts master is utterly aware of his surroundings, sees the altercation beginning to foment, and leaves the vicinity. Others are left to get into trouble and clean up the mess. A master takes the safest route and evades. While many martial artists train to evade an attack, deliver a counterattack, and hold their own in a fight, it is worth studying about situational awareness and evading a situation altogether.

Look for warning signs (like the old Westerns when the bad guy walks in to the saloon and everything, including the piano man, stops). If a crowd all seems to focus on the same thing or same person, or certain people seem to command a wide berth from passerby’s and they don’t look too happy, there’s a chance that some type of trouble is brewing. An anxious yet hushed ambiance is a tell tale sign of impending trouble. The time to leave is now.

Unfortunately, people don’t always get to be proactive about changing their environment. Things can transform from normalcy to danger in a moment’s notice. The Virginia Tech and Columbine tragedies are stark examples of how a normal day at class can turn into a nightmare scenario instantly. In times like these, the best option can be to evade. To leave the area of danger, and put as much cover and concealment between you and the aggressor as possible in the least amount of time while doing so.

Most people spend their days in very common and known areas. Their house, dormitory, school, workplace, etc. They learn these areas and their way around. That knowledge can be a life saver if the environment turns dangerous. Having multiple escape routes out multiple exits can help to evade an attacker. Having well established barricade rooms can help a person hole up until help arrives. Knowing where things are that can be used as improvised weapons may be useful. Knowing places to hide may be a last resort.

At home, know what areas provide cover from other areas. Know which second floor windows lead to a ledge to get out of the house instead of a 15 foot drop. Know what defense items are where, and know how to get from anywhere to anywhere else while avoiding a third point.

When in locations such as the workplace, look around. Observe what hallways lead to where. Note which rooms have other exits, and what hallways they deploy into. Know the little access halls, maintenance areas, and what is in these places. If at a workplace, volunteer for the facility’s Safety Team. Get access to floor plans and become familiar with layouts. If this is possible, know which walls are flimsy drywall and which are more permanent.

Carry some Everyday Carried Items that can be useful for defense and are permissible in these environments. Lastly, know where the tornado shelters, fire alarms, and extinguishers are, as well as how to use them. Danger does not always come on two feet. Location knowledge includes emergency tools.

Evasion may occur via automobile. For routes to common destinations, know side roads, back ways, parking lots that can be cut through, and dead ends to avoid. In dangerous situations, think about dropping the “safe driving” paradigm. Can a yard be cut through to get to the next street? How fast canĀ  an off ramp be taken at the last second to avoid a tailgater?

Successful evasion involves stealth, cover, concealment, and/or distance. Learn to use them all, and where to get to to use them, to avoid danger.