What's Your Tactic?

How to avoid an attack while on the trail.

When enjoying a sunset hike on one of the many trails around Bozeman, we generally don't worry too much about being accosted by predators with bad intentions. Besides, we all know how to avoid most wildlife attacks. It's possible, however, for a human predator to be lurking around the corner. On the rare occasion that one is, it's best to be prepared.

With that in mind, I decided to take the "Avoiding Violence" class from Tactic, a local self-defense-education outfit run by former Navy SEAL Chris Forrest. As a 5' 3", 120-lb. outdoor enthusiast, I knew I needed a few tricks up my sleeve should I ever face a larger, more powerful foe. The information and skills I learned were empowering, and now when I'm on the trail, I'll remember Tactic's MAD principle: mindset, awareness, and distance.

Freezing up in a stressful situation is a common response, but as Chris points out, it's important to regain mental control and calm yourself in order to react. For example, if you spot an unsavory character on the trail, don't wait for him to act. You know what’s normal and what's not, so don’t second-guess yourself. If a predator comes at you, face him, put your arms out, and scream. “Bad move! Back off!" Be assertive and aggressive. Your attacker doesn't want to draw attention to himself or the situation. Hell, you can even stare him straight in the face and scream like a lunatic, throwing him off so you can get away. As Chris reminds us, confidence breeds composure.

Come at me, bro.

The second principle Chris teaches is that the right mindset can lead to the right awareness of any situation. Always check your surroundings. Don’t be scared of what lies around every corner or freak out every time you meet a stranger. If someone approaches you to ask for directions, don't be a dick; help them out. But if they stick around and won't leave you alone, that's a red flag. As Chris explains, “Trust your instincts when assessing someone’s character. If there is a doubt, there is no doubt.” If the situation feels off, it's time to get out of there.

This one’s pretty simple: the more distance between you and someone you don’t trust, the safer you are. Depending on the distance between you and the perp, you'll have two options: disengage or penetrate. If avoidance is a possible course of action, Chris stresses, take it. However, if the predator is already in your face or has his hands on you, penetrate to disengage—attack with your hands, knees, whatever, then break off and run. If you have to fight, commit. As Chris says, when you're being attacked, there’s no such thing as a fair fight, so always remember the cardinal rule: above the knees, below the belt.

Not to be messed with.

This all may seem unnecessary in our safe little Montana town, but attacks can and do happen, even on a peaceful trail in the beautiful wilderness. And when it comes to being attacked, you don't want to take any chances. The course I took provided me with the tools to handle dangerous situations in a smart and effective way—hopefully, avoiding violence. The encouraging takeaway is this: with the right training, anyone can learn to defend herself and stay safe in just about any situation. 

For more information on Tactic's Avoiding Violence course, visit tacticmt.com. And remember, if a perpetrator attacks you or a loved one, statistics show that he will most likely attack again, so always call 911.