Most martial artists think that when trouble starts they'll just be able to handle it. They'll just throw a punch or two, or kick their attacker in the groin, and it will all be over. But the truth is that the moment trouble starts it's often too late to do much about it... especially if it's a snatch-and-run robbery, or an intimidating close-quarter assault by a gang.
Here's a story that highlights how most people (even experienced martial artists) can be unaware of what's going on around them when they travel overseas :
Some years ago a friend of mine was on holidays in Singapore. He is a very experienced martial artist who had worked as a bouncer at strip clubs and illegal casinos in his past ... so he was no stranger to violence.
When he returned home from his trip he looked through his photographs, and was surprised to see that the same two Asian men (with no cameras or bags), had appeared in the background of three consecutive photograhs that were taken at three different tourist sites.
Although he had no idea at the time, he was obvioisly being followed by a couple of local criminals to see if he was vulnerable to being robbed.
He wasn't concerned that the two guys might have tried to rob him, because he was confident that he could have handled that, even if they were armed. But he was surprised that he didn't notice that he was being followed.
Like every other western tourist in Singapore, his casual and relaxed attitide didn't include the possibility that he might in fact be a target for petty criminals who were looking for an easy mark.
Although no one likes to consider the possibility that they might be attacked or robbed while they're travelling overseas, the fact is that it can happen... especially if you wander around completely unaware.
So here's an example of how a cleaning run could be done if you were overseas on holidays, or maybe on a business trip :
Imagine you were taking a walk around the local tourist sights. After a few minutes you might casually check your reflection in a shop window... just to see what's going on around you. And let's say you notice two men standing in the background and looking your way. One of them stands out because he's wearing a distinctive red cap.
Now on it's own, seeing two men looking in your direction is nothing to be concerned about... so you just continue your sightseeing.
After five minutes or so you decide to stop for a drink at one of the local outdoor cafes. Choosing a chair that allows you to look out at the people walking by, you sit back, relax, and casually look around. And as you do, you notice the same two men standing nearby.
At the next street corner you stop at the traffic lights, and as you wait you look at the reflection in the shop window across the street. Again you see that red cap... the two men are standing behind you amongst the people waiting for the lights to change.
Now it's time to seriously consider the possibility that you are being followed.
(In counter-surveillance the number '3' is the magic number. If you notice something once, it could mean nothing. If you notice it twice, it could just be a coincidence. But if you notice it 3 times, then it's time to take evasive action and disappear.)
So you cross the road and walk into a shop and buy a bottle of water. You open it, take a sip, and as you look at some postcards you casually look out through the shop window. You see the same two men walk past the shop and stop, and from your vantage point you're able to get a good look at them without actually staring directly at them.
(Staring directly at them might alert them to the fact that you've noticed them following you... and that might cause them to drop back and hide amongst the crowds passing by. But getting a good look at them can help with reporting any incident to the Police.)
So once know what they look like, you leave the shop. And as you do you casually look down at your watch and start to walk a little faster... as if you suddenly realised that you're late for an appointment.
This forces the two men following you to walk faster in order to keep up with you.
As you approach the next corner you reach into your pocket and take out your mobile phone... and as you turn the corner you stop and put the phone to your ear as if you're talking to someone.
The two men come rushing around the corner and sudenly stop. You can see by the look on their faces that they're visibly shocked to see you just standing there, looking at them, with a phone to your ear.
They realise they've been exposed, and now they're in a very public place with lots of potential witnesses. Their element of surpise has disappeared, and their plan to pounce at a vulnerable moment is ruined. So they quickly turn away and head off down the street.
Your cleaning run has done its job - a confrontation has been avoided - and you can safely head back to your hotel.
Finally, keep in mind that you don't have to try and remember all of these tactics.
But if can practice just a few of them in the relative safety of your own city,
you'll feel much more confident when you actually travel overseas.
It's Primal Protection.