Imagine you’re doing your thing in the city. Maybe you live there, maybe you commute there for work. It’s just another day. You pass a large group of political protesters outside as you make your way into work. These days that’s just par for the course. But around mid-morning, you start to hear shouts and loud noises coming from the direction of the street. You look outside and see turmoil. It’s a riot, and the rioters are becoming increasingly violent. They’re not letting people past them. They’re breaking windows, attacking cars, and targeting stunned passersby.
You need to get to your family in another part of the city. But how are you going to get around the violence?
You need to avoid looking like an easy target as you make your way through and past a volatile situation. The finesse lies in not looking aggressive, as this can also single you out for violence; in this case authorities may even mistake you for one of the rioters. What you want to shoot for is a neutral and forgettable look that also communicates: “it would be a bad idea to mess with me.”
It’s urban survival 101- if you must choose, it’s better to look like a threat than a target.
Before we delve into how you should look and carry yourself, think about what may constitute an easy target: someone encumbered with too much “stuff” that can easily be dropped or grabbed, someone wearing impractical clothing that puts them at a disadvantage (i.e. heels), someone whose body language communicates that they are frightened or vulnerable and wouldn’t know how to defend themselves.
The ideal “look” for an urban survival situation is the oft-referenced “gray man”, that is, a completely neutral and forgettable appearance that draws no attention and blends in easily. The look involves plain, neutral clothing and shoes, an unremarkable hairstyle, nothing to draw unwanted eyes. In the event of a violent situation, you’ll need to tip this scale a little further toward the direction of looking formidable. Much of this comes down to body language- make confident eye contact, but don’t stare. Hold your head up; make it clear that you’re aware of your surroundings, but not as if you’re paranoid. The larger you can make yourself appear, the better, so don’t hunch. It’s a delicate balance that may require some practice if it doesn’t come naturally to you.
The best way to appear as if you are confident and would make for an unpleasant encounter should someone try to harm you is to actually be confident. What this means will vary among people and situations, but may include:
Lastly, a huge advantage that will make you instantly less appealing to those who may want to take advantage is to travel in numbers. The instant you add numbers to your group, especially if they can all manage to appear confident if not formidable, you reduce the chances that anyone will think of messing with you.Be prepared for anything. Equip yourself with urban survival gear for any situation.
Last Updated: October 10, 2017
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