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The Use of Force Spectrum: Avoidance and Escape

Avoidance and escape techniques are the most effective forms of personal protection because they allow the protector to preclude getting into a close range encounter with an assailant. Avoidance and escape are the least severe form of protection on the Use of Force spectrum because of the low risk of harm. If an attacker is armed with a physical weapon (melee), avoidance and escape may preclude all harm. If the attacker has a ranged weapon, such as a firearm, avoidance and escape are still highly effective because of the greatly reduced chance of a hit due to range and movement.

Key elements

Let’s set up a few terms when talking about this subject. Sorry for the vocabulary lesson, but the study of personal protection warrants clear, concise definitions.

  • Evade- The act of precluding meaningful contact between two parties, regardless of intent (used when avoidance and escape are both applicable).
  • Avoidance- The act of averting contact with a party that has not yet become aware of you, or has no interest in making contact with you.
  • Escape- The act of averting contact with a party that is aware of you and is trying to engage you.

As stated in the Situational Awareness article, a great degree of situational awareness can make evading contact more likely.

Evading contact is achieved with two elements: distance and concealment. When you put distance between two contacts, their choices of engagement are limited to ranged weaponry and verbal contact. Maintaining and increasing the distance between two contacts allows the evader to eventually break contact altogether because the possibilities of where the evader went to become more, making the pursuer more likely to choose the wrong possibility.

Concealment also helps in breaking contact because it disables the pursuer from meaningfully closing the distance. The pursuer can make guesses and anticipations where the evader is at the moment, but these become speculations rather than a definitively identified target through visual observation.


Improving avoidance and escape performance

There are some training considerations and multipliers that can be taken into account when dealing with avoidance and escape performance. These include methods of propulsion, understanding the limitations of the means of propulsion, and the disparity between propulsion between contacts.

Propulsion is the means used to cover a distance. It may be running, skateboard, bicycle, automobile, etc. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Running is a short-term propulsion for most, who might make 200-300 meters with adrenaline in an all out sprint. A car, on the other hand, can propel the person as long as there is gas and has working mechanical parts.

Looking at some of the limitations of propulsion, it can be seen that some are great for acquiring distance, and some are better for concealment.

Running on foot is likely to be the slowest and, as mentioned above, the most short-term method for propulsion. As the person becomes fatigued, the rate of speed will decrease. However, the options for concealment can be much greater. If line-of-sight is broken, the opportunity to hide can present itself, as well as the ability to take multiple circuits (decrease the probability of being followed).  There are options to increase proficiency; such as running, interval training, and activities like Parkour which emphasize obstacle avoidance and utilization.

Human-powered vehicles, such as bicycles, can be slower to accelerate than a runner, so may be best employed if there is sufficient distance to allow the acceleration to occur. Bicycles can be quiet, and are relatively small compared to cars, so the options to hide are still somewhat possible. Bicycles can use mechanical advantage so as to cover more ground and achieve more speed per unit of work from the rider.

Fuel powered vehicles, such as motorcycles and automobiles, allow great distance and speed with little to no exertion on the part of the driver. Avoidance and escape are far easier when these multipliers are available, but the ability to go in diverse terrain is more hindered, as well as being far more subject to other environmental factors (such as street crowding due to traffic).

The below table shows some advantages and disadvantages based on the disparity between propulsion methods for the evader and the pursuer.

Pursuer on foot Pursuer on bicycle Pursuer in motor vehicle
Evader on Foot Equal advantage / disadvantage Evader has slight stealth advantage but can quickly be caught up to. Evader can hide more easily, pursuer can greatly outdistance. Evader will rely on misdirection and stealth.
Evader on bicycle Evader can outdistance, but loses some ability to conceal/hide Equal advantage / disadvantage Evader may have slight terrain advantage (traffic) and may have more routes accessible to him (through yards, gated fences, etc).
Evader on bicycle Evader can outdistance, but loses some ability to conceal/hide Evader has slightly better concealment options and may have better route options. Pursuer has better speed, distance, and fatigue considerations. Equal advantage / disadvantage


Other avoidance and escape considerations

Multiple pursuers may make avoidance and escape much harder. An organized team could allocate people to continuing pursuit along an anticipated route while others hang back to search, thus covering the two methods of averting a pursuer. Not every pursuing group is likely to be thus organized, but it is certainly a possibility. Trying to hide from one person is possible, but more pursuers increase the chances that someone hiding will be actively or passively spotted.

Known destinations are another consideration. If the pursuer is familiar with his target, there is a good chance he will know where the target is going. In this case, the evader’s avoidance and escape are made irrelevant because the pursuer only has to engage the evader at the known destination. This can be not only the end-destination of the evader but known choke points along the way. If a neighborhood has lots of twisty, curvy roads with many branches, but only one or two ways in and out of the subdivision, a group of pursuers on foot can possibly get to the exits (interim destinations) before someone in a vehicle can.

Proficiency in any form of propulsion changes the chances of success. As mentioned above, being adept at running and obstacle negotiation can aid foot evasion, while taking training in vehicle maneuvers can increase the chances of vehicular avoidance.

The terrain is another consideration where there may be a disparity of propulsion. A person averting contact in a Corvette has different options than a person driving a heavily modified and lifted Jeep. In cases where propulsion between evader and pursuer is equal, exploiting the unique capabilities of the vehicle may be a very good option.

About donaldj

Profile photo of donaldj
Donald Alley is a black belt in jujutsu with over 10 years of martial experience, he has practiced personal protection training methodology with broad-spectrum awareness. Black belt in Yagyu Jujutsu. Brown belt in Yoshinkai Aikido. Licensed Instructor (rank of Shidoin) in the International Sogobudo Federation. Yutto Jusseki 2012 (top graduate award) ISBF Instructor Training Program. Owner of DJA Applications and the Bu Tactical product line. Program coordinator for Martial Tactical Training of Michigan Chudokai Aikido Federation Kenshu graduate 2006. Primary Member of the US Martial Tactical Association. Level 1 Instructor in the US Martial Tactical Association. NRA Certified Instructor in Basic Pistol. NRA Certified Instructor in CPL (Personal Protection In The Home). Published martial arts and personal protection and emergency preparedness columnist.

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  1. Both of your articles are good having used most of those methods at one time or another, sometimes with success sometimes not. Nothing too serious. I can see where role play could help as opposed to experience which could end badly if your wrong.

    • Profile photo of donaldj

      Roleplaying is a very important aspect of all training, and is actually a subject I will be writing about once I’m done with this series. The great thing about roleplaying training is it forces the trainee to exercise his decision-making skills, whereas most training is already in a pre-set part of the spectrum (if at the range, you will shoot, if at the dojo you will practice physical force). Thank you for the great insight.

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