The very nature of the environments chosen for the majority of suicide bombings — which is to say, crowded venues — and the added aspect of the scum not caring at all about being able to leave the scene of the crime make specific measures and predictions tough to implement.

There are, however, a few general guidelines that all martial artists should keep in mind. To simplify, I will divide them into three tiers.


80/20 SCANNING: If you're in any crowded venue — be it a sports arena, a concert hall, a farmers market, an airport or a mall — you know that bad things can happen. Of course, I'm not advising you to shun every event that's liable to draw a crowd. Living scared is no way to live. I am urging you to use a bit of vigilance. Pay attention to everything. Put 80 percent of your attention on the fun at hand and use the other 20 percent to scan what's around you.

Treat any event you're attending as if you're a springbok at a watering hole in the Serengeti. You're at a place to slake your thirst, mix with others and maybe get a cute person's phone number, but you always need to remember that a lion might be hiding in the bushes or a crocodile in the shallows. Drink the water, mingle and have fun — but stay awake.

Scanning Rules: Pay attention to backpacks and large bags. Many venues ban them, but many do not. Your job is to look for such bags and, if you spot one in a place that prohibits them, report it. If they're permitted, you still can do some profiling of the owner. Look for suspicious behavior and intention signaling.

Allow your 20-percent scan to include any odd behavior even if it doesn't involve a bag or backpack. Awareness is and always has been the key in all survival situations. Stay awake and aware, and that means putting your cellphone away. It's impossible to be in the here and now when your tiny screen has you captivated. Staring at your phone means not only that your snowball's chance in hell of spotting trouble is decreased but also that you are less than fully present at the event you chose to attend. Keeping the phone stowed is a win-win.

ALARMED BUT UNCERTAIN: Obviously, if you see something, you say something. But this is where things get a little difficult. Let's assume you see something a little odd but not quite odd enough to raise an alarm. It's something that gets your gut going but gives you no real actionable "tell" that you can point to. That's a sign you should pay closer attention — better safe than sorry.

It should be obvious here, but I'll say it anyway: The farther you are from a bomb blast, the less severe the injuries usually are. No-brainer, right?


Consequently, you should begin removing yourself from the immediate area once you determine there's a tangible threat. By all means, keep your eye on what's causing your concern. If the tell escalates, give the alarm to others. If it diminishes, nobody but you and those in your charge will ever know that you were silently putting distance between yourself and a possible explosive device.

Awareness is and always has been the key in all survival situations. Stay awake and aware, and that means putting your cellphone away.

FULL ON: You're in hell here. You didn't have an opportunity to spot the bomber far enough in advance to flee, and you're fairly close to what will be the epicenter of the blast. If you have a split second between your "this is going down" realization and the actual triggering of the device, the following is your snowball's-chance-in-hell protocol.

Hit the deck immediately. These devices are designed to fragment and send projectiles through human flesh. Whether the material is nuts and bolts or ball bearings, your job is to create the smallest profile in the dispersion path.

With that in mind‚ get flat on the ground. Ideally, the soles of your feet will be pointed toward the bomber. This will create the smallest profile while your shoes will potentially protect your body from anything emanating from the blast zone. If possible, cross your legs to further minimize your profile and decrease the likelihood that the blast will catch a splayed leg and shear it off.

Lie facedown with your hands over your head and ears. Tuck your elbows against your ribs to protect your vitals. Close your eyes tight. Open your mouth. This last one may seem counterintuitive, but it can help equalize the pressure during the blast, thus reducing the chance of ruptured eardrums and lungs.

Drills: People say, "Never do anything for the first time in combat." The same notion applies to bombings. It's not enough to merely read an article and nod your head while thinking it's a good idea. You must put the knowledge into practice. At a minimum, strive to exercise your awareness and alertness every day of your life.

When it comes to the full-on survival posture, however, I recommend doing it right now. Hit the deck and assume the position! If you're really serious, over the course of the next week, request a favor from a family member: Ask him or her to toss a tennis ball onto the floor of the room you're in a couple of times each day. This should be done when you don't appear to be thinking about the subject.

The thrower's goal is to catch you unaware. Your job is to treat the spot where the ball lands as the bomber's location, then immediately hit the deck and assume the position.

If you're lucky, two things will happen. One, your family members will be entertained as they cause you to lunge for the ground for seven days straight. Two, you will never need to use the skills you're practicing.

Mark Hatmaker's website is extremeselfprotection.com.

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