Spy Tricks That Can Save Your Life

We’ve all seen those spy scenes in movies where they’re caught in a bad situation, held hostage or otherwise, and manage to use average, everyday items around them to concoct the most unexpected attacks or the cleverest of escapes, right?

By Julia Song3 min read
shutterstock 1363895921
Shutterstock/Kryvenok Anastasiia

What if I told you that the spy mindset is simply a skill? A skill that, yes, you too can actually practice and acquire?

Don’t Draw Attention to Yourself

There’s not THAT much difference between an average person and a spy. That’s because a spy’s job is mainly to avoid detection while gathering intelligence. They try to blend into society, go unnoticed, and simply perform their jobs as quickly and efficiently as they can.

The success of their mission often relies on not being spotted. As a spy, less is usually more, and they avoid standing out and being the center of attention in the room. Their methods are much more streamlined, and hence, they must question what value would it bring to their mission to be noticed by the crowd. The answer is usually none.

In real life, such an approach is also key. In certain situations, like a pageant, a wedding, or a ball, you probably would gain from going out of your way to attract looks. But in most everyday occasions, attracting looks can also attract problems, if those stares come from ill-intentioned people looking for their next target.

Surveillance, Surveillance, Surveillance

In polite society, we’re likely to be pleasant to others and to avoid brash interactions. That might mean avoiding eye contact with strangers, not scanning the environment adequately, accepting a drink out of politeness, or even failing to remove yourself from a weird situation in order to “just not be rude.”

But as my mother would say, “Hell is packed full of the well-intentioned,” and you never know what harm could come from an excess of politeness, or lack of prejudgment.

Yes, prejudging somebody isn’t the coolest. But when you’re out at night, your ability to listen to your gut will be your best friend. Don’t be afraid to be rude. As a matter of fact, being rude could quite well be what saves your life in the end. Try it. It doesn’t hurt.

Never be afraid to be short. Never be afraid to scan all the details of your environment and look for escape routes. If someone is trying to victimize you, they will notice how situationally aware you are and will likely choose another victim. Avoid looking too distracted or getting too drunk. Just like a spy, you have one job — come back home alive.

Most people’s reaction to you ignoring them or being blatantly impolite is just to leave you alone. They won’t call your job to try to get you fired or tell on you to your mom. The only thing preventing you from being short with others is your own conscience, but you only get to have one in the first place if you stay alive, so learn to compromise and err on the side of caution.

Furthermore, when it comes to maintaining eye contact with people, criminals usually will avoid victims who have spotted them and taken a good look. Such victims would be able to recognize their faces and provide an accurate account to the police. Moreover, the criminal now knows that you’re aware of his presence, so he’s more likely to avoid targeting you.

Spies don’t try to be sweetie pies, and neither should you.

A Spy’s Utility Belt

Particularly, I, who am no spy, (I guess that’s what a spy would say), like to focus on items that are light, can be easily concealed, aren’t flashy, are small, and serve multiple purposes. And, depending on where I’m going, items that can ensure I’m safe while also abiding by local laws.

Tactical pens that are multitools are a great and inexpensive addition to your utility belt. Consider also carrying with you strong zip ties, hairpins, and an abrasive style shoelace (you can use this to saw your way out of zip cuffs). Kubatons or titanium toothpicks, small tasers that disguise as a flashlight, or knives that can be easily concealed within the palm of your hand, pocket, or that come as a part of multitool kits are great as well. 

My favorite pocket knife comes with many tactical tools on it, including a flashlight, fire starter, belt clip, etc.

Surprise is a key element whether in defense or attack. Don’t purchase a pink neon taser or a flashy-looking gun. And, whatever tool you choose, make sure that you know its strengths and weaknesses, and that you’re prepared and trained on how to use it.

Train and Prepare

Train yourself to think outside of the box. Become familiar with skills that could get you out of trouble someday. Buy a lock-picking kit and train on how to use it. That hairpin may come in handy someday after all.

Speaking of locks, if you’re dealing with actual handcuffs, knowing the mechanics behind them also will help you get out of them without much difficulty. Depending on the type of handcuff, you may be able to either release the lock or release the chain holding your hands together.

When it comes to knives, learn the best technique to use them for different purposes and become familiar with their feel, the proper way to hold them, and how to quickly release the blade.

Learning about the hard truths of a fight and preparing mentally and physically for it will be key to your survival. In a fight, you cause hurt and you get hurt. Be prepared for it, brush it off, and move forward until the threat is eliminated.

There’s no need to stick around, no shame in running. If you manage to break free, your next focus is to build on that advantage and live to fight another day. Ensure your cardio skills are good, and that you’re working out those biceps and triceps as well just in case. You never know, right?

Closing Thoughts

Everyone can and should build spy skills as a way to safeguard their lives and the lives of their loved ones. The day of tomorrow can bring many unknowns, and the best proof of love you can give to someone is to be prepared to hold their hand through the storm and weather it with them.

You absolutely owe it to yourself and to those you love to be prepared and trained should you ever need to protect them. And plus, as you know, being a spy can be a lot of fun. So go and be one!