Real-life self defense situations do not occur in controlled environments such as dojos, studios or rings. Your surroundings can hinder or help your ability to defend yourself. Static objects like walls or parked cars, for instance, can play a significant role in how a situation unfolds.
Barriers to escape: Having your back against a wall or trapped in a small space (elevator, bathroom) will hinder or even prevent your ability to escape.
Limiting Space/Mobility: Imagine defending yourself in an elevator? There is no way to avoid physical contact with an attacker. Kicks are a limited option in favour of medium and close range strikes. Grappling is very likely. It will get ugly.
Concealing Assailants: Walking around the corner of a building and being confronted by an aggressor, someone lurking behind a vehicle in a parking lot... Physical obstacles offer hiding spots for assailants.
Site of Impact: If you are standing against a wall and someone punches you there are at least two points of impact. The first punch and your head hitting the wall. Be aware of your proximity to such objects.
Separating From Your Assailant: I know at least one person who ran and used a car as a barrier between her and the aggressor. The time she bought, and her yells, attracted the attention of local residents who came to her aid.
Knowing your surroundings must include a sense of any physical boundaries that can hinder or help your ability to defend yourself. If possible train in various settings and explore what opportunities and obstacles each one offers.
Lead Instructor, International Krav Maga Federation, Toronto
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net