For the life of me, I can't figure out what the people who are constantly worried about being physically attacked are doing to put themselves in such situations.
...For me, the greatest self-defense aspect of martial arts has been this awareness and confidence. Master those, and (knock on wood) the rest seems to take care of itself.
I agree simply being aware of your surroundings is the first step toward self-defense and I wonder how much of those who express these fears of being attacked are from people have any experience being attacked or living in dangerous areas. The greatest thing to fear is fear itself. A lot of it is simply common sense stuff...but then again as Mark Twain said, "common sense, ain't." I've only been in a handful of situations where I felt like I was being sized up and a certain kind of confidence, what I think of as a very self-posessed
personality, kept me safe...or so it seems to me. It's been said a million times, but most
criminals will choose an easier target over a tougher one just as they'll hone in on an attractive target over a bland one (think "bling").
That all said, sometimes a person must remain in a dangerous area for a variety of reasons. Like Don, I live in an area that has a high meth rate, the dirtiest meth at that. When you grow up in an area it can be hard to simply cut ties. Apart from other logistical reasons, I'd rather remain a positive presence in some of my friends' lives than abandon them completely. As such, when I go to visit them, I'm in a heightened state of awareness because visiting them means putting myself a little closer to harms way...it ups the odds.
Obviously I'm just one case, but I can see plenty of reasons why someone might have just cause for being concerned over possible attack, for what it's worth.