Consider a Self-Defense Course
When it comes to personal safety, I’m pretty paranoid–neurotically so–and there are a lot of things I don’t do because I worry about some really crazy, off-the-wall worse case scenarios that have a 0.001% chance of happening. Some things are common sense: you don’t really want to be walking in a dark alley by yourself in the middle of the night; you don’t want to hitch a ride with someone you don’t know. But too often, we don’t take enough precautionary measures until something does happen. It’s like installing an alarm system after you’ve been robbed. I didn’t want to be that person. I also didn’t want my fear/paranoia to have so much control over my life–I decided to be proactive and take steps to learn more about what I can do to help myself.
Self-defense is not about getting into fights with others; it’s about doing what you can to avoid or extricate yourself from a bad situation, which ranges from general awareness of who you are, your surroundings, and your own abilities to being assertive (not to be confused with aggressive) and making yourself heard clearly to defending yourself from a violent attack.
The local course I took talked about a crime triangle: opportunity, target, and motive/desire. Our instructor said we can only control two of these: we can avoid situations or be aware of potential situations thereby lessening the opportunity, and we can make ourselves a harder target by being aware, changing body language (appearing more confident), and equipped with knowledge of self-defense. I think this is really what I liked most about the course, because it taught me that it’s about gaining knowledge to be in better control of your life.
The course I took helped me understand more about myself, my fears, and my abilities. We covered things like how to use our voice to be assertive so other people would take us seriously (admittedly, nobody in my life would say I have a problem talking or being assertive), how to escape out of wrist grabs, body grabs, chokes, and even some ground grabs/positions, learned what parts of the body are sensitive, and (as women) where our strength comes from. It’s never about fighting and going one-on-one; it’s always about getting out and getting to a safe place.
I’ll also say that actually having people grab you, choke you (not actually compressing windpipes, but the feelings and sensations of having someone’s hands around your throat), and the like is unnerving–but I know how it feels. I now know how it feels so it will be slightly less startling if happens in a real-life situation, and I know a few techniques that might help me escape from them. I continue to practice those techniques, because you want them to become automatic responses. It’s no different than being aware of your surroundings: how well lit is the area, what time will I be leaving, will I be alone, etc. The more second nature the behavior becomes, the quicker you can respond, and the more confident you will be when you do.
I’m not an expert on self-defense, which is why I’m not trying to pass on every last bit I learned in a technical sense, but I wanted to pass on the value I received just from taking a short, simple course on it. It also inspired me to get in better shape, because if I need to run, I want to be able to run, run, and run. I recommend searching the web for local organizations or courses to take, and if you aren’t able to find one, check with local support groups for victims of domestic violence and/or rape or local police stations for resources. Self-defense can be valuable to both women and men, from kids to adults to seniors.