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  • by Jim Willis

If you’re faced with a sudden personal attack, are you prepared to defend yourself?


With society’s increasing instability and violence, everyone should be able to answer “yes, I have the skills needed to defend myself and my friends or family.” Men and women alike need an understand of self-defense, however, the harsh reality is that women are more often targets of unwanted aggression and assault. Girls and women are more vulnerable because men typically have strength and body mass advantages that can help them physically fend off an unwanted mugging or attacks. In fact, CDC statistics show that one-in-four North American women will be sexually assaulted and/or physically attacked during their lifetime. But again, this is self-defense, and everyone could benefit from the skills to protect themselves.

The “what and how” of self-defense should be your personal decision, made with deliberation and a clear understanding of the consequences.

The “what and how” of personal self-defense are the tactics and strategies that will be employed to neutralize the attacker’s physical advantages and the tactics or tools you plan to use in defense. The options range from extensive self-defense training, to the use of self defense tools such as pepper (OC) spray, stun guns, and batons, to lethal weapons such as knives and handguns; but remember, each has its drawbacks as well as strengths. Only familiarity and prior knowledge of their correct applications, can prepare you to apply them act decisively when confronted with a threat.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a martial-arts expert to defend yourself; basic self-protection is more about vigilance, situational awareness, and determination and most importantly, the knowledge of simple self-defense maneuvers.

Let me illustrate:

Of my five children; two are girls. My oldest daughter was on the cheerleading squad in high school. She was tall, lean, and athletic. She’s always been outgoing, self-confident, and sociable. Late one evening she was leaving a party at her college when an unknown man attacked her. He tried to pin her against the wall of a dark exterior stairway. But in one fluid movement, she blocked his attack and flipped him over the handrail and left. She could hear him moaning and cursing to himself as she walked quickly away.

When my youngest daughter, was in high school, though captain of the school dance team, she was less gregarious than her sister; petite, reserved, and well-mannered. She experienced an encounter with a boy who pushed his way into her group of friends at a lunchroom table and proceeded to make rude comments and inappropriate advances. She politely but firmly asked the guy to leave her alone and left the table. As she was about to place her lunch tray in the bin, the boy put his arm around her waist from behind and started to lift her off the ground. Though he was much larger at six foot than she at 5’ 3”, she instinctively grabbed the guy’s hand and used the wrist-lock take-down to deftly bring him to the floor. She calmly looked down at him and asked - “now if I let you go, are you going to be a good boy and leave me alone?” He responded, “yes; yes, I will”. As she released him, she noticed the entire lunch room had come to a dead stop and was watching as he sheepishly got off the floor. As the boy got up, the security officer arrived from across the room where he’d seen the incident unfolding, and smiling, asked if everything was alright; she said, “oh yes, everything is fine, he (the boy) was just being reminded of his manners” and she calmly walked away. The guy later apologized, thanked her for not filing a complaint with the school, and never came near her again. However, she understood that he had been publicly embarrassed and remained “aware” of her surroundings and vigilant for the rest of the year.

In both incidents, the combination of attitude, coupled with a simple self-defense technique, made the difference between a continuing harassment/assault and a quick decisive resolution. It took me about 20 minutes to teach each girl the techniques they used to defend themselves.

If you can show that you’re capable and more than willing to inflict pain on your assailant, you may be able to stop the attack and make your escape.

Remember the goal: Stop the attack, make your escape.

Stop the attack:

  • Quickly realize what is going on – situational awareness is the key

  • Determine how you will respond

  • Your response will be dictated by the circumstances that you’re facing. A confrontation in a lunch room needs a vastly different response than a situation where someone is trying to maim or kill.

  • RESPOND with speed and decisiveness

  • Get away safely

  • Escape as soon as you can make a safe exit

For my oldest girl, once the attacker went over the rail, her job was to get away safely. For my youngest daughter, her decisive actions showed that, if the situation warranted, she was more than capable of, and willing to inflict pain to stop an aggressor.

My basic rules for conduct in a conflict include:

  • Never start an altercation

  • Try not to exacerbate a tense situation

  • If threatened, respond quickly & decisively

  • Make a proper response - Not overly excessive but never with too little force

  • NEVER EVER make a half-hearted attempt

If someone aggressively places their hands on you without your consent and with the intent to do harm, respond immediately with quick and decisive action. You don’t have to say “Stop”, but if you do, say it once loudly – then act (better yet, say it while your letting them know that you mean it).

Once someone aggressively breaches your personal space, not responding, freezing-up, or trying to placate an aggressor will place you in the roll of "victim"; and opens the door to ongoing harassment and increasing violence. So, respond with appropriate measures. You may still lose, but at least make attacker pay a heavy a price.

To stay safe, remain aware & be ready.


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