10 Reasons Your Mom Should Take a Self Defense Class

Common sense for self defense

Self defense really is for everyone. You don’t have to be in shape, have martial arts training or any special skills…just a desire to stay safe!

Self defense is simply the right combination of situational awareness, safe choices and behaviors, and physical/mental readiness that enables you to avoid, evade, escape or survive an attack.  Note that I don’t say “a person” when I write…because I’m talking about you, your mom, your daughter, your friend, your neighbor…not just “someone.”

Why should YOU take a self defense class?  Here are my top 10 reasons:

  1. You are unique. You’re the only you in the world, and there will never be another.  You have value and worth, and it’s not okay if someone tries to harm you.
  2. Growth. “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” Step outside your comfort zone and try something new.
  3. Muscle memory. Just like you’re able to ride a bike, type without looking at the keyboard, throw a ball, or any number of things you’ve trained your body to do…delivering a solid strike or performing a release move you’ve learned and practiced will come right back to you.
  4. Basic training. When you’re suddenly faced with a potential attacker and experience the “adrenaline dump,” you’ll revert to your lowest level of training. It’s up to you what that training might be.
  5. Good times! Self defense classes are fun. No, really…they are!  The instructor(s) work hard to provide you with useful information and tools you can use, in a comfortable and safe setting.
  6. A safe place to learn. Self defense doesn’t equate to sparring, grappling, or any of those other things you’re afraid of. Don’t worry that you’re going to wind up pinned beneath some sweaty, hulking stranger, boxing with a pro who has a chip on his shoulder, or trying to identify and recall obscure pressure points when you sign up for a self defense class at your YMCA or dojang.
  7. Empowerment! Learning new skills, pushing your boundaries and meeting new people is a great confidence builder.
  8. You might get to hit things or break stuff. A fun, memorable confidence builder for some people is actually hitting or kicking target pads…or breaking pine boards or “rebreakable” plastic boards (“green,” plus they provide a consistent break every time)!  The instructors will teach you how to do this safely and successfully.
  9. Safer behaviors. Changing just one or two unsafe habits could avert an attack, a break-in, or worse.
  10. Better odds. Statistics indicate that one in three women in the U.S. will be assaulted during her lifetime.  If you had one-in-three odds of winning the lottery, wouldn’t you play?  This is a lottery you don’t want to win.

Continue reading


Can a Book Save Your Life?

The Gift of Fear - self-defense“This book can save your life.”  Although that’s what the cover of my favorite book asserts, I disagree.  Neither this book nor any other book can prevent you from being assaulted, attacked or killed.  What it CAN do – and the reason it is my unequivocal favorite self-defense book – is cause you to think differently, make more informed choices, increase your situational awareness, and ultimately reduce your chance of being in a life-threatening situation.

The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker, is a must-read for women of all ages, as well as anyone who is interested in increasing his or her safety and awareness.  De Becker’s unique claim that “fear is a gift” is proven true repeatedly throughout the book.

Why should YOU read The Gift of Fear?  Here are my top 10 reasons: Continue reading


Don’t Go In There!

Self defense begins with making safe choices for yourself and those for whom you are responsible.  Sometimes habit or emotion gets in the way, but staying aware and alert can go a long way toward keeping you safe.

My good friend recently arrived home to find her front door standing open a bit. She knew she had closed and locked the door when she left for work, but there it was…open. She is a smart person with life experience and has taken at least one self defense class, but habit and emotion kicked in, and with a fit of righteous indignance, she walked in and began searching the house.

Fortunately, the intruders had left, taking some of her belongings with them.  What if they hadn’t?  Was she prepared to defend herself against a startled and possibly armed person who was breaking the law, escalating a burglary into a robbery or even an assault or rape?  By isolating herself inside the house, she potentially gave an intruder all the opportunity needed to commit further crimes against her, and took away her own escape route (get in the car and/or leave) and sources of assistance (neighbors).

Our homes are indeed our castles, and contain the majority of our possessions…but it’s still just “stuff,” and not worth losing your life.  By entering her home instead of calling the police, my friend unthinkingly exposed herself to serious risk.

Of course she felt angry; her home had been violated.  Of course she was incredulous; she had locked the door, but it was standing open.  Of course she felt safe; it was her home, where she has lived for over a decade.  It’s hard to process that a formerly safe place or situation can suddenly become anything but safe.  Being open to new information (my door is open, so someone could be inside), listening to your gut feeling and intuition, and finally, acting on that information will do more toward keeping you safe than anything else you could do.

No matter how good your intentions, if you zone out at the wrong moment or are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, you could be the target of an assault or other crime.  Be prepared mentally and physically to fight back, escape and call for help.  You may be a target, but you don’t have to be a victim.

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Listen to Yourself!

“Would you just listen to yourself?”  Although this sounds like something your best friend might say when you’re being unreasonable, or even an admonishment from a frustrated parent, it is the best safety advice I can give.  If you will allow yourself to listen to – and hear – your own true voice, and act on what it tells you, you can avoid many dangerous situations.

We’ve all had “gut feelings” before.  It’s very easy to explain your gut feeling about something or someone after something happens, but often very difficult to explain it beforehand. You may feel uneasy being alone with a coworker, or get a “weird vibe” from a guy at the gas pump across from yours.  You might even walk into a store, get a panicky feeling, and simply leave.

We are the only living creatures on this planet who rationalize away fears, worries or instincts. We do this because of social pressures, fear of embarrassment, or the inability to articulate or explain what we are feeling.  A cat or dog can go from being startled and defensive to being calm and affectionate within a few seconds.  They are unconcerned about what their peers think, or whether they should be embarrassed for overreacting to a false threat. Don’t let your internal monologue (“this can’t be happening to me” or “I’m sure he didn’t mean that” or “this will turn out okay”) keep you from acting on your intuition – your gut instinct.

As Gavin de Becker writes in his outstanding book The Gift of Fear, “When it comes to survival signals, our minds have already done their best work by the time we try to figure things out.” De Becker also writes, “…when it comes to danger, intuition is always right in at least two important ways: 1) It is always in response to something. 2) It always has your best interest at heart.”

Listen to yourself.  Trust your instincts and act on them! Stay safe…and while you’re at it, make an investment in your safety and read The Gift of Fear.  It’s available in hardback, paperback, digital and audio versions.


Sparring is Not Fighting

Amateur and professional sports events such as Mixed Martial Arts, boxing and professional wrestling, as well as Taekwon-Do, Jiu-Jitsu, Karate and other martial arts classes, have led the general public to view these sporting matches as “fights.”  These talented professional and amateur athletes also contribute to the misnomer, hyping the events with rivalries, wagers and taunts.  However, there are several important differences between these sporting events or tournaments and actual fights.

Athletes have weeks or months to train for the event.  They know the day, time, and location it will be held.  Athletes know who their opponent will be, and have agreed to meet that opponent in a fair match on equal footing. They know what the stakes are – a title, a belt, a medal, a coveted match with a specific contender, or even a hefty payday. Athletes know which weapons, if any, will be allowed in their competition. They wear required protective gear such as gloves, mouthpieces, and groin protection, and can rest assured that a referee will be watching for illegal techniques and assessing penalties for infractions. Athletes know that the event will last only a specified amount of time, and that in the event of a serious injury, their coach or the medical staff can stop the match. Athletes know that the event will be held in a well-lighted area, the rules won’t change mid-event, and that no bystanders will join in to gang up on them.

A fight may occur in any place, at any time, and for a myriad of reasons. There may be multiple opponents, with makeshift weapons or even knives or guns. The attacker(s) may be angry over a perceived slight, impaired by drugs or alcohol, or simply thrill seekers out to prove their dominance or increase their standing with their peer group. There In many cases, only one person knows that the fight is about to happen.  There is often no one to intervene, offer assistance or call police until the fight is long over. Fights are not fair. Sand is thrown, hair is pulled, eyes are gouged.  Any possible advantage is taken and exploited.

Avoid a fight if you possibly can. If you can’t, protect yourself (and your loved ones) as best you can, and escape as soon as you can.  Don’t waste time thinking,”This can’t be happening,” or rationalizing your attacker’s reasoning.  The altercation could be over by the time you make sense out of the situation.  Trust your instincts and take action, whether that means running, taking cover, arming yourself, assuming a defensive stance (hands up, body turned sideways to be a smaller target), or striking out at your assailant.

If there are bystanders, ask for their help: “You in the red shirt! Call 9-1-1!”  Clearly and loudly communicate your desire to avoid a fight by saying, “I don’t want any trouble,” or even, “Don’t hit me!”  Your words may figure heavily in a lawsuit or police report if bystanders are asked what they remember.

If you can’t avoid an attack, be sure to go get checked out afterward.  You might have a concussion or internal bleeding if you’ve fallen or been struck.  Worse, what feels like a hard punch or kick could wind up being a stab wound. Don’t take chances…and be sure to file a police report as soon as possible.

Stay safe!


Is It Really You?

Fortune tellers do it.  Identity thieves do it. Phishers do it. Salespeople even do it, to a certain extent.  Taking a little bit of existing information and making an educated guess, trying to establish rapport and “fill in the gaps” is a common practice.

We give away information about ourselves all the time, and unscrupulous individuals can find a way to take advantage.  Knowing who you’re dealing with is absolutely essential in today’s online world!

I recently received an instant message from a longtime friend, and it just didn’t feel right.  She had never IM’ed me before, although we frequently exchange phone calls, text messages and even snail mail.  We exchanged greetings, then I asked, “How is your new puppy doing?”

When her response read, “Great,” I knew immediately that I was not talking with my friend.  I was expecting something more along the lines of, “Have you lost your mind?  I don’t have any pets, let alone a puppy!”

The person on IM kept chatting, and I played along, staying engaged until I found out what he/she wanted (bank info) before “outing” them, whereupon the message window closed and the account itself disappeared.  I called my friend immediately to let her know about the hacker so she could take the appropriate steps.

There are many ways to hide behind a computer screen, and many scammers trying to take advantage of those who are uninformed, unaware or overly trusting.  Take a moment to review your privacy settings on your social media accounts. Make sure you actually know who is seeing your posts and photos, and keep your private information private.

Stay safe!

Stop Giving Away Information!

It is impossible not to give away information about yourself.  The way you talk, the clothes you  wear, the vehicle you drive, and even the conversations you have in public tell others who you are.

Think of all the things you can surmise about a 20-something woman who gets out of a Prius with a college parking sticker on it, wearing an OU Sooners sweatshirt, worn-out jeans and a silver necklace.  She’s carrying a Coach purse, talking on an iPhone and has manicured nails.

Someone who wants to earn the trust (however brief) of a potential victim may need only to distract her a moment for a theft or assault…or might attempt to forge an “acquaintance relationship” by complimenting the target or enlisting her help.

Possible opening questions:

  • Your nails are gorgeous! Where do you have them done? (Where’s that? Are they gel? Is it expensive?)
  • I love your bag! My mom gave me one just like it, but zipper on the inside pocket broke immediately and I had to exchange it.  Is yours okay?
  • Hey, I think that guy just dinged your car door! You’d better go check.  I’ll get his license plate.
  • Is that an iPhone 6? I have a 5, but I’m thinking of upgrading. Do you think it’s worth it?
  • Can you tell me where Murray Hall is? I’m supposed to give a speech there but they didn’t give me directions and I’m late.
  • I’ll bet you get amazing gas mileage, don’t you? I’m thinking of trading…is it worth it?
  • I think you dropped $20 (either pointing to where it was allegedly dropped, or holding out a bill) when you got out of your car.
  • And the easiest one of all: Do you know what time it is?  (You look away, at your watch or phone, giving a stranger a moment of opportunity.)

Remember, context is everything.  How long have you known the person in question?  How did you meet?  How well do you really know him or her?  Consider these things when you let someone in your personal space, your car, or open your door to them.  When you engage in a conversation with someone, remember that it is a two-way street.  If you feel like you’re giving a lot of answers but not learning anything yourself, it may be time to cut that conversation short.

It’s become a cliché that we “open up” to certain people and share things we generally wouldn’t:  hair stylists, bartenders, seatmates on airplanes, and as a general rule, “people we’re never going to see again.”  Why do we do that?  Perhaps we’ve built rapport (or they have), we’re attracted to the person, our inhibitions are lowered due to alcohol, or they’re a “friend of a friend.”

Watch your words.  Keep your private information private, and don’t give away important information like your travel destination, hotel name or room number, children’s names, where you bank, your pets’ names, or where you went to school.  It is your personal information, and your choice whether or not to share it with a stranger.  Why should they care what your kids’ names are, or what grade they’re in?  (Honestly, I don’t even give my own name when asked in a restaurant.  The hostess or cashier doesn’t care, it amuses me, and I don’t have my name announced publicly for all to hear.)

Be careful when you encounter someone new with whom you have something in common.  Just because you both share a passion for the same type of music, you’re reading the same obscure book, or you’re on a flight to the same place doesn’t mean they’re not still just a “familiar stranger.”

Listen to your intuition, and remember your context.  Until next time…stay safe!