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In Self-Defense

Women should take steps
to prepare for dangerous situations

Don't let fear keep you from your activities


 
(May 2012)
Read previous Heather Foy columns!
Heather Foy

I am a woman. I often travel alone. I am a runner who is not afraid of the dark, and I am a 20-year coach to young girls. I serve as a director of a powerful program that teaches girls to embrace “Girl Power” and find everything that is strong from within. As a coach, I ultimately try to impress on the young girls I coach that confidence – not arrogance – is a virtue.
I am not a police officer or even a black belt in martial arts, but I am proud to have the title of Self Defense Instructor on my resumé. For 10 years, I have been a trained instructor for the nation’s largest women’s self-defense program: Rape Aggression Defense (RAD). The RAD program claims that 90 percent of self-defense education for women is promoting four simple risks: Risk Reduction - Risk Avoidance - Risk Recognition - Risk Awareness.
Put a bottle of pepper spray in a woman’s hands and she might feel protection or power. I want women to feel power with their own personal weapons, like a fist, or more importantly, their voice. And they can know deep in their guts that they can trust their instincts and react effectively to lessen their risk of abduction.
During the 10 years I have taught self-defense classes, many stories, tears and fears have surfaced for the females in my classes. Statistically, in any given class of women, there will be victims: victims of crime, sexual assault and the day-to-day fears women face in dark alleys or parking lots.
Even if you have never personally been a statistic, chances are you know a woman who is a number. We like to think it will never happen to us, especially for those who feel false security and claim, “I live in a small town. It could never happen to me.”
At some point, you will feel unsafe. Someday, you or a loved one might live that nightmare and could be forced to defend if ever attacked.
I express my hope and prayer to my students that they never have to physically USE the skills that we learn and master in class. If women use their smarts and make wise decisions, then statistics show they will lessen their risks. Always looking over your shoulder or consistently feeling “paranoid” is not the goal. Knowing your surroundings and making daily choices to keep you safe is the ultimate intent.
I am a fan of martial arts for young girls and women. I believe in the focus, coordination, strength, balance and, yes, self-defense benefits that it provides for students. It also creates improved confidence and assurance that one would be better able to defend themselves if ever attacked. You might have no intention of stepping into a sparing ring or wearing any belt color other than the leather one hanging in your closet. If I can’t convince you to take a self-defense class, try martial arts, or even bust out a few punches or kicks in a Turbo Kick class, please consider the following tips when it comes to outdoor exercise. I’ve combined my passion for exercise and experience as a runner and a self-defense instructor.
In class, I teach parking lot, elevator, stairwell, home, car and travel safety tips. Many of these tips apply when exercising outdoors. First and foremost is being prepared. Plan your route. Let someone know your approximate return time and know your surroundings. Stick to well-lit roads if possible, or increase visibility at dawn-dusk by carrying a flashlight or wearing one of those goofy-looking reflective vests.
Did you know that when you walk or run, you should be on the opposite side of the road? It’s a simple tip, but facing oncoming traffic is a must. Consider meeting a friend to walk or planning a group run. There is safety in numbers.
Many women feel security running or walking with a cell phone handy. Just remember not to become distracted when exercising outdoors alone. Keeping eyes up will increase visibility to see a stranger, an oncoming car or an approaching dog. Music is a motivator to help you squeeze in that extra mile. Just remember to keep the volume low enough to also hear external noise. Many college campus security teams suggest only wearing one earphone around campus, increasing your likelihood of hearing someone approach you.
Report any unusual behavior to the police. If you ever feel that you are being followed, watched or you get that women’s intuition feeling in the pit of your stomach that you are unsafe – get yourself quickly to a public area and call for help. A simple phone call will increase patrols on a trail, in a park or particular subdivision.
During a solo jog, I once had a car with out-of-state plates stop, roll down the window and a male asked me for directions. I thought nothing of it until he put the car in park and proceeded to get out of the car and move toward me as I slowed down to give him directions. I immediately moved around to the other side of his car,to keep the vehicle between us. My eyes were up, my earphones were out and my hands were ready in case I needed to use them. The situation was harmless, and I think he needed to stretch his legs. My quick reaction was smart and came without thinking. After pointing him in the right direction, I took off, a little faster and glanced over my shoulder once or twice down the block.
Don’t let fear keep you from pounding the pavement. Just be smart and be aware each mile you accomplish.

• Heather Foy is a 20-year coach and group exercise instructor in Madison, Ind., who has been in the Wellness field for nearly 20 years. Email her at hnfoy@yahoo.com.

 

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