Self-defense 101, the basics on protecting yourself

Imagine finding yourself in a situation you never dreamed of – standing on the steps of a women’s shelter with absolutely nothing but the clothes you have on your back.

Photo by Jamie Spainhower
It’s all fun until someone loses an eye, but in a matter of life or death struggle, going for their eyes may keep you alive. These women practice some basic defensive moves should they be attacked in a workshop given at the Rural Women in America Conference.

Posted Nov. 1, 2012

Jamie Spainhower

Adams County Record

Not even having a toothbrush.

At the Rural Women in America Conference last Saturday in Bowman, more than 400 pair of hands worked together to set out to make sure the basics most take for granted will be available at area shelters.

All brand new items – donated as well as those purchased to fill the gaps – were wrapped into packages and contained a towel bar of soap, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste, lip balm, lotion and a scarf. For some women and children these may be their only possessions while they get back on their feet.

In awareness of Domestic Violence Month, part of the conference was devoted to issues revolving around domestic violence and the Pay it Forward Program.

Generally, instead of “paying back” a kindness or help someone has done in the past, one pays it forward – giving a hand up to those in need, usually anonymously, and when they are able they do the same, on and on as the circle continues to grow.

One of the workshops offered during the day was all about self-defense. Scott Bachmeier, martial arts and personal protection instructor, spent an hour teaching a couple of quick and easy ways to break a hold, and how to get away from an attacker, along with a few myth busters.

“Going for the groin shot is not always the best thing to do,” he said. “First off, it leaves you only balancing on one leg, which the attacker can use to his advantage, and second, guys learn early on how to protect themselves. You may only get one chance to get away, you don’t want to waste it kneeing him in the thigh, then getting pushed down.”

The first thing taught was a basic break when grabbed by the wrists or arms. Then go for the eyes, said Bachmeier.

Your hands will naturally go up to the head after you break loose from his grip on your arms, he said.

“If you control the head, you control the situation. Hands at the back of the head, your thumbs automatically will be in position to poke out the eyes,” he said. It may sound gross, or like something you couldn’t bring yourself to do, he said, but in a fight for your life it’s amazing what anyone is capable of.

Believing in teaching with humor, Bachmeier said, “This is happening fast. It’s not a matter of hmm, now if I do this will his eyeball pop out?” Usually not, but it will hurt enough that you can get away.

“If he is in pain and can’t see you he can’t get you,” he said.

Try your best to stay on your feet, but if you are brought down and he is on top turn “only part way, so your weight is on his leg, trapping it, and again, go for the head and eyes,” he said.

If grabbed in a chokehold from behind “Don’t panic. You aren’t going to choke to death immediately,” he said. More likely, panic brings on hyperventilation and you make it harder for yourself to breath.

There will always be at least a little space between his arm and your neck, dig your nails and fingers between it, always palms in.

“It’s easier to do a pull up with your hands facing in than out,” he said. “Same principal, and you will have better leverage.”

Drop your weight suddenly when you feel a loosening, it will make him lose his balance. This may be a time you can get in a kick to the knee – you can’t be chased if he can’t walk.

Keys are a good weapon, but useless unless they are in your hand and not buried under your purse or shopping bags, or you are digging for them as you walk, instead of paying attention to what is around you. Again, carrying them in your fist must become automatic, every time you go to your car, he said. Car alarms, if the car is so equipped, may help some, but most people, unless they are right there next to the car, usually don’t do much more than glance over.

“You don’t have time to sort through and place them just so, and all that,” he said. “It’s better to have a group of keys and jab and poke and stab at the face than make sure they are being held ‘in the correct position,’” he said.

Twenty-one paces is the distance that needs to be covered between an attacker and a victim. It may sound like a lot of room, but it takes seconds for someone to get to you before the pepper spray can come out of the bottom of a purse, or even a pocket.

“Always be aware of your surroundings and the people around you, before you even get out of your car,” he said. “If you are uncomfortable, follow that instinct. Ask someone to walk you to your car, or into the gas station to pay for gas. Lock your doors always – even going into pay for gas – and look in the backseat to make sure no one has gotten in while you stopped at the rest stop.”

Lock you car when you get in it, make it a part of the routine of getting in the car and then put on your seatbelt; adjust mirrors, all things that become automatic.


Editor’s note: This was just an hour-long workshop that gave basic information. Private instructors such as Scott offer self-defense classes; some law enforcement agencies and other groups also offer them. For information on where to find a class for you, contact your local law enforcement agency.




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