Wednesday, August 14, 2013

It ain't all sunshine and rainbows

Photo by Doug Bennett for a local news article. 

When I was in high school, some of the moms of seniors organized a weekend self-defense class for their daughters. I wasn't a senior yet, but my brother was. And I'm pretty sure Mama signed us up for that class. I remember only bits and pieces of it. We lived in a small community, without much fear of ever needing to use the techniques we were taught. Really there are only a couple of things I can remember from that class a dozen or so years later.

1) An element of surprise will likely throw-off an attacker (i.e. learn to throw up on demand). 
2) Stop! Back off! There was this stance you were supposed to take and hold out your arm, the way you do when you're singing "Stop in the Name of Love." Only you're supposed to shout forcefully, "Stop! Back off!" 

I was never convinced I'd be able to pull off throwing up on short notice. Not to mention my skepticism that a few shouted words would stop an aggressor in his tracks. But like I said, I lived in a small, farm community, without much thought of ever utilizing the lesson. 

A number of years later, I moved to a city on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. Lots of people told me to be careful when I left. That it had the highest crime rate in the nation. I attempted to reassure them that I'd be fine, but mostly I brushed off their concerns. 

In that first year I was there, I heard about a Krav Maga class offered at the university gym. And I signed up for it. I'd never heard of Krav. But learned it's an Israeli self defense and hand-to-hand combat system. There were only two girls in the class, and a handful of short guys. I don't remember now why I took the class. I don't remember feeling as though I needed to protect myself back then, but maybe I just wanted to be prepared. The instructors really tried to emphasize to me and the other girl how much they wanted us to learn the techniques. I'm pretty sure they didn't think we were taking it seriously. Especially when I laughed through the final lesson when the instructor wore head to toe protective gear and expected me to actually use the moves he'd taught me. 

Luckily in all that time, I never needed to use any of the self defense moves I'd been taught. I moved back to a smaller community a number of years ago. I haven't taken self defense classes since that Krav class. For the past year, I have been going to the boxing gym once or twice a week. I don't take boxing as a self defense class. It's a fitness class. We don't spar with each other. I am not getting punched in the face, or punching anyone else. I go to get in a good workout. To strengthen my upper body and core muscles. To cross train. And because it's very therapeutic to spend 2-3 hours a week punching a bag really hard. 

I still haven't had to use any of the techniques I've learned over the years. But I know that if I needed to, I could put up a fight. And I know that I'm lucky not to have had to use it. 

Just this week, a women in that small town I grew up in wound up in the hospital after she was attacked on the river walkway. The same one I used to walk and run on back in high school. As I pray for her and her family, it's been a good reminder to always be aware of your surroundings. It never hurts to take a self defense course or boxing class, because you never know when you'll need to know how to protect yourself. And it'll give you the confidence to know that you can.  

Safety tips for runners and walkers
Be aware at all times. 
Don't run/walk with headphones in. 
Don't run/walk in secluded areas alone. 
Stay on brightly lit paths and trials. 
Go with a buddy. 
Let someone know where you're going and when you plan to return. 

What other safety tips should women keep in mind? 


  1. These are all great tips. I'd also add wear reflective gear from and hour before dusk to and hour after dawn. I'm big on reflective gear cause there's nothing more scary than nearly running over a fellow runner who thought a white shirt and the tiny bit of reflection on their shoes was sufficient (and, more often that not, has in their earbuds). I want to shake them.

    1. You'd hate me. I'm terrible at wearing reflective gear. But I do wear a headlamp if I need to:) I do try not to run in the dark though. Leslie and I both lost our vests after Hood to Coast. Must have left them in the van or something. I still haven't replaced it. Oops.

  2. Guess you know what you are getting for Christmas.

    1. My own personal bodyguard? No? Oh, you meant a reflective running vest. That works too.