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Fend off bad guys
Keep confident, keep alert

10/08/15
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



 The best way to avoid getting hurt in random attack situations is, naturally, to avoid them all together.

Some quick tips, courtesy of Bedford Martial Arts Academy master instructor John Stewart: If you’re walking alone at night, remain in a lit area. Don’t text, don’t make a call, don’t walk alone with headphones in your ears — or, if you really have to, keep at least one ear open. Walk tall, confident and strong.
“If you have two ears blocked, you’re not going to be able to know what’s going on with your surroundings,” Stewart said via phone. “A person walking tall, hands out of their pockets, is a lot less likely to be attacked, in my opinion.”
Stewart teaches karate and self-defense classes that cover what-to-do basics in worst-case scenarios. Being aware of what’s going on around you and knowing how to use what’s at hand are some of the key points in his beginner lessons. If you are about to be attacked, he advises first trying to create an obstacle between the two of you. Get on the other side of a chair, a desk, a wall or a car.
“Sure, [the attacker] could jump over the desk, the chair, but it will take a second to do that, and that’s the time you’ll need to run away,” Stewart said.
If you have nothing to hide behind, Stewart advises throwing something, maybe a bag or a purse. This might cause hesitation and give you a couple seconds to act. Also, don’t act like a victim. Present yourself as a force to be reckoned with, and your attacker will think twice about what he or she’s doing.
“You could be trembling inside, but you need to show absolute confidence. Yell at the person, show you’re not afraid, that you’ll defend yourself if needed. Look them in the eye — even though you might be really scared inside, a lot of attackers will go for the weakest person they can find,” Stewart said.
What to yell?
“Don’t scream ‘help.’ Scream ‘fire.’ When people hear that word, they want to see what’s going on. If you scream ‘help,’ people are less likely to try to find you because they don’t want to be involved,” Stewart said. 
Experts vary on whether it’s wise to use self-defense weapons. Carrying pepper spray or a taser or small knife might seem like a good idea, but in reality, it could just as easily be used against you. Stewart’s only flexibility on this opinion is if you’re trained to use these weapons and are very comfortable doing so.
“Unless [you] are physically trained to use that weapon over a long period of time, and if [you] are comfortable using it, I would recommend against it,” Stewart said. “Because you have to take [the weapon] out of your bag, and you could drop the pepper spray because of the adrenaline rushing through you. I wouldn’t use a taser myself because if I made a mistake and accidentally tased myself, now I’m done.”
Stewart also teaches basic blocks, kicks, closed fist strikes and “the color system” to students. If you strike in the green zone (arms, legs), there’s less risk of seriously injuring a person, while the yellow zone (knees, elbows, feet, hands) and red zone (eyes, groin, rib cage, head) should only be used if there are no other options.
“You want to get out of there as quick as possible and not cause harm to yourself and too much to the attacker,” Stewart said.
If you’re forced to attack, go for the kick. Using legs instead of arms allows you to strike while still remaining a couple feet away. Plus, it provides the biggest impact.
“When you’re throwing a kick, you’re putting your whole body behind it. Even if you’re 120 pounds, you’re putting 110 pounds behind that kick, and that’s a lot of weight,” Stewart said.
When in doubt, practice.
“You can kick the air as hard as you want, and it’s not going to hurt and it’s not going to fight back,” Stewart said. 
Most important, Stewart said, is to trust your gut instinct and be prepared. Even if you’ve already taken self-defense classes, it doesn’t hurt to practice and brush up on them every so often. 





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