By Katie Maus

            Katie Maus

           Katie Maus

People are more scared than ever in today's world. Afraid of kidnappers, muggers, rapists, terrorists—you name it. We can't change what's out there, but we can prepare ourselves to deal with it. It's very important for people, that's men, women, and children, to be prepared for anything, especially with all of the crazy awful things that have been happening lately.

Quite obviously, the best way to stay safe is to avoid an attack. As Master Ralph Schwartz, 6th Degree Blackbelt, says “The most important thing a person can learn is how NOT to be a victim. All physical tactics are used only when avoidance is unsuccessful.” Master Schwartz, along with his wife Marian, a 2nd Degree Blackbelt herself, taught a women's self-defense course along with their regular Tae Kwon Do class through Wappingers Continuing Education at Fishkill Plains Elementary School for over ten years. A retired parole officer, army vet, and long-time Tae Kwon Do instructor, Master Schwartz has passed a wealth of knowledge on to his many students, myself included. Many of the tips listed in this article come from experience as his student.

How to avoid potential threats:

  • Remember: you can never be too cautious.
  • Try not to travel alone, especially after dark.
  • Always have your phone readily available to call for help.
  • Make sure someone always knows where you are, where you're going, and how long you'll be gone.
  • Carry mace or a knife, or walk with a key between your fingers (to enhance the sting of a punch). This way, you'll both feel more confident and be prepared should you need to defend yourself.
  • Don't walk around with your headphones on and the music blasting; it is important to be thoroughly aware of your surroundings.

What to do if attacked:
Most importantly, if someone tries to steal from you, whether it be a wallet, phone, necklace, or anything else, give it to them. All material goods are likely replaceable, but even if not, they are NOT more important than your life. Only if someone tries to hurt you should you engage in combat.

BE LOUD. Yell “FIRE,” “RAPE,” anything to get someone's attention. You'll fluster your attacker as well as possibly attract help.

“If you're fighting someone, expect to get hit.” Similarly, if they have a gun, expect to get shot, a knife, expect to get cut.

Know where to hit someone. “The belt means hit below: groins, knees and insteps are preferred targets. Don't be afraid to gouge [eyes] and bite.” Your goal is to escape; so any strike that will stun or take away the ability to walk is exactly what you want to do.

Remember that just about anything can be a weapon. Keys can be held between fingers when punching or swung on a lanyard at an attacker's face or groin. Heavy bags can be used to strike as well.

Finally, don't worry about hurting someone. Of course, we don't want to harm another person; but, “if forced to defend yourself in a street situation, remember that the attacker has chosen you to hurt him. He sought you out, not the other way around.” If someone is trying to harm you, you must be willing to do what you need to in order to protect yourself and those around you.

In today's world we live in fear. Women are afraid to walk to their cars after work, students scared to walk across campus alone... Being afraid is what these people—bullies, terrorists, criminals, villains, call them what you will—it's what they want. While we cannot rid the world of bad people, we can better prepare ourselves to deal with them when we need to. If we feel prepared, we are less afraid. Taking a self-defense class is beneficial to everyone. Reading ideas is helpful, but trying them out in a physical situation helps you to know what your body can do. Big or small, everyone is able to defend themselves somehow; you just need to learn! I highly recommend taking a class. Any kind: a one-time self-defense seminar, a weekly martial arts class, kickboxing! Learning anything you can about how to defend yourself will give you confidence and peace of mind, even though it is ideal that you never need to use what your learn. It is important to be prepared to protect ourselves, help others, and live without being afraid to walk down the street at night.