BY RACHEL CHEESEMAN, FOUNDER OF STREET SMART SELF DEFENSE
The months of October and November are the perfect time of year to enjoy those crisp fall days! Many of us enjoy walking, running and hiking to take in the fall foliage, and are thankful because it means there’s a break from the summer heat and humidity. No matter what season the temperatures are reflecting, we all need to continue exercising our common sense and general awareness during our time in the great outdoors.
While my nephew was walking home from work recently, a car drove by him and he was suddenly hit in the head with an object that was tossed from the vehicle. It was after dark and the impact knocked him off balance and broke his glasses. Once he regained his balance, he noticed the same vehicle turned around and was now speeding towards him, so he jumped off the side of the road to avoid it. Just before the car reached where he was standing, he saw it stop and 5 guys piled out and started rushing towards him. In a panic, my nephew ran for the nearest house with lights on hoping it would discourage them from continuing their pursuit. Fortunately, his quick thinking and on-the-spot action plan worked.
Sadly, Wendy Martinez who was stabbed while jogging in Washington, D.C. this past fall wasn’t so lucky. She tried to get help but collapsed in a restaurant and died before she could be saved from her injuries. One thing both incidents have in common is that they occurred close by to where each of them lived. They were both in areas deemed as “safe”, in which each of them knew well. In addition, they were both considered random attacks. So, it doesn’t matter where anyone lives. These incidents happen everywhere!
What increased my nephew’s successful escape was his ability to keep as much distance as possible. As soon as he saw his attackers exit the vehicle, he immediately ran to the nearest house as fast as he could. The decision to engage his “Run Fu” tactics saved him from assault. Of course, once someone with bad intentions has already closed the distance, as in the case of Wendy Martinez in D.C., turning your back and running can have dire consequences.
One important observation to make, if someone suddenly approaches you, is their hand positioning. If someone is carrying a weapon, usually one hand is concealed or suspiciously placed. Make sure there are no hands inside their pockets, or arm behind their back or tucked inside a jacket or other type of clothing. If you can’t see someone’s hands in plain view, then the assumption is they have a weapon! If you suspect a knife, make sure you get both arms up with your wrists and palms facing inward. Also, bring your arms as close together as possible to protect your torso area. It’s preferable to position yourself somewhat sideways with one arm bent at the elbow with palm up toward your neck and the other arm straight with wrist and palm pointing toward the groin area.
This formation will help provide a temporary barrier from your neck to the groin to protect against a sudden slash attack. Obviously, your arms will get cut if a sudden advance is made, but at least you will stand much less of a chance at having fatal injuries. There are no guarantees in street fighting but having confidence in the most basic of skills such as running away or getting your hands/arms in a better position at the right time can make the difference between life and death.
Rachel Cheeseman is a 2nd degree black belt and has studied the martial arts for the past 28 years. She founded Street Smart Self Defense Academy in Erie, PA 17 years ago to empower women, due to the rape of her sister in her off-campus college apartment. She is a certified instructor for the national full-contact self-defense program called “Model Mugging” and a certified instructor for the MUNIO Self Defense Workshops. Rachel is also a member of and former seminar instructor for the American Women’s Self Defense Association, and she has been inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame, Action Martial Arts Magazine Hall of Honors and the World Karate Union Hall of Fame.