Thursday, October 17, 2013

Self-defence for women

Tips to stay safe at night

Self-defence for women
The tragic death of ABC staffer Jill Meagher has left many women with the thought ‘I walk home alone at night. That could have been me’.

Here are some strategies women can employ to feel safer on the streets if they do have to walk alone:

1. Take a self-defence class. Jackson, a former police officer, says it’s a good way to impart a range of safety strategies, and she gets people to dump politeness at the door and surrender to the urge to kick the hell out of something.

"That's the most satisfying thing from an instructor's perspective - seeing timid people come in and, by the end of the session, seeing them just going flat out, as hard as they can," she says. "Usually you're plastered in sweat by the time you leave. Unlike different forms of martial arts, which take years of training to master, and often focus on specific techniques, self-defence instructors borrow the best from each tradition and deliver them in a quick-fix package.

"You're getting the benefits straight away and the most useful techniques can be taught in as little as 10 hours," Jackson says. Honing in on the three primary target areas - eyes, throat and groin - Jackson teaches participants 12 techniques, ranging from headbutting and heel stomping to biting and groin kicking. "It's important to remember it will take more than one technique to fend off an attacker," she explains.

"Usually you'll need to use three to five."

2. Be aware. Jackson conducts awareness training to minimise the risk that participants will find themselves in danger in the first place. "Get to know things like, 'Is there someone behind me?', 'Where is the closest exit?', 'What things in my handbag, such as car keys or a ballpoint pen, can I use as weapons?'" she says.

3. Portray a confident exterior. It’s crucial.

"Strong body language conveys the message that you will put up a fight, so head up, shoulders back and look people in the eye - that shows [potential attackers] that you're not intimidated by them." Such assertions have science on their side. In a study reported in Psychology Today, researchers asked convicted criminals - armed robbers, rapists and murderers - to view a video of pedestrians walking down a busy street.

Within seconds, the prisoners identified which pedestrians they would pick as victims - and the choices had nothing to do with gender, race or age. Instead, they were assessing the ease with which they could overpower targets, based on non-verbals such as posture, body language, walking pace and the use of distractors such as mobile phones.

4. Be as fit as you can. “The least fit are often the most vulnerable,” Jackson says. Most martial arts classes promote physical fitness as a primary component, so you'll spend lots of time sprinting, skipping and doing sit-ups, push-ups and squats. Ten minutes of boxing or kicking will burn up to 586 kilojoules. "You'll be working hard - so put on the sort of thing you'd wear on a run," Jackson advises. But she says there isn't a prerequisite level of fitness. "[It's] offered to people of all fitness levels and physical abilities.”

Using strike pads, which cushion the impact of blows, Jackson urges women to subvert societal messages and go hard.

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