By Tiffanie Reynolds | firstname.lastname@example.org
With his hands around my neck, I looked up at the man standing in front of me, and for a split second I didn’t know what to do. Running through the list of moves I just learned, I sandwiched my hands against his palm and shoved his arms off of me to the applause of the other women in my group.
“Good job,” he said, before walking over to the woman standing next to me and testing her with another move.
Outside of the Virginia Room, it was a scenario that I always worried about in the back of my mind, but assumed would never happen. I would like to think I could defend myself, but barely reaching five feet, I knew it was unlikely.
And I wasn’t the only one. Women taller, stronger and even decades older than me stood in semicircles around the room, pulling and shoving the instructors and each other with the same moves.
Getting into dangerous situations, even accidentally, always seems like something that would happen to someone else, but the reality is closer than it looks. In 2008, 81 percent of women were victims of rape or sexual assault, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey of 2010.
That is also what the self-defense class focused on. Not only how to get out of situations if attacked, but also what to do to always be prepared. One situation that the instructor used, and one that surprised me, was sitting with your car broken down on the side of the highway. He advised everyone to keep a backpack with a metal bat, flashlight, and a bottle of water in the trunk. At first I thought it was silly, and a little unnecessary, but after he gave his own story of being attacked while waiting for help in his car, I started to take the tip a little more seriously.
I was surprised by how often men and women are vulnerable. Not only at night, but even the middle of the day, people are attacked if they don’t watch their surroundings. The examples that the instructor used made me realize how often we don’t really watch our surroundings, especially on familiar streets.
I thought I was safe enough by just avoiding dangerous situations. I never walked alone at night, and I always kept to the busy streets. Not that I’m paranoid, but when the instructor asked us what we would do if faced with those situations, the scariest part was honestly not knowing.
That’s why I walked into the class: to know what to do when threatened. I didn’t expect to walk out and be a master of martial arts. But, I did gain the confidence of knowing that if my life was ever on the line, I would have a basic plan of self-defense and escape.