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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Holiday Self Defense - Get Your Guard Up

Nov 29, 2009 04:16PM
By Lisa Moore

Tis the season to be jolly, but becoming a victim of crime can quickly ruin the holiday spirit. While you are shopping and running errands, be aware of thieves and other holiday grinches looking for cash, credit cards and gifts.

Perhaps the best way to protect yourself is to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Thieves are looking for someone who is not watching them. People who are robbed are typically caught off guard.

“Somebody who would rob or physically assault someone is looking for weakness. That weakness may translate to being distracted on the phone, not paying attention to surroundings or not making eye contact,” says Tom Cohen, a 3rd degree black belt in two martial arts and self defense instructor. “If you don't project weakness but take an alert or vigilant posture when approached, an attacker might take the perceived easier route. A single, distracted target - such as a lone woman with an arm-full of packages - might appear as easy prey."

If you are approached use a commanding tone of voice, make a lot of noise and draw a lot of attention. Amur El, who teaches martial arts, self defense and close quarter combat, recommends a technique he calls “Verbal Judo,” talking in a certain way to give a victim the upper hand by creating a diversion.

If a person is being assaulted, verbally engaging with the attacker may give them an opportunity to escape. An example may be: "Please let me go, I won’t tell anyone about this. I just want to go home to my children. Please don't hurt me because my kids need me. Do you have kids?"

Once an attacker responds, it’s time to quickly make a move.  “A person’s action must be faster than a thug’s re-action, so a split second is all one needs to successfully make a move,” says El. “But remember there is probably only has one chance to do this, so think fast.”

Dan Starks, owner of Starks Training Institute, has helped tens of thousands of citizens empower themselves to have the right response when things go wrong. He advocates carrying something for self-protection.

“There are a variety of aerosol products that can be of help. However, avoid something small enough to fit on a key chain as it won't have enough of anything to stop a dangerous person,” says Starks. He prefers OC Pepper Foam because it does a more effective job in both an outside situation as well as enclosed spaces, like an apartment.

North Carolina does allow a person to carry a concealed firearm and Sparks notes that there has been a 45% increase this past year in the number of women obtaining firearms to protect themselves.

Starks, Cohen and El strongly agree that in the case of a carjacking never allow someone to take you to a second location. Those situations typically end up awful. Jump out of the car if it slows down or turns a corner. If driving, look for a solid public place to crash the car, preferably on the passenger’s side. It’s better to get hurt in a public place where someone may come to your aid.

Knowing self defense may be your best weapon if attacked. Learning and practicing hands-on techniques will make them second nature and you’ll be less likely to panic in a threatening situation.

“It’s always helpful if you've thought about what to do in a dangerous situation before it happens,” concludes Starks.

For more information on local self defense classes Tom Cohen can be reached at, Amur El at and Dan Starts at

Holiday Safety Tips: Let a loved one know your whereabouts, departure and arrival times.

Park in well-lit public places.

Be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Carry your cash/credit cards close to your body.

Never act or look like an easy target; maintain eye contact.

Don't let people approach you, no matter how harmless they seem.

Use a commanding tone of voice. Make a lot of noise and draw a lot of attention. 

Check in an around the vehicle before entering it.

Quickly lock vehicle doors, get belted in and move.

Carry a small amount of cash loose in your pocket. If someone approaches demanding money, throw it and run.

Scream, scratch, bite, hit, kick or attack with an object to end the threat or to have enough time to escape.

NEVER go anywhere with someone in your car.

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