Marsh column: It's good to learn to protect yourself

  • Posted: Monday, May 13, 2013 12:30 a.m.

In this day and age, you have to be pretty aware of what is going on. There are muggings in parking lots, break- ins and just pure desperation where people do things they would never do before. My parents, who live in the Netherlands, had a break-in not too long ago where the burglars stole food and alcohol.

So I believe in protecting yourself. I have an extensive background in judo. It is a Japanese martial art where you throw people, perform “strangulations” and “break” arms. I have also practiced lots of other martial arts and did some boxing training back in the day. In other words, I can take care of myself.

If you are interested in learning moves, you should find a place where they teach it. We have a martial arts class right here at the YMCA on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:30-8:30 p.m. with Steve Difiore. I am also planning to have a self-defense class early this summer here at the J.F. Hurley YMCA.

In any martial art, you will learn defensive moves. I recommend doing something for a long period of time so that the moves become automatic. Especially in a real situation, you don’t want to have to think about what you need to do next.

There are lots of things you can do to possibly prevent an attack. This is what I recommend:

Be aware of your surroundings. Look, listen, feel.

Before you walk out of your house/ building, have your keys in your hand. An easy target is a person who is looking for keys in a bag.

If possible, walk in pairs or more.

Don’t talk on your cell phone as you walk. If you do, make sure you look where you are going and know what is going on around you.

When you get in your car, lock the doors and then mess with putting your bag in the back seat, etc. Too many times, I see people hanging halfway out the car, doing who knows what, and having no clue what is going on around them.

If your gut tells you it is unsafe, listen to it. For example, you step into a parking lot elevator. Someone gets on who makes you instantly scare. Get out. Why stay in an area as small as an elevator when you don’t feel right about it? It might be nothing, but are you willing to take that chance?

If someone is at the door and you don’t know them, ask them who they are and what they wan — behind a closed door. If you are not sure about them, don’t open the door.

Park in well-lit areas. If someone is hanging around your car go back inside and ask for help.

If you are an avid walker/runner, change your routes often. I know walking and running go by faster with music, but it is a safety no-no. Not only don’t you hear cars, horns, etc, you are cutting out a very important part of your senses — hearing.

Now, if something happens to you and you have no formal training? Some suggestions are:

• If it is just the purse someone’s after, let them have it. Is your purse worth getting hurt or dying over?

• When they grab you, kick, scream, scratch, bite, poke. Whatever you do, try never to get in a car with them. If they throw you in the trunk of a car, kick out the back tail light, stick your arm through it and get the attention of other cars.

I hope and pray you never have to deal with any of these situations.

Awareness of your surroundings can, and will, prevent lots of attacks.

Be aware, trust your instinct, and never give up.

Ester H. Marsh is Health and Fitness Director J.F. Hurley Family YMCA

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