As the head Gracie Jiu Jitsu instructor Robert Heath approached a recent, free women’s self-defense seminar at Martial Arts & More, he said awareness is the most important tool women can use against would-be attackers.

“We can all be more aware. We can all focus on not being a target and controlling what we can. So today we’re going to learn some awareness principles. Maybe don’t park by that dark alley, focus energy on discerning who is a potential predator and set boundaries,” Heath said.

The martial arts school held the seminar on Jan. 14 for about 25 women who were interested in learning awareness and techniques that can be used in potentially dangerous situations.

Heath began by explaining what the objective of most attackers or predators is. The four stages of an assault from the attacker’s perspective, he said, are:

• Identify a weak victim or target.

• Subdue the target.

• Exhaust the target.

• Complete the assault.

By staying aware of your surroundings, women reduce the risk they will be assaulted. This means recognizing when someone is walking too close for comfort or even if a stranger approaches them in a public place.

“Our boundaries are extremely important. If you’re at a gas station and you see a man approaching you, don’t just hope he’ll veer off. Trust your gut when you don’t feel safe and establish boundaries,” Heath said.

Phrases such as “Can I help you?” or “Don’t come any closer, please” directly address the stranger and may offer insight to his or her intentions if they continue to approach you.

Participants learned six techniques in the self-defense seminar that:

• Could thwart potential attacks by making yourself a hard target.

• Break free from an attacker who grabs you without warning.

• Avoid being taken to the ground by a determined attacker.

• Escape from underneath an attacker pinning you to the ground.

The seminar focused on six techniques that used the science of leverage, timing and understanding how someone attacks you to stay safe.

The six techniques are:

1. How to stop a would-be attacker if you’re seated on the ground

If a would-be attacker continues to advance after you call out, “Stop” or “Stay where you are”, be aware of the distance between you and them. If you’re seated and can’t safely back away before they reach you, brace your arms on the ground and extend a kick - with your foot parallel to the floor - to the attacker’s knee or lower shin.

2. How to stand up when seated on the ground when there is a would-be attacker present

When seated on the ground, shift your body weight to one side and plant that hand on the ground. Swing that same leg behind your planted hand and stand up pushing your weight on the planted hand. Feet should be shoulder width apart or slightly wider. 

3. Avoid being pushed into a vehicle or building

When an attacker tries to push you from the side, shift your body weight until you have your feet planted shoulder width apart or slightly wider. Shift your weight to your back leg and keep your front leg slightly bent. The structure of your body supports the attackers weight without tiring you or pushing you to the ground. 

4. Avoid being pulled into a vehicle or building

When an attacker tries to pull you to him by grabbing your writst, shift your body weight until you have your feet planted shoulder width apart or slight wider. Shift your weight to your back leg - which is slightly bent - and use your front leg to halt your forward motion. The structure of your body keeps your attacker from pulling you with him. 

5. Break free if someone grabs your wrist

Drop your elbow and push your center of gravity to your attacker. Leverage your wrist through the thumb in a motion that brings your elbow in the direction of their elbow. 

6. Escape from underneath an attacker pinning you to the ground

This technique is more complicated, using leverage and an arm bar to push the attacker off by bridging your hips upwards. 

“These techniques and moves are a good thing to know. Learning this stuff helped me want to teach my daughter Jenna about self-defense,” Jenni Brooks said after attending the seminar with her 14-year-old daughter.

Other techniques require slightly more complicated movements, but they don’t necessarily require strength or speed.

Breaking free of someone’s grasp to your wrist is easier if you use leverage and rotational force on the weakest part of the attacker’s grip through the thumb.

By staying aware of your surroundings and using simple tools such as leverage and timing, women are reducing the risk they will be assaulted.

Jennifer James is a Marine Corps veteran who attended the seminar.

“It never hurts to increase your awareness and confidence. This class shows you can protect yourself and it can be done with paying attention and learning these techniques,” she said.

Martial Arts & More offers a free lesson for females wishing to learn about self-defense on Saturdays. To sign-up for a trial class, call 910-479-4769.