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Lessons in Self Defense

A roomful of women scream "Leave me alone!" as they kick and pummel pads held up by a group of muscular men. Sound like a scene from the recent spate of reality TV shows? In this case it’s the closing scene--the denouement, if you will--of a women’s self-defense seminar put on by instructors from the Denver Tae Kwon Do Academy, led by Dante J. James. And while these women started the class a bit shy and slow to deliver a punch, they’re finishing it in a torrent of blows and kicks that leave the men thankful for pads.

James explains his seminar this way: "The ability to defend yourself shouldn’t be an option." And in this hour-and-a- half-long introduction to a women-only kickboxing class that incorporates self-defense techniques, James stressed common-sense protection rules.

First, he emphasizes that self defense is as much, and in many cases most importantly, an attitude more than it is any specific "technique" of kicking or punching. "The attitude of self confidence, awareness and purpose often will take you from the realm of possible victim to being ‘too much trouble’ for an assailant," James said.

No-one can tell you whether to fight back or not in any given situation, especially when a weapon is involved, he stressed. You must make your own judgment based on the situation. He offers these tips to avoid becoming a victim, followed by strategies if you are attacked.

Avoid being a victim:

  • Avoid walking alone; stay on well-lit streets.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. If you think you are being followed, head for bright lights or cross the street.
  • If you see someone watching you, make brief eye contact. Let them know you have seen them and are aware of their presence.
  • Do not approach your car or any area if it feels wrong. Intuition is real, don’t be afraid to believe in it.
  • Always walk with a strong sense of purpose, with your head erect.
  • Do not give a parking attendant more than your car keys.
  • Lock your car doors.
  • Take your keys out and have them ready before you approach your home or vehicle. Keys also make a good weapon—stab with them into soft tissue.
  • Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.
  • Walk in the center of the sidewalk, not against the wall or near the curb.
  • Don’t jog with headphones on—you can’t hear attackers coming.
  • Don’t be afraid or feel uncomfortable ignoring someone.
  • Be aware of your surroundings when talking on the cell phone.
  • Look in the backseat before you get in and under the car as you approach it.
  • Look up to the top of stairs as you begin to climb.

If you are attacked:

  • Noone can tell you whether passive or active resistance is the best course of action. Think in advance about what you might do in a threatening situation, so that you can better and more calmly evaluate your options.
  • Assess the situation as it is happening. If the first strategy does not work, try another.
  • Statistically, if you are being robbed and the robber wants you to go to a more secluded location, you do not return.
  • If you choose to resist, a scream can surprise or frighten an attacker if he fears people will come to assist you. James recommends screaming "Fire!" because it may bring a more immediate response.
  • A forceful struggle may also discourage the attacker and give you an opportunity to escape. All blows or kicks, however, must be forceful and aimed at vulnerable areas.
  • The face is the most vulnerable and easiest to reach target for elbows, fingers to the eye, palms to the nose.
  • Passive resistance may serve to help diffuse the violence of the attacker. It may also serve to empower some attackers. Evaluate the response.
  • Claim to be sick or pregnant, or tell the attacker you have AIDS or some other sexually transmitted disease.

Finally, James stresses that if you are attacked and choose to fight back, you should fight like your life depends on it—because it probably does.

Source: Dante j. James, Attorney at law and 5th degree black belt, owner and chief instructor of the Denver Tae Kwon Do Academy. For more information about self-defense/kickboxing classes, call (303) 394-3794 or go to