Self-Defense Safety Rituals

safety first

Have you ever given the idea of safety rituals much thought? I bet, like me, you really haven’t. One reason is because many of our rituals are, in fact, habits. They’re things we do all the time without even thinking about them. But, since this website is about self-defense, and some women might not realize the importance of these rituals, I’m drafting a list.

In no particular order, these are safety habits that you might want to develop (if you haven’t already.)

  • Close and lock your windows before going to bed. (This is especially important if they provide easy access to wherever you’re sleeping. Don’t make things easy for an intruder.)
  • Get safety locks for your windows. They make it pretty difficult for someone to open  the window.
  • Get a lock for your bedroom door.
  • Know how to get out of your bedroom through your window.
  • Check around your car before you get inside.
  • Lock your car doors the minute you get inside your car.
  • Keep your purse on the floor or in the middle of the two front seats or place it in back between the two front seats (The distance from the passenger-side window is what’s important to consider here.) Smash & grab is a real thing.
  • Going for a walk, but don’t have a dog? Take a walking stick with you. (And make sure you can hear what’s happening around you. Don’t zone out.) Actually, I do have a dog and I still carry a walking stick.
  • Keep a weapon near your bed. It doesn’t have to be anything special, just something you know could cause a little damage and give you time to run.
  • Keep your doors locked even when you’re home.
  • Is there a stranger at the door? Ignore them if you weren’t expecting anyone, but check through a window so you know who’s there.
  • Any person coming into your home needs to show company-issued ID.
  • Don’t allow service people to wander around your house sight unseen. Let them know you’re tracking their movements.
  • Always tell friends and family where you’re going and what you’re up to.
  • Never go alone to meet anyone from Craig’s List or for any other purchase. If you want to buy from someone in this way, then agree to meet in a very public place — near a police station perhaps.

Well, I think that this is a great start!

What would you add to this list?

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Safety Tips from Pretty Loaded

Have you seen this safety tips video, yet? It’s been making the rounds because it’s REALLY well done and sends a strong message. I don’t know the ladies at Pretty Loaded, but I’m reaching out to them for the upcoming podcast. The Womanly Art of Self-Defense is all about awareness, confidence, and strength. How do you develop these things? With practice. Yes, you can practice confidence. Read How to Never Give Up. Power posing works.

Now watch this video and then go visit their site.

 

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Simple Self-Defense Techniques

 

Jiujitsu and Hapkido techniques are timeless! Check out this vintage footage. You don’t need years of martial arts experience in order to defend yourself. Self-defense is about being aware of yourself and the spaces that you enter. You need information, resources, and practice! So, watch this video a few times and then find a willing practice partner. Have a little fun. And if you’re not sure how to fall (yes, there are good and bad ways to fall), you can check out my Kori D Miller site. I write a Dez Breaks it Down series over there. (She’s my protag in the Deadly Sins series and upcoming HUSH novel.)

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6 Easy Situational Awareness Exercises

Situational Awareness is the ability to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening to the team with regards to the mission. More simply, it’s knowing what is going on around you. – US Coast Guard

Okay, but does this mean that we need to walk around paranoid all the time? I mean, geez, that’s no way to live your life.

You’re right! It’s not.

But, being blissfully unaware isn’t either.

The trick is to find a healthy balance between awareness and relaxed.

Situational awareness isn’t something we’re born able to do. It’s a skill that’s learned. Way back when our ancestors were just walking upright, those who didn’t develop this critical skill, died. Don’t be that gal.

Here’s a few fun ways you can become better at this valuable skill (practicing some of these with friends and family really turns it into a game.):

  • When you park your car and walk into a store, count the number of spaces you are from the door.
  • When you park your car, count the number of people you see sitting in their cars on the way into the store, and then notice if those same people are there when you return to your car.
  • Count the number of males vs. females, children vs. adults, people wearing hats — you get the idea.
  • Guess how many people are seated in a restaurant. How many are female, male, or children.
  • Figure out all of the possible exits from an establishment.
  • Place several items onto a tray. Give yourself 30 seconds to examine the tray. Cover it. Now, list all of the items. If you do this with other people, then you can remove items from the tray. People need to be able to say what’s missing. You also can vary the time. This is called KIM’s game (Keep in memory).

Here’s an example:

I bet now that you’ve seen this list, you can think of a few other ideas. List them in the comments!

 

 

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5 Rules Before Choosing a Martial Art

You don’t have to be

Ronda Rousey

Ronda Rousey

to be a great martial artist.

In fact, you don’t have to study years and years to learn to defend yourself IF you find the right art.

You DO need to commit to practicing though.

WHY?

Your body will automatically do what you practice most.

For example, years ago I attended a women’s self-defense seminar. I hadn’t practiced martial arts formally for a while, but I’d maintained the basics: kicking, punching, and blocking. I wasn’t as fast as I once was, but I wasn’t a snail, either.

The ladies all lined up against a wall to face an attacker. Some of the women, who had either zero training, or who had completely given up their practice, didn’t know what to do. This was AFTER we’d just spent about 45 minutes receiving instruction. Remember I said that.

When the attacker approached me, he threw a punch. I side-stepped it and countered with a round house kick to his mid-section. It was evident that no one in the room saw that coming, including me!

Kick attacker

Because I’d spent years practicing kicks, my automatic response was to kick.  Honestly, I was surprised (pleasantly) that I’d had the place of mind to move out-of-the-way, and then kick!

After that class, I knew I needed to study a style that was self-defense-oriented. Period.

A little background about me …

I started studying martial arts when I was 17 with something called American Freestyle. Essentially, it was a mixed martial art with Tae Kwon Do as its base. I learned everything up to brown belt before going away to college. During college, I started formally training in Tae Kwon Do and Shotokan Karate. I continued formally studying Tae Kwon Do for a few years after graduating from college. Then, life happened and I practiced solo when I’d go to the gym (YMCA or wherever I happened to be.)

But here’s the thing — I never felt like I could really defend myself.

Then, I got tested. Someone tried to attack me. Someone I knew. I came out of that encounter with a small scar on my lower back, but that was it. Because I’d consistently practiced kicks, punches, and blocks, that guy wasn’t able to land a punch.  He gave up trying. And, I kicked his sorry ass to the curb.

Rule #1: Train consistently.

Back to my new training —

I began studying Hapkido. It’s a Korean self-defense art and anyone, any size (nearly — clearly very young children shouldn’t practice it. At least, not all aspects right away) can learn it.

Check out Use this handshake to defend yourself. It’ll give you a glimpse into what I study as a hapkidoist. (That’s not me in the video!)

One thing I love about Hapkido is that it’s incredibly practical and relatively easy to learn.

Rule #2: Find an art you LOVE.

There are TONS of martial arts, but not all of them are self-defense styles. You’d have to train for YEARS in some of them before you’d feel like, “Hey, I could kick your ass, you should leave me alone.” (But not do it, of course. The point, as Mr. Miyagi said, is not to fight.)

I recommend Hapkido, Jiujitsu, and Krav Maga.

How do you know where to train? I’m glad you asked!

Sadly, I’ve had two instructors with whom I wouldn’t train again. They enjoyed proving their point a little too much. In the first instance, I observed while our Shotokan Master applied a lock, or something like it, to a student. When he didn’t get the reaction he was looking for, he continued until the student winced in pain. The student had no idea what to expect. We were all white belts.

My second experience happened after I’d attained brown belt status in Hapkido. During class, the head instructor, without warning, hit me in the femoral nerve (I believe this is the correct name. It’s along the outside of the thigh a bit above the knee – You should look this up. It’s actually a great place to hit someone in a self-defense situation.) It would have been fine, but then he laughed at my reaction, and clearly seemed quite pleased with himself.  I had a deep bruise, the size of his fist, on my leg for several weeks. (When I find the picture, I’ll post it.) I almost quit, but as my primary instructor said, “You’re so close to black belt.”

Rule #3: If an instructor enjoys beating you up, then you’re in the wrong place.

I stopped training Shotokan when one of the Master’s underlings tried to prove his point by kicking and tripping the lower ranking students while we were supposed to remain in a stance. We weren’t practicing balance or anything. We were simply awaiting further instruction, but he was bored.

Rule #4: If an instructor allows students to beat each other up, then you’re in the wrong place.

I should have walked away from my last dojang when I witnessed kids in the juniors’ class being taught gun/knife disarm techniques. But I didn’t.

What’s wrong with teaching gun/knife disarm techniques to children? Oh, let me count the ways this could go horribly wrong! But I’ll stick with something a police officer, and jiujitsu instructor, recently said to me, it gives a false sense of security. (In fact, he said this about teaching self-defense period.I tend to agree with him unless you actually regularly practice what you’re learning.)

Rule #5: If the instructor is teaching gun/knife disarm techniques to children, then you’re in the wrong place.

Something you need to understand:

You don’t have to train in a gym, but you DO need training partners. 

Hapkido and jiujitsu, two of the best (in my opinion) self-defense martial arts styles, require a training partner. You can only do so many solo activities before you need to practice with someone. I dabble in jiujitsu (because my son is learning it) and enjoy breaking down Krav Maga or Bartitsu techniques, but I study Hapkido. I run techniques in my head, and then I practice them with my children. Practice. That’s the key.

One final thought:

You want to live to train another day. Choose your gym/dojo/dojang carefully. Training with other people requires trust. Anyone who demands respect before they’ve earned your trust, isn’t worth your time or your money. You’re there to learn, not to get hurt, and this includes in a place that specialize in teaching women’s self-defense. Realistic training doesn’t need to be overtly violent for you, or me, to get the point. Practicing makes the difference.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. What self-defense techniques have you learned? Do you practice them regularly? Let me know in the comments.

KDM

p.s. Anyone studying martial arts understands that sometimes we’re going to get hurt. This isn’t the same thing as it being done intentionally.

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The Mental Imagery Edge

head-674132_1920

Can mental imagery help us deal with our fears? Absolutely!

Let’s take a look at the definition of fear:

…an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s talk about what happens in our bodies when we’re afraid.

The sympathetic nervous system kicks in. Tell me if any of this seems familiar:

  • Suddenly, your mouth becomes dry
  • You begin breathing faster
  • You can feel your heart pounding in your chest
  • You feel like you could lift the rear end of your car

And here are a few things you might not realize are happening:

  • Your pupils dilate
  • Your body releases glucose for energy
  • Your digestion slows wayyyy down

All of these are your body’s fight or flight response kicking into high gear in part because of a little (seriously, it’s about the size of an almond) area of your brain called the amygdala. This area is considered to be our aggression center where fear, anger, violence, and anxiety reside. The amygdala is part of our Limbic System (the older part of our brain.)

According to more recent research (Source: The Brain From Top to Bottom)

The functions of the amygdala are now recognized to include alertness and novelty detection. – Luiz Pessoa, “The Cognitive-Emotional Brain: From Interactions to Integration.”

Basically, the amygdala has a HUGE role to play in keeping our butts safe and keeping our behavioral response in check.

Have you ever thought about your reactions when you’re afraid? Maybe you’re like me and are afraid of spiders (damn things are just creepy.) When I see one, the first thing that I do is freeze. It turns out that this is exactly what ALL animals do. We simply stop what we’re doing. Then we turn toward the source of the threat and remain still while assessing it. If we confirm that it’s a legitimate threat, then we either run or hide. If we can’t do either of those things, then we fight. Fighting is the last resort.

What’s mental imagery’s role in helping us deal with our fears?

…visualizing a worst-case scenario is also an effective tool. Defensive, anticipatory, pessimism, or the power of negative thinking, is the basis for adversity training. Mentally practicing how to manage a negative outcome by imagining how to deploy strengths to handle it decreases the fear of it. -Psychology Today, March 24, 2013

Michael Phelps is well-known for his use of mental imagery to prepare for races. During the 2012 Olympics his goggles failed. But because he’d mentally practiced his race numerous times, including the possibility that his goggles might fail, he continued his race and ended up winning!

One very important part of self-defense is practicing what you might do in a real-life situation. We might not be able to physically practice everything all of the time, but we can visualize those scenarios, break them down, and mentally practice how we’ll react.

Think about something you’re already successful doing. Can you imagine every aspect of it? I can shoot entire pool games in my head, imaging every detail. This is how you can practice dealing with your fears. Allow yourself to imagine the details, including how you will successfully overcome the obstacle. Let the worst-case scenario play out in your mind, where you’re safe. Think, “what if?”

Research has shown that your fear will lesson because you feel a greater sense of control. And control equals strength and power.

ACTION STEP:

Practice mental imagery for 5-10 minutes daily for the next 30 days.

 

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5 Must Have Self-Defense Tools

What’s in Your Womanly Self-Defense Toolbox?

With so many great self-defense tools available, it’s difficult to narrow this list to just five, but I must. In considering each item, I’ve taken into account purse/bag size. So, some of these are better suited for a “normal” size purse or bag versus a clutch purse (kind of useless, really, but I know all of us want to wear our fancy clothes once in a while and a bag would clash.)

  • A small, tactical flashlight. Check out the Securitylng 600. It’s reasonably priced and the reviews are good. A few things to note: You want something with a minimum of 60 lumens to temporarily blind someone. It needs to be small enough for everyday carry, be an LED, and ideally have some kind of waterproofing.
  • A multitool. I recently bought the Wallet Ninja for $5 at Wal-Mart. It’s an 18 in 1, multitool kit. It’s a flat piece of metal that can fit in your clutch.
  • A bobby pin. Watch this video by Jason Hanson. Damn things are pretty useful.
  • Mace. In my younger years, I carried this all the time. Thankfully, the only time I almost used it was when a dog came after me. I’m not sure why I ever took it out of my womanly toolbox. It might have been because I couldn’t travel on planes with it (at least not in my carry-on, which is what I frequently had.) Here’s a link to the TSA guidelines. And, here’s a video I found that’s includes some useful info.

 

  • A tactical pen. It works as an actual pen, too! I’ve researched a few different tactical pens and this one made my short list.

When you’re thinking about self-defense, remember that almost anything can be used, including your purse or bag. I once had a small, brass purse with a chain strap. I got it in Cincinnati at a little Middle Eastern shop. Back in the day, that purse was always with me when I went out clubbing, or on a date.

Something like this

Something like this

Alright ladies, start packing your womanly toolbox! And, don’t leave home without it!

 

A bit large, but hey, if it works, use it!

A bit large, but hey, if it works, use it!

 

Note: These are affiliate links. If you decide to buy one of these items, then I’ll earn a little money (not much, but it all helps support this site. So, thank you, in advance, for considering helping out.)

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5 Great Stretches for Relaxation

stretching-excersices

How do you incorporate a little relaxation into your daily routine? Like many of you, I sit at a computer for the greater part of my day. My muscles tighten in my shoulders, neck, and back. Sometimes, it feels like I’ve been accosted by a giant squid. This makes my entire body feel tired and worn out. So, a few months ago, I started stretching in the morning before even getting out of bed.

If you’re having a difficult time relaxing, here are some great stretches just about anyone can do. Be careful. You don’t want to experience this:

uh oh - squirrel stretching

Before trying them, consult your physician. Since I’m not one, I can’t say whether or not these simple stretches might be bad for you. They are ones that I use throughout my day.

  • Before  getting out of bed, bring your knees close to your chest and gently allow them to fall to one side, and then to the other. Bring them back to center each time. From here, with your knees together, allow your hips to rotate. This is a slow, smooth movement to loosen your lower back.
  • Stand with your legs about shoulder width apart. Extend your arms skyward. Slowly allow your body to fold at your waist. Let your head and neck relax as you reach toward the floor. If you can’t keep your legs straight, allow them to gently bend. The goal is to loosen the tension in your neck, shoulders, and lower back.
  • While seated in a chair, straighten your back and slowly turn at your waist to one side, and then to the other. Don’t twist farther than what is comfortable. Your head should follow in the direction of your twist. Allow your gaze to soften. Breath deeply (from your belly).
  • Reach behind your back with one hand and allow your other hand to grasp your wrist. Slowly tilt your head in the direction of the hand being pulled. Switch sides and repeat.
  • Stand with your feet 3-4 feet apart. Bending at the waist, allow your head and arms to hang. Place one hand behind your back and allow it to simply relax. Slowly and gently rotate one arm and then the other. This helps loosen up your shoulders.

Tension sucks the energy out of our bodies. We need our energy to be steady and unencumbered, so that we can tackle each day with passion and purpose.

Will Power

 

What are you doing today to express your passion and purpose?

Leave a note in the comments. I’d love to hear your ideas.

KDM

 

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5 Home Safety Tips For Women

SimpleSelfDefenseforWomen

Personal safety is my number one priority. Since you’re reading this, I’m guessing it might be yours too, but you need a few ideas. That’s what the Quick Tricks category is all about! You’ll find simple “how-to’s” and practical safety tips in each post. Here’s the first one:

 

Before you leave your house or apartment for a ‘night out on the town’, follow these 5 simple rules.

  1. Put pepper spray in your purse, but easy to get to, or on your person.
  2. Carry a light-weight, tactical flashlight.
  3. Ensure that your phone is fully charged and that your GPS tracking is on.
  4. Tell someone your plans. Make this a habit.
  5. Ensure that all of your doors and windows are shut and locked.

BONUS TIP: Leave a few lights on.

Of course, there are other things you could do, like dress strategically, but not everyone wants to do that.

I bet you’re curious what I mean by ‘dress strategically.’

I have a pair of cowboy boots that I’ve owned for more than 20 years. I lovingly call them my shit-kickers. The toe of the boot is nice and pointy. When I spent a lot of time traveling, I’d pack these boots and coordinate them with a few outfits. So, if I found myself going out alone, I’d be sure to wear one of those outfits. My sexy, stylish shit-kickers can do serious damage to anyone daring enough to cause me trouble.

pointy cowboy boots

Not mine, but they’ll do nicely.

Next time you’re getting ready for a night out, think a little more strategically about your outfit. Could something you’re wearing do double duty as a weapon?

Stay smart. Stay safe.

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