Earlier this month, Kelly Herron experienced what most women would consider their worst nightmare: she was attacked in the restroom of a public park.
Herron was out for a run on Seattle’s Golden Gardens Trail on a Sunday afternoon when she stopped to use the public restroom. As she was washing her hands, a man who had been hiding in one of the stalls emerged and attacked her.
She used some key self-defence techniques she had recently learned in a workplace-sponsored class to fight off her assailant, run outside and with the assistance of a stranger, lock him in the restroom until the police arrived.
In an interview with Yahoo! Beauty, Herron shared the top five self-defence principles she used that allowed her to escape her attacker, and ultimately saved her life.
#1 Trust your instincts
“When you feel like something is wrong, it probably is, so trust your instincts,” she said. She recalled feeling something wasn’t quite right as she was drying her hands, and in that moment she turned around and spotted her attacker. If you feel like someone is following you too close or you sense something that you can’t see, trust your gut — it’s usually right.
Similarly, John Perkins, author of Attack Proof: The Ultimate Guide to Personal Protection, says to take action if something feels amiss. If you’re walking down a street and someone is giving you a bad feeling, don’t confront or ignore the person; just change your course and walk down another street.
#2 Don’t hesitate to respond right away
“When he came at me, I tried to get away from his grasp and move toward the door,” Herron said. “Even though I wasn’t sure what to do, I responded immediately by screaming with everything inside me.”
For many people, reacting right away instead of seizing up with fear is difficult, but know that an immediate reaction could mean the difference between having a chance at escape or being overpowered.
#3 Make some noise
Be as loud as you can to try to draw attention to what’s happening. Herron says her self-defence class taught her to yell from her diaphragm, as this can help build energy in your body and give you a surge of power. She says the phrase she yelled — “Not today, motherf**ker!” — served precisely that purpose.
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#4 Hit fast and hard
Never try to punch an assailant with a closed fist. The reason for this, says Jeff Anderson of CloseQuartersCombat.com, is because instinctively you’ll go for the head and when your knuckles make contact with a person’s skull, you’ll end up being the injured one.
Instead, use the sides or heels of your hands, which have hard bones in them, to target fleshy areas like the face, temples, neck (especially the Adam’s apple) and groin.
#5 Don’t assume you’re safe just because it’s daylight
Herron was attacked in broad daylight — not the typical time we’d expect to have to go on the defensive.
“Typically, you feel fear when you’re walking alone at night — not on a Sunday afternoon in a public park — so being aware at all times, regardless of how safe you feel, and not letting your guard down, are important,” Herron said.
Be cognizant of who’s around you and how close they are. And avoid listening to loud music which will distract you from what’s going on. If you’re on your phone, keep your head up and your eyes alert to your surroundings.
“Women are so much stronger than they think — and I don’t perceive myself to be braver or more courageous than any other woman would be in that situation,” Herron said. “By arming yourself with the knowledge of self-defence, you’ll have the tools you need to give yourself a fighting chance and survive.”
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