February 16, 2006
Millions of women are victims of violence every year. Attackers could be anywhere, from parking lots to right around your home. Some things women do after dark, or anytime for that matter, practically invites danger their way. News 12 went through the self-defense class with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office. They showed me tactics attackers use. My instructor was twice my size, and he didn't go easy just because it was a class. I had to react as if the attack was real.
Taking John Wheeler down was no easy task. He outweighs me by at least a hundred pounds, and is taller by about a foot.
Women can fight back and win no matter how big the man is. It just takes a clear head in a time of crisis.
"It's the heart inside the person, it's the will inside the person."
Robin Cole has that will. Back in 1989, a man grabbed her from behind as she was unloading groceries at her Martinez home. Robin thought it was a friend playing a joke until she turned around and saw a face she didn't recognize.
"You just feel this adrenaline rush, your heart starts pounding," Cole said.
"I got mad. I got really mad when that happened. Just, how dare he! How dare he!" Cole said.
Robin had just taken a self-defense class, so she knew how to protect herself. Major Wheeler teaches the class with Investigator Stephanie Carani. Both are black belts in
Tae kwon do. Stephanie had no problem inflicting some serious pain.
"You find a curve in your jaw and go in behind the bone," she said.
Or jab the attacker's neck, right in the jugular.
"It causes a gasping, choking kind of feeling," Wheeler said.
Then the time came for the Stephanies to switch. I'm no black belt, but we're about the same size. That was encouraging as I stepped up to Major Wheeler. Stephanie taught me to twist out of his grip as he grabbed my arms.
"You wanna try to pull out where the weakest part of his grip is where the thumb and finger come together. Getting into a pulling match with him is not gonna work."
We went through the same scenario that happened to Robin Cole. He picked me up from behind, I couldn't move my arms.
"Tuck your chin and slam it as hard as you can."
So I used his balance against him. This also works if the attacker has you pinned on the ground. The time to act is when he takes one hand off of you. When he does, use your hips to throw him off. After a little practice, I escaped every hold, and inflicted a little pain in the process. But Robin Cole warned me things change when the situation is real.
"Until you can do it as an instinct, it's gonna be difficult for it to kick in automatically," Wheeler said.
I knew Major Wheeler would attack, I just didn't know exactly when or how. He followed me out to my car, watching my every move. In a split second, I had to keep a clear head, and remember everything he taught me to escape.
I got away, but Deputy Sheila Wahman says I should have been paying more attention.
"You need to be aware of your surroundings at all times, be aware of the people that are around you,” she said.
Robin Cole's attack was similar to mine, only hers was real.
"So many people say oh, it will never happen to me, I live in a good neighborhood. Well it does," Cole said.
So you won't see her talking on a cell phone on the way out to her car anymore. Deputy Wahman says not paying attention is a common mistake.
"A lot of times, people don't listen to their gut instinct. They'll see something they think is suspicious, and they just blow it off."
She says if someone looks suspicious, don't look away. If you look intimidated, you look like a victim.
"You can be observed in a parking lot, people do scope out parking lots and ride around looking for people who make themselves a victim, who are easily victimized."
She taught us not to dig for keys outside.
Walk around the car and check underneath to make sure no one's there. And then check inside.
"People can be in the back seat of your car."
And once you're safely in, lock up.
But doing all these things is no guarantee that an attack won't happen. That's where the training comes in. Major Wheeler says it isn't the size, it's the fight.
"Sometimes a person can be bigger than me and not have any fight in them. Sometimes a person can be tiny and be just about impossible to beat."
I'm not impossible to beat by any means. But I did manage to get away.
This is the move Robin Cole used when a man grabbed her outside her Martinez home. And this is what it all comes down to, did it work in a real attack?
"I freaked out and head butted him and started pounding him in the ribs, turned around to face him and busted him in the nose and he took off."
It sure did. We did it. And you can too.
If you want to take the four-hour class, it's free through the Columbia County Sheriff's Office. Just call the sheriff's office at 541-3970. They set classes up once they get a group of about twenty people.