5 Common Self-Defense Misconceptions

Don't let self defense misconceptions leave you off guard.
Photo by Noemi Gonzalez

With the school year in full swing, many students are temporarily escaping midterm pressures by venturing to local hotspots such as Mill Ave. With newly explored territory comes new surprises and adventures but also new dangers.

“It’s all about prevention and awareness,” says self defense instructor Elneeta Timmons at Z Ultimate Self Defense Studios. But these practices can be difficult when a woman is misguided in her perception of self-defense.

Here are five common misconceptions that could be leading you in the wrong direction of personal safety.

1. “Always carry pepper spray.”

Although pepper spray is one of the most common self-defense weapons, it is not always the most reliable apparatus. The spray can flow with the wind or bounce off the attacker’s face and hit yours.

Pepper spray can potentially be hazardous...to the wrong person.
Photo by Noemi Gonzalez

If it’s a new can of pepper spray, it may be defective: “If you buy one, buy two,” says Stewart Adams, program coordinator of the ASU Police Department.

Another portable self-defense option is a Wild Cat Self Defense Key Ring, which has sharp ears for jabbing the attacker. Me-ow. Forget college rivalries, this is one case where you would want a Wildcat nearby.

The assault weary-woman can also carry a stun gun, which functions as “a good close quarter weapon,” because a woman can easily carry it in her purse or in her hand while walking, Adams says.

Timmons suggests the kubotan, a short, grooved black baton that “is a good weapon to use, because it won’t hurt you, it will just increase the power of your punch.” The kubotan can also double as a key chain, adding the force of your house keys to your defensive blow.

2. “I would never know how to react or what to do, and I don’t own any weapons.”

If you don’t own any self-defense weapons and you don’t want to buy any, Adams has the solution.

“The personal weapons we have with us all the time are our hands, our knees and our feet and head,” Adams says.

Use the strongest parts of your body that will have the most effect. “A lot of it has to do with knowing where and when to strike,” Timmons says. Use the element of surprise and leverage to free yourself from an attacker’s grip.

Technique is more important than strength when it comes to self-defense. 
Photo by Noemi Gonzalez

However a person being attacked should avoid using force on force, Timmons says, because in most cases the male is going to be stronger than the female. He also recommends taking a self-defense class so you can practice mock situations and know what it might feel like to be caught off guard.

3. “I met them in person, so they probably won’t hurt me.”

“If there are any myths or misconceptions, it would probably be that it is going to be a stranger that will attack you,” Timmons says.

During your late-night ASU adventures (that we would prefer not to hear about), you can’t trust people the same night you meet them. Call campus escort when you need to go home, instead of depending on the drunken bro who swears he’s OK to drive.

4. “If I look busy, I won’t be as much of a target.”

Yes, you live a busy life.“Look at girls today. They are walking around campus with their iPods in. They’re texting on their phones. They aren’t paying attention, or watching where they are going,” Timmons says.

But awareness of your surroundings could determine your ability to run away or avoid an attacker. Find the nearest campus call button and walk in lighted areas.

While that Facebook update about the latest break-up may seem irresistibly juicy, it can wait for you to find a safe place to read it. You want to be in tune with your atmosphere — not tuned out.

5. "I need to be in shape in order to take self defense."

Adams says you don’t need muscles or strength to defend yourself — you only need technique. While good physical shape never hurts, don’t be intimidated by the body types of your peers.

On campus the ASU police station teaches a self-defense class called Rape, Aggression, and Defense (RAD). This class specifically targets a woman’s strong points, teaching the elements of surprise and technique to overcome her attacker.

“Self defense isn’t about fighting fair,” Timmons says.

It’s about resisting rather than going along with your attacker’s commands. Of course, this depends on the situation but with training you can be prepared to handle the situation in the most confident and proactive way.

Stay safe this semester and be alert at all times. Take the initiative to be a part of a self-defense class.

Instead of feeling like a damsel in distress, you can feel incredibly confident in any situation thrown at you this year.


Reach the writer at k.etzel@asu.edu

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