By ZAK GRIMM
If you were caught in a dangerous ambush, in public or in private, would you know how to escape your attacker?
That was the main focus of the Quarterly Neighborhood Watch meeting, which brought together Fredericktown residents and the area’s own Dave Lashley, owner and operator of Lashley Training Center, which combines various self-defense techniques with a purpose for doing so. Lashley also serves as Bailiff for the Knox County Common Pleas Court.
“When I talk about self defense, I always start with awareness,” said Lashley. “It’s probably the most underlooked part of self-defense. Awareness is something a lot different than what most of us probably think it is. I don’t believe people have to prepare for an attack. If I [tell someone] that right now, I’m going to attack, I’m giving [that person] a chance to prepare. The worst-case scenario that I believe people go into is an ambush.”
Lashley believes that surviving this type of situation starts with an attitude–and one specifically focused on getting to a safe place, doing whatever it takes to get to that point. Part of that attitude is confidence. If you are confident in your ability to handle an ambush, your head will be held higher, which brings your eyes up, which helps hone your awareness.
According to Lashley, too many people, while in public places, really lack that confidence, and instead too often keep their eyes on the ground in front of them, thus missing potential dangers, but also potential escape routes. Lashley related a story about his wife, Rachel, whom was once followed by someone she didn’t know, but was totally unaware of the potential danger. Others realized the risk, and were able to diffuse it.
Sometimes, the danger isn’t there, but we react anyway. Why? We’ve become more aware. The worst thing that can happen in that case, said Lashley, is that whomever we’re with or around at the time pokes fun at the moment.
“If your gut-feeling tells you something’s wrong, listen to it,” Lashley added. Perhaps you’ll be wrong, but you’ve taken the first step, and paid attention. If you’re in a situation that makes you uncomfortable, find a way out of it as soon as you can.
Interestingly, Lashley talked about one of the true purposes of Greeters at Wal-Mart. Usually the first people shoppers see when walking through the door, these individuals aren’t simply there to welcome you into the store. They’re acknowledging your presence in the store community, and thus are aware that you’re there, and have an eye on you. If you’re someone who has come into the store to harm someone else, you may second-guess that plan, knowing that someone like a Greeter has zeroed in on you.
Complacency in our lives is what most often causes problems when we’re faced with dangerous situations. If we walk to our cars with our keys already in-hand, not only have we essentially armed ourselves with a potential weapon, but we’ve silently increased our awareness, because we’ve prepared ourselves, rather than spending time getting our keys out, and opening an opportunity for someone to take advantage of.
One of the biggest culprits of complacency and distraction are our cell phones. We are attached to them day and night, and in doing so, have severely limited our ability to notice potential dangers. So far, no one has been able to develop an app that warns us of dangers, and woudl help us survive an ambush.
According to Lashley, the worst place we can use our cell phones is in our cars after we’ve returned there from a store, restaurant or other public place. When we do so, that’s when a majority of car-jackings happen.
In terms of basic self-defense tactics, one of the most common attacks is a choke. Whether it comes from the front, back or side, the options you have to get out of that situation are basically the same. When someone puts their hands around your neck, the first thing you want to do is to tuck your head down to your neck, fast and hard. This puts immediate pressure onto your attacker’s weapons–their hands. If you are attacked with a choke, you as the victim have a significant advantage over your attacker, because you know right where the person’s weapons are, and can defend yourself.
Once you’ve put pressure on your attacker’s hands, you want to quickly and forcefully raise your arm high into the air. Doing so begins to break the bond between your body and your attacker’s hands, and, because of the increase in pressure on your attacker’s wrist and arms, begins to hurt them. When they’ve reached their pain threshold, they’ll begin to let go, giving you a chance to find an escape route–even if you can’t yet get away.
With your arm raised, you then want to turn into that same side. With the turn, at this point you’ve given yourself the chance to trap your attacker’s arms, and taken away their most useful weapons.
If you choose to, you can briefly trap your attacker’s arms, and simply let go and run to safety. Or, you can inflict further pain, and put your thumbs in their eyes, elbow them in the face, or a number of other quick moves.
Similar to the fight-or-flight response when an armed intruder or active shooter enters your environment, “When you’re being attacked, you have to flip on the switch in your mind that says ‘I’m going home tonight,” said Lashley. “Your attacker is there for a selfish reason. You’re there to live.”
When the choke comes from the side, your first move has to be tucking your chin hard and tight to your chest, putting pressure on the fingers, hands and wrists. As you tuck your chin down, grab your attacker’s arm, and drop your weight into your legs and feet. This lowers your center of gravity to the ground, while your attacker’s center remains higher. This gives you the advantage. When you are lower than your attacker, you are more level with their inner thighs and groin area. Lashley said the next thing is to do is “ring the bell” of your attacker. This is an extremely effective tactic if your attacker is male, but also works well if your attacker is female.
As you lower your body and “ring the bell,” your attacker is above you, and probably off-balance. This is your chance to forcefully use your elbows to their face, chest, neck–wherever you can cause pain and give yourself the chance to escape.
From behind, your first move should be to immediately lower your body toward the ground, feet spread wide, like a sumo wrestler. Doing so also makes it very hard for your attacker to gain the advantage by picking you up off the ground. When you crouch into the sumo wrestler stance, your hands and arms should be free. This gives you the chance to smash your attacker’s knuckles with your fists, which are very sensitive to pain.
As you smash down on the knuckles, your attacker will eventually loosen his or her grip, and you’ve gained the opportunity to grab fingers and yank them in directions they’re not meant to go.
If you are smaller in size, you have the option to lower yourself to the ground, and bear crawl to try and get away. The key is to make your attacker work as hard as possible to subdue you.
“The more commotion, the more noise I make–anything I can do to draw attention to my situation, the better off I’ll be,” said Lashley. He said there are three main things you should yell if you’re in public and being attacked: Fire, Rape, and Help. Each of these will immediately get attention, and potential assistance. Lashley added that simply yelling at your attacker to get off you or get away doesn’t usually work, because so many people just assume a fight is happening, and don’t want to get involved. If true “Help!” is needed, people are more likely to intervene.
With any of the techniques that Lashley can demonstrate, the main idea is to help you get to a safe place, or create an opportunity to do so. “Don’t let anyone fool you–there is no death touch. There’s no place on your body that I can touch you that will make me think, ‘Oh, good, he’s paralyzed now, I can get away.’” Lashley said utilizing pressure points is useful, but only to their full potential, nothing more.
“In the situation you’re in, you want techniques that will work right now. You don’t have time to find just the right pressure points,” he said. “Make something count. You’re good people–you don’t want to hurt someone. Your attacker is a bad person. Bad people do want to hurt you. Sometimes you have to flip that switch, and fight to go home. You’re good people, and good people deserve to go home.”
Lashley cautioned the use of weapons like pepper spray, mace, and even concealed handguns. They’re fine to use in these situations, but he said that it is vital that you practice using them. If you go out and buy a type of spray or mace, but don’t know how to use it or assume it’s one type and it’s actually another, those could be precious seconds lost during an attack.
“I truly believe that what we’re trying to show you can help you get away,” said Lashley. “If you take just a few hours a year to practice it, put them into your toolbox, you’re going to be fine. These tactics won’t help you win a fight, but that’s not what they’re designed to do. There’s a big difference between being in a fight and defending yourself.”
Following the special presentation by Lashley, Police Department Lieutenant Kyle Johnson reminded Neighborhood Watch members that the official date for the upcoming Mill Street Bridge graffiti removal project will be May 20th at 10:00 AM. The group will meet at the Bridge, and are encouraged to bring a threaded broom handle, so that paint rollers can be attached to reach the higher spots on the bridge.
Thank you, residents, for your continued awareness in your neighborhoods to help keep our community safe for everyone!