© 2023 | WUWF Public Media
11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514
850 474-2787
NPR for Florida's Great Northwest
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Self Defense And Crime Prevention: 'I’m Going To Make Sure That I’m Safe'

Take a moment to recall the last time you genuinely feared for your life. For Sarah Holt, a student of C.O.B.R.A. Self Defense in Pace, that terrifying life or death moment came far too young.

“I was attacked once when I was in elementary school. One of the students tried to choke me and strangle me to death.”

According to Steven Blankenship of C.O.B.R.A. (Combat Objective Battle Ready Applications) Self Defense a large majority of his students only seek out self-defense after they have been attacked.

“They will seek self-defense after an altercation, after a traumatic experience, or after a life-threatening situation. When it comes to self-defense it just seems like it would be better to learn it before you need it.”

Sarah Holt signed up for a self-defense class decades later, taking the class due to her husband's interest. Her personal story of assault only arose after choke-hold breaks were being introduced.

Self-defense can be a powerful way to build confidence and can teach someone to act more effectively in an emergency, says Mike Wood, public information officer for the Pensacola Police Department. Ideally, victims of assault might even be able to thwart their attacker.

Wood advocates for self-defense and a few core tips to help keep civilians safe.

“The biggest thing with personal safety when you are alone is to be aware of your surroundings, look confident, and know exactly what is going on around you. When someone comes towards you or behind you, look at them straight on with eye contact. That way they know you have seen them, that you can identify them, and that you are paying attention to what's going on. ”

Without self-defense training, an individual is relying on their natural instincts to defend themselves. However, in the heat of the moment, things can go terribly wrong. Blankenship knows this reality all too well.

“We have something you could call primal fear. It's like a fear of death, a fear of the unknown. All the chemicals pumping through your body can certainly make you freeze up.”

The freeze response is just one of the three natural and instinctual responses the body can have to danger. Often called the flight-fight-freeze response, these instinctive reactions can not be relied upon in an emergency situation to keep you safe.

Through proper training, a victim can hopefully override these instincts in order to best defend themselves.

“You are more confident in knowing; I’m going to be aware of my surroundings, the time and place I’m at, and who I’m with. I’m going to make sure that I’m safe.”

A young woman, 17, has been taking C.O.B.R.A Self Defense for over a year. She told her story of breaking through fear and gaining confidence during uncertain situations.

“During our first scenario, I remember the fear I got, even though I knew the instructor. It completely woke me up like okay I seriously need to take this training seriously. Then I fell in love with it.”

Taking the class and going through the self-defense academy transformed her perspective on her own safety when out in public.

“When I used to go out I’d always stick around authority figures and adults, but now I can be that protective person for other people and for my younger friends. I feel more confident being out there.”

Self-defense is not something that is widely taught in schools, meaning that if you’d like to learn it you must deliberately seek it out. For many, it can mean feeling more secure at work.

In 2017 and 2019 Discovery Channel employees contacted C.O.B.R.A Self Defense seeking training for their staff, many of whom had already experienced robbery.

Blankenship finds meaning in his work through the impact he can have on the lives of his students.

“I love the fact that people can be more confident in their life, be empowered, and have the skill sets they need to stay safe. Training does save lives.”

Personal Safety Tips from the Pensacola Police Department

1. Situational Awareness

Practice awareness of who and what is going on around you in public.

Avoid poorly lit or isolated areas.

Remain vigilant of your safety and of those around you who may be vulnerable such as children, teenagers, and the elderly.

2. Crime Prevention

Make direct eye contact with a potential perpetrator.

Note their features so you are able to identify them.

Report suspicious or predatory behavior to local law enforcement.

3. Confidence

Build confidence when alone in public by taking a self-defense course.

Don’t be afraid to ask an officer, employee, friend, or coworker to escort you back to your vehicle.

Body Language: walk with confidence; head held high, direct eye contact, good posture.

4. In the Moment of Attack

Fight for your life, use everything you’ve got to get away from the attacker and to a safe location.

Do not allow the attacker to move you to a second location.

When it comes to personal items such as a purse, car, or jewelry, it is better to simply allow the attacker to take the item and use the time to escape to a safe location and call the police.