ABCs of Safety

liz-durning-bioMost people are good people, but sometimes bad things happen to good people by bad people. Knowing basic self-defense can save you when no one else can. Wearing a seat belt saves lives. We don’t get into an accident every day, but we wear seat belts just in case. We could be the safest drivers in the world, but other people aren’t.

The most powerful weapon you have is your brain. So, let’s train our brains to know how to protect ourselves.  I’ m going to focus on basic safety moves, especially for the active Athleta gal. It doesn’t matter how strong and fit you are, everyone needs to know basic safety. Just being athletic doesn’t automatically make you invincible.

Let’s start off with some basic safety tips:

  • Any environment can be potentially dangerous. If there are no support people, you are at a higher risk of being a target. Support people see what’s happening and can call for help. Staying where there are support people gives a potential attacker something he doesn’t want: witnesses.
  • Don’t disable the senses that are most likely to alert you to danger–your hearing and vision. Don’t wear ear buds or talk or text on your phone. The more focused you are on your phone, the less attention you have on your surroundings.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings. Use your peripheral vision as you jog/walk,  act the same way as you do driving your car. Most of the time, your eyes are forward, but you also check behind you, and to the sides.
  • If you believe someone is following you, or just gives you a bad feeling, you need to trust your instinct. Keep your distance and get to where people are. If you’re jogging, flag down a passing car and ask for the time.

The A-B-Cs of Safety

  • Awareness: Be aware of everything, not just strangers.
  • Boundary Setting: Minimum safe distance for adults is roughly six to seven feet. Most attacks are preceded by dialogue. The attacker just walks right up to you and engages you in conversation. This is called the “interview process.” He’s trying to determine if you would be a good victim and he closes the distance. Remember, “No” means “No.” YOU control the situation. Once you’ve said “No,” or “I can’t help you,” or “I’m not interested,” the conversation is over. A good person will respect your answer, and not pressure you again.

Some Typical Lures:
“Can you help me find my dog?”
“Do you know how to get to…?”
“Can I give you some help…?”
“Can you help me…?”
“Can I give you a ride?”
“GET in the car!” This is the most dangerous situation, as most people taken in cars, don’t come back.

Most attempted assaults can be de-escalated by verbal intervention only. Putting your hands up to show “STOP” and saying “STOP,” lets the attacker know you are serious. If they don’t back away the first time, you say it again, louder, louder, and LOUDER!

Liz Durning - Stop

  • Combat: Use simple strikes that will hurt anyone, no matter how big or strong they are. Eye strikes, palm strikes to the nose, knees to the groin, slaps to the groin, and elbows, are simple and powerful. Your goal is to STUN and RUN.

Here’s another common safety “trick” many self-defense instructors teach: What should you do if someone does grab you? Just yell “FIRE,” so that people will come running because they’re worried about their own property catching on fire. Another action would be to tell everyone what exactly is happening. People don’t like to get involved in domestic disputes, so yelling “Help, I don’t know him,” and then pointing to someone and saying “YOU, get help,” gets people involved, much like when you learn CPR. The first thing is check the scene and then appoint someone to call 9-1-1.

To summarize, 90% of the time awareness will keep you safe. The remaining 10% of the time, when awareness fails, seven out of those ten times strong body language and strong verbal boundary setting will protect you. Only the remaining three times out of 100 should you have to resort to combat if you follow these guidelines.

Recommended reading: The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker
Recommended nationwide reality based self-defense course: FAST Defense


February 05, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Thank you for sharing Liz! You are a true inspiration, looking forward to the next time you are in Athleta!!!!


February 07, 2014 at 6:57 am


Great article – short, simple and concise. I have shared this with my Girl Scouts as well as my own daughters. I took a self-defense class as a middle-schooler and while I, thankfully, never needed to use the techniques, I’ve never forgotten them.

Cheers, Gen =)


February 07, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Great post. I have taken a self-defense class for women and it was not only eye opening, but quite emotional. We were invited to bring our family to our “graduation” class so they could witness what we’ve learned in certain scenarios. Sadly, many of the women in my class were previous victims. I cannot stress enough to not run with ear buds!! Always be on the defensive. Thank you!

Leave a Reply