Are You Prepared?

Are You Prepared to Kill Someone?

In the aftermath of the brutal slaying of a young woman who was running on our local trails on New Year’s Eve, our community of runners has been shocked, scared, saddened, and now resolute.  This has been a wake-up call for me.  This park is where I run, where my children play, and where my dad bikes.  It’s where I was planning to run on that very afternoon.  I decided to take my friend up on her offer to attend a “self-defense for runners” class.  This was a collaboration between a local running store and the karate studio a couple doors down.


First, this courageous woman spoke in a timid voice.  Her attack happened in 2011 in Austin, TX.

  • It was at a park, with trails, and a playground.
  • It happened in broad daylight.
  • She ran there all the time.
  • She went with a friend.
  • She was wearing earbuds (and the volume was “low).
  • She was only 1.5 miles in from the trailhead.
  • She never thought about an attack happening to her.

We’ll call her Jane.  Jane’s friend decided to run ahead because she wanted to run longer.  Jane turned back around and headed for the trailhead.  She was attacked by a man who was hiding behind a tree.  He attacked her with a giant tree branch which he used like a club (a branch that was 4-feet long and probably 4 inches in diameter was brought in for reference – HUGE).  She had taken martial arts for 2 years but couldn’t remember a thing, except to “block.” She put her arms up and blocked the branch from hitting her face and head, resulting in open wounds to her forearms.  He kept attacking.  She believes he was trying to knock her out because he kept aiming for her head.  All she could do was scream.  Thankfully, something made him run.  She has no idea what it was.  She made her way to the trailhead, her shirt soaked in blood, her head and forearm with horrible wounds.  City workers found her and called 911 (she wasn’t carrying a phone).  She received countless stitches in her head and arm, and of course is emotionally scarred for life.  She still runs, but only with her husband.


Self-Defense Rules of Threes

Next we were introduced to our instructor – a 7th degree black belt in Karate.  To look at this woman, you would think she’s an average mom.  Her features are non-descript and she’s short.  Well, let me tell you – after what she told us and showed us – she’s a killing machine!

General Safety:

The first points she made were about general safety while running.

  • The best way to not be attacked is to avoid a dangerous situation.
  • Don’t run alone.  Period.
  • Don’t run with music.  Period.  (She did not compromise on this point – one earbud or “low volume” does not cut it).
  • Know your routes, and know your “outs” on that route.
  • Tell someone where you will be and what time you will return.
  • Carry your cell phone and a whistle.

Are You Prepared To Kill Someone?

An intriguing question was asked by our instructor.  She asked “Are you prepared to kill someone?”  She said “You need to make that decision well ahead of time, BEFORE you are ever put in a dangerous situation.”  Decide if, that, you are willing to go so far because an attacker is more than willing. She says she speaks to a lot of women and when it comes to their kids, she hears “I’ll kill him – I’ll shoot him dead – I’ll stab him to death.”  But when it comes to ourselves, she hears many women shy away from that idea.  It’s not natural for women (and kind-hearted men) to hurt anyone.  It’s a mindset she recommends walking around with.

Attributes of an Attack:

It will be fast.

It will be a surprise.

It will be violent.

  • A big point here was “Attackers are not like you and me.”  We are raised NOT to hurt people.  “Don’t even hurt their feelings.” Attackers WANT to hurt.  They WANT to kill.  They will not stop because you are hurting.  They are opportunistic and most attacks are pre-meditated.  Attackers usually “scope out” areas well before committing an attack, in order to plan.

Build a Barrier:

Use your hands.

Use your voice.

Create distance.

  • If you are “fortunate” enough to see an attacker coming, put your hands out in front of you to create distance.  YELL!  This is not something women (and even some men) are used to doing at all.  “Back up! Back up!” or  “I’m gonna scream!” or “What do you want!!?” are all good choices.  We had to practice these, and if we weren’t loud enough, we had to do it again.  By asking “What do you want?” you can make a plan.  If the attacker says “Give me your wallet” then that’s what you do, for example.

Goals of Physical Self-Defense:

Cause fear.

Disable your attacker.

Create an opportunity to escape.

  • An attacker is (usually) very afraid of getting caught.  They don’t want attention drawn to them.  If you yell and fight back (with techniques learned in self-defense class) your attacker is likely to be caught off guard and immediately afraid that you’re going to cause problems for him.  They like an “easy target.”

We were taught 2 simple moves meant to disable our attacker, and we got to practice them on (brave) volunteers and on pads.  You are welcome to research these moves on your own, however I will not provide any instruction on them here because I am by no means an authority – and reading about it, seeing it, and doing it are completely different things.

  1. The Brachial Stun
  2. The Throat Stab

If we didn’t perform these correctly, or fast enough, or thoroughly enough – we had to do it again.  I HIGHLY recommend looking into your local martial arts schools and inquiring about self-defense classes, whether you are a man or a woman, whether you run or walk.  I am signing up for their more extensive 4-week course that will answer the questions: Do you know what to do when attacked from behind?”, “Do you know how to defend yourself against a committed attacker?”, What do you do if you get knocked to the ground and can’t get up?”, and “What if you are on the ground and your attacker is on top of you?”  In the meantime, I am more confidant and knowledgeable thanks to this.

Have any of you taken a self-defense course?

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22 thoughts on “Are You Prepared?

  1. sarahdudek80 says:

    So sad. And so awesome that you did that. Excellent post.

  2. So very sad, thank you for this!

  3. Thanks for the share. Glad you are feeling better and more confident and secure.

  4. This is sad, terrifying, but necessary information. This past summer I spent far too many nights alone running the boardwalk by myself. I justified it by thinking- eh, I’m going fast. Stupid! Thank you for this post, it made me reevaluate my own fearlessness and “not me” thought process.

    • I was the same way! The instructor talked about “ego” which is exactly what that is! “I can outrun them” or “Let them TRY and get me, I’ll beat the crap out of them!” I was so naive before this happened. No more! I’m really glad you found it useful. Thanks for stopping by my blog 🙂

  5. Red says:

    I wish you didn’t have to write this, but wishes get us nowhere. Plans, forethought and determination… those are what give us progress. Thanks for sharing.

    • Well said! I didn’t have 2 out of those 3 before (I had determination in a vague sense of the word). Now, I have a plan and DEFINITELY forethought, both of which make me feel more powerful and less naive. Thank you so much for your comment.

  6. Lauren Owen says:

    Thank you for sharing all of that. I am going to look into a self defense class asap!!

    • I’m so glad you’re considering it! It was really different DOING the moves than just watching – she made it look easy and you think “Eh I got this.” But if you don’t get to do it and practice, then you can’t imagine yourself doing it in real life. It was very empowering! I’d love to know if you end up finding a class. Thank you so much for the comment 🙂

  7. Sara J. says:

    The problem lies in thinking ‘this will never happen to me’. Way to be prepared, and thank you so much for sharing. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

  8. Thanks for sharing! This story has made me stop and think…I’m going to be looking into a self-defense course myself now!

    • Awesome!! I’m so glad you took the time to read and really take it to heart. I am forever changed by this horrible tragedy and just want everyone to know that it CAN happen, and to be prepared. Thank you for your comment!

  9. mschapmannra says:

    I am a certified firearm and personal protection instructor. Most of my students come in on the shy side. When reminded that their life is worth defending, with or without a gun, you see the assertiveness come out. For far too long have women relied on others to keep them safe. Our lives are worth fighting for, and so is our right not to live in fear. Attackers come ready to fight for what they want, so should we! Great example of courage!

    • We’ll said!! Inspiring words. Even after that ONE class I felt more confidant! I’m going to another seminar at the end if the month and then taking 4 intensive sessions after that. I can’t imagine how empowered I will feel by the end! Thank you so much for your comment.

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