Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Self Defense Products and Tips for College Students

For many freshmen, college is their first taste of independence, where they’re living on their own, some distance from home and with significant new responsibilities. It can be more than intimidating – it can be dangerous. Let’s talk about the self-defense issues around college life and some of the self defense products and tips students can use to make their lives safer. Remember to check the laws in your area and your college’s policies.

Drinking and Fighting: Alcohol is far and away the most common source of violence on campus, leading to fights in and around bars between students, and students and locals. In many cases this resembles good old fashioned schoolyard bullying and the best thing to do is to resist being provoked. Travel in a group so that you’re less likely to be attacked on the way home and don’t let your friends provoke fights. You don’t have anything to prove, and it just takes a slip on concrete or a weapon to turn posturing into something life-threatening.

If you’d like extra protection, consider buying pepper spray. It’s easy to carry and can be used against a number of attackers at once, giving you a chance to escape. Just remember that no self defense product can compensate for poor judgment. If you escalate with insults and threats in kind, using any self defense product may look like assault.

Sexual Assault: Unfortunately, sexual assault is a persistent threat on college campuses despite improvements in policy, awareness and activism. Traveling in groups is always smart, but be aware that most perpetrators are known to their victims – they’re partners and acquaintances. Keep a close watch over your drinks – never leave them unattended – because you must account for the danger of date rape drugs – and limit your alcohol consumption. Women have a lower physiological tolerance for alcohol, so they may become unexpectedly and rapidly intoxicated when drinking in a mixed group. Finally, make sure there is always someone to “check in” with, who expects to see you by a certain time unless you specifically call in. (This is actually a great tip for general safety, not just the threat of rape.)

Do yourself a favor and take a self-defense course where they cover the specific issues around sexual assault, including use of force on people known to you. For self-defense purposes, a stun gun can be useful, particularly if you keep it on your person – not just in your purse, which might be some distance away if you find yourself in your dorm or apartment.

Theft: Students often underestimate the danger of on-campus theft. Colleges are heavily trafficked, poorly secured and contain the residences of largely upper and middle-class students, making them ideal for professional thieves. It’s also a sad fact that addiction, alcoholism and mental health issues often strike during college years, leading to students stealing to either support a drug habit or due to impaired impulse control. Personal danger comes into play when you interrupt a burglary in progress or have been targeted for mugging.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Integrating Self Defense with Your Quality of Life

Once you start to seriously consider owning a self defense product or otherwise preparing yourself for self protection it’s easy to get caught by fear. It’s a dangerous world out there, especially in economic times that have left so many people desperate. But the worst thing you can do is be paranoid. I run Self Defense ATL a little differently from other self defense product retailers because I believe self defense should be about improving an average person’s quality of life. According to that philosophy preparedness should help you feel happier, not more fearful. Let’s look at two common pitfalls in self defense attitudes and how you can turn them around into positive opportunities.

Alertness, Not Fear

Awareness of your surroundings and the people near you is a key part of successful self-defense, but many people explore alertness as a kind of constant, low-level fear. That’s not good for your mental health. In fact, getting caught up in asking yourself whether someone you see is a potential mugger or other threat can actually blind you, because you get absorbed in that one person.

Approach alertness with a positive attitude: one where you want to experience more of what surrounds you. When I go hiking I like to look at each sight as it comes, appreciate it and move on, stopping only for something that sets off my interest. You can take the same attitude toward being aware of your surroundings in everyday life. Focus on things which set off alarm bells and don’t look quite right when you see them, but for the most part, just note the things and people around you and move on.

Preparedness, Not Tension

You might respond with this: “I can be aware of my surroundings without being paranoid, but why would you carry a TASER or stun gun without feeling that way?” That’s a good question. The answer? Preparedness is about prudence, not being tensely afraid that something bad will happen to you. You already exercise prudence in your daily life, in a thousand different ways that don’t make you frightened of anything. You lock your car and home; look both ways before crossing the street and keep a flashlight on your keychain in case you have to look for anything in the dark. You carry an umbrella if it looks like it’s going to rain.

Treat your C2 TASER, cell phone stun gun or other self defense product like that umbrella, flashlight or car key: just another precaution you take to reduce your worries, not increase them. Carrying a stun gun may make you feel self-conscious and tense at first. This is only natural, because carrying a TASER, pepper spray or stun gun requires a certain amount of maturity. The secret is to become familiar with your self defense products. Read manuals thoroughly. Practice with them. Learn techniques that help you use them effectively. Once handling them becomes routine, they’ll become normal parts of your daily gear, ready when you need them, but never a burden.