If you were confronted or assaulted in a robbery or some other crime, would you know how to defend yourself? Should you even attempt self-defense, or just give your assailant what he wants and hope to escape without violence? It’s a question that few of us think to ask ourselves. But when it comes to self-defense, is it always wise to fight back?
Venezuelans and fans around the world were shocked by the recent violent murder of actress and beauty queen Monica Spear. The former Miss Venezuela and her ex-husband were shot and killed during a robbery attempt on a Venezuelan highway. Their 5-year old daughter, Maya, was wounded in the attack and is now an orphan. Reports indicate that Spear and her former husband resisted a robbery attempt by locking themselves in their disabled vehicle. The assailants opened fire on the car, killing the couple and injuring the young girl.
Maybe Spear and her ex-husband would have been killed anyway, even if they hadn’t resisted the robbery. But the circumstances of their murder raise a number of “what ifs.” What if it happened to you? Would you know what to do to potentially save the lives of yourself and your family?
Dan Torro is Master Instructor at Torro Training Center, a Fort Myers, FL-based fitness center focusing on martial arts, self-defense and overall physical wellbeing. I asked Torro, who has been active in martial arts and self-defense for nearly 40 years, about situations where individuals—women, in particular—should and shouldn’t try to defend themselves against an assailant. He had a lot to say on the subject! Here are Sensei Dan Torro’s tips for self-defense:
Stay on guard: “In prioritizing self-protection,” says Torro, “awareness is number one! You need to observe your surroundings at all times, avoid isolated and dark areas, suspicious looking people, and dangerous neighborhoods. Be aware of exit routes, and locations for assistance if necessary. The best time to avoid trouble is before it starts, which means you need to be aware of your surroundings in order to see it coming.”
Follow your gut: “When it comes to real world self-defense,” says Torro, “first and foremost it is very important to follow your gut instinct in the moment. Human beings have a bad habit of overriding their innate fight or flight response in life threatening situations. If your gut says to run, run immediately and do not stop until you know you are safe or the threat is neutralized.”
Assess the risk: Try to figure out what the assailant wants. “If someone wants to steal your person or keys,” says Torro, “throw the object in one direction then run away in another. If that’s all he wants then he will let you leave, and your life is worth more than any material possession. But if he is attempting to rape, kidnap or kill you, then fight with everything you have. As a rule, go for the eyes and throat.”
If you can’t run, fight: “If there is no opportunity or means to escape then you must fight with all means available,” says Torro. “Whether you are trained in self-defense or not, it is always best to use environmental weapons. You probably don’t have a knife or a gun on you, but your automobile is a 3,000 pound weapon, so drive out of there if at all possible. Any object near or around your person can also be used in self-defense,” he adds, “scissors, an umbrella, a kitchen utensil, aerosol spray in the face, a pencil or pen to throat or eye area. Any object can be used as a defensive weapon, as a club or blunt object, anything with a sharp edge or point to stab or cut, hot liquid or spray as a chemical weapon to blind or restrict breathing. Any blow to the head can be life threatening and any damage to an attackers legs can keep him chasing when you run.”
Space out: Torro says that if you can’t flee your assailant, at least try to increase your distance from him, so you have a chance to fight back. “This gives you combat space,” he explains, “allowing you to get out to kicking or punching distance, which is something you can’t do if you’re too close. Timing is another important factor to increase your chances in an altercation. Distracting your assailant or pretending to be weak, scared or compliant before attacking your aggressor greatly increases your chance of survival.
Plan ahead: The best preparation for the unlikely event of an attack is knowledge of self-defense. “Have a plan and practice activating it,” says Torro. “There are different levels and styles of training for self-protection, such as studying for knowledge, firearm training, martial arts seminars or classes. Training always replaces the fear of not knowing what to do in any given situation.”
When I ask Torro specifically about the Monica Spear case, he was hesitant to speculate on what could have happened if Spear and her companion had cooperated with their killers. “If someone wants me dead today and shoots me, then my time here on this earth is up,” he says. “No one is superhuman or bullet proof. Still, anticipating a situation and training yourself on how to react can go a long way towards keeping you and your loved ones alive and uninjured.”
For more information and to contact Dan Torro, visit Torro Training Center on Facebook.