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SHARP Defense: Workshop emphasizes self protection

Sgt. 1st Class Maurice Tunstall, NCO Academy, flips Sgt. 1st Class, Daniel Porteus , Directorate of Training and Doctrine, during a demonstration at the SHARP self-defense workshop at Fortenberry-Colton Physical Fitness Center April 17. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Sgt. 1st Class Maurice Tunstall, NCO Academy, flips Sgt. 1st Class, Daniel Porteus , Directorate of Training and Doctrine, during a demonstration at the SHARP self-defense workshop at Fortenberry-Colton Physical Fitness Center April 17. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: April 24, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April 24, 2014) -- Preparation is a key component to success in many everyday situations, and in extraordinary situations, it could be the difference between life and death.

That’s why Fort Rucker’s Army Community Service teamed up with the Fort Rucker Military Police to provide a class to teach basic self-defense techniques in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The class was held at Fortenberry-Colton Physical Fitness Center April 17 and taught basic techniques that people can use in a situation where they need to defend themselves against an attacker, said Twanna Johnson, garrison sexual assault response coordinator.

“This class is not meant to teach people how to attack someone,” she said. “It’s a class on how to defend yourself and get away from an aggressor if you are approached or attacked.”

Throughout the class, participants were shown different techniques on how to defend themselves, as well as how to fight back, if necessary.

They were shown how to properly throw punches, kick, how to evade an attacker, and even how to throw an attacker off of them if they are attacked from behind – knowledge that Sherie Trone, who works in Fort Rucker’s Equal Opportunity Office, said is something that she feels safer knowing.

“My husband travels a lot and I find myself alone a lot. I’m not very familiar with the installation because we haven’t been here very long, so I want to be able to protect myself, and this experience has been so great,” she said.

Participants also learned a technique called “shrimping,” which a victim would use in the event that an assailant is on top of the victim. While shrimping, the victim would push off of the assailant’s leg and twist their own body to be able to push themselves out from under an attacker, giving them the opportunity to create distance from the assailant to get away.

They were also taught that they should never present their back to an attacker. The instructors taught the participants how to get up from the ground while facing their attacker while keeping their guard up.

But before the participants got physical, the class started off with a discussion with Staff Sgt. Jason Goldsmith, traffic management collision investigations NCO in charge, who talked about not only how to get out of potentially harmful situations, but how to avoid them.

“Some people’s strategic downfall is the lack of awareness that they have,” he said during the class. “Things like not paying attention to their surroundings, digging through their purse, looking at their phone and things like that – anything that keeps them distracted can be their downfall.”

Goldsmith said that it’s easy in this day and age for people to get distracted, with so much of their lives tied to their phones, but suggests that people be wary of their surroundings and pay attention to what’s going on around them.

He added that body language can be a strong deterrent against criminals.

“Criminals are looking for certain things in their victims – people walking with their heads down and people who are distracted,” said Goldsmith. “Make sure you exude confidence by keeping your head up and looking where you are going. Portray that confidence and make sure you make eye contact with people that you notice.”

Eye contact is important because it does two things: it displays confidence in oneself and lets a would-be assailant know that they have been noticed, he said.

Another thing people should avoid is places that would make it easy for an attacker to get to them without being noticed, such as dark alleys, empty stairwells and empty parking garages, said Goldsmith.

“If you know you’re going to be walking in a dark area, bring a flashlight with you or even use your cell phone to provide some light,” he said.

People should also avoid getting stuck in routines, because that allows criminals to predict where their victim will be at certain times.

“Most assaults (are committed) by someone who knows their victim,” said Goldsmith. “If people know where you’re going to be at a certain time, then that just makes you vulnerable.”

Combining the knowledge that Goldsmith provided and the techniques that participants were taught, the class was successful in making attendees feel better prepared if they ever find themselves faced by an attacker, said Johnson.

“It’s so great that Fort Rucker offered something like this,” said Trone. “Normally you’d have to pay for classes like this, but for them to provide this service for free is just awesome and it makes me feel good knowing that they provide this for us.”

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