Image: Daniel Ortiz

Here’s a fun fact about me: I have a black belt in karate.

This statement comes with a few caveats: It’s been a minute since I’ve practiced karate, and I’ve never actually had to use my martial arts skills on anyone outside of a martial arts studio before—not for lack of trying or desire, though, just lack of opportunity—which is fortunate for the still-intact skulls/legs/genitalia of the jerks my friends have dated.

Unfortunately for me, that means that I’m more than a little rusty when it comes to self-defense techniques. (But Chad*, if you’re reading this, you should still be scared.)

So when I was invited to attend a preview of a new self-defense class at Savarese Fight Fit in West U—where I had previously taken a fun, intense boxing class with Lifestyle Editor Abby Ledoux—I jumped at the chance to refresh my destroying-shitty-men moves practical self-preservation knowledge.

Savarese Fight Fit is teaming up with nonprofit Crime Stoppers of Houston to provide these classes, which are specifically tailored for women, teenagers, and children ages 9 and up, every Sunday starting September 8.

Our preview class began with Houston SWAT team member Meredith Brown (who is a dead ringer for Terry Jeffords from Brooklyn Nine-Nine) sharing tips on how to maximize your personal safety before ever coming into contact with an attacker. 

Houston SWAT team member Meredith Brown

Image: Daniel Ortiz

First, always be aware of your surroundings, even if you’re just walking down the street in your neighborhood, at the grocery store, or in the parking lot at work. Don’t be texting bae when you need to be attentive.

Second, plan your day with safety in mind. Stopping by H-E-B after work? Try not to park far away from the door, and feel free to ask a grocery clerk to help you with loading your bags in your car—especially if it’s nighttime, or if you have kids you need to attend to as well. Another set of eyes and ears is always a good thing. 

Basically, listen to both your mother and common sense. For the love of all that is holy, don’t walk home alone from that bar at 2 a.m. (Sorry, mom!)

Third, if you’re in your car (where you probably spend most of your time anyway) and a questionable person comes up to you and demands you get out, don’t listen to them, even if they’re blocking you in with their car. That 3,000-pound hunk of metal you’re inside is a much better defense—and weapon—than anything you have on your person. Stay inside, lock your doors, and call the police.

After we listened to Brown’s advice, boxing legend and Savarese Fight Fit owner Lou Savarese and his colleague Demarkus Jones demonstrated a few self-defense techniques, including how to escape a full Nelson, what to do if you’re picked up by an attacker (my own personal fear), and how to break out of a choke hold. 

Lou Savarese and Demarkus Jones of Savarese Fight Fit demonstrate how to elbow someone properly.

Image: Daniel Ortiz

If you can’t attend a class yourself (although I highly recommend you do), here are a few tips they shared with us: 

  1. An attacker’s main goal is to get you on the ground to either hurt or mug you. Your goal is to not allow them to do that, and to get away as quickly as possible. Attack them, then run.
  2. Use your elbow to hit an attacker, not your fist. Your elbow is sharper and your fist can easily be caught and broken by your attacker’s hands.
  3. If an attacker picks you up, immediately drop your weight—don’t jump, like I attempted to do when Jones and I practiced this move—then elbow the attacker in the face, stomp on their foot, and do whatever it takes to get away.
  4. Be loud. If someone is trying to kidnap or hurt you, scream. Yell. Don’t be afraid to make some noise and let others know that you’re in a dangerous situation and need help.
  5. Your keys are your best friends. Keep one hand on them whenever you’re walking somewhere alone, and use them to scratch an attacker—they will do some serious damage.
  6. Remember S.I.N.G from Miss Congeniality? (The areas to aim for if you need to hit someone: Solar plexus, instep, nose, groin.) It’s not just a clever movie acronym—it’s where you should actually hit your attacker. Although, Jones noted, kicking the groin area might not hurt as much as you’d think—if someone is planning on hurting you, they will probably either be prepared to get kicked in the groin, or be so full of adrenaline it might not even hurt that much. Aim for other areas first.

After spending the afternoon practicing breaking out of choke holds, stomping on feet, and elbowing faces, I left the class feeling more confident in my ability to get out of a dangerous situation and mess up anyone who tried to mess with me. 

Chads of the world, watch out.

Self-defense classes will be held Sundays starting September 8 from 2-3:30 p.m. at Savarese Fight Fit (4215 Bellaire Blvd.). The classes are divided into three different offerings to cater to a variety of lifestyles, including: women ages 17 and up, teenagers ages 12-16, and mothers and daughters ages 9 and up. Each class costs $49 per person, and a percentage of the proceeds will go to Crime Stoppers. To purchase the classes, download the Savarese Fight Fit app.

*Not an actual person named Chad, just, you know, the spirit of one.

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