Make safety a lifestyle | VailDaily.com

Make safety a lifestyle

Matt Bayley

It was early November in the High Country, near sundown. The day had turned gray. Rain was turning to sleet.Linda locked her car and walked quickly toward the dry cleaners, holding her coat tight around her throat against the piercing wind. Hearing footsteps from behind Linda picked up her pace. The footsteps quickened and drew near.Risking a brief look, Linda saw a large man rapidly gaining on her. Linda started to run as fast as she could in high heels and a tight skirt. She had almost reached the dry cleaners when the man drew up to her.Linda jumped down into a crouch screaming and brandishing her nails in a claw-like fashion.The man jumped aside, grabbed the door, swept it open and yelled, “No problem lady, you can go first.” The man was just trying to pick up some clothes and get in from the weather, too.Linda was mortified. I think she did great. She did not bow her head and hope that the person who was making her feel frightened was really a nice person and that everything would turn out OK. She took charge. Now, admittedly, this man might avoid Linda in all social situations for the rest of their lives, but I think this is a small price to pay to be safe.When we think of self-protection, an image of super heroes vanquishing multiple attackers with a flurry of martial arts techniques comes to mind. Certainly the ability to protect one’s self physically in a worst-case scenario is an important aspect of self-protection, but it is a small part of the whole picture.I have been teaching people and families to protect themselves for over 20 years. I define self-protection as “the creation of a lifestyle that enables an individual, family and community to thrive.” I feel fortunate that I am able to share with you information I have gathered over two decades as a professional in the field of self-protection and give you some insights into how to keep yourselves and your loved ones safe from harm’s way.I often quote the statistic that 90 percent of all attacks on men, women and children are avoidable if a person knows what to look for and trusts their feelings.For the sake of argument, I would like everyone to accept this as a fact. This means that nine out of 10 muggings, rape attacks and child molestations would never happen if you, the public, were well educated on how criminals set up their victims, and if everyone was comfortable trusting their feelings and acting on them.The physical self-protection techniques I teach are amazingly effective, and the avoidance and awareness information is up-to-date and accurate. These safety tools work, but you or your loved ones must feel that you can personally work with them.Linda responded to the perceived threat of the man behind her the way that she did because she gave herself permission to put her personal self-protection first. Embarrassment, peer approval or being mistaken were all secondary considerations. Any approach to teaching self-protection must take into consideration how we give not only the knowledge, but also the empowerment to enable a person to keep themselves safe.There are two essential points I wish to make:1. True self-protection requires the support of the family and friends.2. It is impossible to separate physical self-protection from emotional self-protection.Over the last two decades I have worked with a number of victims’ support programs. In the vast majority of cases, at some point during a person’s recovery, they would express that they felt something was wrong but they did not act on their feelings because they did not want to appear silly or frightened to their friends or family.One of the greatest frustrations that students of my self-protection programs have expressed to me is they find themselves having to defend themselves and their new safety habits to their peers.It is really quite simple. The best way to help keep the people you care about safe is to encourage and support their effort to keep themselves safe.Human beings are dynamically stable – we are stable in motion. People are either feeling better about themselves or they are feeling worse about themselves. We are either getting in better shape or we are getting in worse shape. An important part of self-protection is the pursuit of relationships, both personal and professional, that validate and empower us. True self-protection is a lifestyle.Personal self-protection is a family matter. In California, a study of 3,000 convicted child molesters in prison were asked one question: You lived in a neighborhood where you hurt some children but not others, why? The answer: 75 percent of the time when the child said no, the child molester left them alone, and when the child said, ” I am going to tell,” the child molesters left them alone 90 percent of the time. It seems almost too simple. The important questions to ask ourselves now: Why did some children feel they had the right to say “no” and others did not? More importantly, as we pass on safety information to our children, how do we empower them so they can use it?Do you want to be safe? Do you want your children to be safe? Then coming to grips with the fact that there are belief systems both on a societal and personal level that can enable or disable a person from using good safety information and tactics is fundamental.If a person survives the first 15 seconds of an attack, there is a 90 percent chance they will not be a victim of violent crime. It stands to reason that what a person does in the first few seconds of a potentially dangerous situation can greatly affect the outcome. Knowing what to do and then doing it without second-guessing yourself requires both learning the information that can keep you safe and developing the belief that you have the ability and the right to use it.Matt Bayley, who writes about safety issues, operates Vail Academy of Martial Arts, celebrating the grand opening of its second school at the Vail Gymnastics Center in Avon and its 10 year anniversary serving the Vail Valley. Children and adult classes are offered at Aria Spa & Club and Vail Gymnastics Center in Avon starting at 3:30 p.m. six days a week. Call 949-8121 or visit vailacademyofmartialarts.com