PHOENIX - Be it walking to a restaurant on a poorly lit street, or to a car in a dark parking garage, every woman who has found herself out alone at night has had the dark question flash through her mind -- what if I were attacked?
Many have pepper spray, a whistle, or even a firearm tucked away in their purses, but when it really comes down to it, not many have practiced pulling those items out while under stress.
Some even think about hitting back, but few would know which areas of the hand could do more damage to your attacker than yourself.
Tami Brown found herself wanting to be armed with more information and the confidence of knowing how to react if she were ever attacked.
Brown is a restaurant manager and says she's often the last to leave work late at night.
"I don't always have someone to walk me to my car, often I'm alone," Brown said.
So Brown started researching and found REACT Defense Systems in Phoenix. The program teaches an Israeli military technique called Krav Maga.
Lifelong martial artist Jay Akerman learned the style 15 years ago in Los Angeles and brought the style to Phoenix. He now has more than 1,000 students -- over half are women -- at training facilities in Phoenix, Chandler and Glendale.
"We teach the instinct of self-defense so that if you are attacked it just flies out of you, you don't really have a choice after this," Akerman said.
He and a team of trainers add a bit of technique to your body's natural reactions and train students to unleash those moves in a fury, until you put your attacker in defense mode and buy yourself enough of a window to run and yell for help.
The five basic moves they start with are:
- Drop your weight, the same way a child does when they don't want to be picked up and moved off the playground.
- Use your hands to stun an attacker and create space. Use the most solid part of your hand, the heel of your palm. Also hammer at an attacker with the side of your closed fist. Punching with your knuckles is more likely to shatter your own bones then hurt your attacker.
- Turn your boney elbow into a weapon. With your palm down and close to your body, aim your elbow at the soft tissue in your attacker's face.
- Knee an attacker if they are stumbling towards you, be relentless with knees to the chest stomach and face.
-A solid kick to the groin -- straight-legged, toes pointed like you're kicking a football -- and follow through so your shin is what makes contact.
Each class expands on those five basic moves and the scenarios become more realistic and more intense.
"Whether its a carjacking, whether it's in your home, whether it's in your bedroom; we train in the parking lot, we train with people following you, multiple attackers."
Akerman says it's an aggressive way to train your brain and body to automatically react under intense pressure.
Brown went to her first class thinking it would be a one-time thing and now she's a member, attending six classes a week.
She says the adrenalin is addicting and the physicality of the class makes for the best workout she's ever had. She also took Akerman's rape prevention seminar and says the training went so far as to put you on your back in a darkened room and the trainer used a pillow to try to hold her down.
Brown says she dreamt about the class later that night, but believes it was a good thing because she felt more empowered and confident about how she would react if the real thing ever happened.
"I slept clenched fists all night, fighting in my sleep, because it was that intense. It was very real," Brown said.
Above all, before he teaches physical techniques, Akerman says their most important message to students is about awareness -- being more engaged in their surroundings, not putting themselves in questionable situations and walking with confidence so they don't project an easy target.
For more information on class times and prices at React Defense visit: http://www.reactdefense.com/
Gracie United is another popular class also dedicated to teaching women's self defense. It focuses on techniques using the martial art of Gracie Jiu Jitsu.
For more information about classes in Phoenix visit: http://gracieunitedaz.com/womens-self-defense/