Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men. That's the spirit of the season.
Unless those men are trying to attack you, in which case the spirit turns to protection.
"You're thinking festive, but you should be thinking self-defense," said Tommy Seigler, the owner and instructor at Seigler's Kempo & Jiu-Jitsu in Martinez, who held a self-defense seminar for women last weekend.
"During the holidays, it gets dark at about 5:30 or 6 o'clock, and the bad element, well, they're not (necessarily) out at 12 during the day. The shady characters come out during the night," Mr. Seigler explained. "You've always got that bad element, but this time of year, when you're carrying more money, you're going shopping more, while you're more festive, you've got to be more careful."
Those who prey on the unsuspecting public don't take the holidays off, Mr. Seigler said, which is why practicing safety tips such as being aware of your surroundings, not being alone in dark, unpatrolled places and limiting cash is so invaluable.
That isn't all a person can do, however.
"Nobody thinks their car is going to break down; that's why you need to keep the jumper cables," Mr. Seigler said. "Just as you learn how to swim, you have to learn how to defend yourself."
About 11 women of different ages and degrees of training met Saturday afternoon to learn some protection tactics.
It wasn't all clawing or screaming, but rather how to use their own weight and strength to fend off an attacker.
Their main focus: to create space, specifically from a lying or pinned position, in the case of an attack.
"You want to create space so that you can get a kick or a punch in," Mr. Seigler explained. "Or just to get away."
Not enough can be said about getting away.
"You're not going to try to fight it out with the guy," he told the group. "You're just trying to get yourself back in control."
Even though the lesson gave techniques on rolling and the importance of never turning your back on an attacker, for the most part, a lot of self-defense doesn't have to be taught.
"We just have an instinct to defend ourselves," Mr. Seigler said. "You can take two kids and say whoever gets to this toy first can have it, and they'll go up to it and pull it out of each others' hands. That's natural. We know how to compete. It's just the stakes are higher when it comes to a self-defense situation."
The purpose of every class that Mr. Seigler and his wife, Jennifer, teach, particularly last weekend's, is honing that natural impulse.
"If you can just mold that natural instinct, channel it, by working it in step-by-step method, it's just a better way to do something you already know," Mr. Seigler said.
Even if a woman doesn't walk away a black belt, she definitely walks away more confident, Mrs. Seigler said.
"The ladies all come back saying they know a lot more, that they are feeling a lot more empowered," she said.
Susan McKinnon, of Augusta, who participated in Saturday's training and a previous self-defense class, was one of them.
"I imagine if I was in a real situation I'd know what to do it and do it unconsciously," she said.
"It'd be a reflex, automatic," said her friend and classmate Gaynor Knapp, of Evans. "You're busy, a lot of us aren't looking around, you're shopping trying to get things for the holidays. You're not expecting (an attack)."
Expecting it or not, the women felt they'd be ready for whatever comes their way.
"That's the reason to take the class," Ms. McKinnon said. "You never know when you're going to need it."
Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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