Weekly self-defense class for women teaches preparedness

February 01, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

Late at night, halfway between the shopping mall and her car, Charlene Lentzner noticed a man following her across the parking lot.

"I ran to a family getting into their van and pretended I knew them," she said. "I was scared to death. If they hadn't been there, I don't know what would have happened."

Because she never wants to feel that vulnerable again, she began looking for a self-defense course, Ms. Lentzner said. "Every time you turn around, you hear about a woman being mugged or having her purse stolen," she said. "I am not that strong, but I want to defend myself from any would-be mugger."

The Gamber resident found several karate classes in the area but didn't want anything "that intense." When a friend told her of Allen Evans' more moderate approach tailored to women, she enrolled.

Mr. Evans, a second-degree black belt, is offering eight sessions of basic defense techniques through the Freedom Area Recreation Council.

"The way things are today with so much random violence, people need to be aware and able to take care of themselves," said Mr. Evans, who has studied karate for 10 years.

Ten women have enrolled in the course, which meets one hour a week at Freedom Elementary School on Route 32.

"Women really need a class like this, if they are going to avoid violence," said Angie Jackson of Sykesville.

Lynn Hastmann said she enrolled to "be aware and be prepared."

Mr. Evans designed the class, a combination of exercises and informal lectures, to help women avoid conflicts. He reinforces many practical notions to ensure safety at home and away.

"Keeping out of a dangerous situation is half the battle," he said. "No matter where you are or who you are with, be aware of your surroundings and assess your situation."

Before students pair off for physical exercises, Mr. Evans stresses safety skills. Self-defense is basically common sense, he said.

Criminals are on the lookout for the "perfect victim," he said.

"Don't make it easy for them," he said. "Train your eyesight, improve your perception, use your peripheral vision and know what is going on behind you.

"When you are out shopping, always know where your car is. Find a way to identify your vehicle and get to it quickly."

Eliminating baggage also helps protect shoppers.

"Keep packages at a minimum, lock the pocketbook in the car trunk and use your pockets for valuables," he said. "If a mugger can't see what you have, he can't take it."

Keys can serve to protect, he said. Keep them in your hands as you walk to your car, especially in isolated areas.

If you are forced into a confrontation, yell "Fire!" instead of "Help!"

"Fire will get more attention faster than anything," he said.

Apply similar wariness at home.

"Ask for identification and know who is at your door," he said. "Never give needless information over the phone."

Kelly Johnson said she is "home alone a lot" and small in stature. She is hoping the class gives her self-confidence.

If you are confronted, Mr. Evans said, "Look for your defense tools and barriers."

Anything can become a defense tool, he said, and related the story of a woman who was in her kitchen grooming her cat, when an assailant broke into her home. She threw the cat -- with its claws extended -- at the man. The ploy frightened the man away.

"Your goal should always be to get away if you can," Mr. Evans said. "If that fails, you must learn how to hurt someone who intends to hurt you."

With direction and demonstration from Mr. Evans and his 16-year-old son Jason, a first-degree black belt, the students are learning basic kicks, lunges, punches and quick getaways.

Hurt and run, said Mr. Evans, but make sure where you are running.

"Once you make somebody mad with a hit or kick, get away," he said.

In class, students practice in pairs, alternately playing victim and aggressor. Eventually, they also will work individually with "blast master," a punching bag.

The students laughed as Mr. Evans showed them how the bag is "a great way to deal with aggression."

The instructor urged students to practice to maintain skill levels.

"It seems easier in class," said Ms. Lentzner. "I have tried some of the maneuvers on my husband and I can't budge him. But, then, I have only had two classes."

If interest in the class continues, Mr. Evans said he would repeat it. He may add an advanced class for his present students or daylong seminars in self-defense.

Information: 795-0711.

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