February 1, 2016

First step to self-defense: Breathe

KarateJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Instructor Gary Busby demonstrates techniques for breaking away from an attacker Saturday with student Julie Barclay, of Groton, during a self defense course at the YMCA in Cortland.

Associate Editor

Here’s the first thing you need to do to protect yourself from an attacker: Breathe.
Sounds simple. It’s not. “The first thing they do is they hold their breath,” said Gary Busby, a martial arts instructor at the Cortland County Family YMCA, a few minutes before leading a self-defense seminar Saturday.
But really, he told the 10 participants and his eight students, the whole self-defense thing begins long before someone attacks. Be aware. “Stop a second; take a look,” he said.
And remember what your mother always hounded you about: good posture. Hold your back straight, your head up. Look around. Beyond being good for your body, it tells the people around you that you’re aware and ready to deal with whatever may come at you.
“How do you carry yourself?” he asked. “If you look like a victim, you’ll be one.”
While Busby didn’t mention this, that awareness thing is around the clock. Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics show that between 52 and 55 percent of the victims know their attackers. The figure is higher for women — up to 77 percent. So while Busby focused his seminar on what a teenager or young adult might encounter during a night out on the town, the reality is that violence can occur anywhere, anytime, and very likely from someone the victim knows.
“An attack is an attack,” Busby said. “It’s a violation of your personal body.”
Busby said potential victims need to know this: “Nobody has to be a victim. Nobody.”
That’s probably much like what Amanda Kruman’s father thought when he told her to attend. The 14-year-old Cortland girl brought her friend, 16-year-old Jenna Galeotti of Homer, with her.
“I’m driving by myself now,” Galeotti said. “I get scared.”
“And you’re a young, pretty girl,” Kruman told her. “You have to learn how to protect yourself.”
Simply struggling isn’t enough, Kruman learned. Busby grabbed her wrist; she couldn’t break free. “Fight against the thumb,” Busby said. Twisting your wrist to break the grip at the point where the thumb holds you doesn’t take strength, just the presence of mind to do it. Sometimes, using the other hand to smack a nerve cluster on the wrist may be necessary, or even just a little extra pressure to force the grip away from the hand.
“When a person grabs you, you have time,” Busby told his students. “Not much, but you have time.”
He demonstrated with a choke-hold from behind against Julie Barclay of Groton, then a technique to break a choke from the front. The idea, he said, is to use the hips to create torque, and then direct that energy to someplace effective.
Then get away.
“I thought this was a good idea,” said Barclay, who brought her 14-year-old daughter, Zoe, and her friend, 14-year-old Christie Smith. “It’s a very unsafe world out there.”
“And I have an interest in it,” Zoe added. “I read a lot of action books.”
Whatever happens, Busby said, turn the panic into action: “If you’ve got half a brain and think, you can do a lot.”

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