We were asked to provide a self defence course for a dog walking group, after the recent shocking murder of a local pensioner stabbed in woodlands in East Harling, Norfolk, an area used by the the Merry-Go-Round Agility group.
The first thing to add is that attacks like this are extremely rare and there is nothing to be gained from living in fear. They did the right thing to be proactive in their personal safety, finding a local self defence instructor to teach them effective ways of keeping themselves safe whilst walking their dogs.
So what do we teach a group of ladies who have never done any martial arts before? Something super simple!
Dog walking and situational awareness
Identifying a potential threat early is one of the best starts to self defence, if there is no way of avoiding the situation then next step is to take the appropriate course of action.
Naturally when you are familiar with your surroundings, you tend to switch off. A simple game you can play similar is to “pursuit driving” – called “commentary walking”. All it involves is describing your journey – talking, but quietly, you don’t want to draw unnecessary attention to yourself.
Pick out potential threats and vulnerable points until you can do this without talking. It does take a bit of time and practice before you can effectively do this.
Short stick method
It is not illegal to carry a stick unless it has been tailored for use as a weapon. It is very useful for finding lost dog balls and whacking nasty people if they have the intent of causing you serious harm.
We decided the best thing to teach them, which is quick and super simple, is two-handed stick used by the Commando units in the second world war. Very similar to the bayonet drill, easy to learn and very effective; no matter how big the the opponent is. Within a few minutes they took to it with growing confidence and great enthusiasm.
We looked at the UK laws on self defence, covering the usual: the use of reasonable, justifiable and proportionate levels of force. Our session finished by making sure they knew how to give a statement to the police.
We covered a lot in two hours but it’s important to practice skills learned, keep repeating the lessons so the reactions become instinctive and awareness becomes second nature. So their homework is to train for 15 minutes after every dog agility class and and visit us once a month so we can check skills, from there we can build upon the knowledge already given to them.