CRESTVIEW — Recent local Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office seminars provided several women with tactics to protect themselves.
Ashley Bailey, who attended the Fort Walton Beach class, said, they try to hold the class three or four times a year. She is with the OCSO Crime Prevention Department.
She said the classes have taught hundreds of women self-protection. Previous attendees have also come back for refresher courses, and brought others with them: mothers and daughters, friends and relatives.
"It's a great, empowering class, and it's great for women to come out and feel empowered to learn how to protect themselves," she said.
At the Crestview session, attendees warmed up for a few minutes, then instruction began.
They learned how to maintain their balance during an attack. For instance, standing on one leg and lifting the other up for leverage while swinging at an assailant makes it easy for them to pull you off balance.
In addition to physical defense, Amanda Powell, Gordon Martial Arts program director, covered the potential issue of women ignoring their instincts out of politeness.
"(Never) ignore that alarm that goes off inside of you, because we try to be so nice to people and give people the benefit of the doubt ... Do not feel bad for feeling uncomfortable or feeling like something's wrong ... If you feel odd, if you feel an alarm, you should listen to that alarm."
She gave an example of being at a gas station and someone approaching her suspiciously. It is important to call attention to that person and identify their intentions.
To illustrate her point, she backed away rapidly and held up her hands up in front of her, palms outward, loudly saying, "Hi sir, how you doing? Can I help you with something?"
Call attention to them, she said. It may be weird, but safety is priority.
"Let him worry about why I'm being weird, right? I'd rather be overly precautious than underprecautious," she said.
That person may stop and check on you, and ask, "I'm just throwing this trash away — are you okay?" she said. But if that person doesn't acknowledge you and keeps moving toward you, start backing up and preparing yourself.
Powell told attendees if they see other people, especially other women in a dangerous situation, never be afraid to call the cops or feel guilty for identifying someone to authorities.
"It is so much better to send somebody out there to investigate or to do their portion of their job, than to not do anything and then there's an issue later on," she said.