The hair grab, chokehold, bear hug, arm grab, and ground attack are the five most common attacks a woman will encounter.
Angela Dennis is an instructor at Full Spectrum Defense, teaching the simple and memorable ways a woman can escape an assault - or better yet - the instincts to avoid them altogether.
With bystander apathy becoming the new norm, Dennis has made it her mission to educate and demonstrate the importance of situational awareness and how to plan a successful escape.
The theory that bystanders are less likely to respond to a person in distress if other people are present isn’t new, but it’s certainly taken a darker turn. We live in a world where witnesses prioritize recording an assault over offering assistance or calling emergency services.
How did we get here?
One thing is abundantly clear – as we head out into the world, we’re on our own on any given day.
According to Statistics Canada, the national homicide rate increased by seven per cent from 1.83 homicides per 100,000 population in 2019 to 1.95 in 2020.
Dennis has been actively training and studying martial arts and self defence tactics for the better part of a decade. Her women's self defence courses are offered for girls ages 12 and up, at any fitness level. The goal is to provide “awareness and preparedness in different situations and environments.”
Women are trained to identify threat levels and the importance of maintaining a safe physical distance while using quick thinking to implement a safe escape. She says self defense is about more than being physically ready for potentially dangerous situations; it’s also about listening to your gut.
Dennis focuses her efforts on teaching women how to defend themselves from common attacks, using common sense and repetition. Testing throughout the sessions allows participants to create muscle memory.
“There is no one specific woman who would benefit more; everyone will benefit. I look at this course as being similar to a first aid course. You learn basic skills to assist in the moment. Our courses teach basic awareness and ways to create openings to escape.”
The program was created six years ago by the martial arts specialists at Heritage Martial Arts. “[It was] designed and then incorporated into the Full Spectrum Defense business model as a separate company,” said Dennis.
“There was a need, and a gap, in the martial arts world that did not specifically deal with just self defence,” she added. So, based on statistics, the courses were created “using the martial arts techniques that can be taught in a short period.”
“The feedback we have received has all been positive. Women leave feeling energized and empowered,” Dennis told CityNews.
And to Dennis, the emphasis must be on the safe escape. The escape is demonstrated in various scenarios throughout the course with a clear message: never turn your back to your attacker.
“As with any skill, we suggest you work on them continually. Most women leave stating they are going to go home and try it on a loved one,” she joked. “We suggest you come back for a refresher with us at least once a year.”
Dennis admits that, thankfully, she has personally never had to use the physical techniques taught. However, she said this is likely due to her continued self-awareness, a critical component of the course.
“The single most important thing a woman can do if she feels unsafe or uneasy about a situation is to leave and get to a safe space.”
Dennis offers the courses approximately every four to six weeks; find out more here.