"You've got hoodlums everywhere you live," Tennessee Highway Patrol Lt. Christina Faulkner said, warning the class of 16 women and a teenage boy not to be complacent about safety, even in a small town like Lewisburg.
The instruction ranged from how to walk - with your head up, confidently making eye contact with people you meet - to how to get away from someone who grabs you around the neck or by the arm.
"If you practice, you'll remember it and you'll use it," Faulkner said. "Think about it and find out what's best for you."
The self defense lessons were taught Saturday morning at NHC Lewisburg on West Commerce street.
The class divided into pairs to try the moves on one another. The boy, who came to the class with his mother and sisters, came in handy to demonstrate what it really feels like to have a man, with his extra height and superior upper body strength, grab you.
"Don't get in a car," Faulkner exclaimed. You have a 75 percent chance of surviving if you get away from someone who grabs you in a parking lot, but only a 25 percent chance if they get you into a vehicle, she explained.
Walking to your car, Faulkner told the class, you should have your keys in hand, held between the fingers as an improvised weapon, with your thumb near the alarm button on the key fob (if you have one). Once inside the vehicle, lock the doors immediately. This not only keeps strangers from getting in with you, it increases the strength of the side of your car by 40 percent as you're driving down the road.
"I am not the answer," Faulkner said, urging class members to think for themselves and become safety conscious.
A mother was worried about her daughter's safety when she was running, training for a marathon. Faulkner and the group discussed this and came up with several suggestions: Don't run on the road; Carry a loud metal whistle to alert people she needs help; Only have a headphone in one ear, so the other ear can listen to what's going on around her; Always have Freeze Plus P (a self-defense spray) with her; and, Vary her routine, so a potential stalker can't predict where and when she'll be running, but always inform her family where she's going and when she'll be back.
Even in our own homes, there are ways to be safer, such as having an evacuation plan in case of fire and a designated meeting place for family members after they have left the home. If you shelter from a tornado, be sure to take a mattress, pillows or a comforter to help protect you from falling debris.
Faulkner doesn't recommend guns for protection in the home. "A baseball bat and an iron skillet" are good weapons, she said, and so is wasp spray, which can be used on an intruder from 20 feet away.
"You have to help yourself," Faulkner concluded, and group members dispersed into the bright spring sunshine, perhaps heading for a store to buy some wasp spray -- not forgetting to walk through the parking lot with keys in hand and senses alert for potential danger.