Learning how to avoid being a victim of an attack can be the first step towards surviving an attack.

Whether it is in the parking lot of Walmart or taking a nice run on the Cape Fear River Trail, these are just a few places where women tend to fall victim to an attacker.

To better educate and provide a prevention tool to Fort Bragg spouses, the Army Community Service has partnered with Asheville Integrated Combatives out of Asheville, N.C. to provide Women’s Total Self-Defense classes at various on-post housing communities each month.

This program was established, to make the dependent spouses feel safer while their spouses are deployed.

“The name Total Self-Defense was developed by ACS, but they had contacted us about coming up with a class format for the self-defense classes taught here at Fort Bragg,” said Steve Ledford, self-defense instructor, “We already had developed a four-hour class in Asheville specifically for women so we just modified the program to cater to the group of women here.   We are teaching things that are in compliance with Fort Bragg regulations specifically in terms of pepper spray and other things like that because we are not allowed to teach them here,” he explained.

During the four-hour block of instruction, spouses learn to use their body to fight off an attacker despite their size and strength levels.  The first and most valuable lesson that Ledford teaches the participants is not to panic when under attack.

“Although this is easier said than done, we discuss with the women in the event that they   are under attack, it is not about the physical training but about the psychological training.

The class teaches women to prep themselves mentally in the event of an attack by trying to get the brain into active mode instead of freeze mode,” he said.

While the participants had no prior experience in a self-defense course, they said the class taught them some valuable skills and techniques that they could use in the event of an attack.

“Most of the women that we train we see them for one to two classes, which is about four to eight hours. This is it. That is probably the most training that they will ever do in their life unfortunately,” said Ledford.  He added that typically, women are usually attacked by a larger man, so the attacker tends to seek out victims who he thinks he can easily overpower. For this demographic of women, Ledford focused on developing things that were easy to learn in a short timeframe and not dependant on strength to fight back. Rather than going over 50 different techniques and having participants try to remember which techniques goes with which attack, he opted for simplicity. “We try to teach more about the concepts and theories of self-defense like what are the best targets to attack and how to attack those as well as how to control a bigger person,” he said.

An avid runner who runs the river trail, often alone, class participant Diana Eshelman had heard about some not so good things that have happened along the trail. Upon hearing about this class from a friend, she thought it would be a good opportunity to learn how to defend herself in the event of a bad situation.

“A lot of this course is about your mindset. Now I know what areas to focus on if ever I am attacked,” said Eshelman. “Although I maybe small in stature, I am still able to beat the crap out of someone by just using a few of the techniques that we learned in the class.”

For a spouse who pondered the question of how she would protect herself in the event that her husband was away, the class provided the answer to her question.

“You learn confidence and how to defend yourself without having to feel that you are less or weak and cannot do anything,” said Ana Reyes, class participant, “People sometimes think that we (woman) are helpless, but after this course, I feel like I can defend myself because the techniques were easy to remember and I no longer feel like I am weak.”