Running Safety

By Samantha A. Demers, Cranston RI

As a personal trainer, I often like to drive my clients with a mix of traditional exercises, kettlebells, resistance bands, and marital arts techniques. Being a certified self-defense instructor in the art of Kuntao Jiu- Jitsu, I apply the principles of my self-defense training throughout my life. While challenging my clients by running outside, I remain aware of the safety in numbers and always schedule these runs in the daylight. As I was developing a passion for triathlons, I found myself running alone at any hours that were available – typically early morning or late in the evenings, specifically not in the daylight.

Remaining focused on my safety, I always follow the precautions of safe running; running against traffic, carrying my phone in case of an emergency, avoiding dimly lit areas, wearing clothing that makes me visible to others, carrying a flashlight, or even using an application on my phone to stay visible on the roads. But what if we adhere to all these precautions and still find ourselves in an unwanted situation. Would you know what to do?

This is where the knowledge of basic realistic self-defense can help any athlete.

If possible, the first thing you want to do is try to remove yourself from the situation and not get into a physical altercation. If you are unable to run away, here are three self-defense concepts for your safety. These can be used individually or in combination.

The first is to “Listen to your intuition”, the second is “Be aware of your surroundings”, and the third is to “Fight Back”. Let’s take a look at each of these, but first let me emphasize that the primary objective is to get away safely. If you can avoid ANY contact/altercation, by running away, take that measure first.

1.)  Listen to Your Intuition

That little voice inside our heads, our inner being, the thing we end up trying to rationalize with, analyze, or worse, just completely ignore as we get older, is always right!


You want to try a different path on your run, you want to explore that area, but for some reason you feel a negative vibe, a warning, but you don’t know why.

You see somebody a block away from you and you get an uneasy feeling, do you brush it off, and ignore it, or do you trust the warning and run a different route?

Your intuition, your guidance system, is always right, do what feels good to you.

2.)  Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Paying attention to what and who is around you, as well as where you are heading, is not paranoid behavior. Not everyone is out to hurt you, but being mindful of your safety, may allow you to avoid a life-threatening situation. Remaining aware of your surroundings includes not talking on the phone in a public place and not wearing headphones while running/walking so you can hear people running, riding, or driving around you.


If you do come against someone approaching from the opposite direction, it is recommended to give that person a wide berth. Be sure to acknowledge the person’s presence. Not only is it a courteous thing to do, but also it shows confidence and assertiveness.

An assailant wants an easy, timid, and vulnerable target. Showing confidence, even by a look or head nod, may prevent a self-defense situation.

3.)  Fight Back

Know that you have the right to protect yourself, and in certain situations, a physical self-defense is needed. Having a predetermined self-defense game plan or an emergency response technique (ERT) will aide your self-defense.

Your emergency response technique should be a quick technique that will help you to get to safety as quickly as possible.  Below are three highly effective strikes that should be practiced safely and with proper equipment.  If you do not have martial arts equipment, such as mitt pads or a punching bag, a pillow can also be used to help you practice.  After you practice the strikes below, determine which feels most comfortable to you and let that be your go-to strike, your Emergency Response Technique.


1. Stand in your self-defense striking stance:

a. Stand with your dominant leg back and feet shoulder-width apart.  Your hands are up and open toward your adversary.

2. Make a fist with your dominant hand by clenching your hand.  Use the meaty part of the side of your hand to strike down on your adversary’s nose like a hammer.

3. Exhale and rotate your core and hips to give full power as you strike.



1. Stand in your self-defense striking stance.

2. Use the heel of your palm to strike your adversary in the face.

3. Exhale and rotate your core and hips to give full power.



safety4Finger Poke/ Face Rake

1. Stand in your self-defense striking stance.

2. Using all four fingers, throw your hand out to strike your adversary’s eyes.

3. With your nails, scratch the adversary’s face.

The Face Rake has a great secondary benefit, by providing a means to identify the assailant later with the marks left on their face.

What is your favorite strike? What will be your ERT?

Write to me and let me know what you are predetermined to use: [email protected] 

About The Author

Samantha A. Demers is an A.C.E. Certified Personal Trainer, a First Degree Black Belt, triathlete, and a certified instructor at The Academy of Kuntao Jiu-Jitsu: Realistic Self-Defense Training & Fitness Center in Cranston, Rhode Island.


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