Self Defense Tips

francaLocal jui jitsu instructor gives his top self defense tips

Seated behind the desk of his East Cliff Drive dojo, jui jitsu instructor Claudio Franca explains that it is not always possible to protect oneself or prevent an attack.

“Unfortunately, sometimes you don’t have a choice,” he says in a thick Brazilian accent. “Twelve o’clock, Downtown Santa Cruz … sometimes you can’t [prevent an attack],” he adds, referencing the May 7 fatal stabbing of downtown business owner Shannon Collins that still has the community reeling.

In some circumstances, however, Franca assures that self-defense training can be helpful. “The idea is avoiding the confrontation,” he says. “Move away, call another person.”

Franca, who originates from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has been teaching the martial art for 25 years. He also teaches two women’s self defense classes a week at the Santa Cruz location and one a week at his Watsonville studio.

In light of the community’s concerns about public safety, Franca has offered to do free self defense workshops for any local groups, events, or businesses who request one. The first self-defense class taken at his studio is also free. “It’s always better to be alert,” he says, “but I don’t want people to be worried or paranoid.”  

Franca’s main tips for women (and men) are listed below.

1. Avoid the conflict. “If you are walking the street and you see a strange person, cross the street,” he says. He goes on to say that most attackers “are not brave men,” and that making eye contact or even verbally recognizing the person could lead him to pick another target.
2. Never turn your back on someone you think could be an attacker. If you want to cross the street or go the other direction, walk sideways or backward in order to keep your eyes on the person. Keep eye contact.
3. When walking down a street, never walk close to the wall or buildings. “People can hide in corners,” Franca says. “You need to have good vision of where you are walking [and that’s] closest to the street or in the street.”
4. In a parking lot or parking garage, stay in the aisles—do not walk between cars. Also, says Franca, stay alert when walking to your car. Don’t beeline for your vehicle after pressing the unlock button. “Unlock it, and then survey the area before entering,” he says. Once inside, lock your car.
5. Don’t scream for help. Scream “fire!” “It’s kind of sad, but it’s important—you don’t say ‘help’ because, unfortunately, people don’t come to ‘help,’” says Franca. “You say ‘fire! Fire!” People will come to see about the fire.”
6. Take a self-defense class, or study a martial art like jui jitsu. “I always tell my students, jui jitsu is like insurance—it’s good to have,” says Franca. His classes cover maneuvers for worst-case scenarios, including rape, choking, knife and gun attacks, and more.

Learn more at claudiofrancabjj.com.

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