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Self-Defense advice for commuters

Just another day on the CTA. Crowded CTA buses are the perfect environment for pickpockets to work their trade Photo credit:  by Dane Brian via Creative Commons
Just another day on the CTA. Crowded CTA buses are the perfect environment for pickpockets to work their trade Photo credit: by Dane Brian via Creative Commons

I was recently asked by Science of Skill to respond to the question below.

*Q: “My wife commutes nearly one hour to and from work, and she works in the city where I am afraid something might happen. Do you advise women to carry mace? What other women’s self defense advice do you have?”

My response: The first suggestion would be for his wife to take a self-defense class. It should focus more on learning to improve personal and situational awareness, than on physical self-defense. Being able to physically defend yourself is great, but it takes more time to learn than how to avoid putting yourself in danger in the first place.

The use of pepper spray/mace is a good defense tool when you take the time to train with it. This means going outside with the wind at your back and actually firing it. You need to see how it works. Don’t depend on the description on the package or the fact that you just bought it to assume it functions and works the way it says it does.

The husband doesn’t mention whether his wife commutes by car or public transportation. There are different things to watch for depending on which mode of transportation she is using.

Driving into the city usually means having to park in a parking garage of one type or another. Very few parking lots are totally secure so here are a few tips to keep you safe.

1. When you arrive park as close as you can to the pedestrian exit you are going to use.

2. Make sure your car is locked before you leave and have your mace/pepper spray on your key ring where you can use it quickly.

3. Focus on what is going on around you. Try not to use your phone or any other electronic devices that may distract you or attract a robber.

4. If you enter or exit using an elevator, pay attention to who gets on with you, or who is in it before you enter. If you don’t feel comfortable getting on wait for the next one and if someone enters who looks suspicious get off.

5. When returning have your keys in your hand and scan the area near your vehicle. If someone is loitering nearby you may want to leave and alert security. If you decide to go to your car have your mace/pepper spray in your hand and be prepared to use it.

6. Lock the doors immediately after entering, start the car, pull out of your spot and leave the area. You can put on your seat belt before you drive out of the garage.

When using public transportation and walking to and from work:

1. You should minimize distractions by not focusing all your attention on your phone or tablet. These devices attract robbers especially when they see that the owner is focused on the device and not on what is going on around them and who is nearby.

2. Limit the wearing of earbuds or headphones, which would keep you from hearing someone approaching from behind.

3. If you are using your phone or tablet on public transportation look at the faces of the people standing near you. Do they suddenly turn their faces away? When you see this type of behavior you need to start paying very close attention to where they are and what they are doing, especially when your bus or train is approaching a stop because this is when thieves will strike.

To read the entire article at Science of Skill click here.

You can sign up for private and semi-private Act in Self Defense classes by calling 847-910-2169 or email

If you are interested in a Personal Safety/Self-Defense Class for you, your high school, college, business, or organization contact me at or call 847-910-2169

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Ed Kress
For over 40 years Ed Kress has been an instructor and student at the Degerberg Academy of Martial Arts, named "Best Overall Martial Arts School” worldwide by Black Belt Magazine. Master Fred Degerberg awarded Ed his 7th degree Black Belt in 2015. Growing up on Chicago’s Southside, Ed learned early in life to pay attention to his surroundings in order to avoid potentially dangerous people and situations. With the help of local law enforcement officers and directors of campus security, Ed developed a program focused on personal safety on the streets, and as it relates to the high school and college experience. Ed has trained thousands of adult men and women as well as high school and college students to improve their personal and situational awareness and, when necessary, how to physically defend themselves using their brains and a wide variety of martial arts techniques.

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