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This blog is where we'll post new articles, videos and information about upcoming training programs.

Are your solar eclipse sunglasses counterfeit?

Safe way to view an eclipse photo by Mark Mathosian / Flickr

The solar eclipse on August 21st will be the first to cross the entire United States in almost 100 years.

Millions of people will be descending on areas of the United States that many people have never heard of before, hoping to catch a glimpse of the full solar eclipse. Some of them may end up being partially blinded due to using counterfeit sunglasses purchased over the internet.

Serious damage to your eyes can result from looking at the eclipse directly, with glasses that aren’t specifically designed for viewing, or with counterfeit viewers that are flooding the market.

Preventblindness.org says that exposing your eyes to the sun without proper eye protection during a solar eclipse can cause “eclipse blindness” or retinal burns, also known as solar retinopathy. This exposure to the light can cause damage or even destroy cells in the retina (the back of the eye) that transmit what you see to the brain. This damage can be temporary or permanent and occurs with no pain. It can take a few hours to a few days after viewing the solar eclipse to realize the damage that has occurred.

It is important that you make sure the eclipse glasses you purchased or are about to purchase are the real deal.

How do you know if your eclipse glasses are safe and not counterfeit?

The American Astronomical Society previously advised people to look for evidence that the glasses comply with international safety standards for filters of direct viewing of the sun by ensuring the following was printed on the glasses: ISO 12312-2.

The American Astronomical Society says it is no longer enough to check for ISO certification on eclipse glasses. Make sure they come from a reputable vendor also.

“But now the marketplace is being flooded by counterfeit eclipse glasses that are labeled as if they’re ISO-compliant when in fact they are not,” AAS said. “Even more unfortunately, unscrupulous vendors can grab the ISO logo off the internet and put it on their products and packaging even if their eclipse glasses or viewers haven’t been properly tested.”

Nasa and the American Astronomical Society describe in great detail where to buy your eclipse glasses and from whom. So click on the above link to the AAS to find the names of reputable vendors.

USA Today posted some tips from the American Astronomical Society:

• Don’t search for eclipse glasses on the internet and then buy whatever pops up in the ads or search results. Check the society’s list of reputable vendors before buying: eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters.

• Check to see what you can see through the glasses. You shouldn’t be able to see anything through a safe solar filter except the sun itself or something comparably bright, such as a bright halogen light bulb. If you can see lights of more ordinary brightness, and you’re not sure the product came from a reputable vendor, it’s no good.

• If you glance at the sun through your solar filter and find it uncomfortably bright, out of focus, and/or surrounded by a bright haze, it’s no good.

• If you get your glasses from a friend who happens to be an astronomer, they’re probably compliant. That’s also usually the case with products fromprofessional astronomical organizations, such as college and university physics and astronomy departments, and amateur-astronomy clubs.

• If you suspect that you got bad glasses, ask the seller for a refund or credit and replace them with a product from a reputable vendor.

• Before using your glasses, inspect them. If scratched, punctured, torn, or otherwise damaged, discard them.

• Read and follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the filter.

• Supervise children using solar filters.

Find more safety tips at https://aas.org or https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety.

You can sign up for Act in Self Defense classes at: fonsecamartialarts.com/self-defense

If you are interested in a Personal Safety/Self-Defense Class for you, your child’s high school, college, business, or organization contact me at ekress@ameritech.net.

Self-Defense Workshop Sunday Aug. 27, 12:00pm

Please join me and 2 time Illinois State Wrestling Champion and Olympic training partner Max Schneider for this Personal Safety/Self-Defense Workshop. You will learn strategies for identifying and avoiding potentially dangerous people, places and situations: and how to physically defend yourself.

This personal safety workshop will focus on personal awareness, situational awareness and self-defense techniques. You will train in a variety of attack scenarios taken from current crime reporting, situations that you might encounter while at work, home, school or while out shopping.

It Doesn’t Matter What Age You Are Or What Shape You Are In!

The class has been designed to take advantage of the strengths and skills you have already developed. You will learn to use your brain, voice and body to avoid potentially dangerous people and situations and to physically defend yourself when necessary using a wide variety of self-defense techniques from a dozen different fighting arts.

In edition you will learn how to…

Control your fear
Deal with verbal and physical threats
Avoid Date-rape drugs
Identify verbal techniques predators use to lower your defenses
Defend against a variety of attacks including grabs from in front, behind and how to fight from the ground.

Register for this Self-Defense Workshop at bit.ly/2vqSwhL

Thousands of adult men and women as well as high school and college students have learned how to improve their personal and situational awareness and to physically defend themselves using a wide variety of Martial Arts techniques.

Weekly Self-Defense Classes for Adult Men, Women and teens age 14 and older are taught Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings 7:30pm – 8:30 pm and Saturday from 3:00pm – 4:00pm

You will learn how to identify and avoid potentially dangerous people, places and situations at work, school, home and on the streets.

You can sign up for Act in Self Defense classes at: fonsecamartialarts.com/self-defense

If you are interested in a Personal Safety/Self-Defense Class for you, your child’s high school, college, business, or organization contact me at ekress@ameritech.net.

Personal Safety: How close is too close?

Examining boundary setting and understanding the concept of personal space with North Park University incoming freshmen class. August 2016

Examining boundary setting and understanding the concept of personal space with North Park University incoming freshmen class. August 2016

In a series of Self-Defense workshops at several High schools and universities, which included North Park University, Loyola Academy, and GCE Lab School, we discussed the concept of personal space. I asked volunteers to come forward and participate in a demonstration of what personal space means to them. In each case the volunteer walked toward me and stopped approximately 2 and a half to 3 feet away from me. They had selected their personal space in what was a safe environment. I then entered that space, in effect breaking the boundary they had set unconsciously. In each case the student would either lean away or retreat to maintain, what they now understood to be their personal space.

We continued the exercise with all the students standing about 20 feet apart.

How close is too close? What boundary distance would you set between you and someone you don’t know


I asked one group to walk toward the other until their partner located across from them put their hand up indicating they would like them to stop.

In the first scenario they were asked to imagine that they were in the middle of campus on a warm, clear day, with plenty of people around who appeared to be fellow students. I asked them how much personal space they would want between them and someone they didn’t know.

How much space would you want between you and a stranger?


You can see that under that scenario the personal space required by the students is rather close. The same might be expected of anyone in a similar scenario, such as walking along a busy street with a number of retail stores or a shopping mall.

In the second scenario the students were asked to imagine they were walking alone along a street in the evening with mostly closed businesses and apartment buildings. Coming down the sidewalk was someone they didn’t know. They couldn’t tell if they were good or not. They were asked how much apace they would want between them and the stranger as they passed on the sidewalk. In the group below the distance chosen was approximately 6 feet.

in the evening it is just you and a stranger passing each other on the sidewalk. How much space do want between you and them?

How much space would you want? Most sidewalks won’t even allow 6 feet of space while passing someone. What would you have to do to if you wanted more space? The easiest way to create more space is to cross the street.

What should be your response to someone entering your personal space?

That would depend on the environment and the circumstances. If you are walking along a busy street in a shopping district, standing in a crowded bar/restaurant, or taking public transportation during rush hour your ability to maintain your preferred space is going to be hard, if not impossible to do. This is where you need to raise, not lower, your awareness of who is standing or walking nearby you. Pick pockets love to work these types of environments.

The major takeaway here is that when you establish your personal space you have set a boundary. If you allow someone to break that boundary they may feel empowered to take further liberties, such as putting their hands on you.

You are at greater risk of physical injury when alone and a stranger attempts to get too close and breaking the personal space boundary that you have established. Stepping back into a bladed, or guarded stance, with your lead hand extended in front of you as demonstrated below, can in many cases, taking this guarded stance can dissuade a potential attacker from continuing their advance into your personal space. If it doesn’t cause them to stop at least your hands and body are positioned to protect you and to strike if necessary.

Lead hand should extend out away from the body at eye level with the rear hand slightly in front of your face as a 2nd line of defense.

Understanding personal space and how it relates to your personal safety is just one step in the journey to improving your personal and situational awareness and to avoid becoming another crime statistic.

Thousands of adult men and women as well as high school and college students have learned how to improve their personal and situational awareness and to physically defend themselves using a wide variety of Martial Arts techniques.

Self-Defense Classes for Adult Men, Women and teens age 14 and older are taught Monday evenings, 7:00pm – 8:00pm Tuesday, and Thursday evenings 7:30pm – 8:30 pm and Saturday from 3:00pm – 4:00pm

You will learn how to identify and avoid potentially dangerous people, places and situations at work, school, home and on the streets.

You can sign up for Act in Self Defense classes at: fonsecamartialarts.com/self-defense

If you are interested in a Personal Safety/Self-Defense Class for you, your child’s high school, college, business, or organization contact me at ekress@ameritech.net.

Self Defense Workshop

I will be leading another Act in Self-Defense Workshop at Fonseca Martial Arts in 823 Chicago ave, Evanston, IL 60202 on Saturday February 11th, at 3:00pm.

I have included some previously written articles about important self-defense topics I may not have time to cover during the Self-Defense Workshop. Just click on the links below.

1. Recognizing Pre Attack Indicators

2. Beware of Predators Using Boundary Lowering Tactics

3. Self Defense Advice for Commuters. Continue reading Self Defense Workshop

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 Act in Self Defense classes at: fonsecamartialarts.com/self-defense

Weekly Self-Defense Classes for Adult Men & Women and teens age 15 and older are taught Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings 7:30pm – 8:30 pm and Saturday from 3:00pm – 4:00pm

If you are interested in a Personal Safety/Self-Defense Class for you, your high school, college, business, or organization contact me at ekress@ameritech.net.

Halloween safety: Beware of distracted drivers

It is dark, the weather is bad and drivers are distracted. Halloween by kreg.steppe

It is dark, the weather is bad and drivers are distracted. Halloween by kreg.steppe

Halloween is fast approaching so over the next few days I am recycling several articles on Halloween Safety.

Whether you are taking your kids trick or treating this Halloween or you are out with friends, when it comes time to cross the street, don’t assume that just because you have the right of way, that the oncoming car is going to stop.  They may just keep right on coming. 
Why?  Its’ probably because the driver is totally distracted by the phone conversation they are having or the text they are trying to read. 

The statistics are more frightening than any Halloween costume.

According to Distraction.Gov:

1. In 2014, 3,179 people were killed, and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

2. Ten percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. This age group has the largest proportion of driv­ers who were distracted at the time of the crashes.

3.Drivers in their 20s are 23 percent of drivers in all fatal crashes, but are 27 percent of the distracted drivers and 38 percent of the dis­tracted drivers who were using cell phones in fatal crashes.

A Chicago Tribune article from a few years ago explains it all.

Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

A University of Utah study found that a driver using a cell phone while driving, either hand-held or hands-free, delays a person’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol level at the legal limit of .08 percent.

What can you do to keep you and your family from becoming a statistic?

1) Make sure that you keep your eyes on the cars as they approach the intersection.

2) Be sure that the car comes to a complete stop before you step before you step in front of it.

3) Look at the face of the driver and try to make some eye contact.

4) If you can’t see the driver’s face because they are glancing at the text message they are sending or receiving, don’t enter the intersection.

5) If you see the driver with a phone in their ear, even though this is illegal, they are probably paying more attention to their conversation than they are to you.

Just because you have the right to cross the street doesn’t mean you should.  You may be in the right.  You just don’t want to be dead right!

You can sign up for Act in Self Defense classes at: http://www.fonsecamartialarts.com/self-defense

If you are interested in a Personal Safety/Self-Defense Class for you, your high school, college, business, or organization contact me at ekress@ameritech.net.

3 Things you can do to attract a robber.

CTA Fullerton "L" Station_ by davidwilson 1949

CTA Fullerton “L” Station_ by davidwilson 1949

What is the best way to attract the attention of robbers when going to or from work or school in the city?

It’s really very simple, just follow these 3 simple rules.

1. Walk down the sidewalk, stand on L platforms or at bus-stops and focus all your attention on your smartphone or tablet.

2. Don’t look up to see if anyone is sizing you up to be their next victim.

3. Limit your ability to hear someone coming up from behind you by wearing headphones or earbuds.

If you follow these rules you have a good chance of ending up like the robbery victims in the recent Chicago Sun-Times article below.

Chicago Police are warning people who walk or commute in the Loop about a series of recent robberies on sidewalks and CTA platforms.

The suspects walk up to victims from behind and rip their cellphones or headphones away, sometimes using force, according to a community alert from Area Central detectives.

The robberies happened:

about 1:30 a.m. March 6 in the 0-100 block of East Randolph;
about 7:30 p.m. March 17 in the 100 block of North State;
about 10:15 p.m. March 31 in the 0-100 block of South Wabash;
about 9:25 p.m. April 1 in the 0-100 block of East Lake;
about 9:35 p.m. April 1 in the 0-100 block of South Dearborn; and
about 11:40 a.m. April 4 in the 100 block of North Wabash.

The suspects, described as black males between 10 and 23, work in a group or individually, police said.

Anyone with information should call detectives at (312) 747-8384.

Based on the limited reporting I have read it doesn’t appear that anyone was hurt during the robberies, but why take the risk of losing your property and being seriously injured?

For more articles related to strong arm robberies and how to avoid being targeted click here

Awareness is the Key to your Safety!

Instagram used to target college students

It has been a busy 1st quarter leading Personal Safety and Self-Defense Workshops for hundreds of high school and college students in Chicago and surrounding suburbs.

Many of the high school students heading off to college next fall are well versed in using Social Media, but aren’t quite as knowledgeable about the potential dangers they face when using it. I do spend a few minutes covering this topic in class, but this article published by the Orange County Register gives a great example of the dangers inherent in using social media.

For those of you who are too busy to read the entire article I have listed a few key points below.

1. A maintenance worker targeted at least 33 women, police say, all college students, tracking their movements through social media and then burglarizing their apartments and houses.

2. The accused spotted his victims in public places, then immediately tried to locate them on Instagram.

3. Police believe he would see a woman in a coffee shop, a mall or while out working. He would then see if she geotagged the location. If so, police said, he would follow the Internet trail and find photos of the woman taken at her home – if she didn’t disable the geotag, he could easily get her address, embedded in the photos.

4. Police say Arturo Galvan is accused of stealing more than $256,000 in electronics, jewelry and clothing. He stole laptops, jewelry and underwear from Chapman University and Cal State Fullerton students.

5. If Instagram profiles are public, users can see where photos were taken. Users also can pull geographical information from the photos, such as coordinates. Students said the incidents have left them reflecting on the importance of privacy settings and not always posting their whereabouts.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office has tips to safeguard your information:

• Never upload pictures that have location data embedded in them. Experts recommend turning off the location services feature on your smartphone.
• Never post your location.
• Never take pictures that include credit card receipts or bills.
• Never take pictures that show your car’s license plate or obvious landmarks close to where you live.
• Never drop a pin on Google Maps showing where you are.
• Never “check in” or post about your everyday routine or the details (time or location) of vacations.
• Never associate your account with your address or cellphone number.
• Never share or post date of birth, home address, Social Security or phone numbers.
• Never post details regarding where children go to school.
• Never give anyone permission to see your social media profile unless you know them.

The Personal Safety and Self-Defense workshops that I lead are a combination of lecture, role play, and some very basic physical self-defense training. The focus is to help students improve their personal and situational awareness and teach them how to identify and avoid potentially dangerous people, places and situations; at school, home, work and on the street.

You can sign up for Act in Self Defense classes at: http://www.fonsecamartialarts.com/self-defense

If you are interested in a Personal Safety/Self-Defense Class for you, your high school, college, business, or organization contact me at ekress@ameritech.net.

75-year old army veteran saved kids from knife wielding attacker

James Vernon recuperating the lacerations he sustained to his left arm while thwarting a knife attack. Vernon, 75, disarmed Dustin Brown of the two knifes he intended to kill children with when he entered a classroom at Morton Public Library Tuesday. — ROBERT DOWNEN / PEKIN DAILY TIMES

James Vernon recuperating the lacerations he sustained to his left arm while thwarting a knife attack. Vernon, 75, disarmed Dustin Brown of the two knifes he intended to kill children with when he entered a classroom at Morton Public Library Tuesday. — ROBERT DOWNEN / PEKIN DAILY TIMES

Would you have had a clue how to handle a situation like the one James Vernon faced last Tuesday October 13th, when a knife wielding attacker blocked the only door to the library room holding sixteen children and a handful of mothers and chess teacher James Vernon.

He was volunteering his time as a chess teacher at the Morton Public Library when a man holding a hunting knive in each hand screamed, “I’m going to kill some people!”

Dustin Brown, 19, specifically wanted to kill children Tuesday at Morton Public Library, he said after the would-be victims escaped safely.

What follows came from an article in the Pekin Times

How did he handle the situation?

1. He remained calm and engaged the attacker verbally trying to calm him down by asking questions. Why risk injury if there is a non-violent alternative?

I tried to talk to him. I tried to settle him down,” he said. “I didn’t, but I did deflect his attention” from the children “and calmed him a bit. I asked him if he was from Morton, did he go to high school. I asked what his problem was. He said his life sucks. That’s a quote.

2. He continued to engage the attacker verbally as he moved closer to him, putting himself between the attacker and the children.

As Vernon spoke, he stepped closer to Brown. “He backed away when I’d get closer.” With a few steps, Vernon put himself between Brown and the room’s door, with the children under the tables behind him.

I gave them the cue to get the heck out of there, and, boy, they did that! Quick, like rabbits,” Vernon said.

3. Once the kids were clear he focused all his attention on the attacker looking for clues which might aid him should the situation turn violent.

There were no more potential victims in the room. He focused on me. There was no more talking,” but Vernon watched what Brown did with his knives and learned.

I knew he was right-handed. He was whittling on his left arm” with the one in that hand, “making small cuts. He was trying to scare me, and he did.” But if Brown attacked, “I knew which hand it was coming from.”

4. He remembered the first rule of combat: Be fast and vigorous.

Brown slashed from the right towards Vernon, who blocked the blade with his left hand. “I should have hit his wrist. That’s how you’re trained, but it’s been half a century,” he said.
First rule of combat: Be fast and vigorous,” said Vernon, who was trained but never served in combat.

5. When you get in a knife fight you are going to get cut and he was cut severly, but he limited his injuries to his left arm and closed with his attacker immediately.

Vernon’s medium build was enough to overcome his smaller attacker.
I grabbed him and threw … Somehow he wound up on a table” with the knife in his left hand pinned under his body, Vernon said. “I hit him on the (right) collarbone with my closed hand” until Brown, his arm numbed by the blows, dropped that knife.

Vernon, “bleeding pretty good,” held him until a library employee arrived to remove the knives and help keep Brown pinned until police officers and paramedics arrived.

Thank you Mr. Vernon! You are a real hero!

Recognizing Pre-Attack Indicators

Chicago street photography - The Magnificent Mile by Kevin Dooley via creative commons.

Chicago street photography – The Magnificent Mile by Kevin Dooley via creative commons.

In order to avoid potentially dangerous people you need to know what to look for. What types of behaviors should you be looking for when walking down the street?

This edited list of Pre-Attack Indicators comes courtesy of: Protective Concepts.

Suspicious Signs — Recognizing Pre-Attack Indicators

Signaling between people – in particular people who otherwise appear disconnected.  This signaling may be as subtle as a nod or gesture but often marks the “target verification stage”.  Target verification is the point where the assailants determine you are the correct target in a pre-planned attack, kidnapping, or that you are a suitable target for a more opportunistic crime.

Correlation of movement – as with surveillance detection, persons that appear to be moving when you move, perhaps in parallel to you or perpendicular to cross your path.

Movement to interrupt your path – building on the bullet above, persons move toward you so that they will interrupt your path of movement.  This is often done on a diagonal such as someone crossing the street in a diagonal path towards you.

Focusing on you intently or inappropriately  – people (and in particular people who previously appeared to be disconnected) suddenly focusing on you intently or appearing to take an interest in you in a way that’s inappropriate given the circumstances.

Concealing hands/awkward movement – when hands are concealed in pockets or under clothing they may be concealing a weapon.  Also an arm held tight against one side of the body may be to secure a firearm in the waistband.  Likewise an awkward or unnatural gait may indicate a concealed weapon under clothing.

Pressing forearm against side – in line with the bullet above this may be a covert check to ensure that weapon, most likely a firearm, is in place

Nervous glances/looking over their shoulder – this is often a last minute check by assailants to ensure exit routes are clear and that no third parties such as police are in the area and may interfere.  This type of movement often immediately precedes an attack.

You won’t notice these pre-attack indicators if you aren’t paying attention to what is going on around you. Looking down at your phone while texting, or having headphones on or earbuds in distract you.

Keep your head up and your eyes and ears open.

You can sign up for Act in Self Defense classes at: http://www.fonsecamartialarts.com/self-defense If you are interested in a Personal Safety/Self-Defense Class for you, your high school, college, business, or organization contact me at ekress@ameritech.net.