A woman who fought off an attacker a year ago offers the self-defense techniques that worked for her.

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IN THE YEAR since Kelly Herron fought off an assault in a Golden Gardens bathroom on a break from a long run, she has spent a lot of time making sure other women know the essentials that helped her:

Hard bones, soft spots. She drove her forearm into her attacker’s eyes and ears. “Be more trouble than you’re worth,” she says.

Trust your instincts. If you get the creeps, with goose bumps and the hair on the back of your neck standing up, trust that. “If something feels wrong, it is wrong,” she says.

Fighting Chance Seattle


React immediately. She was backed into a corner, so she tried to spin away to show him she was going to put up a fight.

Be loud, and fight hard. There’s a time and a place to use your words, and that situation was it.

Herron shared these tips recently at a self-defense class held at her place of work, RealSelf, an online marketplace for elective cosmetic procedures. She took a self-defense workshop here three weeks before her attack.

I’d taken a self-defense course before, but it’d been a few years. I not only wanted a refresher; I also wanted to know the most important lessons Herron learned from that workshop to help fend off her attacker.

After Herron spoke, instructor Jordan Giarratano from Fighting Chance Seattle talked about the basics of consent and boundaries.

Fighting is the ultimate “no,” he says. Fighting also happens in your body, and he wanted us to experience what it felt like to say “yes” or “no” to people. I practiced asking my partner, Sweetwater, for a hug. We both said “no” to hugs, and laughed about it; it reminded me of the times I have hugged someone when I didn’t want to.

“No” requires trust, Giarratano says. In our culture, we typically think “no” is rejection and “yes” is acceptance. “No” is telling someone exactly what you want, he says; it means you respect my autonomy, and I trust you to respect my autonomy.

“Self-defense begins with believing you have the right to say ‘no,’ ” he says.

We did more boundary work, facing our partners and stopping them at the distance of stranger, friend, loved one. Boundaries keep you safe enough to know whom to let in, he says. You fight back when boundaries are not respected.

We also worked on saying a soft “no” versus a hard “no.” He gave the example of a stranger asking to borrow your cellphone, and how someone might push your boundaries with a soft “no” (“I’m sorry; I can’t loan you my cellphone”), compared to a “no” where you stand tall and assert yourself.

Lastly, we did the physical part of self-defense, practicing a fighting stance with one foot forward and one foot back, and elbows in front of your torso to create a barricade. We practiced palm strikes with a striking pad. It felt good to yell “No!” as I hit the pad.

We also did strikes with our forearms, and Giarratano reiterated what Herron shared about hitting soft spots like the eyes or throat. Attackers might not let go if you kick them in the shins or stomp on their feet. Instead, the key is to be violent and explosive when the attacker changes a grip or stance. It’s difficult to hold down someone trying violently to resist, Giarratano says. Screaming also lets an attacker know the risk is high, and the clock is ticking before someone intervenes.

“Go crazy, and show you’re not going to give up,” Herron says.