One of my first article ideas when I came to YouBeauty was to write about a self-defense class. After almost eight years in New York City and 25 as a confirmed very short person, I have to admit that I have no idea how to protect myself aside from the advice I’ve always been given: run. Finally, I met with Avital Zeisler, the creator of the Soteria Method and a life coach-slash-trainer who wants to lead women on a journey to “fitness, self-defense, and empowerment.” The method uses a mix of hand-to-hand combat and therapy-like mental technique. The goal is to turn your own body – as well as any items that surround you like shoes, purse, even a chair – as a weapon, because that’s all you’ll have in case of attack. The method aims to get you emotionally and physically ready to protect yourself against an attacker. It’s serious and difficult to think about, which is why Avital was such an exciting trainer.

I’ve always imagined self-defense classes as one-and-done workshops, teaching women how to best kick a man in the balls or throw a decent punch before sending us on our merry way to live in fear forever. As Zeisler explained to me, the Soteria Method is more of a lifestyle – which means she doesn’t expect you to learn every move or feel comfortable with potentially gouging a man’s eyes out in one session. This line of thinking is especially helpful, because as soon as she put me in my “Survival Stance” I had a million terrifying scenarios running through my mind. (The first of which was: How would I ever remember my Survival Stance should I actually need it?) Avital assured me that over time and with proper mental training, your muscle memory will kick in when in need. To attempt a survival stance: stand at a 45-degree angle with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, then raise your arms to shoulder level and put your hands up to guard your face. All of the Soteria Method moves begin from a version of this stance, so it’s the first thing you have to nail and the most important to remember. The course slowly builds up from there, and Avital is nurturing enough not to give you more than you can handle.

We worked through a series of moves that ranged in difficulty and emotional intensity. Avital taught me how to use my (small!) height to my advantage and punch an attacker from below, as well as how to kick if you’re attacked while laying on your back. Multiple reps of each – in heels – makes for a great workout as well as a training course. While I don’t relish the idea of swapping my fun, relaxing spin-and-yoga routine for regular self-defense sessions, I love the idea of taking my safety into my own hands, purse, chair, and heels.

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