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Protect yourself with these personal safety tips from Debbie Baxter Robison

Debbie Baxter Robison bemoans the fact that education on personal safety often falls on the bottom of the priority list for busy women.

Robison is a Columbus native who moved to Montgomery, Ala., but she has traveled to Columbus for the past few months to teach self-defense in Columbus State University's continuing education program.

She is a second-degree Black Belt in the art of Bujikan Ninjutsu. She earned the honorary title of Shidoshi-ho, or "teacher of the Bujikan." Her business is called Thorn of the Rose, and she teaches basic self-defense to anyone, but primarily women.

"My own father was murdered when I just turned 16. He fell feet from his gun," Robison said. "I'm teaching not to rely on a gun."

She teaches women to "fight with what's around you. As you move about the room, the weapon changes."

Her courses are all about the basics. Can you get home? "I want them to get home," she said.

You don't have to be fast or strong to learn her techniques. She's trained a woman in her 70's, for example. "If you can pick up an ink pen, you can do it," Robison said.

During a standard basic course, she teaches the following principles:

Awareness: being aware of your surroundings, your "three lines of defense"

Mental Attacks: self-esteem and mental control. What gets you mentally gets you physically.

Distance and Timing: how to get out of the way and ride the opponents' energy.

Wrist Grabs: Learn leverage and how strength is not as issue.

When Someone Grabs You: Using body dynamics to escape.

Chokes: How to keep your air, and obvious ways out.

Ground Fighting/Rape Scenarios: Escaping and using the ground itself as a weapon.

Purse Snatching: How a simple circle can make him let go!

Car Jack Scenarios: Using your keys and other items in your car as weapons, including the car itself.

Defense Against Knives: How to defend against various attacks, demonstrated with training knives.

Gun Attacks: Where your safe zones are and aren't. Several "what-if" scenarios.

Improvised Weapons: Common household items that can be used for defense.

If you have awareness and know your exits and weapons, you should stay out of situations that will require fighting techniques, Robison said. She also recommends following common sense safety rules like not going downtown at midnight or not talking to strangers.

A simple technique she explained and demonstrated to a visitor is how to get out of wrist grabs. No matter how strong the person is, "go that way." In other words, walk toward the person who's grabbing you, instead of trying to pull away. When you walk toward him, you break his momentum and make it more difficult to hold on to you.

Another simple step is when you're being choked, avoid your instinct to throw your head back. Robison said if you bring your chin down, you get your air back and trap the hands of your assailant.

When going to your car, hold your key out. If attacked, "pop and slide" the key on the assailant. "This hurts more, and you're getting DNA," Robison said. "Then, drop the keys and back off."

If someone is following you out in the country and bumps your car, don't pull over, she advised. Keep going until you get to a public place. For this and other reasons, always make sure you have plenty of gas in your car.

These techniques are pretty simple, Robison said, adding, "It's so difficult to get anybody in here." People think they're too busy, or don't think they need it. Many of us don't want to think about getting into a dangerous scenario, but once you learn how simple it is, you're hooked, Robison said.

Robison has a new set of courses starting Feb. 2 at the Continuing Education center at CSU. Basic classes are 10-11 a.m. that day, and advanced will be taught 11-noon. Contact her at 334-669-7673 for more information.