Krav Maga Illinois featured in Redeye Chicago

It’s a situation in which no one hopes to find themselves.

You lace up your sneakers and head out for a run, perhaps before or after work. It’s supposed to be relaxing and rewarding, but in the most unfortunate of circumstances, it can be life-threatening.

With the right self-defense skills, however, it’s possible to feel safer on any run.

Sue Garstki is the owner of Krav Maga Illinois. She’s only 5-foot-2, but she could kick your ass. The 54-year-old, who has been teaching Krav Maga for 12 years, said the fighting technique is based on the “body’s natural response to threat, this self-defense system is one that can be accessible to anybody in any situation.”

Gartstki said her goal is to help her students feel safer in any setting. She recalls a story told to her by one of her students about a time when the student was running and was attacked by a bicyclist, someone she had seen earlier in her run but had dismissed in her mind.

“Being prepared, just having the thought that something could happen is in your favor,” Garstki said. “Even just consciously thinking about it can help you.”

For her students, self-defense training can make a world of difference. Stacey Shrago began training two years ago to better defend herself and her son. Reflecting back on her life, the 45-year-old Deerfield resident recalled situations where her training could have helped her.

“There was one scenario where I was being choked by a close friend, and knowing what I know now, I could have defended myself,” Shrago said. “Krav Maga can really help anyone. It gave me my life back and helped me stop being afraid.”

Aneta Chmur of Niles started training with Garstki a year ago after working as a bartender and wanting to feel safer at work.

“In any situation, there’s no guarantee of safety,” said Chmur, 37. She used to avoid going for runs on her own, but after learning self-defense techniques, she feels secure. “Now I’m more confident, and I know I’m prepared for whatever.”

While Shrago doesn’t run, she worries for the runners in her neighborhood who could be caught unaware.

“How can they be safe?” she said. “If you’re running, you’re in the zone and you’re not looking at what’s going on around you.”

While they’re already engaged in the No. 1 self-defense technique—running—there are actions runners can take to prepare themselves for the worst of circumstances.

Garstki broke down these Krav Maga techniques to keep in mind should the worst happen: 

Choke from the front with a push

In this scenario, the runner is pushed backward by the attacker, with the attacker’s hands on their throat. Step back with your left and shoot your right arm to the sky, locking your elbow and squeezing against your ear. Turn sharply to the left, putting pressure on the attacker’s wrist to remove it from your throat. Bring your skyward hand sharply down, driving your elbow downward while your other hand comes up to grab the attacker’s wrist. Deliver elbow strikes to the attacker’s head to enable yourself to run away.

Grab from behind

If someone wraps their hands around your waist from behind, immediately widen your stance and bend your knees, just as you would naturally if someone surprised you. Lean slightly forward to create space (easy to remember: base and space). Twist your elbows back to the left and then the right, delivering blows to your attacker’s head. With space created between you and your attacker, turn around and place both your hands on one of the assailant’s shoulders, with your forearms down against the assailant. Drive your knee into your attacker’s stomach and groin, then push them away from you and run to safety.

Ground fighting stance

This scenario is commonly portrayed in horror movies as the victim attempts (unsuccessfully) to crawl away. As soon as you are pushed forward onto your stomach, turn yourself over. Plant one foot on the ground and raise the one closest to the attacker above you, delivering a kick to the face. Then push yourself off the ground and run.


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