Self-defense: What you can do when seconds matter

News 6 anchors Lisa Bell, Ginger Gadsden and Julie Broughton learn safety tips

ORLANDO, Fla. – Two women have been attacked in Central Florida in recent weeks -- one as she was arriving home for the night, the other as she was enjoying a book in a park.

News 6 wanted to get results for our viewers and help make sure the women of Central Florida know how to stay safe. So anchors Lisa Bell, Ginger Gadsden and Julie Broughton went to a local self-defense class to find out what you can do when seconds matter.

The overwhelming message? It's not about brute strength -- it's all about body mechanics when you're taking on someone bigger and stronger than you.

"The first thing you need to be is aware," said former Lake Mary police officer and self-defense expert Zach Hudson. "Your awareness will put you ahead of the curve. If you're behind that curve, your chances of survival become less."

Hudson said most people don't know how they're going to react in a crisis until something happens. That's why it's so important to practice ahead of time, so it's a gut reaction if the worst happens.

"You need to accept the possibility that this could happen to you. If you deny that possibility, the chances of you becoming a victim are much higher," Hudson said.

He said one of the best ways to prevent an attack is to be aware of your surroundings at all times.

"If you're in public, you have to be on, not off, mentally," Hudson said.

But if an attacker does come at you, self-defense and martial arts trainer Mike Friedman said knowing how to use your body to your advantage could save your life.

"We're not here to win, we're here to survive," he said.

Friedman has three important rules to remember.

"We want to neutralize the threat, we want to create overwhelming pain and fear in your attacker, and we want to make it so that he can't protect himself," Friedman said.

You want to do that while protecting your own head. But you have to remember to do all of that in just the few seconds that you have to react, so which most are most effective?

Friedman said heel palms, elbow strikes and knee strikes do a lot of damage and can be an equalizer.

"Knee strikes are a move that can incapacitate your attacker long enough for you to get away," Friedman said.

"But if someone points a gun at your head, would you still recommend fighting back physically like this if you don't have a weapon?" Bell asked.

"I tell my wife, I would rather her do whatever she can to survive right then and there than go with someone, because your chances of surviving an attack when you go with somebody are much much lower," Hudson said.

In that situation, Friedman showed Bell how she could move the attacker's arm so that the gun was pointed away from her body before using some of the moves they practiced in class, such as the heel palm, to break the attacker's eye contact with her. Then, she could use her elbow to help take him down to the ground. She could then pin him down using her knee in the back of his arm, giving her a chance to take away his weapon and call for help.

Both experts said at the end of the day, knowing the technique is great, but it's really going to be your emotions and your fight that will be the difference between life and death.

"By you showing aggression, being prepared to defend yourself, most attackers don't want to deal with that," Hudson said. "He's probably not expecting you to fight back, either. He's expecting you to surrender."

Hudson has a message for those who think they can't take on an attacker.

“Anybody can do this if your desire is to survive an incident.”