“Eyes, ears, groin, bite.”
I repeat this phrase over and over again until finally it’s committed to memory. Following each reprise is a demonstration of eye jabs, ankle stomps, groin slaps and knee strikes, all of which I practice while yelling “Fire!”
This is self-defense with Leta Krieger.
Krieger is a retired law enforcement officer with a deep-seeded passion for women’s safety. While working in her former roles as street officer, school resource officer and crime prevention officer, Krieger founded A Harder Target, LLC. The self-defense program serves young girls and women throughout Coastal Virginia and prepares them for real-life danger through education and practical application.
Today’s class is hosted at Rants Ballroom Company in Virginia Beach. As I enter the private studio, Krieger welcomes us with ice cold water and pizza. I grab a slice, settle in to a seat in front of the monitor and am immediately consumed by Krieger’s introductory presentation. She rattles off disturbing findings behind local and national crime that leave me wondering why I hadn’t taken this course sooner. Like the assault victims in Krieger’s presentation, I have run alone, used a public restroom and imbibed at a college party. These seemingly normal scenarios now call for significant action and preparation.
After learning the ropes, we’re ready to try our hand at self-defense moves. We begin in what Krieger calls the victim to victor stance—legs staggered and sturdy, hands raised just above the chest. Krieger explains that this stance not only allows you to transition into a handful of self-defense tactics but creates distance between yourself and the perpetrator as well as communicates danger to onlookers.
What Krieger asks us to do next seems strange and admittedly uncomfortable at first. “Just yell fire,” she advises. A chorus of timid “Fire” shouts arise from the group, growing louder and louder with Krieger’s encouragement. Finding your voice is a fundamental piece to self-defense, explains Krieger. It gives you confidence, intimidates the offender and attracts the attention of others. She adds that yelling fire, from a statistical standpoint, has been proven to draw more attention than screaming help.
As we yell fire, stop, get back and a slew of other commands, we put into action our jabs and strikes toward Krieger. She stands strong as her punching bag absorbs the impact from our repeated kicks and punches. The movements that seemed awkward at the beginning of class are now executed with strength and confidence. Our bond as a group grows stronger too as we partner up to practice our escapes from chokeholds and restraints.
These two and a half hours of training have taught me a life’s worth of lessons. The street-smarts I had when I walked in the door are now strengthened by preparedness. Thanks to Krieger, we all left the ballroom with our heads a little higher and our senses more alert, ready to lead a life of confidence.
To learn more about Leta Krieger and A Harder Target, visit AHarderTarget.com.