Self-Defense Beyond the Key chain

Nicole Mistretta


She read the directions and had confidence in operating her pepper spray key chain. It boiled down to “turn this part” and “push the button down.” When the time came, those simple instructions turned complex as she struggled to turn off the safety on the device. Thankfully, the man who stood in front of her meant her no harm. It was her self-defense teacher, Justin Buford, who taught her the importance of a backup plan and training.

51-year-old Buford, former police officer and current owner and chief instructor at Acadiana Krav Maga, often recounts that story when discussing self-defense key chains. Buford believes protection tools can be a great source of comfort but without proper training, they may not work.

“It can’t be the end all be all of your self-defense. You have to have a backup plan. Nothing ever goes exactly as you hoped,” said Buford.

UL Lafayette Animation Student Jamie Bergeron has that exact fear. Bergeron, always armed with pepper spray and an alarm, said she worries about her next step should the pepper spray malfunction or no one responds to the sound of the alarm. Bergeron said while her protection accessory makes her feel safer, she admits she never practiced using it.

“No tool is 100% effective all the time. With training, the chance increases. If you don’t get any training, you’ve got a 50/50 chance it’ll work. With training its 75% to 80% chance of working,” said Buford.

Protection tools are only as good as a situation allows them to be, according to Buford. Even if a protection tool is used properly, depending on the person, it may have little to no effect. He said if a tool like pepper spray or a Taser has been used on an attacker before, the adrenaline rush and determination may allow them to continue their attack.

An attacker looks for the least resistance possible. Buford said women need to be confident, strong, positive and attentive.

“Don’t look meek and demure. If you look strong, they’ll choose someone else,” said Buford.

Jojo Matt, a 21-year-old animation student, said she flashes her pepper spray out in the open in order to deter someone who may be watching. Buford said a determined predator will go into fight or flight when they see a defensive weapon. Flashing it in the open means committing to using it, especially since the attacker then knows how to take it away.

“This is reality. There is evil inside some people,” said Buford.

According to Buford, a predator can cover 10 feet per second. Once an attacker reaches their target, the only thing left to do is fight back. He said even if women don’t want to commit to a defense class, the bare minimum should be watching a few self-defense videos on YouTube.

Eyal Yanikov, the highest ranking practitioner of Krav Maga in the world, shows how women can protect themselves against attackers in various situations.

As a proponent of the Second Amendment, Buford believes people have a right to protect themselves. However, Buford’s biggest piece of advice in how to protect oneself is not to be there at all.

“If it doesn’t feel right, get out of that situation,” said Buford.

For situations where it might be difficult to leave, Buford suggests finding someone in uniform, returning to the place you came from, or find another person or group to blend in with.

“Remember, there’s safety in numbers. Who gets it most of the time in the horror movies? The person who is by themselves, because that’s actual predator nature,” said Buford.

While Bergeron and Matt have never used their protection tools or taken self-defense classes, they agree the tools make them feel safer.

Buford reminds women to check protection accessories before buying because some tools are not allowed in certain states. According to Buford, the packaging should disclose where it is legal.

20-year-old Michelle Lee, a UL Lafayette animation student, said her Taser is not allowed on campus. While Lee said she practiced using the Taser, she never has it on her because of the regulation.

“Nothing is being done about harassment of women and we’re just kind of tired of it. We want to be able to defend ourselves,” said Lee.

According to Buford, men are also at risk. If an attacker has the means, motive and opportunity to assault them, men should attempt to deescalate the situation or defend themselves.

Acadiana Krav Maga offers a women’s self-defense class the first Thursday of every month for $25. The two-hour class focuses on defense techniques and procedures. For additional information visit the official website.

  • a red taser which looks like just a regular flashlight
  • a pink bottle of pepper spray attached to a set of keys

UL students’ personal protection accessories

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