Holiday shopping and crowds are part of the season. Unfortunately, some of the busiest times of the year in South Florida can also be field days for criminals.

Tony Hall, a former police officer, marine and current master martial arts instructor at East West Karate in Boca Raton, offers five safety tips that are sure to help The Fit Life readers stay in the holiday spirit.

Tip 1: Maintain attentiveness

“Whenever out and about, try and maintain a level of attentiveness,” Hall says.

He explains there are five general stages of awareness. Think of these color associations to better understand them, and aim to stay away from the white and black stages.

Yellow is being cautious and aware of your surroundings, but not overly paranoid.

Orange is when you actually see a conflict arising and take steps to avoid it. These steps might be as simple as changing your route home or just quickening your pace while walking.

Red is where you become confrontational and take defensive measures. This could mean engaging in a fight or simply saying, "stay away!”

White and black are the danger zones. White means being oblivious to your surroundings due to distractions, or even due to impairment. Examples include texting and walking, child distractions or intoxication. The white stage is one of the simplest to avoid.

Black is the panic stage, when your body shuts down and does not react to anything. You freeze up, you scream but no sound comes out. You pass out.

“The No. 1 way to avoid being in the black stage is to train your mind and body,” Hall says. “You can train your body training your muscles to react instead of freeze up. You can train your mind by visualizing scenarios and how you would react to them. Make sure you always win in your scenarios.”

Tip 2: Elevator Safety

When in an elevator, stand near the buttons. If you’re attacked inside the elevator, do not hit the stop button. Instead, push all the buttons. This way, the elevator will stop on all the floors and someone will hear you scream. The last thing you want is to stop the elevator mid-floor while you are being attacked.

Tip 3: The way you speak can help you stay strong

If you are attacked, use short, choppy sentences that get the point across. Instead of just screaming, yell: "No!" "Stay away!" "Leave me alone!” or "Help!" Sounds like common sense, but if you continuously yell these words during a struggle, oxygen will get to your muscles and brain and prevent you from getting tired and passing out.

And if someone hears you, they’ll be able to tell the difference between cries of danger and just screaming.

Tip 4: Make your strikes effective

When and if you have to strike your attacker, use basic skills: palm strikes, knee kicks to groin or torso, elbows, etc. When the fight-or-flight response kicks in, it’s much more difficult to use fine motor skills, such as eye gouges. Once your attacker is down, get away and run for help.

Continuing to attack him when he is down and unable to defend himself could land you in hot water with the police and courts.

Tip 5: Cardio fit equals safety fit

It is recommended that you do at least 30 minutes of cardio three times a week and be able to run at least a mile without stopping. This allows you to potentially outrun an attacker after an encounter.

Tony Hall is Southeast executive manager at East West Karate (19635 N. State Road 7, Suite 37, Boca Raton). For more information about the martial arts school, go to http://www.eastwestkarateboca.com/ or call 561/482-8220. 

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About Lisette
Lisette Hilton, president of Words Come Alive, has had the luxury of reporting on health, fitness and other hot topics for more than 23 years. The longtime Boca Raton resident, University of Florida graduate and fitness buff writes for local, regional and national publications and websites. Find out more on www.wordscomealive.com.