Free self-defense class keeps women running safely on trails

Ashley Tsao - AUSTIN (KXAN) - More than a dozen Austin runners showed up to a free self-defense class Sunday all sharing a similar fear -- not being able to protect themselves against sexual assault.

Lizette Melendez organized the event after hearing that three women were attacked at different times and spots along the Lady Bird Hike and Bike Trail in the past month. Her goal was to help fellow runners build confidence.

"It definitely gives you a boost up because without that, you're helpless," Melendez said. "You only depend on your cell phone to call police, which sometimes doesn't give you enough time."

These attacks linger in the minds of regular runners like Sara Ferniza.

"I'm concerned that it's not safe," Ferniza said.

To give runners that extra sense of security, Melendez invited the owner of Gracie Barra South Jiujitsu to lead the class.

There, owner Alexandra Santos taught the women fundamental skills - like how to break out of a headlock and subdue an attacker long enough to get away safely.

After the class, these women walked away with new techniques to keep them running safely.

"Don't mess with me because I know what to do," Ferniza said.

There will be another free self-defense class Oct. 15 at 9 a.m. at Ricky Guerrero Park.

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