LITTLE RIVER — Little River Police Chief Chad Johanning will lead a free women's self-defense class starting at 1 p.m. Feb. 16 in the commons area of Little River High School.

The class will include going over safety tips like staying in well-lit areas; having your keys ready when you go to your vehicle and finding out who is at your door before opening it.

"Be aware of your surroundings, watch out for other people, don't put yourself in (unknown) situations," Johanning said.

Other tips for personal safety include creating distance between you and a suspicious person and keeping your hands free. Avoid being trapped in an elevator or other enclosed space with someone who makes you nervous.

"Always look for an exit. That's what I teach my kid and my wife," Johanning said.

Keeping an eye on your environment and those around you can go a long in sensing trouble before it happens. If you feel something is wrong in a situation, leave.

"Go with your gut feeling — if you feel uncomfortable, always trust your gut," Johanning said.

Johanning's son will don a padded suit so that participants can practice hitting a person.

"A lot of people have never hit somebody," Johanning said.

When in danger, being unafraid to strike out can give a person an advantage and reduce their chance of being a victim.

"Don't be nice. It's not a time to be nice," Johanning said. "If somebody's there to hurt you, you've got to hurt them back."

Videos on self-defense techniques to escape from attackers will also be shown during the class.

"If someone does put you in a bear hug, don't be afraid to break their fingers to get out," Johanning said.

Johanning also plans to discuss the pros and cons of self-defense items.

"Tools are always made to malfunction. Don't rely on a tool," Johanning said.

Even common self-defense products such as pepper spray have drawbacks — it does not have the same effect on everyone and can hamper your own efforts to get away.

"Pepper spray is great — the only thing is you've got to think about which way the wind is blowing," Johanning said.

Johanning emphasized the class will focus on basic tips for safety and self defense.

"I'm not a professional trainer," Johanning said. "...Nobody's going to come out looking like Bruce Lee."

The women's self-defense class is open to participants outside of Little River. For more information, call 620-897-6444.

Contact Patricia Middleton by email at pmiddleton@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MiddleSentinel.