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A 6-year-old escaped a would-be abductor’s wrist grab

By Rochelle E. Brenner

It is every parent’s nightmare. Both mom and dad are in the house. The 6-year-old is doing a helpful chore - taking out the trash. In that short trip to the sidewalk, a man touches her and tries to pull her away by the wrist.

But the amazing thing: She got away and it’s all caught on a home security camera. There’s a viral video of the Ohio girl screaming, and follow-up news reports about the man’s arrest and calls for teaching child safety. The video looks like the self defense technique we practice in karate all the time called "thrusting salute" to defend against a single wrist grab. We were practicing it in class yesterday just hours before the news broke.

For the real-life scenario, the little girl did everything right:

1- She screamed.

2- She pulled.

3- She used her arms and feet to gain leverage despite his obvious strength and size advantage.

4- She reacted immediately.

The question is: would your child react that quickly? If you’re not sure, now is the time to talk to them. I have no idea whether this little girl ever trained in martial arts, but her parents told Good Morning America they had advised her on what to do.

As a third-degree black belt and martial arts instructor, I want to personally congratulate and admire this girl and share strategies that will help other children too. Here’s what you should tell your child today:

1- Being loud is often the best self-defense move. Your most powerful weapon is your voice.

2- You don’t have to be “nice” if an adult makes you uncomfortable. If an adult is trying to pull you somewhere, a child’s instinct is to follow the adult’s lead. It’s better to scream and run and make that person uncomfortable and deal with those consequences. If it was innocent, nice adults will be impressed at your fast action, not mad.

3- Don’t wait. React with everything you’ve got immediately. Every second that goes by elevates the danger.

4- There are techniques that help to gain leverage. For example in a single wrist grab, if you step back at the same time that you turn your wrist over so your palm faces the sky and pull back, it becomes much easier to break free. It looks like she did that while screaming which was enough to overwhelm a man who didn’t have a back-up plan and didn’t expect a fight.

5- Immediately get help. Get witnesses. Get neighbors. Find a mom. In this case the girl went into her own house but in another case walking alone you would have to find someone as quickly as possible as close as possible.

The specific attack of a single wrist grab is taught to every single one of our students and all have to practice it and test on it starting at age 6. It is a requirement for the Black Belt test.

The parents said her scream is forever etched in their minds. The scream on the video also serves as a chilling alarm for the rest of us to reiterate these personal safety messages to your children – girls and boys.

The link below is to the full Good Morning America story which includes an interview with the girl and her parents, the terrifying video, and advice from Callahan Walsh, a child advocate at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

He said:

"We've been analyzing attempted abductions for over a decade at the National Center for Missing Exploited Children and we know that over 83% of the time, when a child is able to get away from their would-be abductor, it's something that they did proactively, like kicking, screaming or pulling away, exactly what she did in this case. She's the reason why she's home safe tonight.”

Many people worry about teaching these things to their kids because they are too young or it’s too scary.

Walsh, the child advocate, said that it’s up to each household. But, “We suggest to start young. As they get older, so should the messaging.”

If you’re not sure where to start, there are many child safety resources and martial arts instructors that can help. We teach students to shout “Stop Stay Back” when they practice every technique. A bloodcurdling scream is also very good. The practice reminds them to breathe and use their voice in a self-defense situation.

Here is the full video:

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