Four Things I Learned from the 1Touch Self-Defense Project

In March, I attended the AFB Leadership Conference in Alexandria, Virginia. One of the numerous workshop sessions on the agenda that I found interesting was on the 1Touch Self-Defense Project. I had taken a self-defense class for people with visual impairments, but it was many years ago, and I have to admit I was pretty rusty on the topic and even more on the physical techniques. So, I decided to attend the class to get a refresher and update my skills and knowledge. The session was only for about an hour, but I learned a wealth of information that I want to share with you in this post.

A picture of Empish doing a self-defense move with her hands near her shoulders

Four Things I Learned from the 1Touch Project™

#1: Reasons Why Visually Impaired People Don’t Learn Self-Defense

At the beginning of the session, the instructor shared his martial arts background and how he started the 1Touch Project™. After, he posed a question to the group: “Why is it that people with visual impairments don’t take self-defense classes?” Some participants said it was a lack of transportation; Others said a lack of interest or awareness, while others said that maybe newly blind people might be fearful about leaving their homes and don’t feel safe venturing out in public. Many of us agreed that there is a perceived fear that carrying a white cane and/or being blind makes you more vulnerable and at higher risk to be a victim of a violent crime. This, of course, is not necessarily true, but it is an assumption people have that can make life challenging for those of us with vision loss. We learned that this is one of the primary reasons the instructor started the 1Touch Project™—he wanted to help people with disabilities, particularly those with visual impairments, be able to feel safe and defend themselves.

#2: Don’t Assume an Initial Interaction Is an Attack

The next thing I learned was not to assume that an initial interaction from a stranger is an attack. In the conference room, we partnered up and practiced lightly touching each other on the arm, hand, and shoulder. Sometimes, when people touch you, they are just overly zealous to help a “blind person” or just overly friendly in nature. Just because a person approaches you and touches you in some kind of way, does not automatically mean that they are trying to harm you. I found this to be a totally different way of thinking about how people approach me.

#3: Physical Techniques to Defuse the Situation

A side view of Empish demonstrating a self-defense stance with her feet apart and her hands up near her shoulders

During the session, we learned physical techniques to help defuse the situation in order to reclaim our body and personal space. For example, if a person touches your arm or shoulder, you place your hand on their hand and gently, but firmly, remove it. This lets the person know that although you acknowledge the interaction, it is not appropriate for them to come into your personal space without your permission. Additionally, placing your hand over their hand lets you know the exact location of their body as it relates to yours and the position of their hand. For example, are they facing you or turned to the side of you? Are they touching you with their left or right hand (which can be determined by touching their thumb)? This information is very helpful because if the situation were to be threatening, you would have key information to act in order to defend yourself.

#4: How to Keep a Steady Stance

Another physical technique I learned was how to place my legs. Stepping back with my right leg while keeping my left leg steady helps me get ready to defend myself. I can then use my hands to further defend myself from my attacker. I realized that this technique is not a natural one and that practicing will improve my balance, formation, and reaction time.

Before we knew it, the session was over, and everyone was still geared up to learn more techniques and ask more questions. I think this goes to show that the topic of self-defense is an important one that needs continuous exploration and conversation. People with visual impairments have a right to feel safe in their neighborhoods and communities. If you want to learn more about the 1Touch Project™, visit their website.

Talk to your medical doctor and eye doctor before participating in any self-defense program. Some eye and medical conditions can be affected by athletic activity that includes bending, lifting, straining, or pulling.

Self-Defense for Individuals with Vision Loss

The 1Touch Project™: Personal Safety for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

“Sightless Self-Defense” Can Help You Stay Safe

Dealing with Crime or Domestic Violence As a Person with a Disability