If there's any place to feel safe, it should be your own home. But after two Carmel Valley home invasion robberies in which a suspect confronted a female homeowner in their own garage, local women are feeling uneasy.
"Women in Carmel Valley are petrified," said one local resident who asked not to be named. "They don't want to go to the garage or take out the garbage."
Being strong, alert and confident are some of the most important weapons a woman can have in her arsenal, said Michael Mihalkanin, owner of MMA Academy in Sorrento Valley.
Mihalkanin said he doesn't want women to walk around completely paranoid but reminds them to just be alert; don't be an easy target.
Keep your head up - don't be focused on your cell phone conversation. Make eye contact with people, look around, he said.
"We teach awareness," Mihalkanin said. "People sometimes put their head in the sand and think 'that won't happen to me, I'll just avoid it and it'll go away.' That's not the best strategy."
The women in five linked robbery cases in San Diego County were all either victims of sexual assault or were threatened with sexual assault.
As April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, MMA Academy is hosting a Sexual Assault Awareness Seminar on April 18. The $25 entry fee will be completely donated to the Center for Community Solutions, which provides help to victims of rape and domestic violence.
The three-hour session, co-sponsored by the San Diego Police Department will teach women to kick, punch, elbow and bite their way out of danger. Instructors will don 40 pounds of padding and allow attendees to, well, show off what they've learned.
Mihalkanin said he teaches self-defense on three fronts: Academically, physically and emotionally.
"Emotionally because you get a little rocked when someone attacks you," said Mihalkanin of the experience with the padded instructor.
The session will also introduce attendees to Krav Maga, a defensive strategy used by over 500 law enforcement agencies. Krav Maga is basically "martial arts without the arts," Mihalkanin said. There are no rituals, choreography or postures, it's strictly about defending yourself.
MMA offers daily Krav Maga classes, which not only teach self-defense but are a work out too.
Self-defense for the family
The Carmel Valley Recreation Center also has a family self-defense offering in their spring program. Starting May 14, the class will meet every Thursday at 6 p.m. through June 11. The class welcomes all skill levels, children as young as five can come to learn a combined martial arts style.
Instructor Mike Shaw said he teaches the basic moves of self-defense. Shaw shows how to get out of situations like what to do if grabbed from behind or front and goes through punching techniques and hand-to-hand defense moves.
As a student progresses, instruction will get into defending against weapons.
Although the class is billed for women, men and children, if Shaw gets a group of mainly women he will dedicate a larger portion of class to self-defense.
Shaw echoed Mihalkanin's advice that the best self-defense tactic is being aware.
"I call it 'casing the block'," Shaw said.
To register for the MMA seminar, call 755-7665. Space is limited so don't wait.
For the Carmel Valley Recreation Center class, contact Mike Shaw at 531-2508 or visit