Surviving the apocalypse

Survival skills
Officer Bergendahl giving self-defense tips to Ranger Bear.


On Feb. 16, Kurt Bergendahl, a UW-Parkside police officer, demonstrated some tips and tricks for basic self-defense, as part of the ongoing Big Read event series that focuses on “Station Eleven” by Emily St. James Mendel. The event also served as a preview for some of his future self-defense classes.

Warning signs

Bergendahl started the event by talking about personal space and how to know if someone is going to attack you. He says, “ What we have to do is think about what our normal distance is when we are talking to people.” Generally, people prefer about three feet of personal space, and anything beyond that can make them uncomfortable or be a sign of possible attack. Most of the time, one can pick up on ques of an attack. Bergendahl mentions that some of these warning  postures include direct eye contact, clenched fists or flared nostrils.

A post-apocalyptic world

In order to tie it back to the Big Read theme, Bergendahl gave some self-defense tips that are meant to be used in a post-apocalyptic world. Guns would not be available in that situation, so Bergendahl states that “bare minimum we need to keep ourselves safe.”

Students learned that in a post-apocalyptic world, anything can become a weapon. Bergendahl showed how a pen can be “a real effective tool to the eye and the face” by demonstrating that it can be used similarly to a knife.

Therefore, the use of  knives was also including in the demonstration. He reviewed the 21 foot rule as a rule of thumb, which states that “ within 21 feet, even if I shoot somebody…[in] the heart or in the head, at 21 feet they can still stab me.” If a person were running, then a shot to the head or heart does not prevent them from stabbing someone because they could continue to be affected by inertia and gravity.

The real world

But in today’s world, guns are an issue. Bergendahl and Ranger Bear showed students how to change the target of a shooter by throwing objects at the shooter to offer multiple targets and distract them.

Another real world example was learning the difference between self defense and battery. Bergendahl states that “self-defense is [when]  they did something,  I reacted and did something back, and then I backed off. Battery is [ when] they did something, I reacted and defended myself, and now they are on the ground and I continue [to lash out] .”

Overall, survival skills are something that anyone can relate to and that can come in handy. John Aasen, a student that attended the event, said that it was useful because either “the worst does happen and it is an apocalypse or just regular self defense,” He continued to say, “I think the skills we learned are very useful.”  The event was successful in relating to “Station Eleven” and the Big Read and it also provided relevant skills for the modern world.

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