‘Be alert’: Memphis self-defense expert emphasizes importance of self-awareness

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis had three reported kidnappings in less than a week, with six total victims.

A violent week

On Wednesday, police say two men kidnapped a woman and her baby in the parking lot of a Cordova Target off Highway 64. Early Friday morning, investigators say Cleotha Abston abducted mother and teacher Eliza Fletcher while she was out jogging near the University of Memphis. Then on Friday evening, police told FOX13 that a man crashed his car, then jumped inside a running car with three children inside in Whitehaven.

Five kidnapping victims returned home safely last week, but Fletcher’s disappearance sparked a days-long search. On Monday evening, investigators found her body, charging Abston with murder.

Staying aware of your surroundings

“We’re not supposed to live in a world where we’re supposed to be in panic mode all the time,” said Chad Chilcutt, a local self-defense expert.

As the owner and head instructor of Chilcutt’s Memphis Martial Arts, he teaches children and adults how to protect themselves from threats. While out in public, he recommends minimizing distractions and removing headphones to stay alert to your surroundings.

“We get busy. We get comfortable in our daily routine,” he explained. “When we’re comfortable, something might happen.”

Chilcutt also recommends that all people practice “managing the distance” with strangers in public. If someone approaches you, he recommends doing everything possible to prevent them from closing that physical distance.

However, he acknowledged that in countless situations, victims had little or no warning that their attackers were approaching.

“My heart and prayers go out to the Fletcher family,” he said. “My heart’s heavy for them.”

Giving back

Chilcutt said he was asked to teach a self-defense course for St. Mary’s Episcopal School community following their teacher’s disappearance. He plans to offer it free of charge.

“We just want to help the community,” he said. “We want to give back.”

For other members of the community that want to learn self-defense, his facility offers a “Warriors Women’s Self-Defense” class taught by a woman for women. Classes are offered on Mondays at 9:15 a.m., Thursdays at 5:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. at 2872 Wolf Creek Parkway. Call 901-258-1900 for more information.