City employees learn how to protect themselves with personal safety training


When Tami Watson is told she fights like a girl, she takes it as a compliment.

That’s because all women are warriors in her eyes — no matter what they look like, how old they are, what they do for a living or what they think of themselves.

Watson, a retired Indiana State Police trooper from Columbus, spent nearly 20 years fighting criminals to keep her community safe while also fighting gender stereotypes.

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As a public speaker and firearms instructor, she now uses her experience and knowledge to empower others to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“I want to promote in people a very critical, self-analysis and a thought process that may someday save their life or the life of someone else,” she said.

Through her self-defense and firearms courses, she gives women and youth the tools they need to embrace their power to fight back. She encourages them to take charge of their personal safety and teaches them to be more aware of what’s going on around them.

“I’m not going to teach you how to be Ronda Rousey or anything like that,” she said. “You’re going to remember everything you learn and be able to use it if you have to.”

She has trained more than 2,500 people in the last 10 years with 85% of them being women.

In early March, Watson led a small class at Seymour City Hall made up of all female city employees. The class was organized by Mary Winburn with Jackson County Industrial Development Corp. and her daughter, Sarah Wheeler.

Friends of Watson, they both have taken her classes before and felt the information was worth sharing.

“It just occurred to me one day as I was walking through city hall that maybe a lot of the ladies that work for the city might be interested in taking a class,” Winburn said. “I think every woman should have some knowledge of how to defend herself if she’s ever in a situation where she needs to.”

Winburn brought the idea up to Mayor Matt Nicholson, who supported it.

Although she doesn’t have any future classes set up, Winburn said she would be glad to facilitate more if there is interest.

It’s not the first time Watson has brought her message to Seymour. Last year, she did a seminar at a local church on refusing to be a victim. In 2015, she presented a women’s safety community outreach program at a local church to members of Jackson County Extension Homemakers clubs.

Although she demonstrates simple hands-on defensive tactics and lets the class practice them together, Watson said the best lessons are in prevention and how to make yourself a difficult target.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the things we do enable the criminal element,” she said. “Every day, we do things that make it easier for the bad guys. Our purse is laying right there in the front seat of our car. We leave our doors unlocked as we go into the gas station to grab a Coke.”

Watson said the main goal for anyone in a physical encounter is to get away and stay safe. She recommends people run and hide if they can and fight if they must.

Although she promotes gun rights and responsible gun ownership, Watson said it’s not the only way to stay safe.

“When we do nothing, when we don’t prepare, we don’t practice, the criminal element has the advantage,” she said.

Laura Eglen decided to take the course as a way to feel safer on the job and is glad she did. As an employee with the city’s department of public works, she often works outside by herself, sometimes in the early morning hours.

“I now may not panic as much knowing how to approach some situations,” she said. “I learned how to defend myself and be more aware of my surroundings.”

Bernie Bryant, who works as the environmental educator at the Seymour Department of Public Works, said she enjoyed Watson’s stories and her way of explaining the laws on self-defense and personal protection.

She said the lessons are valuable for anyone at any time.

“I go out a lot by myself or have grandkids with me, so I want to be safe,” she said.

Carrying a gun for safety is not always an option, she added.

“However, that doesn’t mean we are helpless,” she said. “The thing that stuck with me was her reminder that if we choose to fight, it won’t be a clean escape. We will be hurt in the process, but we have to want to live enough to get through it.”

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