updated 6/16/2003 9:34:07 AM ET 2003-06-16T13:34:07

The FBI released crime statistics Monday which show that, after spiking in 2001, crime fell ever so slightly across the country in 2002 — down 0.2 percent — but the the rates of murder and rape edged higher. This week, CNBC’s Checkpoint focuses on personal security, starting with the best ways to protect yourself.

THOUGH MOST crime was down across America last year, violent personal assaults such as murder and rape actually rose 0.8 percent and 4 percent respectively. Those increases come on the heels of significant across-the-board increases in 2001, lending credibility to those concerned about protecting their personal security.

So where do you turn to get protection? Law enforcement of course, and learning to avoid dangerous situations, but what about preparing for the worst? Fortunately, there are other places that focus squarely on that.

Ron Schulman — a sixth degree black belt — is founder and CEO of Tiger Schulman karate schools, which has studios in five states. Though he and his instructors focus on self-defense, he is first to point out that avoidance is the best objective.

“What we teach is a hybrid style,” he said. “We teach a combination of kickboxing, where you learn all the different strikes where you use your hands, your elbows, your feet, and using your whole body as a weapon... Knowing how to defend yourself usually means you don’t have to because you carry yourself differently and people can sense it. Usually, muggers and bullies, prey on the weak.”

But what if you do confront an attacker? FBI studies show that most violent offenders select their victims based on a perception of who they can easily overcome.

“It’s all about really creating an insurance policy for yourself,” said Stephanie Daines, an instructor with a black belt who has practiced martial arts for six years. She and Schulman answered some of the basics for CNBC:

CNBC: “What benefit would [someone] get from taking up a martial arts program?”

DAINES: “Basically what martial arts does is, we teach them to defend themselves, how to be more aware in every day life, what to look for, how to keep yourself safe in many different situations. We make sure that if anything does happen that they’ll be confident in defending themselves and that they can actually stick up for themselves.”

Monday’s Uniform Crime Report from the FBI shows crime is not just an issue in major cities: Murder in communities between 50 and 100,000 people rose 6.7 percent last year. Rape in cities of less than 10,000 people rose more than percent.

CNBC: “You’re talking about these techniques: somebody comes in, they learn various skills, self-defense skills. They’re walking down the street. What are they most likely to encounter?”

SCHULMAN: “A mugging, basically a wrist grab, or somebody coming up and choking them or grabbing them from behind. What we do is teach what to do if someone grabs you. And you learn how to get out of any hold that anyone grabs you because it’s a matter of leverage and technique instead of power.”

CNBC: “I’m not going to do anything crazy, but I’m just going to go up and grab you.”

SCHULMAN: “It’s just a simple thing to do ... just to grab your hands towards the thumb, which is the weakness, and jump back and get some distance. From here, I could run; if you come back at me, I can stop you with a couple of techniques.”

And while Schulman is first to point out that fighting is a last resort, he notes that sometimes there is no alternative. That’s when you need a plan.

CNBC: “How long does it take someone to go from learning when to run to when to engage. What kind of a time frame are we talking about?”

SCHULMAN: “Basically the techniques I would teach you, if you came in on your first day are the ones I would use to defend myself on the street. And I’ve been training for a long time.

Schulman says age and ability aren’t limitations; he’s taught people from 3 years old to 70.

But for millions of Americans, personal safety goes far beyond karate. According to the National Rifle Association, nearly 50 percent of American households — some 60 to 65 million people — own firearms. According to a study provided by the Brady Center, there are 200 million guns in America, 65 million or them handguns.

Bob Derek has been teaching people to handle firearms for 38 years at West Side Rifle and Pistol in downtown New York City.

“We have all walks of life from doormen to doctors, attorneys, CEOs, everyday walk of life people,” he said. “Learning to handle a gun is using your head. In other words, following the procedures, controlling yourself, not letting adrenaline take over. And using it carefully. Use it right or don’t use it at all.”

But moving through life without having to defend your life is best, and avoidance of trouble is key. Simply knowing that you can protect yourself can be a deterrant in itself.

“If you look like you’re going to stand up for yourself, then that’s not the person they want to attack,” said Daines.

Law enforcement authorities stress prevention through personal awareness, which means keeping your head up and eyes open. It means taking reasonable precautions like walking in lighted, heavily-trafficked areas, and it means understanding criminal intent. From armed robbery to burglary, offenders usually follow the path of least resistance.

© 2012 CNBC, Inc. All Rights Reserved


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