NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Avalon Gurel signed up for Krav Maga two weeks ago. Gurel was mugged on the front steps of her home last fall. She also works as a waitress in the French Quarter.
"We've been told to absolutely change out of our work uniform before we leave," she says. "We're supposed to take off all of our jewelry. We can't carry any cash. They tell us if we can leave when nobody sees us coming out of the restaurant entrance and all those kind of things are just so scary to me."
With a recent spike in armed robberies and attacks, instructors at Triumph Krav Maga on the west bank have been fielding a lot of calls.
The first lesson taught here, avoid confrontation if possible. But if you have to fight back, know how to do it.
"We're the only ones who can be responsible for ourselves and it's sad that we have to feel scared and it shouldn't be that way but I'm the only person who can save my own life," says instructor Ashley Merritt. "The cops can't be behind bushes stopping crime. There's no Batman."
Merritt says the classes focus on building up muscle memory so students can fight through adrenaline or fatigue. Repetition builds the skills but even the first lesson can boost confidence.
That confidence is one reason police officer Robert Minjarez loves the training.
"It brings out the instinct in you when you have to defend yourself," he says. "You can walk down the street with full confidence, knowing you know what you have to do when you have to do it."
Gurel knows what it's like to be a victim and she never wants to feel like that again.
"Everyone I know who's lived here an extended amount of time has had something happen to them," she says. "I'm just really adamant that I don't want to be the next statistic."