HONOLULU (KHON2) — The terrifying kidnapping and rescue on the Big Island had many kids and adults alike thinking “what would I do if it happened to me?” KHON2 talked to a self-defense expert to get some guidance.

It’s a trauma no child or family should endure — a young lady kidnapped Friday in Waikoloa. What if anything can be done when people with bad intentions cross your path? Experts said run if you can, hide or fight.

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“The ‘run hide fight’ is in that order because if you’re a child, or if you’re much smaller than the individual attacking you, it’s going be very hard for you unless you’re extremely proficient and being able to defend yourself,” explained Martin Day, the chief instructor at Martial Arts Company in Kailua who is also a professional fighter.

“We always teach kids that the number one tool that you need for self-defense is avoiding potentially dangerous situations,” Day said. “If it does come down to you having to actually fight and physically defend yourself, I think having the tools to be able to do that is so important, not just for kids or for girls, but for anyone.”

He cautions it can’t be learned in a moment, and takes practice and continual training to execute calmly and confidently.

“If you did attend that one self-defense workshop or self-defense class, it’s going to be hard to remember what you learn in the heat of the moment when your blood is pumping and you’re in that fight-or-flight mode,” Day said, “whereas if you’re training in a martial art or some kind of self-defense discipline on a regular basis, these things become second nature to you.”

But what about when fighting isn’t an option, with an armed or overpowering captor? Then it can become a battle of wits, looking for an opportunity for escape and rescue, just like Big Island teen Mikella DeBina did when she got away from her captor Saturday in Hilo.

“If you’re putting yourself in these uncomfortable situations on the mats or in the gym training for these self-defense scenarios, you’ll be able to slow things down in your head and if you are abducted, or if there’s some kind of dangerous situation going on, kind of think ‘what’s the best way for me to get out of this?” Day explained. “So just like what Mikella’s did, she was able to stay calm for long enough to be able to use her wits and help herself out of that very dangerous situation.”

Key to DeBina’s restaurant escape plan working was a ready and able Good Samaritan – Bridge Hartman from Café Pesto — stepping up.

“Just having the confidence to be able to defend yourself will help you to have the confidence to step in, like that young man did,” Day said of Hartmans’ heroic actions. “He made the world of a difference just then. That could have been the difference between life or death right there.”

Parents wary of teaching kids to fight should know it doesn’t make them more likely to pick a fight; quite the opposite, Day said.

“You’re a lot less likely to get into a fight, you’re a lot less likely to instigate and be a bully or pick fights,” Day said, “and because of that self-confidence and that spatial awareness of knowing what’s going on around you and potentially picking up on dangerous situations, you know how to avoid those situations as well.”

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“It’s better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war,” Day said. “It’s better to be able to do it and not need to than the situation comes up and you don’t know what to do.”