Archive for the ‘women’s self defense’ Category

Too Busy to Be Safe?

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Several women have come up to me and said that they want to take my self-defense class. They live alone, they work odd hours, or their careers involve travel and they don’t always feel comfortable when they’re by themselves. I totally understand that feeling. It’s why I took the RAD course myself, and why I became an Instructor.

But, when I sit down with them to schedule a class, something changes: “Oh, I can’t make it that day; I’m going to visit my parents,” or “That would have worked, but I just booked something for that weekend,” or “I’m so busy this month and into next; can we try for the summer?”

My friends, we can try for any time you want. I will teach you any time you can be available. There’s just one thing. Yesterday afternoon, not far from here, in broad daylight and full view of everyone passing by, a guy grabbed a young woman right off the sidewalk.

He shot a stream of pepper spray into her eyes, and then proceeded to drag her to his car, which he’d parked in a nearby lot. Fortunately, two men driving by saw the woman struggling against the attacker, and quickly pulled into the parking lot. This probably saved her life. Caught in the act, he pushed her away and drove off. Police found his car a short time later; inside were a shotgun and a baseball bat. When they arrested him, they found condoms in his back pocket.

The case is still being investigated, but police have found no evidence that this man simply enjoys hunting, baseball, and the company of a lady. What they have found strong evidence of is a connection to the brutal beating of a woman still lying in intensive care in a local hospital. He’s also wanted for questioning in the attempted abduction of two teenage girls a few days ago.

Am I saying that, by taking my class, my friends will never be harmed? Or that, had they taken the course, the women in these events would have been able to fight off an attacker armed with pepper spray? No, I’m not saying that–but I am saying that taking a RAD Women’s class can make you safer. Yes, we teach techniques to block the strikes and break the hold of a assailant. But we also teach you how to reduce your risk of becoming a victim, what to look out for, and how best to react when or if something unexpected (and bad) happens.

I know you’re busy. But it’s about priorities. Do you want to make staying safe a priority? Or do you want to keep crossing your fingers and hoping that it won’t happen to you? Because I would bet that if 2 days ago, you had asked the 19-year-old woman walking down the street minding her own business if she thought she might be abducted in broad daylight, raped, and murdered, she would have said no, too.

Targeted Attack

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

“What are my tools? What are my targets?” I repeat this to the women in my self-defense classes throughout the sessions. Thinking about these vital points in an attack scenario allows them to realize they’re not helpless. This, in turn, means that they’re not likely to freeze up in fear if they need to use their self-defense skills in real life.

I don’t know exactly what a particular elderly lady in Portland, OR was thinking at the time she was attacked, but she surely knew she was not helpless; nor was she about to freeze up in fear:

88 years old and wrapped in her bathrobe, the intended victim of Michael Dick was picking up logs for her fireplace when he entered her home through a sliding glass door. Dick, nearly half her age at 46 years old, was completely naked. He followed her through her house and pushed her, face-down, into a living room chair.

Remembering a news story in which a woman was similarly attacked and how she escaped, this little old lady reached behind her, grabbed his testicles and squeezed. Hard. The surprise counter-move caused her attacker to change his plans. As soon as he could tear his… parts out of her grip, he ran from her home. Her 911 call led police to capture him a short time later.

In RAD for Women, we reveal to our students nearly one dozen tools (parts of the body they can use to defend themselves) that women have in their possession at all times. We show them how they can forcefully apply these tools to 18 specific targets (vulnerabilities) that male attackers have at all times. The results are quite advantageous to the women.

Other self-defense techniques teach similar information.The point is not necessarily to know RAD self-defense, but to know how to defend yourself–at any time, any place, any age. Do you know your tools and your targets? Could you use them tomorrow if you needed to?

Use GPS Against Stalkers

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Domestic violence is predictable, preventable, and can be stopped. So says Diane Rosenfeld, an expert on domestic violence and restraining orders. Orders of protection work in about 70% of cases, she says, but when they don’t work, the results can be fatal. Violations of restraining orders must be dealt with immediately and strongly.

If the individual named in the order phones the woman… drives past her home… sends her flowers at work, or a note saying how sorry he is… he’s testing the waters. Will there be any consequences for his actions? If there are none, or if they’re minor, his behavior will escalate–very possibly into murder. (So he got arrested; so what? A few nights in the county jail is easy enough to shrug off when he thinks of how satisfying it was to see the terror in her eyes.)

Let’s look at one case of a woman getting a restraining order against a stalker, and how it played out: Cindy Bischof’s ex-boyfriend, Michael Giroux, was angry over their break-up. He broke into her house, caused $50,000 worth of damage, and destroyed virtually all her personal possessions. She took out a restraining order against him. Fearing that he might hurt her next, she carried mace and a personal alarm. She asked her family, friends, and neighbors to keep an eye out for him. She stayed at different locations at night, and changed her schedule during the day. Smart lady–she took precautions, and did everything allowable by law to stay safe. Did it help?

No. Giroux repeately violated the orders of the restraint–driving past the places she would stay, leaving voicemail messages, and “bumping into her” at public places where he knew she would be.

Bischof logged details of every violation, and apprised the police and the court each time he contacted her. The police provided extra patrols around houses where she stayed, and arrested Giroux many times. But, as far as offering any further protection, their hands were tied.

Giroux was in and out of jail several times on charges of harassment and violating a restraining order. He was also sentenced to 6 months in a psychiatric ward. Did any of this cause him to change his behavior? No. As soon as he was released from custody, he picked up right where he left off harassing Bischof.

Did his behavior surprise anyone involved? No. Bischof’s family, friends, and co-workers all continued to worry for her and be on alert for Giroux. His persistent threats and increasingly violent behavior showed them that he held as little respect for a court order as he held for her.

Cindy’s brother, Mike Bischof, says the police did what they could. “They were as helpful as they could be. There weren’t the tools available to safeguard these victims…it just wasn’t part of the arsenal.” He adds, “A restraining order is simply that — a piece of paper.”

And that’s the problem. To law-abiding citizens, a court order carries the weight of the United States’ judicial system behind it. But, to someone who is violent, mentally and/or emotionally unstable, with no qualms about defying authority or abusing another’s rights, it’s “just” a piece of paper.

That piece of paper was not strong enough to stop the bullet Giroux fired into his ex-girlfriend’s brain as she left work one evening. After mortally wounding her, he turned the weapon on himself. Predictable? Yes. Her family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and especially Bischof herself, all saw Giroux’s behavior becoming more dangerous. Preventable? Yes. How?

Rosenfeld recommends using GPS technology to protect women by tracking their stalkers. And police in several states have begun doing just that for anyone who violates a protective order. The offenders wear an ankle bracelet that’s tracked by GPS and monitored 24/7. They are prohibited from entering specific “restriction zones” where their victims may be. If they violate those zones, authorities know immediately. “GPS is a very effective tool to detect the violations, and they can stop an offender in his tracks,” she says.

In 2009, the the Cindy Bischof Law was created, making Illinois the 15th state to grant police the authority to use GPS monitoring in domestic violence cases when orders of protection are violated. Fifteen states–not a bad start. But we still have 35 to go. Does your state use GPS tracking? Find out!

The Lights are On, But No One’s Home

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Ya gotta love the Age of Technology. Today, we have phones that surf the ‘net, shoot video, and send email while you’re talking to someone. And they’ve been made fairly affordable, so even if you don’t have one, you probably know somebody who does. And look at all the ways to “make your mark” in the cyber world, to let people “out there” know who you are and what you’re doing.There’s FaceBook, Linked In, Twitter, and, not to mention sites specifically tailored to book lovers, travel aficionados, educators, musicians, and other niche groups. And they’re thriving. New sites are being created every day. Why? Because humans are social creatures. We need to connect to others, to be recognized, appreciated. We need to make ourselves known.

So, how much of yourself are you making known? Do you inform everyone who comes across your FaceBook page what general area you live in, and what your crazy schedule is like? Do you post pictures of the beautiful view outside your bedroom window? And, do you put out there for the world to see that you’re leaving town, and your home will be empty for the next 3 days? A lot of people do. Heck, I’ve got a friend who does it, and it makes me crazy! I get it–you’re looking forward to your big weekend getaway to New York City. You’re going to see a show, stroll through Central Park, and this time, you’re going to make sure you get in line early to go to the top of the Empire State Building. You’re psyched, and you want to share your excitement with (several hundred of) your closest friends. Great! But think about who else can see your plans.

Allow me to introduce you to a website called The intent of this site is not actually to steal your things; it’s to make you aware that you may inadvertently be doing something that can hurt you. As they explain, “On one end we’re leaving lights on when we’re going on a holiday, and on the other we’re telling everybody on the Internet we’re not home.” ‘Ever use Foursquare, Brightkite, GoogleBuzz, or Twitter search pages? They offer up your complete home address right there on the screen for the world to access. Now, having the entire cyber-world see your address may not bother you. But having some unsavory dude around the corner see it might.

Check out, and then go back and look at your social networking pages. Are you giving out too much personal information? Are you virtually inviting trouble by what you share? Keep in mind that you have a right to privacy, and some things (like where you are, what you do in your off-time, and who you do it with) are your business only. You don’t have to broadcast your life to the world. If you want to share your trip to the Big Apple, post pictures when you get back. (Keeping news of your plans off the web will help insure that your desktop computer is still there when you get home.) If you want more instantaneous feedback, use that funky new phone and call a few friends!

Is It Really the Police Pulling You Over?

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

It’s after midnight, and you’re driving down a stretch of dark, empty road, heading home after a night on the town. You’ve got your girlfriend–your wing-woman–with you. You figure you’ll drop her off at her place and be home in 15 minutes. Suddenly, the inside of your car is lit up by flashing lights. Police lights.

You pull over, get out. The car behind you is unmarked, but sure enough, it’s a white Ford Crown Victoria. And Crown Vics are the preferred models of police departments around the country. When the driver opens the door to approach you, the interior light turns on and you see not a uniformed officer of the law, but 5 guys drinking out of cans and looking like trouble. It hits you: This is not the police. You’re in danger. Get out of here!

That scenario wasn’t a figment of my imagination. It actually happened to 2 young women in California a couple weeks ago. It doesn’t have to involve a Crown Victoria or even a white car. Any vehicle can be outfitted with flashing lights that look to unsuspecting motorists like those of an official, yet unmarked, police vehicle. So, what do you do if a car pulls up behind you one night and signals you to pull over? Refusing to stop for a police officer is a crime. And trying to explain to an angry cop that he had to chase you down because you didn’t know if he was the real deal isn’t going to help your case.

Just how are you supposed to know if the car behind you, flashing its bright lights in your rear-view mirror, is legit? Should you pull over, but be ready to run if the situation turns out to be dangerous? No, your best protection is to stay in your car and keep moving.

Slow down, so the car behind you sees that you are responding to his signal. Police will understand what you’re doing. A predator will think he’s got you fooled. Call 911 on your cell phone. Tell them where you are and ask if there’s a police car following you. They will know. If there is, find a safe place to pull over. But if 911 tells you that no bona fide law enforcement vehicle is behind you, continue driving at a reasonable speed. Help will be there shortly as real police vehicles rush to your location to apprehend the guy impersonating a police officer.

If you don’t have a cell phone, or you’re in an area where you can’t get a signal, find some place that’s well-lit and populated, such as the parking lot of a restaurant, night club, or theatre, and pull in there. Stay in your car so that, if you need to, you can escape quickly. Watch the individual get out of his car; his interior ceiling light is your friend. Did you see anyone inside the car with him? Is he in uniform? (Even when driving unmarked cars, police officers must wear their uniforms.) Does he have proper ID?

One more thing: notice the color of those flashing lights. Police use blue lights, sometimes combined with red and/or white, depending on location. Fire trucks and ambulances have red-and-white lights; tow trucks, yellow. You don’t have to memorize which agency prefers which color scheme. The point is that no one uses just white lights. But white flashing lights are often the easiest to buy–so if a car pulls up behind you late one night and flips on flashing white lights, you are in danger. Grab your cell and call 911. The real cops will be there quickly–and he’ll be the one getting pulled over.

No Such Thing as Date Rape

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

A student at American University in Washington, DC has written in his school newspaper that in his opinion, women who have been victims of date rape “asked for it.” Twenty years old and generously sharing his insight on the subjects of women in society, sexuality, and interpersonal communication, Alex Knepper writes:

“Let’s get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI [fraternity] party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy’s room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK?”

This presents an interesting interpretation of events. While on-campus socializing may be fine, he seems to think that going to a party at a frat house is engaging in foreplay. And drinking alcohol–a perfectly legal activity for anyone in this country over the age of 21–further “lubricates” the process, shall we say?

Then there’s the clincher: walking back to a boy’s room. This signals a woman’s desire for sex… how? Has the boy (we would hope for a man, but Knepper must know of what he speaks) become a mind-reader during the stroll through campus? Can he tell by looking that she is thinking, “I want to have sex with this guy as soon as we get to his room” ? Is there no other reason why she choose to spend time with him? I imagine that, if Knepper had asked some women what reasons they’ve had for going to a man’s room, he would have learned several.

If the confused young man in the above example wants to know what the enigmatic female is thinking, he should ask her. If he wants to know how the rest of the evening will proceed, he should ask her about that, too. He needs to hear her speak the words, “Yes, I want to have sex with you,” or “No, I don’t want to have sex with you.” Trying to guess her thoughts or interpret her actions leaves him open to gross misunderstanding–and to jail time. Rape is a crime, no matter how horny he may be.

As Katherine Hull, spokesperson for the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) explains, the issue at the center of rape is consent: “Even if you drink and wear short skirts — that is not consent. Even if a woman gave consent previously, it does not mean consent for right now.” Further, she clarifies that consent can be compromised due to excessive alcohol or drug consumption. What this means for those who adhere to Mr. Knepper’s reasoning is, “If someone doesn’t have the capacity to consent, they can’t.” Therefore, the inability to say “no” should not be taken as “yes.” Rape is not excused when it is a crime of opportunity.

Knepper disagrees. He writes that women give “implied consent” by putting themselves in the “sexual arena” at a party where there are expectations of drinking and sex. He states, “In that situation, men can only know the information that is given to them.” My question is, why do these men have an expectation of sex? A party is just that–a party, a social event. It’s taking place in a frat house, not a brothel. If the entire evening is a set-up for having sex, why not just skip the small talk and the accoutrements, and cut right to the chase? Stand on the front porch and call out to all who pass by, “Hey! Wanna get laid? Come on in!” That way, the intent is clear, and no one can accuse anyone else of misunderstanding. Or, maybe the problem is with the expectations of these men who equate a woman’s presence at their little soiree as desire on her part to mate with them.

During training to be a RAD Women’s Self-Defense Instructor, my fellow candidates and I were presented with two scenarios. In the first, a man and a woman go out for dinner, then to a movie. Afterward, she walks with him to his apartment. Once inside, he rapes her. We were asked, “What’s this called?” Date rape?

In the second scenario, a man and a woman go out for dinner, then to a movie. Afterward, she walks with him to his apartment. Once inside, he murders her. We were asked, “What’s this called?” Date murder?? No. Murder is murder, regardless of the circumstances surrounding it. The same holds true for rape. “Sexual intercourse without clear consent” is rape–regardless of the circumstances surrounding it. Tacking on the word “date” does not lessen the violation, shock, fear, and betrayal of trust that a woman suffers at the hands of the rapist. Whether he jumped out at her from a dark alley or forced her onto the mattress in his dorm room, there is no such thing as “date” rape; there is only rape.

Stalked by Cell Phone

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Smart phones. They can do just about anything these days–access the internet, play tv shows, movies, and games, plan your schedule, shoot and share photos and videos and, oh yeah, make and receive phone calls. They have another ability that you might not be aware of–they can spy on you.

The news staff at Good Morning America has uncovered the story of a woman whose ex-boyfriend stalked and terrorized her for over 3 years. Unlike other stalkers who follow their victims around town and lurk behind corners, this guy didn’t have to go anywhere. He simply installed spyware into her cell phone. A few hundred dollars and a few minutes’ time gave him the power to listen in on every call she received, and to be alerted each time she dialed out. He was able to read all her text messages, and use the phone’s built-in camera as an extra set of eyes to “see” exactly where she was and what she was doing. He didn’t even have to be nearby. At times, they were hundreds of miles apart–a great alibi for someone accused of stalking.

The GPS feature within the spyware pinpointed her exact location–and he made sure she knew that he knew. He would text her, naming the restaurant she was in, asking if she was enjoying the duck she ordered, and whether she and her new date were hitting it off.

The woman in the report, Susan, revealed, “I thought I was going crazy. It’s just unnerving, knowing that somebody 24/7 knows where you’re at, what you’re talking about, what’s going on, everything about you.”

Changing her phone number (10 times) made no impact on the problem, because the software was inside the phone itself. Whenever she got a new number, her ex would call her immediately, laughing at her attempts to take back her privacy.

Finally, it occurred to her that her cell phone had been a constant in her life, something she had owned through her relationship with him and beyond, into the years of being stalked. When she bought a new phone, all the stalking, harassment, mocking, and fear ceased; she was able to begin to put her life back on track, although as she sums up, “You’re never the same after this.”

Spyware designed for cell phones is easy to find, afford, and install. And while it’s certainly unethical to use it, laws in this area are written in shades of gray. Local police explained to Susan that technology has outrun the law; while anti-stalking laws are being passed, so far, they refer only to physical stalking and not the cyber/cellphone kind. That means that, as frightening, crazy, malicious, and just plain wrong this sort of behavior is, legally, the perpetrator may not have broken any existing law.

Is that okay with you? It’s not with me. I suggest we contact our state lawmakers and clue them in to what’s going on with cyber-stalking, and demand that they take action. They need to support us with new, strong anti-stalking laws that include crimes that use technology to terrorize innocent people.

How would you know if you’re being spied on through your cell phone? The following are signs:

  • Phone screen lights up for no apparent reason
  • Phone’s camera flashes when you’re not taking a picture
  • You hear unusual background noise while talking on your phone
  • You receive text messages from an unknown source

If you’re experiencing any of the above, your cell phone may be “bugged” and being used as a weapon against you. Buy a new phone, or contact your service provider to learn how to reinstall the operating system. (This should cancel the spyware’s capabilities.)

And be sure never to lend your phone to anyone you cannot trust completely. Spyware can be installed in a matter of minutes–minutes that could change your life.

It’s Your Safety–Take It Personally

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Two years ago, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill senior and Student Body president Eve Carson was shot to death, her body left in a street just off campus. Police soon arrested two suspects, and categorized the murder as a random act of violence.

Since then, parents of college students have become more concerned about just what is being done to keep their children (many of whom are living away from home for the first time) safe from such crimes. Raleigh mom, Angela Dunn, whose daughter attends NC Central University, tells her repeatedly never to walk anywhere alone, that “adults are getting killed everyday.” She also maintains frequent cell phone contact with her daughter. But neither of these practices will improve her child’s safety on the campus. Constant reminders about the odds of being killed do not offer protection, and they probably create unnecessary anxiety. Frequent phone calls also do nothing to increase personal safety. They may reassure the mom that nothing has happened to her child yet, but the very conversation could serve to distract the young woman’s attention from someone sneaking up behind her.

Universities themselves are taking steps to show that they are sincere in their desire to increase campus security and protect their students. UNC Chapel Hill has instituted Safe Walks, a kind of “buddy system” so students don’t have to walk anywhere alone at night. Other colleges and universities have similar security guard-accompanied escorts. But there are built-in problems with this system. The first is that, when not carefully screened, some dangerous individuals (such as rapists) have been given positions of authority and, it turned out, opportunity when escorting women across a dark campus.

A second problem inherent in the buddy system/security escort is that it undermines a woman’s independence. Let’s face it: college guys are not the ones calling for someone to walk them across the quad at midnight. Putting this kind of system into operation tells a woman quite plainly that if she insists on walking the 2 blocks from the party to her dorm alone, she’s taking a big chance with her safety and it’s no one’s fault but her own if “something happens.” It’s saying that she needs someone to protect her.

To the worried mom and the universities, I want to say, “What about personal responsibility?” What about encouraging young men and (especially) women to take ownership of their safety, instead of relying on Mom and Dad, or The University, or some other Entity, to do it for them? The best way for people to stay safe is to take care of themselves. Not to wait for help. Not to naively believe that bad things can’t happen at their school. But to be able to handle whatever bad things (or people) slip through established security measures. That could mean a guy who doesn’t understand what “No” means… 2 strangers knocking on your door, in need of “assistance”… or someone who jumps into the elevator with you at the last second and gives you a creepy smile.

How do people take control of their personal safety? By being observant, first and foremost. By looking around as they walk. (Did that shadow just move? I think I’ll cross the street.) By hanging up the cell phone and listening. (Are those footsteps I hear behind me? I’ll just stop under this street light and let them pass.)

Okay, now you’re paying attention to what’s going on around you. Your next move should be to find a good self-defense class, in case you have to get physical. Sometimes, just letting a would-be attacker know he’s been spotted is enough to make him back off. Sometimes, a strong, loud warning to leave you alone is needed. If he gets his hands on you, you might have to execute a quick punch to his nose and a hard run down the street to get safe again. Would you rather have that knowledge and ability, or press a blue light and wait for the police to show up?

RAD is taught in a lot of colleges. If it’s not at yours, demand it. Administrators talk about the importance of keeping you safe, about enacting new security measures and precautions. Tell them your personal safety is your business, and you need them to provide the proper education and training. After all, getting the best education possible is what you’re paying them for.

Cover Your Glass

Friday, March 5th, 2010

There’s a problem in Aspen, Colorado. Someone is slipping drugs into drinks and putting innocent people in danger. There have been nearly a dozen reports of men and women who blacked out after going with friends to bars. They woke up in strange places, sometimes with injuries, and no memory of how they got there. Some have gotten frostbite from “coming to” outside in below-freezing temperatures without proper clothing. One man awoke with bruises and a broken nose, in a barn. He had no idea how he got there. A woman woke up in a motel room 40 miles from the club she had gone to with friends. She had reportedly been sexually assaulted.

Police believe the blackouts are being caused not by alcohol, but by the addition of Rohypnol (roofies) to the drinks, because this commonly-used “date rape” drug works quickly and leaves its victims with no clear memory of what happened.

Keeping in mind that there are unbalanced people out there who think copycat crimes are a kick, and because Rohypnol, GHB, and Ketamine (other date-rape poisons) can be found everywhere, I offer the following tips for when you go out clubbing with friends. These are not style-cramping, fun-sapping precautions; just a few suggestions so you’ll stay safe:

  • Don’t accept or share a drink from anyone you don’t know and have good reason to trust.
  • In a bar, always get your drink directly from the bartender–and watch him/her as they prepare it. Do not order a drink through a waiter/waitress.
  • At parties, only accept drinks in unopened containers, such as bottles and cans.
  • Hold your drink in your hand; don’t put it on the bar or a table and turn away from it.
  • If you do put your drink down and turn away from it, get yourself a fresh one.
  • Do not drink from open punch bowls, pitchers, or tubs. (RAD refers to these as “the community trough,” and if that doesn’t make you lose your appetite for the whole thing, I don’t know what will!)

As Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor says, “I think a lot of people come here to escape from reality and to relax and have a good time and I think often in that situation, people’s guards do come down… but when you’re talking about personal safety, that’s something that everyone should be aware of.” Cheers!

Could You Fight for Your Life?

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Police have found evidence that California teenager Chelsea King was raped and murdered along her favorite jogging trail by a known sex offender. We don’t know if Ms. King fought against her killer, was rendered unable to fight, or froze in terror. Whatever the case, she should never have needed to defend herself in the first place.

A  few weeks prior to Ms. King’s attack, another young woman was assaulted on the same path, apparently by the same man. How did Candice Moncayo survive and escape? She fought until she could get away.

Moncayo was running along the trail when, without warning, she was tackled from the side and thrown to the ground. She said later, “I thought he was going to rape me, so I told him he’d have to kill me first.”

Whether these words had any effect on her attacker, I don’t know. But I do know that they reflected Moncayo’s willingness to fight for her life. And the very act of voicing them helped her survive. How? Because speaking or, even better, yelling, during extremely stressful situations keeps us breathing. Rather than gasping for shallow breaths, when we vocalize, we automatically take air in more deeply. This allows oxygen to reach our brains, so we can think clearly and make split-second decisions necessary for survival. It also ensures we get enough oxygen into our arms and legs, so we can run when an opportunity opens up.

The attacker grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her hard, for what seemed an eternity. Still trapped in his arms but unwilling to give up, she executed an elbow strike–and hit pay dirt. She landed the blow right smack into his nose, smashing it.

Stunned by the sudden pain, he stopped shaking her and loosened his grip momentarily. Seeing her chance to escape, she ran for her life and made it to safety.

I don’t know how Moncayo learned to use the elbow strike to defend herself. But I know how you can. Find a good Women’s Self-Defense class and take it. In RAD classes, we go over (and over again) how to yell and not scream… what to yell… and how to deliver effective elbow strikes–as well as many other techniques. We also cover ground-fighting and rape-reversals, so important for women to know. I realize you’re busy; I understand that the last thing you have the time and money for right now is a self-defense course. But this is your life we’re talking about here. Make your safety a priority.

An added bonus to Moncayo’s use of the elbow strike–it left a sample of the perpetrator’s DNA on her arm that police were able to swab for identification and evidence. Knowing how to fight for yourself–it’s empowering.

RAD Womens: Going Off-Script

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

We were about halfway through a Women’s Self-Defense class, and had stopped for a break. As we sat down and sipped from water bottles, I asked the participants how they felt about trusting their intuition, going with their gut feelings, and did this play a role in keeping them safe. Most realized that, however it worked, their intuition helped them make wise choices and avoid trouble. One woman, however, wasn’t so sure. “Sue” said that her job of being a nanny to two very young children (while taking care of her own toddler at the same time) was so demanding and stressful that she didn’t have time to pay attention to gut feelings. It was hard enough just keeping the baby and 2 toddlers under control; how was she supposed to think about her own safety, too? To check that no one was hiding in the backseat before she opened the car door… to make sure the stairwell in the parking deck was clear before bringing the kids through. The techniques I was showing her were nice to know, but she worried she wouldn’t be able to use them in a real-life situation if, heaven forbid, one actually developed.

I was reminded of a story I’d read in Gavin deBecker’s book, Protecting the Gift. He related how a mother was able to fight off an attacker as she held a child in one arm and another behind her back, shielding him with her body. She yelled, kicked, and chased after this man until he turned, ran to his truck, and drove away as fast as he could. deBecker’s advice: Do not try to attack a woman with her children. Her Mother Bear instincts will come out and you will lose.

RAD techniques, when done correctly, should alleviate a woman’s fears and increase her confidence. But that wasn’t happening for Sue because of her worries. So, we went off-script for a bit and created an exercise based on her concerns. We gave her a gym bag to carry in one hand, to represent the car carrier she uses to transport the baby she cares for. Then, two other women in the class held hands with her, becoming the “toddlers.”

We developed a scenario that was familiar to her: “Okay, you’re in a parking lot and you want to get into the store. But, there’s a guy coming toward you. He sees you’ve got your hands full and your attention divided. He thinks you’re an easy mark. What are you gonna do?”

Having spent the previous two hours learning about the various vulnerabilities of an attacker and the personal weapons she has at her disposal, Sue realized that having both hands full of children was not a problem. She yelled for empowerment and strength, and also to bring attention to her situation. Then, she fired off a series of hard, targeted kicks–and basically beat the heck out of me, my assistant, and the protective pads we were using.

No longer concerned that she won’t be able to use what she has learned, Sue found that the Mother Bear instinct is, indeed, alive and… kicking. (Sorry.) She knows that, if she ever has to defend herself or her little ones, she has all the tools she needs.

Do What You Have to Do

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Sometimes, it really is just that simple. Say, for example, an intruder trespasses onto your property one night, and proceeds to help himself to whatever he wants. Going about your business, you discover him. You must act quickly because he could be dangerous. What do you do?

Well, if you’re Eileen Burke from Somerset, England, you snap into action. Finding a stranger stealing the food inside her shed one night, she grabbed a pitchfork, pointed it at him, and demanded he stay right where he was. She managed to padlock the shed’s door, preventing the man from escaping. Then she called the police.

The stranger was 36 years old and 6’4″ tall. He would make an intimidating adversary for many women based on his height and youth alone. Add to that the fact that Ms. Burke is 59 years old and suffering from severe arthritis in both knees. She is also almost completely blind due to glaucoma.

How did she do it? She says, “I don’t know what came over me. I was just so angry – it’s the fourth time it’s happened in six months!”

Ms. Burke’s anger helped her successfully defend herself and her property. Anger is empowering; it means you understand that you have been wronged in some way, and you don’t like it. It’s your self-esteem saying, “Hey! This is not okay!”

Contrary to the popular notion that “nice girls” don’t get angry, smart women earn how to use their anger, to make it serve them. Like Eileen Burke did–she got mad, went on the offensive, and successfully defended herself and her property. She did what she had to do.