CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE WRONG KIND
to fight back in tight situations!
COLUMN - Self Defense For Women Magazine
“How did you get into self-defense? Did something happen
to you?” It’s a question I’ve been asked countless
I wasn’t always in touch with my Beast Girl within. Growing
up in the 1960s— first June Cleaver then peaceniks and sit-ins —who
knew about fighting back? “Being prepared” meant leaving
home with clean underwear and enough change for a phone call. But
that all changed on my maiden voyage into the world—a grunge-style
sojourn that began in the Middle East and took me traipsing across
central and south Asia where I would birth my fighting heart and
undying reverence for female disobedience.
Like many on their maiden voyage, I too was assaulted. Beyond unwanted
touching and some attempts at sexual assault, my travels boast colorful
tales: There was the crazed Afghani who assailed me with a knife
and horse-whipping stick when my companion and I refused his offer
to trade me for his prized camel. Elsewhere, a government official
attacked me from behind and a vicious fight ensued. (I had spun
around and spit in his face—not a tactic I can heartily recommend.)
Nevertheless, I claimed moments of righteous victory. One night
when a pervert wouldn’t take no for an answer, I went off.
I struck him about the head and neck,
then I busted his hand. As I watched him deflate, I had a dawning
recognition: My body was a tool and instrument of power and with
this tool I too could be dangerous. Power radiated from my body
like jungle heat; a homerun grin peered through my fury.
These violations, coupled with residual rage, propelled me to the
martial arts. Ten years later in Boulder, Colorado, a home-alone
encounter with a knife-wielding would-be rapist led me to down and
dirty methods that now comprise the lion’s share of what and
how I teach.
Lessons Learned: Pin 101
Although I’d had no technique, my prior incidents taught
me important lessons: that opening moves count; that intention fueled
by fighting spirit is the mother of technique; that it’s always
best to nip a problem in the bud. I also learned that assaults against
women happen in close quarters. Predators often use engulfing, pinning,
choking, slapping or immobilizing tactics to subdue their intended
prey. Escaping these clutches calls for explosive fighting methods.
As terrifying as it sounds, it’s important to remember: If
he can reach you, you can reach him.
To better understand your options let’s examine, and I will
critique, my very first close encounter: an upright rape attempt
perpetrated by my kibbutz “father.” We’ll bypass
the tea, cookies and amiable chit chat and cut right to the scene
where, after pawing me, I promptly tried to leave.
Before I reached the door, he spun me around and slammed me against
the wall, thumping my head. Pressing me into the wall, he grabbed
my throat and started swearing at me in French. (Tip: Right then
and there while he was running his he-man rap and establishing dominance,
I could have counterattacked. A sneaky no-holds-barred ear clap
might have done the trick.)
Physically, he was a thick, burly guy. As I am a whopping five
feet tall on a good hair day, he looked and felt like The Hulk.
At first, I struggled and tried to push him away. (Tip: In tight
quarters, pushing on he-man’s chest is ineffectual and pummeling
it doesn’t hurt. Why do you think Tarzan pounds his chest
and not his gonads or Adam’s apple?)
The more I pushed and pleaded, the more forceful he became. When
my screams grew louder, he slapped one hand over my mouth then started
groping me, fumbling with my blouse. (Tip: Great news! Once his
hands are occupied, it’s an opportune time to counterattack;
better yet, trap or hold his offending hands in place then counter
with your free limbs.)
In that moment I was paralyzed. In my mind, being pinned by a larger
pumped-up creature could only mean one thing: surrender. I stopped
struggling. My body went limp—not because it was an effective
strategy that might enable me to spring into action, but because
I felt utterly helpless. (Tip: Going from “rag doll to ballistic,” from
zero to 100 percent can aid you in taking an aggressor by surprise.)
Then something clicked. I felt a blaze of heat, as if a seed inside
of me popped open releasing a powder keg of fury and I just went
primal. I struck and clawed at his face, I kicked, punched, bit,
hollered, twisted and torqued myself free. Then I flew out the door.
Make Opening Moves Count!
In self-defense, there are no recipes or formulas. Any number of
techniques could work—or not. You must remain adaptable, continually
hunting for openings and targets. As my own stories illustrate,
marshalling an aggressive mindset is crucial. Don’t just defend—attack
back, wielding body parts like power tools! Unless you can immediately
escape, opening moves must be followed by additional no-nonsense
techniques. With that in mind, here are a couple of options for
your close-quarters toolbox:
If your arms are unconstrained at your side, you could deliver
a walloping ear clap using the aforementioned “rag doll to
ballistic” method. With one or both hands (either open or
slightly cupped), swing your arms around and bash the assailant’s
ears. If executed forcefully, this will sound like a bomb going
off in his head. It’s stunning and it upsets balance and equilibrium.
(I’m told it can even burst an eardrum.) Follow up as needed
with rapid-fire knee strikes to the groin, lower abdomen or ribs,
or deliver bone-bashing kicks to his lower leg. Yell like you’re
waking the dead. If you can get your hands on an object, wield it
like a weapon. Never hang around to admire your handiwork—escape
Attackcenter-line targets such as the
eyes, throat or groin. Throat strikes
can be accomplished with an open “Y hand,” the folded
down knuckles of your fingers, or with a fist. Be deceptive! A hand
placed on an assailant’s
chest as if pleading with him to stop,
can suddenly, explosively drive upward toward his Adam’s apple.
You can also drive two stiff fingers into the notch just below the
throat. (Tip: Shift aside in case he gags—or worse.)
also head south and snatch the family
jewels. Depending on the level of violence and urgency, you might
momentarily stroke he-man’s
thigh as if assuaging the beast, then
turn that hand into an evil paddle—wham, bam,
whack! Or “seize and squeeze,” followed by a medley
of rude blows. (Surely not the blows
he had in mind.)
Sorry, fella, that’s the occupational hazard of being a rapist.
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