Toward a New Definition of Feminine Protection

Feminine Protection– from Everyday Lite to Maximum Protection

All women have the primal capacity for FEMININE PROTECTION!

Imagine you’re heading out of town. Before leaving, you probably do a last-minute check to be sure you’re all packed, good to go: Moisturizer? Check. Favorite undies? Check. Phone charger? Check. Self-protection skills? Hmmm… I know that should be here somewhere.

Face it: whether you’re coming, going, or simply staying put, if these essential life-skills aren’t part of your bag, it’s time to get some!

Never mind the self-defense terminology; think of this as Feminine Protection: you’ll want the full assortment, from every day lite to ultra Maxi Brand.

Most of you are already packing some protection — it’s called intuition. If you’ve read “The Gift of Fear” you know that you possess a built-in intelligence-gathering system equipped with warning signals that range from quiet voices in your head (uh-oh) to screeching alarms (Run!) to chilling sensations — all of which forewarn potential dangers. It’s a vital first line of defense, and it’s with you all the time, which is a very good start. But not good enough.

Not everyone has shrewd instincts and perceptions — at least not all the time. Remember, predators and victimizers (not to mention psychopaths) have majored in deception and the ability to disarm women’s warning systems so that they can slip under that radar, cozy up or encroach. Even with seconds of forewarning — which may be all you get — an average-sized man can close 21 feet of distance in 1.5 seconds. This is precisely what happened to a Seattle jogger who fought off her attacker. Her alarms went off and as she fled, he summarily attacked- and was “on her” in a heartbeat.

For those ungodly emergencies, when prevention fails or you’ve effectively been ambushed, you need Maximum Protection! Translation? Bang-up fighting skills delivered with female ferocity. (That and whatever else you might be toting.)

Before I dish out tools for your tote bag, let me share good news: Fighting back works!

Research has shown that forceful physical and verbal resistance strategies (e.g., biting, hitting, fighting back, yelling, screaming, forcefully fleeing or using a weapon, martial arts or other physical self-defense techniques) are effective in thwarting assaults on women. Moreover, these strategies do not appear to significantly increase the risk of serious injury.

Conversely, non-forceful strategies (e.g., pleading, crying, reasoning) and not resisting (e.g., freezing) are generally not effective. Some evidence suggests that passive strategies can even increase the risk of injury.

Fighting back also has mental health benefits. According to Judith Herman, M.D., author of “Trauma & Recovery,” “The women who fought to the best of their abilities were not only more likely to be successful in thwarting the rape attempt, but less likely to suffer severe distress symptoms even if their efforts ultimately failed. By contrast, women who submitted without a struggle were more likely to be highly self critical and depressed in the aftermath.”

I’m not suggesting that you should always fight back in a sexual assault. There’s no substitute for good judgment in the moment. Only you can assess all the variables. What’s most important is remembering that you possess the option to fight, and the readiness of heart and presence of mind to back it up. This means becoming physically literate in the strategies of combat.

Should you have to choose to fight back with FEMININE PROTECTION skills here are some basic principles (remember, your goal is to facilitate escape!):

  • Keep it simple. Use uncomplicated gross motor moves. Bruce Lee said, “Hack away the unessential.” Forget fancy techniques. Under the stress of highly charged emotions mixed with adrenaline and a rapidly increased heart rate, fine and complex motor skills vastly deteriorate.
  • Do it with your hips! To deliver power, get your ass into your moves!
  • Use your strengths against vulnerabilities. Why do you think Tarzan pounds his chest and not his gonads or nose, eyes or throat? Use hard body parts such as elbows, knees, fists, feet, legs, gnarly knuckles and whatever you can get your mitts on! (See slideshow photos below.)
  • Yell. Yelling increases power as much as 33 percent and can attract help. 
  • Seconds count! Seize opportunity and exploit surprise. When it’s “go time,” don’t telegraph your intent with obvious wind-up movements. Focus… then blast. Zero to 100 percent! Explode like a bullet directly into your target, not like a firecracker going off in multiple directions at once.
  • Mindset counts! Think like a Marine. Take charge! Don’t just give a smack — counter attack! Penetrate. Stomp. Gouge. Drive through. Spring into an attacker’s face like a coiled cobra.
  • Breathe. Lower your center of gravity and stay focused. If pinned, for example in a lying down position, abdominal breathing can lower your heart rate and help you collect yourself so that you can think: What part of my body is free… what targets are presenting… where is the nearest exit?
  • Overcome the fear of injury. This is hugely important. Sure, you might get hurt, but adrenaline is a wonder drug. Women give birth, for God’s sake!
  • Don’t overly rely on “stun-n-runs.” Think in succession of rapid fire moves; at least think in threes.
  • Use the environment! Whaddya got? Are there handy objects to wield as weapons or shields? Surfaces to shove off of? Can you pull a fire alarm, smash windows to attract help?

Here’s the bottom line: Decide in advance: What is worth fighting for? What is non-negotiable? Where do you draw that line?

 

Hara-scope: How Your Hara Can Help Your Stress

Stress.

We know it’s bad for our health and can make us sick. We’re supposed to reduce stress, ward against it, repel it like a foreign invader. Neutralize stress with exercise, breathing techniques, drugs and “happy” thoughts. (Yeah right.)

Now let’s get gritty about stress and what it does. My writer friend Jen Sexton sums it up nicely in an article for the Cape Cod Chronicle:

Stress attacks your emotional well being, bringing about feelings of fear, distrust, anger, and depression. In turn, these feelings may bring about headaches, upset stomach, insomnia, ulcers, skin rashes and eyelid twitches, not to mention the even more serious problems of hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. Stress wages war on the immune system, making us less able to resist diseases of all types. Scientists have even revealed a clear connection between stress and cancer.

OK we need to kick it’s ass. 

But you want to know what’s really stressful? F-E-A-R.

More stressful? The traumatic aftermath of violence or rape. Or living with a gnawing sense of what the fuck will I do if that bad thing happens like it’s happened to (fill in the blank with names of women you know or friends of friends or that woman on your favorite TV drama or the chick on the evening news who thought her date/ husband / the new guy down the street was just fine.)

Want to know what the best stress-buster and antidote is for THIS particular anxiety which is another word for STRESS?

Come a little closer and I’ll tell you—-and No, ‘m not gonna whisper a guided mediation in your ear or tell you to go inside and visualize wildflowers or the perfect ocean breeze.

Ready?…..

Madness. And a hearty, muscular fight and flight instinct coupled with the know- how to ACTUALLY kick ass. To stick it to the Man, so to speak, when and if he or she tries to stick it to you.  

Let’s be clear: By possessing a muscular “fight and flight” instinct I’m not talking about paranoia or creating hyper-vigilanance– that would be stress-inducing -or being knee jerk reactive, but rather having a healthy felt-awareness of your strength and of the reality of potential danger –all with a spring in your step and a va-va-voom feeling of power that lives in your hips and LOWER BODY- the Hara as it’s called in Japanese. It’s a physical and spiritual power-center located roughly two to three fingers below your belly button then smack-dab into the center of your body.

To Walk with Power and Deliver Power Drop DOWN Into Your HARA!

Think of it as your new favorite body-based locale, your go to and sometimes rush to place. It’s immediately useful–far more than Serenity OM’s– when the fear of danger, its sudden ejaculate of stress strikes your system and can overwhelm. Bummer.

This is part of WHY I’m all about our glorious LOWER half: Because fear – especially sudden fear–makes us rise out of our base. Just imagine a frightful in-breath that lingers too long at the top of the inhale. Everything rises and nothing touches down in critical  moments. This is precisely what baddies count on: to freeze your breath and get that RISE out of you. To throw you off balance in every which way. From their point of view this is a great start.

Countering this stress of fear and being ready and able to act in a jiffy – be it to fight or flee or even to speak with gravity and authority- may hinge on your ability to swiftly lower your center of gravity and drop into your HARA.

Find it. Go there. What’s your Hara-scope say?

 

Raising Fire From Fear: A Screed. A Revolution. A Manifesto in the Makings.


With a little alchemy and will power we raise fire from fear.

“The tribe that possessed fire possessed life.” — 1982 film, Quest for Fire

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”  Gustav Mahler

I love these quotes. They speak of truth and a deep reverence for what has come before.

They also speak to the power of fire as pivotal to life, as primordial. Easy to see if we zip back in time… In prehistoric days fire meant life: it meant warmth, cooked food, better tools and community. Life gathered and unfolded around fire. “Watch fires” set around dens and camps is also what helped keep predators at bay. It enabled survival, allowing our kin  to literally “take back the night.”

So vital was fire to life that tribes had literal keepers of the flame. Their task was to carry  still smoldering embers wrapped in grassy leaves and bark-wrapped bundles from camp to camp. In this manner fire was kept at the ready– ready to be re-stoked and brought back to life at the tribe’s new digs. (I imagine its classified job listing. Wanted: Reliable fellow with good lungs for ultimate BLOW JOB.)

It’s no exaggeration to say that once our ancestors learned to make fire at will and were no longer dependent upon lightning strikes or stealing fire from rival clans, it changed the course of evolution. It enabled our ancestors to then turn their attention to higher pursuits — to culture and community and to a little thing called LOVE. This all started with knowing how to kindle a flame; a flame which became a portal to a whole new life.

This is also the potential power of women’s self defense: to liberate women from their deepest survival fears–at least alleviate undue fear by being armed with skill, strategy keenly cultivated instincts – so that we can nurture and manifest our full 3-D  potential.

Mahler’s quote also relates to my urging for the preserving of fire – more specifically its UTILITY as a self defense weapon and why women need to turn this flame up a notch

In my Dharma Of Defense I speak of the elements of FIRE and ICE. This combo of forces was best described to me once by a teacher and former combatant as a need to be “on fire from the neck down and ice cold from the neck up.”

Or as I prefer to say, we need a HOT body and a COOL head. Amen to that sistahs.

Here’s the deal: If confronted or frightened you want to keep a cool head, yes! (De-escalate. Lower an aggressor’s arousal. Calmly, swiftly extricate yourself.) But if a woman has to GO PHYSICAL to escape a larger, stronger, pumped up creature intent on harm, she best be packing a charge of primal power and heat, armed with the know-how to explode into a target with the ability to source this power from loins and limbs, from her sex and her soul– and to bring it in a heartbeat. It’s a power that must be kindled from the inside out. A knowing to be kept aglow in the heart, ON at all times.

Think of this as a pilot light to be adjusted as needed–from the luminous kindle (no particular threat, life at large) to a suddenly, violently ignited whoosh. (When it’s time to go ballistic on someone’s ass.) It’s a power born of love, fury and primal survival instinct. It dwells in heart and hide; it can quicken your pulse, flash a mean heat across your face  and feed deeper life forces and desires– from the carnal to the spiritual.

Not too shabby!

Let me say: I don’t shake my head and tsk tsk or merely view this as a necessary evil as in– Isn’t it a terrible shame that women have to learn self defense stuff, have this switch turned On? NO! On the contrary I view this readied charge and female-animal potency as part of the larger constellation of life forces, as downright womanly, as part of THE FIGHTING EROS OF LIFE.

If you don’t already know this facet of yourself, let me assure you: It’s a beautiful thing – and it can save your pretty ass.

Finding and switching on this fierce female source is personal to each of us, but it’s also political with far-reaching ripple effects. When this tool is alighted by women en masse we can burn down myths and burn IN ownership of our own courageous and outrageous warrior nature- which might otherwise be crippled by fear.

A FIERY LITTLE HISTORY HERSTORY OF WOMEN’S SELF DEFENSE

It was precisely this fighting spirit that gave birth to WOMEN’S SELF DEFENSE as a movement and consciousness which was spawned in the 70′s, born of the coupling between martial arts and feminism. This was no nebbishy exercise! It arose as a   RESISTANCE MOVEMENT to combat rape, as a viable means of “taking our bodies back” and to paraphrase Black Belt Women’s Nancy Lehman, from the need to feel our force. (Oh how I love this phrase: Feel Our Force. That something as elemental as learning to protect our boundaries and bodies was deemed “RADICAL” by many… is a  telling statement indeed.)

And so this phrase coined by feminist Andrea Dworkin became an emerging war-cry:

 Resist do not comply.

Which brings me back to the quotes about FIRE and another reason WHY we need to turn this flame up a notch: When any discipline or “movement” (Yoga for example) crosses over from grassroots to mainstream and becomes commercialized, something inevitably gets lost or diminished in the process of proliferation. So too, as women’s self defense has become mainstreamed, has become Big “profit center” Business –with franchises and licenses, with weekend and online certifications–and as its been exposed to the dampening winds of political correctness, some of its ORIGINAL FIRE has dimmed, fallen by the wayside in favor of “ten easy steps” or reduced to mere exercise (don’t even get me started) or subsumed by the ubiquitous language of ‘personal safety’ —a term I fiercely resist. Not because it isn’t an accurate umbrella (who among us doesn’t want to be safer?), but because it distances from the primal heart and martial bloodline of self defense, dispatching what belongs in the realm of the senses to a higher headier mount. To a more sanitized, gentrified mindset of cautionary tips and do’s and don’ts whereby FEMALE FEROCITY– its ire and blood-pulsing might -is easily deemed irrelevant, a mere PS in the equation of “what works.”

Nonsense!

Put another way SELF DEFENSE LITE subjugates the need to feel and cultivate our force, to nurture our will and authority for “applied violence” (when needed), to ennoble and verify our own dangerous capacities and female fighting instincts.

And honestly now… personal safety?... what a lustless term. Feh! (We can do better!)

Here’s the bottom-line, my call to arms if you will, a bit trumpeting albeit:   

“As long as men are the sole agents of aggression and women are the casualties of their actions, the victims on the pointy end of men’s violent entitlements, there will NEVER be a balance of power between the sexes. Women will remain relegated to a subordinate status, too powerless or simply too fearful to resist the dominance and brutalities of others, limited by social contract and constraint in the ways in which we can express our own ferocities, yearnings, and fighting spirit.

The gig is up. We must no longer outsource our protection to men– to fathers, husbands, brothers, boyfriends or saviors in khaki or uniform blue. It’s time to bring this power home, refasten it to our womanly roots, to reap its fruits, harvest its furies and acquire the skills to Self Defend. It’s time to rekindle this flame, lionize ourselves, and raise FIRE FROM FEAR.

       Each and together may we become outposts of courage.”

BUT FIRST. SOMETIMES THE CURE LIES IN THE ILL.  

To arrive at a cure (on OUR end I mean) we need to brave the scary places, the dark corners and basement of our “what if” fears- which isn’t always unfounded mind you. Only by confronting our vulnerability – which, face it ladies, we all feel to one extent or another; we all know fear’s imprint, the toll it takes, the signature tracks it leaves in the female psyche and soma; it’s ills, indigntiies and dimiinishing effects…only THEN can we release the POWER that lies in its wake.

Let this journey happen. Grab a torch and dig in. We’re going DOWN TOWN into the primal zone where Fear and Power not only co-exist but often entwine like lovers enmeshed. And from this savage union FEROCITY awakens.

COPYRIGHT – MELISSA SOALT, 2011. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO REPRODUCTION OR COPYING WITH EXPLICIT WRITTEN CONSENT.

 

Black Belt Mag Names Me A ‘Top Five’ Tough Girl!

What’s a nice Jewish Girl like me doing on a list like this? I’ll tell you what– soaking it in and passing the message of finding and tendering YOUR INNER TOUGH GIRL! 

I was utterly surprised and honored to find my self amidst this impressive roster of formidable femmes and fighters including my hero, the lioness Kathy Long. To receive  glowing comments by Combatives legend Kelly McCann makes it that much sweeter:

Melissa is a legitimate combative talent. She’s explosive and fast. Yeah, she’s diminutive but how’d you like to get hit with a bullet her size?

And from reality-based instructor and defensive tactics trainer Lito Angelis:

…she’s the one who understands street self defense the best. She has very good mechanics. She’s a smaller person but she hits hard.

OK, self promotion over.

Tender The Tough

A few words about “TOUGH” – a phrase which has primarily been associated with men possessed of steely skills and fight. Women, it’s time to renew our claim to this word.

Armed with our love and fury, deep-seated survival instincts and fervent desires to bring justice to the world, women have always been tough, long been warriors, fighters and even deadly dames. (Hey, our gender gives birth for Chrissake!) If not in physical realms, we’ve waged formidable battles in social spheres — for the right to vote, for equality in the workplace, for reproductive rights. For our bodily integrity. And the fight goes on…

As sexual assault and violence against women continues to plague our world, it’s  incumbent upon women to GET TOUGH and nurture this potential.

First, a “get tough” clarification: Don’t equate tough with being fearless. (Fearlessness isn’t the goal; we need fear and to go without is dangerous.) Next, remove preconceptions and understand: Far beyond any particular skill set, “tough” is an attitude, a raw tenacity of heart, of strength and guts, and it’s often born in the fires and tremors of fear. Fear is in fact a frequent precursor to “tough.” (Yep, this toughee also knows this well.)

Much like beauty, toughness is sparked from the inside out. It’s often home grown, revealed under the duress of dire straits. I see this all the time with women who have NO training, yet fight like Fierce Mothers and bitches–as in canines junkyard bitches.

Take for example one of my favorite, most extraordinary success stories: When 23 year old Hong Huang was run over (twice; forward and then backward) by a truck driven by a level three sex offender who had followed her when she left her work shift in Tacoma Washington one night, she lay motionless on the ground: Her back was broken, her pelvis, cracked, her lung near collapsed and she suffered numerous facial injuries.

Despite all, when her attacker attempted to scoop her her up and throw her into his truck, she fought him off with the only weapon she had: HER FISTS! With his face in range she punched him in the eyes, pummeling the shit outta that face. He aborted his plan. Her presence of mind was extraordinary. Refusing to go into shock she took note of his features and they swiftly apprehend this motherf. She said of that fight- back moment:

“It was just like a rush of, you know, adrenaline and endorphins; everything your body does when it’s in survival mode.”

Equally memorable was the shy look on her face when retelling her story from a wheelchair weeks later. Her head slightly cocked to one side in a school girlish manner, she remarks, Well…..I guess I connected.

Damn!!!

In another list, I would dub her Queen Of Tough.

Here’s a clanking toast to gutsy women who understand that fear can and must be forged into fire and that being afraid or even terrified does NOT mean being defenseless. 

In the end, tough is not only a quality but perhaps a destination. It doesnt matter how you get here–whether you’re pushed by fear or pulled by power. What matters is that you arrrive.

Mesdames and Mademoiselles — let’s toughen up together!

 

Juicy Radio: Tune Into Dharma Of Defense w/ Deb Colitti

“Deb has in-depth conversation with experts, industry leaders, local and luminaries.”

If you’re not familiar, Deb Colitti hosts a fabulous and popular LIFE ON PURPOSE radio talk-show featuring topical guests from all walks of life, including many high profile authors and thought leaders. I was recently interviewed by Deb who’s whip smart, uber cool and she knows how to dial into the sweet spot. Oh yes!

Here’s some highlights of what we discuss:

The perils of nice-lady conditioning and how and why to get your fierce SELF back online, best uses of fear and adrenaline and what to expect when ‘it’ hits the fan plus why women must learn how to counter the terror … not just counter-attack, tips for deterrence and  boundary-setting plus the intimacy benefits of being a self defender – how this enables us to soften the hard outer shell and let more IN. Plus more juicy talk.

Here’s the bit from her site followed by the podcast itself which I hope you’ll tune into. (Approx. 17 minutes long.)

‘Dharma, Dogma & Self-Defense’
Melissa Soalt AKA Dr. Ruthless is an award-winning self defense expert, former psychotherapist and a Black Belt Hall of Fame recipient. She is widely respected for views on the “DHARMA of DEFENSE” and her no-nonsense methods, emotional depth, and unabashed call for all women to become physically literate in self-protection and to embrace, not shun, their KILLER INSTINCT.

http://soundcloud.com/debcolitti/the-deb-colitti-show-dharma-5

More MEDIA NEWS SOON– and it’s a DOOZY! Stay tuned here…

Meet Your Inner Neander Babe. She’s Bad Ass!

Your Inner Neander-Babe|When Do You Use It?

Admittedly it’s way coooler to read your own words when you’ve been cited by someone else. And thanks Cherry Woodburn for a great personal story about confronting your kid’s bully. Do dat!

By Cherry Woodburn - REPOSTED FROM BORDERLESS THINKING BLOG. 

“ Take a deep breath and think way back. Once upon a time, say 40,000 years ago you were a Neander-babe. You had thick, gnarly legs and a tribal chic hairdo. You coddled your young one minute, then stomped ugly snakes and speared marauding bears the next. Your nurturing and aggressive natures seamlessly entwined. You knew that you could be dangerous; could be a predator — not just prey. Melissa Soalt in her October 14th Huffington post.

Soalt says although women have evolved since the Neanderthal days, they still contain both aggressive and nurturing natures.  I agree.

When it came to protecting my kids I always knew I had within me a Neander-Babe.

Neander-Babe Faces Off  With Coach Bully

My older son (6 or 7 yrs. at the time) was playing Little League baseball – his first year after T-ball. He was assigned to the team with the gruff, coarse, head coach I had hoped he wouldn’t get. Although I considered asking to have my son switched to another team, I decided not to because he would, at some point, encounter other gruff, coarse people in the world.

Practices with the head coach were alright, tough but nothing abusive. The games were fine too, at least while our team was winning. Then came the game with our team’s main competition and we were losing. Coach Joe revealed his true persona – that of a bully. He was screaming at the kids and demeaning them. His most offensive behavior was towards the pitcher, his own son.

My son could field but was a poor batter. Not surprisingly he struck out. I was sitting on the edge of the bleachers, coiled and tense. The coach threw his hat down and let out a few damn-its but that was all. He acted out similar behavior to the next kid who struck out, but with more intensity. Typically, that boy was also not a good batter.

Our team lost. I was apprehensive about what would happen in the bull-pen so I walked over, watching at a distance. Coach Joe/Bully was on an abusive tirade. I waited for the assistant coaches to step in. They didn’t. Coach Bully, near apoplexy, turned directly on my son and the other kid I mentioned. He screamed the “P” word first and my Neander-Babe burst out – smokin’ mad. Within nanoseconds Coach Bully and I were nose to nose. He  called me names and used the f-bomb. I don’t know what I said but remember that I didn’t budge. Now the assistant coaches intervened, pulling me away. Me?

I always thought they chose to pull me away because they were afraid of Coach Bully, but after reading Soalt’s post, maybe they just saw the Neander-babe in me and realized the coach was going down. (Note: Coach Bully stomped off the field after our confrontation and quit being a coach in the league.)

Defending Yourself Physically

Soalt, aka Dr. Ruthless, provides examples of women like April Marchessault who at 5’1″, withno prior training, fought off a 200-pound, level-two convicted sex offender who slipped into her home one night while her children slept.

She also tells stories of women who fought off rapists and robbers. Soalt believes that sharing these stories is important:

  • Because courage is contagious
  • Because we’re already inundated with stories of women being overpowered and becoming victims on the pointy end of male aggressions
  • Because drinking in these stories is good medicine, a curative tonic that bulks up the fighting heart and helps heal the ills and impotencies imposed by fear
  • Because each woman’s story adds kindling to the fire that could one day save you or a loved one

Soalt advocates self-defense lessons for protection, making it easier to tap your Neander-Babe when needed.

Defending Yourself Verbally

I also advocate learning to defend yourself verbally in order:

  • To speak up and say what is true for you
  • To be willing to say no without guilt
  • To ask for what you need and want
  • To directly tell someone that you find their language, racial, ethnic, gender, and/or cultural slurs offensive and not to speak that way in front of you
  • To do these things for yourself, not just for your children, family or friends

I consistently found these behaviors easy to do to protect my children, as you saw with the Coach Bully story. I also spoke up for other family members and friends but didn’t speak up enough for myself. That’s not true anymore. I stopped telling myself I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t deserving, or that speaking up for myself meant I wasn’t nice. Pure poppycock.

I rewrote the story I told myself about myself and now speak in my authentic voice. The chapters in my story are now happier and more fulfilling.  If I can help you reach the same place, let me know.

I’d like to hear what you think. Feel free to share any Neander-Babe stories you have. Recounting your story can be a tonic for someone else.

Run Fu! (But Maybe Not Yet…)

“There’s something about being in the general vicinity of death that brings you back to life. It snaps you right out of complacency. Suddenly, every thought counts, every action. You can’t put off until tomorrow anymore. Things became crystal clear and my mind so sharp I could have slayed the Beast with just once glance.”

—James Capuano from his forthcoming memoir on life with cancer

You’re probably wondering what this quote from James Capuano has to do with running or “flight” in self defense. It’s a plenty good question. So here’s the correlation. When the shit hits the fan and it’s the Moment Of Truth, time to fight or flight (not freeze or panic please) because nothing else will do and it’s going down NOW, what you feel and experience is like a lighting bolt — adrenaline plus highly charged emotion flooding the body and I do mean flooding. It’s a crystalline do or die moment which becomes your everything.

I’ve experienced it myself when faced with would-be and “it’s happening now!” attack and also from from living in dangerous environs (Peshawar Pakistan, for example, where I was once stoned…I mean with rocks). There’s little to compare this to– as if all else STOPS, literally falls off the map of perception, of time and space, of life as you’ve known it.  It’s a razor’s edge moment so full and encompassing that it leaves no room for anything else.

And it comes with an urgency and luminosity that Capuano eloquently describes from his death-defying battle with cancer.

Now The Lesson

In many assault scenarios, when faced with a blistering two or three seconds to make your move, you might need to FIGHT prior to taking FLIGHT.

On that note, allow me to wax rhapsodic about one of our must-have power tools to help you achieve Fight Then Flight: PALM STRIKES of PALM SMASHES which are easy-to-learn and execute, and they can drive a man backward effectively rendering him a civilian, versus a BIG SCARY ATTACKER, allowing you to seize the opportunity to charge in with more slamming bad-assery. (Caveat: It’s NOT patty cake. You need to get your whole self and weight into it. Hopefully this or similar moves will then open up lower body targets- such as le groin.)

Palm strikes are the move that my super hero friend Keri Potts delivered– and it took five or six to literally knock her raging attacker on his ass prior to making her daring escape. 

Here’s the lesson about fleeing and when it does and doesn’t makes sense. It comes to us courtesy of the  FOX & THE RABBIT– better known as predator / prey dynamics and something called PREY DRIVE.

It’s like this: The fox chases the rabbit WHEN THE RABBIT RUNS! It’s the running or in the human realm the recoiling, cringing or backpedaling – sometimes called “cower power”-  that inadvertently triggers the predator instinct to give chase.

Don’t misunderstand: Running, fleeing, taking flight and gaining distance IS the end goal, but there’s a HUGE difference between running TO safety (good) and indiscriminately running away from trouble, meaning attacker, especially if you’re not in great shape AND there’s no good place to immediately run or retreat to.

By the way, when I say RUN I mean like your ass is on fire!

Women have successfully fled assailants, running to the road or nearby dwelling to get help. But when an assault is imminent or underway, backpedaling or bolting is often futile and can trigger this “prey drive” – a predatory instinct to quickly close on and subdue intended prey.

Screw dat. Let’s reverse. Do this instead:

Rather than giving him this tactical advantage, YOU may have to get up in his GRILL and bring on whammo! Close the distance and go IN, striking hard and fast with all you’ve got to then create that better opportunity to flee. Hit the gas, as it were, and ENTER with full forward drive and mojo. (And palm strikes as lauded above.) In effect you must BECOME THE PREDATOR. THE HUNTRESS NOT THE HUNTED. 

YOU GO GIRL!!! And she did…

Here’s a REAL WORLD SUCCESS STORY of a woman who utilized the coupling of FIGHT THEN flight. The headline read: “A Lincoln woman fights off a would-be rapist, then runs two miles to the police station to report the attack.” Note the order: Before taking flight she delivered a few good blows!

Resistance works, people! So heed the lesson from our furry creature friends Fox & Rabbit and remember: By drawing upon our considerable lower body strength and fierce survival powers, women can be powerful fighters on the ground. Word.

 

Risk Reduction & Savage Skills, Yes! Victim Blaming, No!

Golda got it right: If women are to learn self defense, shouldn’t men learn self control? (I say “men” because statistically speaking it usually is.) 

First the caveat: I believe in fierce self defense. I endorse risk reduction and proactive self protection, from cultivating “jungle consciousness” and heightened internal and external awareness up to and including the acquiring of emergency self defense Fuck Em Up fight-back skills. I believe in taking responsibility for our personal safety. You’re the only one who’s with you all the time, so you’re in the best position to save yourself. If you haven’t read my Forbes guest blog, BEING NICE CAN KILL YOU, please do. It speaks volumes to where I’m coming from and to this point:

The more a woman is groomed in traditional behaviors of female socialization and platitudes of politeness the more at risk she becomes.

Okay? Now…

After the Investigation Discovery Show aired featuring my friend Keri’s brutal attack and escape in Rome using fight and flight, a flurry of critiques about her choices appeared online. What inflamed me is that it speaks to how quickly we as people and as cultures default to blaming the woman – “What was she thinking/ wearing/ doing?” – focusing on her behavior vs the deceptive, rapacious acts of the attacker. The sexual predator. You know…the guy who ruins the woman’s life. Or tries to. (Thankfully not in this case. Eat this shithead… and I’ll see you in court.. in Rome…. where you attacked me….and God knows how many other women…) 

Blaming the victim, even in subtle ways, is not only insulting and hurtful but in the words of friend and legal expert Roger Canaff, it “deepens survivor’s trauma, delays their healing, and takes the focus off of the attacker responsible for the situation in the first place.”

Psychology 101: Maybe it’s a way for people to distance themselves from the harsh reality that “it” could happen to them. That the presence of danger always exists, that bad things happen to smart, good, “God loving” women. That the upstanding guy in your ‘hood who’s kind to your kids, or the man you’ve lunched with before, who you’ve dated without incident, who fixed your faucets, or the funny guy you met yesterday while walking the dog, or the man you married is also a predator. A Dick of the worst kind.

To appreciate the harm and knee jerkery of victim blaming, look no further than this Dallas news article:  But don’t miss the trail of insightful comments:

“I wonder if those who try to blame the victims of rape, would be as ready to accept blame for being robbed or assaulted because of “reckless” behavior that caused them to be in the pathway of the criminal who robbed or assaulted them, especially [those] who are always so quick to place blame on the women victims.”

Keri is not only a hero, a smart ballsy chick who smacked down her attacker and did the unthinkable (leapt off his balcony and across slippery-sloped Italian tiled rooftops defying death) but she’s also a friend. Knowing all the details of her particular story, any perceptions of “recklessness” are off base.

I’m pissed about this, but aiming to be tactful –hence my shout out for the cessation of victim-blaming brought to you here vis-a-vis my comment (enclosed below) from one online “discussion.”

But first, a request for you dear reader. Take this phrase to heart. It bears repeating:

The presence of danger always exists. Don’t get uptight about it just comprehand it fully, then dissolve or disown any illusions you may have about otherwise realities.  

And please understand this: “No one is vulnerable to sexual violence unless a person near them means them harm.” (Key phrase = “means them harm.”) It initiates with a perp’s intent. Even when it’s a crime of opportunity. Put another way, courtesy of a colleagues student:

Question: You know why women get raped?

Answer: Because there’s a rapist in the room.

It stems from a rapist’s feelings of VIOLENT ENTITLEMENT. The right to take without consent. 

Even if you or I don’t agree with the choices a woman makes or deems some behaviors unwise or downright foolish as I sometimes do, it does not mean she shoulders responsibility for an act of violence committed against her– and this is why I’m NOT in favor of rape prevention TIPS as self defense. Because:

(A) It unduly increases female fear encouraging litanies of DON’T do this. DON’T that! Never be alone…For Chrissake people, women have lives to live. (B) More importantly it misleads women into thinking that safety from violence, rape, assault rests solely upon women’s behaviors, and this potentially then blames women. 

It’s one of the reasons why many assaults and rapes go unreported — for fear of scrutiny or blame. FACT: sexual predators and victimizers assault women all hours of the day and night. And in acquaintance or date rape (such as Keri’s foiled scenario) the attacker has has established familiarity AND already has certain proximity to his intended target. So the idea of never being alone with a predator-prick becomes a mute point.

Below is my comment– I post as “savage beauty”- which is my response to a slew of victim blaming knee-jerkery, and the overt suggestion that women of color are more naturally distrustful and would not then wind up alone with a predator or abuser. I take issue with this– and I think it misses the point for the reasons below:

MY COMMENT: savagebeautyJuly 15, 2012 11:44 AM: 

As a women’s self defense pro, as one who carries some street cred and who has spent time living in other and in developing countries, let me first say: I don’t dismiss the truth that certain experiences, upbringings, cultures and mindsets heighten female intuition and perception of potential thuggery and fuckery – and that all women need to learn and alert to potential behavioral clues and draw hard lines. It’s something I call “jungle consciousness” and it’s central to my women’s self defense teaching and paradigm.

That said, the BIGGER truth and moral in K’s story of outrageous bravery and best use of fight and flight reflexes, not to mention her outstanding presence of mind, disallowing Marco to break her down – which tragically often works- and her execution of decisive action in The Moment of Truth when seconds counts and additional meritorious actions which I could go on and on about here… the point is this: Men like her attacker Marco are VERY GOOD LIARS AND DECEIVERS–they’ve majored in deception, in disarming women’s radars and staging false realities in a very calculated fashion under great care and cover. So Keri’s story could be any woman’s story nightmare and this goes to why women MUST be trained in emergency and aggressive “last resort” self defense strategies. Because it could be you or me or a sister or BFF. 

You or I may have strict boundaries and rules and perhaps you or I would never have gone back to this man’s apt. Good! Smart! Hooray for us! (For the record, Marco  gave Keri no reason to fear him; he was a good guy when they were at his digs hours earlier.) But don’t think for a moment that it couldn’t happen to “me” meaning any of us. Instead of Marco in Rome, maybe it’s that nice fella from church who you trust. Or the new upright man who moved into your hood and he’s been kind and protective of your kids. And one day he and you are alone and his predatory stripes come out and he goes off on you expecting favors. Or attempts to rapes you. Or maybe he IS your minister/ neighbor/ electrician or other known-to-you entity.

Predators are masterful liars. They know how to BLEND IN and have majored in staging. “It” can (and does) happen to the smartest among us and because all it takes is ONE MOMENT OF weakness which we all suffer from time to time.

Let us cease all forms of victim blaming, subtle or overt. Risk reduction, YES! Smart protective measures and bang up skills, YES! Responsibility for personal safety, YES….

My friend Keri was violently attacked by a predator who has likely done this before and she had the balls and smarts to prosecute in Italian courts and may have saved many women’s lives and integrity.

I applaud her survival instincts. I could write a book about all that she did right once it all went wrong. Including how quickly she rallied her fighting spirit and arrived at a bottom line decision – which is a critical step – deciding instantly:

“What is non-negotiable? What is uncompromising and worth fighting for? What do I hold sacred?”

It’s from that deep well of spiritual resolve that we take decisive and heroic action.

I’ll close with this: Violence and sexual violence against women is pandemic. Even when women do all the “RIGHT” things we can still be victimized. Because those who will, who violate women, do so because they can. 

Let’s stop focusing on what SHE (the woman) did, stop scrutinizing her behaviors. Heighten our knowledge and senses, and acquire savage skills and learn the “tells” and behavioral clues for sure. But let’s also move the conversation onto the vile actions of the predators and hold them accountable. Maybe knock some heads and asses around, as Keri and many other women have successfully valiantly done.

We need to stand together as women regardless of background or race or ethnicity. Because in this war on women, we’re one very big hood: Woman hood.