Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Just Yell . . .

There's been a bit of buzz lately about what to yell if you are being assaulted.

This takes as a given that using your voice is you most critical single weapon against an assailant. The question is what to yell.

One option that's gained some popular traction is to just yell fire. Even an FBI spokesperson has suggested that on national TV. (Your local fire department, however, may not appreciate it, as they are not the police.)

So far I have seen no evidence that yelling FIRE! is any more effective than yelling PIZZA!

What I recommend to my students is that you yell direct commands to the potential perp. Monosyllables and short phrases, like:



or even

DIE!!! (favorite of one sexual assault victim's advocate I know)
Violence needs silence. Take charge! Perps are looking for victims they think will be scared and intimidated into silence. WHAT you yell is far less important than THAT you yell. Just YELL.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Kickbox as you are . . .

Say you were flipping through an adult continuing education catalog, looking for a cool class to begin the new year. You narrow your choices to three: a fitness class consisting of mixed cardio-kickboxing, yoga and dance; a boxing class; or a self-defense course. Would you expect the same material, teaching style, or focus from all three?

Appears that at least one person has some association issues. In yesterday's Washington Post, columnist Paula Span questioned the language used in the kickboxing element in her morning fitness class. You can read the whole article here:

Span wasn't complaining of "bad" language. "Jan," the peace-loving fitness instructor, uses what Span calls "girlie" language to describe specific kickboxing moves. So, rather than describing a hook punch as impacting the side of a jaw and dislodging teeth, she'd tell her students to visualize clearing off the top of a dresser. What a more fighting-oriented class would call a knee to the groin move, Jan evokes the image of gardening, of breaking branches over your knee. And, according to Span, these descriptions work. They build on what the students, mostly middle-age middle-class women, can relate to and mimic physically. And it makes them feel comfortable.

Span's question is this: Should she be bothered by what she describes as a "sissy" approach? Her eventual answer is no, she's fine with not visualizing violence, there's already too much out there. Who cares if it may appear "sissy," as long as she and the other students are getting their workout?

Who cares, indeed? Which class is Span taking? Fitness kickboxing is, well, fitness-oriented. From what I can tell, Span signed up for a fitness class, not a boxing (sport) class or a self-defense class. Jan the teacher is thinking creatively of ways to get her students to execute the moves correctly. That's part of excelling at teaching: she understands her students. She builds on what her students already know to extend the physical skills to the fitness class. This makes for comfortable, effective, good learning. If she's seeing the appropriate results, great for her.

Now, if Jan was a self-defense instructor, then I feel she'd have to extend. She would have to ask her students to move beyond their comfort level. But by first connecting the physical motions to what her students already may know and can relate to, she's developing a rapport and trust with them that should make it easier for her to ask them to go past their comfort zones, and they are more likely to follow her to that scary place because of that groundwork.

However, she's not teaching self-defense. More's the pity, she seems like a good teacher.

I'm sometimes frustrated in how some (too many) women are so reluctant to consider self-defense as a set of critical life skills (other women have noted the same in other fields, notably Barbara Stanny and Mikelann Valterra on personal finance). However, that's what is. To paraphrase a famous Seattle band, students come as they are, not as I want them to be. My job as a self-defense instructor is to increase their awareness of self-defense situations and options, including physically fighting. Not all students will be gung-ho fighters; in fact, virtually none of my students are. My niche is encouraging these peace-loving women to acknowledge their own power and stand up for themselves and for those they love. Fighting skill, a critical tool, is not the only tool. Don't fight who you are, fight as you are.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tough love in reporting domestic abuse?

The (online news from Central Indiana) ran an article today on domestic violence and law enforcement cases. The focus is on the difficulty of prosecuting abusers if the victim refuses to press charges, or recants her allegations. Read this article here. Law enforcement in some Indiana counties is working on new strategies to prosecute abusers, even if the victim later turns uncooperative.

One proposed strategy to is to penalize those who first report assault/domestic violence, and then later recant. "Those who actually recant earlier allegations of battery will likely find themselves the target of a criminal investigation, facing the possibility of charges ranging from obstruction of justice to false informing," according to this article.

Other parts of the plan are to have responding police officers compile more evidence and extensive reports, and any victim who later wishes to have the charges against her abuser dropped would be required to take a 10 hour class on the cycle of violence and abuse.

What do you think about possibly prosecuting victims of abuse who later recant and thus prevent prosecution of their abusers? Is this just further re-traumatizing victims? Will it lead to fewer reported abuse instances? Is this holding victims accountable for following through on their actions? Take a short survey here, results will be reported later on this blog.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dating Violence Resources

Do you have a teen (or tween, or college-age) daughter? Do you know young women? Here's some great resources for them:

Lindsay Ann Burke was murdered by her boyfriend. Her family began a memorial fund, and their website is awesome in the resources it contains for young women and their families. Visit them at today.

Ann Burke (Lindsay's mom) has become a tireless advocate for young women and against abusive relationships. She's helped form a national coalition (sponsored in part by Liz Claiborne Inc. and Redbook Magazine) to advocate for all middle and high schools to teach a curriculum about preventing dating relationship violence and abuse. Read their press release at

Are there teen girls in your life? Please don't wait until someone you care about is killed. What can you do to create a safe environment in case one of them needs help?

Monday, December 08, 2008

These Shoes Were Made for Whopping

An article in today's Palm Beach Post reports that a woman used her high heel shoe against an assailant. Read here:

I've heard over and over again by well-meaning self-defense instructors and law enforcement officers that women should wear "sensible shoes" in case they need to run. From what I've seen, very few women pick their footwear for safety reasons. I think most women also believe they'd be hard-pressed to outrun many assailants, regardless of footwear.

Rather, I believe a more useful suggestion is to know how to use what you've got. Acknowledge that you won't break any speed records in high heels, but if you have to wear them at least know how to quickly slip it off and what soft squishy targets to aim for.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Yet More Seasonal Safe Shopping

I'm writing this from the Aloha State, yes Hawaii. Often sunny yet often (like today) rainy. I'm here for a karate tournament (the All-Hawaii Championships, in which I won 2 gold and 1 bronze medals), and further training from the head of our organization (the International Karate Federation of Sensei Chuzo Kotaka). So, since today is damp, I have some time to post another blog entry. Yes, more on shopping safety tips.

• Bus riders, be careful what you’re carrying. Some Seattle bus routes have become a hunting ground for robbery, especially among teens. Don’t flash you expensive electronics. Look around at who else is on the bus, and more importantly who else may be taking a good look at you and what you’ve got. And don’t get so engrossed in listening to your music that you lose attention to what’s happening around.

• Carry only what you need. Don’t bring all your credit and ATM cards with you. In fact, I separate my cards and wallet from other forms of ID, and keep my keys separate from both. If you keep everything in one bag and it’s all stolen, you run a risk of not only identity theft but also burglary. Generally I’ll keep a wallet in my bag, my driver’s license and a credit card in a jacket pocket, and my keys in my pants pocket. Don’t have pockets? Maybe it’s time to shop for new clothes.