Ask any woman what techniques she expects to learn in a self-defense class for women an the universal answers you’re most likely to hear are, “knee him in the groin” or “stomp on the top of his foot” or “poke him in the eye,” and the truth be told, that’s exactly the type of techniques that most martial arts schools teach starting from the first hour of class. Most self-defense instructors jump right into teaching conflict. However, that’s not how I do it in the Jim Wagner Reality-Based Personal Protection Women’s Survival course, a course I’ve been teaching to women since 1986. Nope! I teach in the never changing order of reality, and that is pre-conflict, conflict, and post conflict. And, that’s exactly what I did on Saturday, February 24, 2017 in Los Angeles, California for the 30 women in my course; women of all ages ranging from the youngest at 13-years-old to 65-years-old.
Pre-Conflict for Women’s Survival
He very first thing I do with the girls and women enrolled in my Women’s Survival course, and this last Saturday was no exception, I taught them the Threat Zones. Criminals are not just ghosts that suddenly appear. They either approach their victim or the victim walks into their ambush. So, right from the start I start off with realistic scenarios using male assistant instructors. The scenarios include the meeting of old friends (Red Zone), sexual harassment on the job or at school (Orange Zone), and a stranger walking up (Yellow Zone). We covered several other real world possibilities, and we talk about them: date rape, dealing with a homeless person panhandling, police interrogation distance, and situational awareness in general.
The next thing I did was to have my curious students follow me outside into the parking lot where most of them had parked their cars. They did not realize that I had gone out there while my assistant, Laura, was signing them in inside the classroom where they were given their step-by-step course outlines and an Incident Recollection Card. I had gone out there, and like a criminal would, I looked into a few cars to see if any of them would indicate that it was a woman’s car – my victim. I found just what I was looking for on the third car. Inside were a few items indicating that the car was driven by a woman: a woman’s book, a decorative heart hanging from the rear view mirror, and a colorful silk scarf.
I explained to my students what the definition of a “soft target” was, and then I pointed to the car behind me and said, “Ladies, this car is a soft target. I know that this car was driven by a woman, and so as a criminal, all I have to do is wait for her to come to this car and then I can attacker her. Whose car is this?”
Embarrassed, one of the women raised her hand and said, “It’s my car.” Of course, many of the other women were afraid that their car would be identified next, but I didn’t go to them. I just pointed out the mistake that my selected victim had made. Then I told them women how to make their vehicle appear “neutral” or “driven by a man” in order to make their car a “hard target.” I then gave them some helpful hints on how also to make their homes more of a hard target.
I picked a volunteer and I had her walk from her “home” or “office” and to her car. For the exercise all she had to do was simply walk from the classroom to the car I had selected as if it were hers. I gave her no instructions, other than to take the promenade like she would in real life. After she made the journey I then gave the class tactical tips point by point based upon her failures and successes. It was simple things like, “”Check your hard corners whenever you leave or enter a building,” (a police SWAT and combat military technique). “Visually scan the possible hiding places as you approach your car,” and “the bad guy may be in a parked car five cars down, and so just don’t think immediately around your car.” By this time my students were “hooked.” With all the things we talked about I could see that the wheels were spinning in their minds. They were starting to realize that there is a lot more involved in self-defense then they thought, and we had not even thrown the first punch yet.
Next, I showed my female students how to walk around a corner – military style. When I was in the military, and on my police department’s S.W.A.T. team, I had learned to Pie-the-Corner should the bad guy be waiting to ambush me. Not that any of my students are going to Afghanistan or on a police raid anytime soon, I wanted them to know all the fine details about the technique. Then I showed them how to take the same tactical technique and do it without a firearm, and “slice the pie” visually. Of course, one of my male assistant instructors waited around the corner so that they’d get an idea of what to look for and maneuver to get the best reaction distance possible.
After a few more drills outside we all headed back inside the classroom for a break. It was a nice spread that we had, and I enjoyed some green grapes on the vine and then a cup of coffee.
Conflict for Women’s Survival
The very first self-defense technique I taught my female students was to put an Airsoft pistol into their hands, a training pistol that fires a 6mm plastic projectile accurately up to 21 feet (7 meters), and go over the safe handling of a pistol. After going through the finer points of an Isosceles Shooting Stance, dry fire, I then loaded their pistols with “ammunition” to give it a try against a photo realistic paper target the distance of a typical living room. Several of the women in the group have never handled a weapon in their lives, let alone fire one (even though it was an Airsoft), but close enough to illustrate my point.
So what was my point? Why would I start with firearms even though most of the women in this course would never purchase a firearm? (a God-given right in the United States of America under the 2nd Amendment of our constitution). I even do the same thing in Europe were most countries don’t even allow their citizens to possess firearms. It’s not just because criminals and terrorists carry guns, and a woman who may be fortunately enough to perform a disarm in the heat of battle will need to know how to use it once she’s got it, but to drive it home that a woman cannot go toe-to-toe with a man, especially a violent criminal, and the only way she is likely to survive a life and death attack is to be armed, and the best possible weapon in the world for that is a firearm. Shooting a bad guy takes no strength, and very little training. Plus, if women can overcome their squeamishness of firearms, then getting them to accept using a knife for self-defense is a much easier transition, and most women don’t care to use this form of weapon either. While most martial arts instructors suggest that women carry pepper spray or use car keys as a weapon, which both are virtually useless against a real criminal (I know, because I’ve peppered sprayed many people as a cop, and fighting with keys between one’s fingers pinches them and twists every which way), I tell my students that a knife is an “equalizer;” not quite as good as a gun, but effective. Then I issued the women in my class a foam training knife.
Once armed I taught the proper conflict stance, the fist grip, and the universal 10 directions to strike and block with a knife. After they got the hang of it they realized it was just a tool like any other. However, teaching people techniques is the easy part, the hard part is preparing people mentally for real combat. I had to remind them that cutting a human being open, or stabbing him, is going to be “messy,” and they need to be prepared for the gruesome damage they are going to inflict. Of course, I explain the legal use-of-force according to California law.
I had a display on a table of various objects that can be used as self-defense weapons. I told them that the striking and blocking angles are the same for any non-firing handheld weapon they pick up, and I demonstrated each one on the table. Of course, criminals can do the same.
I then went into the “traditional” women’s self-defense techniques, but I start with the most lethal and go down from there. Using the Reality Based Impact Head I teach women the correct methods for targeting the eyes. I don’t care how tough and mean a criminal is, even one out of his mind on drugs, once you destroy an eyeball the woman has the chance to get away; again “hit and run” tactics, and not go toe-to-toe. I taught my students about taking the enemy’s ground (Kadima! Kadima!), attack the attacker concept, the ugly visuals of different injuries, and most of all SURVIVAL!
Post-Conflict for Women’s Survival
If a woman had to use force in order to survive an attack, not to mention being the victim of a serious crime, she is inevitably going to have to be interviewed by the police, and possibly stand before a judge if the case goes to trial. Knowing what to say, and what not to say, to law enforcement and the judicial system is part of Women’s Survival post-conflict training. The advantage I have over most self-defense instructors is that I served as a law enforcement officer at the city, county, state, and federal levels, and I’ve had plenty of lawyers take my courses, and so I know what I teach complies with all jurisdictions. Even in foreign countries the laws are very similar, and I only have to mention slight differences when I am teaching overseas.
Of course, there are many other post-conflict aspects, but I’ll leave those for another post: the Conflict Cycle, courtroom survival, preserving evidence, et cetera.
When the class ended I had many women come up to thank me, and many say that their “eyes have been opened” to the realities of criminal attacks. If nothing else, the women that I taught have more situational awareness than before, and they are more likely to heed my advice to them, “It is a lot better to avoid a conflict then have to fight. But, if you do have to fight ‘be the wet cat!’” Have you ever tried to give an aggressive cat a bath?
BE A HARD TARGET
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