First Women’s Survival course in Holland
On July 15 and 16 I taught my first Women’s Survival course in Huizen, Holland (a suburb of Amsterdam) at the Frontline Solutions facility. This facility is where Mike Constantinedes (Reality-Based Personal Protection director of Holland) runs all of my Reality-Based courses.
The women in this course ranged from 17 years old with Esther van Seumeren to 35 years of age. All of them did fantastic.
I was supposed to have arrived in Amsterdam on the 14th, Friday, so I would have a day to get used to the time zone before the course. However, in Los Angeles there was a problem with my aircraft and I could not leave until Friday, which meant that I would arrive Saturday morning just before my class. Sure enough, I landed in Amsterdam and Mike’s top Reality-Based instructor Ronald van der Hulst came to the airport to pick me up. He then drove me straight to my students and I arrived only 30 minutes behind schedule. Although I came in a bit late Mike was doing exactly what I had instructed him to do, and that was to go outside in the parking lot and determine what vehicles belonged to a female and what belonged to men. Of course, rapists often times look into vehicles to select a victim. By the time they came into the classroom and Mike had them seated, I came in and introduced myself.
Mike and I then taught them the Threat Zones. They learned how to deal with everything from a “touchy” boss to a homeless person asking them for money – a common event in Amsterdam. After that we all went outside and learned how to walk, look at people, and avoid being ambushed in an urban environment.
Once the students were comfortable with being “A Hard Target,” we move back indoors and started working on fighting skills. The first thing we started with was how to use weapons – impact weapons, edged weapons, and firearms. For Dutch women the use of weapons is quite a shock, however, after a few scenarios all of the students realized they are no match for most men and weapons can mean the difference between life and death. Of course, ownership of guns in Holland is illegal, yet criminals carry guns in Holland. So, the women learned how to deal with them in the event they happened to have disarmed the suspect and had to use the weapon for self preservation.
Unlike most martial arts systems we then taught our women how to fight from the ground first, because that is where their fight is most likely to be. Mike and I taught only a handful of techniques that work in a real situation, and we taught them “hit and run” tactics. For full contact strikes in deadly force situations the women did their eye gouges and throat grabs on B.O.B. (our two martial arts mannequins).
By the end of the first day the women were exhausted, but happy with their new skills. On Sunday the students were ready for more, and the morning session was like night and day compared to their skills of the day before. This time there was no hesitation about using weapons, and the techniques came easier to our women.
What made this day a bit harder was the fact that the students had to go through more realistic scenarios. We ran them through sexual harassment situations, date rape scenarios for the single women, and some scary stranger attacks. One of Mike’s top male instructors, a police officer for the Amsterdam Police Department, volunteered to do the attacks.
By the time the final hour came the women had had enough, but they were all surprised at their new “Will to Survive” attitude. Even the weakest among them did not hesitate to beat back their attacker and escape. That’s not to say that the students always won their fights. We kept the fights realistic, and so losing was part of it. When it came to the “gang rape,” going against multiple attackers, only one woman survived by escaping, and just barely at that.
As crimes against women increase around the world I believe that this course is one of the most import classes that a woman can take. Just this one class can give a woman the insights to avoid being a victim. After all, we concentrated a lot about prevention and being aware of one’s environment. Our 17 year old, Esther van Seumeren, said that she loved the course, was talked into going by her mother, but said that she has no interest in learning any more. “This is what I came for, and this is what I got” she told me. On the other hand Genny Abou Abdallah, a mother of a four year old, was so impressed with the Women’s Survival course that she signed up for the entire Reality-Based Personal Protection Level 1 seminar the following week. I would later label her as “the toughest Reality-Based female in Holland,” and all of the other students and instructors agreed.
Reality-Based growing fast in Holland
I was just in Holland in May, but there was such a demand for another Level 1 seminar that I went back to teach there from July 17 to 21. Mike Constantinedes, the Reality-Based Personal Protection director of Holland, insisted that I make a separate trip to handle to demand. Just since May Mike has increased his regular monthly student enrolment by 35 students.
Not only was the course filled with Dutch martial artists from all over The Netherlands, but I also had Gary Dell from the United Kingdom who flew over and Martin Geelen from German drive up. What also made this course very interesting was the fact that the Amsterdam Police Department sent their five top Defensive Tactics/Firearms instructors to take my courses. I also had a Dutch soldier take the course so he would be prepared for his deployment to Afghanistan in November. He will be with a combat unit in the south central part of the country, and he was especially interested in learning how to defend against knife attacks and the Terrorism Survival course. Although the Level 1 seminar is a civilian-based system, police and military personnel are drawn to the courses for a number of reasons: there are many techniques and tactics just not taught in most agencies and units, the information is on the cutting edge of self-defense, and the Reality-Based system is a complete system: Pre-Conflict, Conflict, and Post-Conflict. The participation of police officers all week was especially nice for the civilian students as well since anytime there was a question about Dutch law, there was someone there who could accurately answer the questions.
Throughout the week the Level 1 course was overshadowed by the Israeli-Lebanon war which began on July 12th when Hezbollah guerillas abducted two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert then ordered his forces to recover the kidnapped troops in Israel's first ground offensive since the Israeli withdrawal of Lebanon in 2000. Olmert described the abductions as an "act of war," and the fighting still continues even at the time of this writing.
The war started three days before I arrived in Holland. Of course, many of my Dutch students finishing up their Level 1 training, or getting their instructor certificates, recalled me saying in May that there would be a major war involving the Arabs and the Israelis. They were shocked at just how soon it happened. Of course, I am not a prophet. I just have been an avid student of Middle East politics, and I knew that eventually the lid would blow in that area of the world, and that global terrorism would only increase – which is has substantially since May.
Each night after class Mike and I would first check out the latest news concerning the war on CNN, Aljazeera, and BBC. Of course, by the time the Terrorism Survival course rolled around on Friday my European students could see for themselves that things are only getting worse, and that terrorism is bound to increase. This is why the Terrorism Survival course is even more important to day then it was when I first created it on January 21, 2003.
Despite the war the Level 1 seminar ran smoothly, and the enthusiasm of the students was quite strong. This group bonded well together, and the learning was at a fevered pitch.
One of the milestones during this seminar was that Carola van Leeuwen became the very first female Reality-Based Personal Protection instructor in Holland followed by Genny Abou Abdallah. Both plan on teaching Women Survival courses with Mike Constantinedes at the Frontline Solutions facility. Carola began her training with me in May and finished up three courses this July. Carola is not only tough, detailed in her learning, but she definitely helps run the school with Mike. Some of the students joke and call her “mom,” because she takes care of people’s need and seems to always know what needs to be done before anyone asks. For me it was an honor certifying her in the Reality-Based system. She is the perfect example of someone with little martial arts background and who can become a fierce fighter in this easy-to-learn and easy-to-teach system.
One of the highlights for me during this trip was when Mike’s father-in-law, Hans, took me to Amsterdam and we went on a tour boat through Amsterdam. He grew up there, loves the city, and was the best tour guide one could have. I was definitely impressed with the many canals that snake through the center of the city, and the rich history of the city. Later we had a beer at one of the cafes, and talked about Dutch politics and economics.
Another pleasant surprise at the seminar was having Erik Hein of Mix Fight magazine www.topfight.com attend the Knife Survival and Terrorism Survival courses. This is Holland’s number one martial arts magazine, and I appear on the cover of this month’s issue along with a three page color spread. In May Erik watched the Crime Survival course and covered it as a journalist. This time he had the opportunity to participate and he loved it. He had a chance to not only see it for himself, but he talked with his fellow students and asked the police participants what they thought. Erik later told me, “I have never seen such a complete system before, and I cover everybody.”
Erik Hein, after the close of the Terrorism Survival course, asked me if I was worried about all of the new competition trying to follow my example. I told him, “Not at all. When I first went to Black Belt magazine in 1998 and spoke with Bob Young, I told him that if they let me write for them that I would impact the martial arts world, and I have. By the time the competition catches up with me I will once again jump in the lead, because I have only scratched the surface of my ideas. There are very few people out there with a background like mine. I don’t say that to brag, but it is an advantage. Plus, my system is duplicateable, and that is what is attracting people to it in so many countries.”
My trip to Holland was a good one. Although I would have loved to have stayed another day, and take Mike up on a trip to Belgium, I had to fly back to the USA on Saturday morning, July 22nd. I had to prepare for my seminar I was giving for Black Belt magazine at the 2nd Annual Black Belt Festival 2006 and to receive my award (see the following story). Then, on July 29th I left for Europe once again for a Level 1 course in Carrickmacross, Ireland, a Level 1 course in Paris, France, a two-day seminar in Milan, Italy and much needed vacation time on the Italian Riviera.
By the end of summer Mike Constantinedes and I will have selected the dates for next year’s Level 1 and Level 2 seminars in Holland.
Copyright Jim Wagner 2003 - 2021 All rights reserved.