Krav Maga Thailand Martial Arts Pattaya Bangkok Self Defense kravmagathailand.com Gerry Nolan Chief Instuctor Krav Maga Fist Self Defense Thailand, originally uploaded by Gman290.
I'd always wanted to enroll in a self-defense course--someday. I knew the facts: each year, 2.5 million women report a violent attack. Still, I put it off. Then, while reading safety expert Gavin de Becker's brilliant book The Gift of Fear, I spotted his description of IMPACT training: "the best self-defense course for women." Something clicked. I called Prepare Inc. in Manhattan and signed up for its basic five-week IMPACT course. In no time, the issue of my personal safety became compelling--even fascinating. There's nothing like being repeatedly dragged to the floor by an armor-clad male instructor to focus your mind.
The teachers--Meghan, Dana, Dave and Mike--were young, personable and articulate--and, we learned, Dave and Mike's middling stature (five feet eight, 150 to 180 pounds) matches the average rapist's. From among my classmates, thirteen women age sixteen to sixty-plus, I was assigned a buddy: Maureen Maguire, a willowy economist who rode the train into Manhattan each Saturday to step into the Chelsea classroom and onto the mat to face Dave and Mike.
These two led a Jekyll-and-Hyde existence. Without their armor--bulky, face-concealing helmets and body pads--they radiated a benign, Zen-like calm. Armored, they morphed into a hideous pantheon: the "helpful" stranger with a sinister agenda; the sleazy, persistent street bum; the obscene cat-caller; the nighttime intruder (sometimes carrying a knife); the murderous psychopath. As we stepped onto the mat, they accosted us, launching the preliminary "interview" that predators use to assess a potential victim's vulnerability. Flirtatious come-ons or veiled threats escalated to verbal abuse, then physical attack. They came at us singly or in pairs, lunging from in front, clutching from behind or (most nightmarish) creeping up stealthily as we lay "sleeping."
We learned what to do--how to check for escape routes and, if trapped, to say something to calm or distract an attacker. We were encouraged to trust our instincts, to heed the inner voice that says uh-oh and counsels fight, flight or negotiation (there's no one right response). We also were told that, statistically, you're more likely to fend off a rapist by screaming and resisting than by submitting or begging him to stop--so in class, we fought.
With deft, precise coaching (and to our classmates' cheers), we learned how to kick an attacker's face or groin, gouge his eyes with our fingers, strike his chin or face with an elbow or a palm. We learned to shout no as we struck, to boost the blow's power; to ride the surging, trancelike adrenaline high of even these pretend fights; to use our legs and lower torso--the strongest part of a woman's body--to give our kicks and blows force enough to knock a man out. Half of our last class was devoted to verbal stratagems for use not in life-or-death struggles but in the ordinary conflicts of everyday life.
After graduating, not only did I feel better equipped to face an attacker; I noticed that a nagging, subliminal anxiety had vanished. In some profound way I felt transformed. So did Maureen. "You don't know what the outcome would be if you had to fight someone, but knowing that I have more control really calms my mind," she says. She also credits our classmates' emotional support. "You go through this very raw experience together--you're putting very deep-seated fears on the table and exposing yourself. Having others accept those fears and cheer you on gives you such confidence."
Weeks later, I began a daily jogging program. Such lifestyle improvements are a common "spillover effect," says Prepare Inc.'s founder, attorney Donna Chalet. "After taking the class, people tell us they're able to quit smoking, to focus on their diets or exercise plans. Their relationships are more intimate; they're able to talk to their children, even their pets, differently. People also feel more in charge at business meetings, better prepared to handle criticism or conflict. Men report feeling calmer; women start their own businesses or go free-lance. They write the book; they paint the painting."
Her words conjure a vivid picture of well-being--of life lived with energy, confidence and verve. So if you've always wanted to take a self-defense course, go ahead. It's basic to self-care--as vital as learning CPR, and a whole lot more exciting. Prepare Inc. offers IMPACT courses for men, women and children in major cities nationwide; private, custom-designed classes are also available. In Manhattan, the basic course costs $495. 800-345-5425; www.prepareinc.com. To order The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker (Dell; $6.99), call Books Now at 800-962-6651.
Guernsey, Diane. "Your best defense: taking a self-defense course gives you a sense of personal safety--and far more. (Health)." Town & Country July 2002: 68. Academic OneFile. Web. 17 Mar. 2010.
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