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Students Learn To 'Fight Like A Girl' Against Armed Attackers

A local karate school gave a group of women the skills they need to defend themselves.

There's nothing wrong with fighting like a girl, especially if you're being threatened by an armed attacker.

A group of women ranging in age from teen to middle-aged learned to defend themselves against a possible assailant during a Defense Against Weapons class that was conducted recently at the on Alden Street in Cranford. Led by Master Robert Schneider, the owner of the Center and a 5th degree black belt, the class was open only to women as part of a "Women's Empowerment Series."

"If somebody has a weapon, typically they'll know how to use it," Schneider said, explaining the importance of a class that teaches women to defend themselves against an armed attacker. "This isn't a purse-snatching. This is where death is imminent."

The school has hosted other self-defense classes for women in the past, but there has always been one question is repeated following the lessons.

"They'll ask, 'but what happens if he has a weapon,'" Schneider said of his female students.

Schneider said the goal is to help women feel empowered. With the help of his wife, Anna, Schneider instructed the class participants to sit on the floor of the small karate studio. The class began with a video that included startling statistics about sexual assaults and armed attacks on women. The participants included college students, women who run or jog alone at night, women who travel to high-crime areas and taekwon-do students who wanted to know how to defend themselves against armed attackers.

Rule number one: fight like a girl. The techniques that were taught in the class focused on leverage and technique, not size.

"Don't try to fight  a man like a man," Schneider told the class, explaining that they were going to learn to attack a man's most vulnerable targets including the face, throat, groin and knees.

Schneider and his wife wasted no time in beginning the physical part of the class. The participants worked in pairs, taking turns playing the role of the attacker and the victim. The techniques - demonstrated first by the Schneiders - put the women in positions that mimicked real-life rape and assault scenarios. The students began by learning to push off an attacker while lying on their backs. The simple, yet effective techniques - when done correctly - can make it possible for the women to push off an assailant and give them enough time to run away and get help.

Another rule that Schneider told the class to remember involves attracting as much attention as possible in the event of an attack. Statistics show that more than 90 percent of all rapists will tell a victim "don't scream or I'll kill you," or "Stay quiet and you won't get hurt." In essence, they're telling you exactly what will ruin their plan. According to one study, more than 50 percent of all assailants will break off their attack if their target even indicates that they will resist. Screaming, throwing or breaking things, honking a car horn and kicking are all things that will appeal to the attackers fear that someone might hear the noise and come to investigate.

"Typically, an attacker is going to be yelling at you, demoralizing you," Schneider told the class, explaining that what you don't want to do is plead. You want to feign cooperation to make the attacker believe he's still in control. "Pleading will only fuel the fire."

As the class progressed, students learned how to defend themselves against an attacker armed with a knife, a handgun and a bat. They learned to push away an assailant from a standing position as well as more vulnerable positions, such as being pinned on their backs, choked or grabbed from behind.

To add a "real life" element to the class, Schneider employed the help of one of his students. Tall and intimidating, dressed in black protective gear from head to toe, David Brighouse played the part of the attacker as students used the techniques they learned to fight him off. With the exception of the instructor, Brighouse was the only male permitted to be in the room during the class.

Timid at first when practicing what they had learned, it wasn't long before the women fought Brighouse, kicking and pushing as he continued to come at them with fake knives, guns and bats, creating disturbingly realistic scenarios.

The constant message Schneider delivered to the women was to "make safe the body; make safe the weapon." Another point he stressed was to make every effort to put as much space between themselves and the attacker as possible.

The following six basic self-defense principals were stressed during the three hour class:

  • Pay attention to people around you. Criminals tend to exhibit predatory behavior - such as observing you - before they attack.
  • Stay with people or go to people. Do not let yourself be taken somewhere else.
  • Keep a barrier between you and the bad guy. Lock your doors; stay in your car; push something in between you and him.
  • Attract attention. Make noise; scream, kick, throw and break things.
  • Control his hip and his hands. This controls the distance between him and you.
  • Fight like a girl. Use your strongest weapons - such as your legs and elbows - against his weakest targets.

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