In the UK paper The Telegraph comes this story (registration may be required)
How to bring out the Lara Croft in you
Helen Kirwan-Taylor takes kung fu lessons and learns that the contents of her handbag can be lethal
Especially if there’s a .38 in it. But not in England.
You really want to believe that Kung Fu for Girls: Self-Defence for Divas by Simon Harrison is just another violent comic book. The heroine, a sexy, Lara Croft-style character, uses stunts, such as gouging out the eyes of a psychotic-looking mugger, to defend herself.
Sadly, however, as Harrison, a second degree black belt in Shaolin Ngor Chor kung fu and full-time martial arts coach, knows, street crime – and the scenes depicted in the book – is real. According to Metropolitan Police statistics, 4,558 people were robbed of, or had their personal property snatched in August alone.
It hadn’t occurred to me to learn self-defence until I witnessed a mugging from my window.
It’s never real to people until it happens to THEM, for some reason.
Our neighbour was attacked at 6pm by two young boys wanting his Rolex. It was terrifying. Then, one night, we woke to find a man in our hallway. He only managed to take my husband’s bike, but he left us all in a state of heightened anxiety. That same week, as a friend unloaded her shopping bags, a man attacked her from behind and stole the car.
One person, three personal stories of recent victimization. Sure is safe over there, isn’t it?
It was such stories, where the victims are defenceless, that inspired Harrison to write the book. “There are no accessible martial arts books available, and certainly none specifically targeted at women,” he says. Although there is a clear disclaimer at the front, each of the moves and techniques, which are given humorous names such as “Folding Villain” and “Bashing Barry”, are meant to be used only after everything else has failed.
According to Harrison, the first lesson of self-defence is to use no defence at all, but to run away: “A moving target is much harder to hit.”
Good advice, if you can take it.
The other best measure is to prevent the attack. “The most important weapon you can have is a preventative attitude,” he says. This means paying attention to “transitional phases” – when an individual is most vulnerable. “A woman will be driving and talking on a phone. She’ll open the car door, still talking, and whack, she’s attacked from behind,” he says.
This is called “situational awareness” – and most people go around in the state described.
Instead, the smarter move would be to: “Stay in the car and to have a good look round before you get out. Otherwise, stay in the car, where you’re protected, and finish the conversation.”
Muggers are usually opportunists. “If you throw an obstacle in the way of the attacker, he’ll pick another victim,” says Harrison. “The purpose of martial arts is to teach you to overcome the fear of violence, but not to foolish ends. If they want your watch, give it to them. Is a Rolex worth dying for?”
No, but stopping a criminal may be worth the risk of your life. That’s a decision that should be left to the individual – not pre-empted by the government. After all, if he’s willing to kill to steal my Rolex, his next crime might be to murder someone for one, no? And I will have not prevented a possible murderer from committing that heinous crime.
It’s not a matter of equivalence, it’s a matter of value. The attacker sets the value – to him my life is worth my watch. He’s apparently willing to kill me to get it. Well, my life is worth considerably more than that, but he is risking his life to get it. Except in England, where the possibility of him actually getting killed or injured is almost nil because of the laws there that require the attacked to respond with “an appropriate level” of resistance. Sorry. I think three rounds from a .45 is an “appropriate level of resistance.” So is kicking him in the nuts and beating him to a bloody pulp.
If preventative action fails, there are simple and effective moves to try. An obvious manoeuvre is to attack the groin – the most vulnerable part of the male anatomy. This explains why martial arts experts walk in a funny circular fashion, called circle stepping moves.
Harrison teaches me my first lesson in the park. We start with a move known as “Give Him Five”. For this, you assume the guard position, with one leg in front of the other (like a boxer), and use one arm to block the assailant’s arm, while using the palm of your other hand to push his head away. This is followed by a front kick to the groin and a secondary elbow attack to the side of the head.
The second position that Harrison teaches me is the “Back Seat Special”. It’s for use when, “You’re sitting on a bench and someone wraps their arm around your neck, attempting to drag you away”. This move, which is particularly vicious, again, involves using your palm to push his head back. Then, grab his nostrils, or eyes, to keep the head in place while hitting the throat with hand strikes.
Sounds effective. It’d be more effective if she had some sort of weapon in her hand. A 120 lb. woman being attacked by a 250 lb. man doesn’t have much in the way of advantage.
It took me several trial runs, but once I got the hang of it, I felt invincible.
Trial runs you won’t get if you’re actually attacked.
Practice, practice, practice.
If you learn to protect the centre of your body – which is where an attacker generally strikes – with a combination of arm blocks and kicks, you can proceed to the more advanced moves.
Protection is not just about Bruce Lee-style stunts. Harrison has an alternative set of self-defence weapons. For example, he suggests using the “awkward little tables” in bars as a shield against flying bottles and drunken attackers. The contents of a handbag are also lethal: a mobile phone can be used to beat an attacker over the head. Keys, too, can be used as a spiky assault weapon, when held between the knuckles. Even coins have a function: you can throw them in an attacker’s face as you flee. Stilettos are useful, too – the heel can be used to stomp on a shin bone.
Remember when “Stilletto” meant a long, slim-bladed knife?
Let me expound for a moment. England is suffering its high level of contact crime not because they have a handgun ban, but because the law since the 1950’s has made it legally hazardous for the victim to defend himself. Use force to defend yourself and you will risk being arrested and charged with use of “excessive force.” Use a weapon and you WILL be, and you’ll be charged with “carrying an offensive weapon” – and even if you win, going to trial is not cheap. The law has made the population of England sheep ready to be sheared.
Here in America much moaning and writhing and gnashing of teeth occurs whenever concealed-carry legislation is proposed where the gun-phobes and the pundits claim that “arming everyone” will make the streets much more dangerous. And it never happens. The streets get safer, and not everyone is armed. Usually only a small percentage of people eligible for concealed carry get the permits. Usually only a small percentage of the permitted actually carry.
But the criminals don’t know who is or who isn’t armed, they just know that mugging someone might get them shot. And THAT is “an obstacle in the way of the attacker” that will cause him to choose another victim – or another occupation. Contact crimes in England are only dangerous to the victims. That must change, or their crime rates will never go down.
Perhaps now that the levels have reached the point where there are so many victims, the attitude may finally change. When it does, and someone witnesses a mugging in progress, the mugger will be attacked by everyone around, and when the Bobbies show up, there will be a mugger’s bloody corpse on the ground and no one will have seen anything…