Friday, June 16, 2017

The Problem With Wonder Woman

By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved

With the Wonder Woman movie having recently come out and been very successful Hollywood is patting itself on the back not only for a job well done making a successful movie, but also for promoting “girl power.”  Having a strong and powerful female lead is said to be good for females, young girls especially, because it an empowering thing to see strong, capable, and all over empowered woman on the big screen.  Such a thing is supposed to send a message to young girls and older women alike that they can be strong, “have it all,” and if need be, kick a man’s ass.

While I have no problem with the character Wonder Woman, the concept of female empowerment, and I have no plans to see the movie these types of movies do make me cringe a little bit and in the end I think they’ll get women in trouble.  The problem is all these movies like James Bond, Jason Borne, Taken, Charlee’s Angels, Salt, and of course super hero movies show characters that are essentially human wrecking balls tearing through hordes of bad guys single handedly and this ends up distorting people’s view of reality.

This is especially damaging to girls because when boys see these movies and get the idea they might be able to emulate the things they see on the screen they have a feedback mechanism that brings them back to reality.  That feedback mechanism is other boys; if a boy sees a bunch of action movies and they try to emulate what they see they are quickly brought back to reality by getting their butt kicked by other boys.  Young boys do a pretty good job of keeping themselves in check because they are perfectly willing to smack each other around.

The problem is that girls really don’t have this same mechanism to keep their expectations in check.  Girls generally don’t beat on each other and guys are taught not to hit girls even if the girl hits them first so while most guys get physically put in their place at least once while growing up this often doesn’t happen with girls.  In fact, with a lot of young girls their physical equality is reinforced when they’re young.

There is video I saw of a 10 year old girl that is a black belt in karate and I believe she is the youngest person to ever get a black belt in that organization.  The video goes on about how tough she is and how when she goes to competition she is doing very well and even beating the boys.  This is misleading because girls mature faster than boys to so at 10 years old she probably is a tall and strong as most of the boys her own age, and she might actually be a little stronger than a lot of them.  This girl probably has little difficulty going toe-to-toe with a lot of the boys and this unfortunately can give her, and others, the impression that she is just as physically capable as males but this is only true for a very short time.  Once boys start developing they quickly become bigger and stronger and unless they fall victim to some type of sickness or disease this doesn’t change.

I don’t know how many young girls and young women I’ve trained over the years that have this idea that they are just as physically capable as men when it comes to inflicting injury.  One girl in particular that I worked with was in her early 20’s said she wanted to learn to defend herself and wanted to be a “kick ass female;” she loved kung fu movies and especially loved the Charlee’s Angels remakes and she felt that she was ready to pursue that sort of persona.  She was dripping with confidence and raring to go and I knew I had to bring her down to reality a bit before I could train her so I held a kicking shield and had her kick and punch it as hard as she could.

I really like using a kicking shield with untrained people because people really have an unrealistic expectation of what their blows will do when they connect.  While she really enjoyed hitting the shield I could tell that her hands and wrists were starting to hurt a little bit and when she kicked it she pretty much bounced off the kicking shield   I told her to kick it really hard and when she did I pushed the pad forwards a little and she was knocked backwards and fell on her butt.

I asked her how she felt about hitting the pad and I could tell she was a little disappointed and she even made the comment that it was not like the movies.  Girls see movies where some larger than life female hero kicks a guy and he flies backwards 10 feet and they get it in their head that they can do that too, and since most of the time they don’t have a feedback mechanism like boys do to bring the back to reality some girls grow up thinking that they are just as capable as men when it comes to causing injuries.

While a female who is properly trained can disable a man through injury the fact is that a lot of women simply can’t, at least no intentionally.  Men are generally bigger, stronger, and more aggressive which can mean quite a bit when it actually comes to a real violent encounter.  I’ve been punched in the face two times by women and each were real punches delivered with the intent to do me hard and neither one did more than sting a little bit.  The truth is the only thing they really did was piss me off and make me want to hurt them.

When it comes to self-defense a woman is just not on equal footing when it comes to a man and all the Hollywood movies and “girl power” can’t change that.  There is no way of getting around the fact that if a woman has to fight off a man she will more than likely be fighting someone who is bigger, stronger, and more aggressive than she is.  If a woman thinks she can punch a guy in the face or kick him in the stomach and drop him she is most likely mistaken; even a kick to the testicles is not always guaranteed to put someone down.  When I was 16 I intervened when a girl about my own age was picking on a friend and the girl turned around and kicked me in the testicles as hard as she could.  It hurt, a lot, but really it just made me mad.  The look on her face when I didn’t drop to the ground in pain was of pure shock.  When she saw that I didn’t go down and how angry I got she left in a hurry because she knew that was really the only move she had.

Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with these movies or even with the concept of “girl power” itself.  I think boys and girls should be empowered to follow their dreams and blah, blah, blah.  My only issue is that I’ve seen firsthand that a lot of these movies give women a false sense of security that they can take down a guy if they have to and this is dangerous.  A woman shouldn’t try to fight a guy empty handed unless she has to because she is at a size and strength disadvantage.

Luckily, disabling injuries don’t care how they happen or who caused them so a woman can certainly injure a man and put him down but she is going to have to put more effort into it and work smarter.  When I see a woman who wants to learn to defend herself go to a gym and start learning how to box I cringe a little.  Sure, a woman who is professionally trained to box can knock out a guy…some of the time.  However, going force to force like that just isn’t wise.

There is a reason why a woman who wants to kill her husband shoots him in his sleep or poisons his food instead of challenging him to a fist fight.  Woman have to rely on intelligence, weapons, anatomy, and leverage a bit more than guys do if they want to disable a man and that is life but it is also perfectly doable.  Other than physical fitness or actually engaging in competitive fighting against other women there is no reason for a woman to ever throw a jab; after all if a right cross to a man’s face is probably going to just piss him off then throwing a jab is nothing more than wasted time (unless you’re trying to initiate a finch response to set him up for something else).

Woman need to realize that while, yes, they’re equal and just a “good” as a man they are not the same.  Men’s and women’s bodies are quite different and if a woman doesn’t plan for that then she is going to suffer the consequences when a violent act occurs.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Do I Recommend Anti-Rape Underwear?

By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved

Anti-Rape Underwear is a product that has gotten a lot of attention these last few years.  For anyone that doesn’t know it is a combination of shorts and a chastity belt that a woman can wear that is resistant to being cut or pulled off the wearer thereby “preventing rape.”

This product has not gone into production yet in the United States but it was funded on a crowd funding site called Indiegogo and raised over $50,000.  This concept and prototypes for this product was introduced in 2013 and according to their most recent update they are a long way off from going to market citing issues with manufacturing making both quality control and affordability very difficult.

As someone who teaches self-defense I get asked all the time what my thoughts are on various self-defense products and just recently a woman asked me about these and if I recommend them.  The answer I gave her is I wish I could recommend them but I cannot.

First is the question of will a woman actually wear these in the first place?  A lot of people go out and purchase a firearm for self-protection and then get a concealed carry permit and they’ll start carrying their weapon and enjoy the increased feeling of safety they get.  However, what happens a lot of the time is that after a little while a lot of people “start forgetting” to carry their weapon every day or just stop carrying it altogether because carrying a concealed weapon can be uncomfortable and it can be a pain in the ass.  While those truly committed make sure they’re carrying the right firearm for them in the right holster and are wearing the right clothes it cannot be denied that carrying a firearm is a responsibility and a commitment.

I see the same thing with pepper spray also; I don’t know how many men and women I’ve trained to use pepper spray admit to me that while they carried it all the time at first now they rarely carry it.  What reason do they give me as to why they stopped carrying it?  It was a pain in the ass.

I was raised with 5 older sisters and I was married for 14 years (to a separate woman, not one of my sisters) and I was always shocked with the amount of clothes they had.  My ex-wife not only had clothes in the bedroom but she turned a separate bedroom into a walk-in closet and then still wanted more room.  The point of all of this is that with the degree of care that women take in their personal appearance and the variety of clothes that they want, even if they buy this are they actually going to wear it?  My ex-wife had a whole drawer full of “cute” underwear and if she was going out with her friends (a situation that one would be seen as an occasion for wearing anti-rape underwear) I highly doubt that she would ditch her pretty lacy underwear for something that looks like men’s boxer-briefs.  This is something that I think people would buy but just wouldn’t actually use.

Even if women did wear it I see too many things going wrong.  What happens if you get injured and have to go to the emergency room?  If you’re conscious and can remove it yourself you’re fine but what if you don’t have the range of motion to take it off due to your injuries or what if you’re unconscious?  If you got in a car accident and you’re bleeding from your femoral artery but the doctors can’t get to your femoral artery to fix it then you’re dead.

Assuming these underwear preform the way they’re supposed to and don’t malfunction and refuse to come off trapping a woman inside them and she ends up having to call the fire department to bring the jaws of life out to cut her out of them, what about metal detectors?  What about going through security at the airport?  We all know that women have small bladders so are women going to tolerate the hassle of unlocking and relocking them every time they have to use the toilet?  Walking around with this metal cage on just seems inconvenient.

While I do applaud the makers of this product and the garment itself for the effort, I just don’t think this will work.  The only way that I see this stopping rape is if a girl (they don’t make them for men) is drugged or gets drunk and passes out at a party.  If a girl is passed out lying on a bed and someone wants to rape her while she is unconscious it could possibly stop them, but I still don’t think it will.

The locking mechanism on these garments doesn’t seem very complicated and I think if I had 20 minutes alone with a passed out girl I could move the lock around enough to stumble upon the combination and remove her protective underwear.  In this one instance I think this could potentially stop rape but I feel that it is more likely it would just slow it down a little.

In all other types of rape I think this is a good intentioned product with a very flawed premise.  To think that a rapist is going to tug at this for a few minutes and then get frustrated and twirl his handlebar mustache while saying, “Bah…foiled again!” and then leave with his cape flowing behind him is very unlikely.  What I believe to be more likely is that he’s just going to beat the shit out of her. 

I’m not a rapist and I’m not the type of person who would rape, however, in being a self-defense instructor I often have to put myself in the mindset of a criminal so I can help my clients prepare for the realities of criminal violence.  If I was the kind of person that was going to rape a woman and I couldn’t remove her underwear I would think I would do one, or more, of the following three things:

One: Since I couldn’t rape her vaginally or anally I’d just rape her orally. She’d still get rapped but she wouldn’t have to worry about getting pregnant.

Two: I would simply make her take them off.  If I’m the kind of person that would forcibly rape someone I think I would have very little problem hurting them until they agreed to just take them off.  I would have to think that if you told a woman, “Look, either you can take them off so I can rape you or I can punch you in the face until you take them off and then I’ll rape you” I think they’ll pick the former.

Three: I would get upset and just beat her perhaps causing serious injury, brain damage, coma, or even death.  A man in a fit of rage unloading physically on a woman is something that can easily end up being fatal.

I do applaud these people for their innovation on making a modern version of a chastity belt.  I was taught when I was young that chastity belts were a common feature in medieval times where some gallant knight would lock up his woman’s privates before charging off to war saying something to the tune of, “Goodbye my love, while I’m off bravely fighting for our kingdom try not to die of the yeast infection you’ll most surely get from not being able to properly clean your undercarriage for the next year and a half.  Ha-haaah….moisture!” 

The truth is most historians believe that chastity belts didn’t exist until the 1400’s and they are really a product of the 18th and 19th century and used primary to keep people from masturbating.  While these belts were also used to protect a woman’s virtue in the workplace making teenage sons and daughters wear them to prevent masturbation was far more common.

One thing that I do like is there is a version of this product already sold in Germany, where reportedly German women are being sexually assaulted in alarming numbers by Muslim immigrants, that features cut and pull resistant pants with a 130 decibel alarm so if someone did try to pull them down the alarm would sound.  The alarm potentially could scare off an attacker but more than likely it would still have be combined with a proactive defense and a bit of luck.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Top 10 Attacks You Should Train For

By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved

While there is no question that violence can occur in many forms, again and again we find that there are a set number of ways that seem to be the favorite of those who regularly engage in violence.  To this end I have compiled a top ten list of the top ten ways in which a person is likely to be attacked and that they should train for.

Number Ten:  Having a gun pulled on you from within arm’s reach.    

Criminals of all types love firearms because they are a great equalizer; with a firearm a person can commit acts of violence without having to be bigger, stronger, faster, more intelligent, or more skilled than his target.  When a criminal does pull a gun they have a desire to get close with that weapon because they feel that the closer they can get to their victim the more control they have, and this is why most shootings happen within 5 feet.

The answer to this is of course to practice gun disarming techniques and be familiar with how to attack a person who has a gun without getting yourself or others shot and killed in the process.

Number Nine: Having a gun pulled on you from outside of arm’s reach.   

While most often a criminal will want to be close when they commit their crimes they may not always feel comfortable enough to do so.  Another possibility is you might have to engage them before they get to arm’s distance if they seem like they may start firing right away.

One should also be familiar with techniques to get off the line of fire and close the distance so they can attack the gun toting criminal without getting shot.

Number Eight: Getting stabbed for real.   

What is meant by “getting stabbed for real” is that when it comes to defending against knife attacks most people practice with someone brandishing a knife just outside of arms reach and then stepping in and making this big movement to lunge forwards with the knife and then the person practices sidestepping the thrust while parrying and then perform some type of disarm or controlling technique.  The problem is that police reports don’t support this narrative. 

When it comes to actual police reports from actual stabbing victims we see the same thing over and over and that is the person almost never sees the knife that stabbed them.  Nearly all reports from stabbing victims state that what happened is that they got attacked, thought that they were being punched in the stomach, and then felt a little weak and sleepy, noticed the blood, and then they realized that they’ve been stabbed instead of punched. 

If you do get attacked with a knife it will most likely be by someone who holds the knife by their side so you have a hard time seeing it and then when they stab they’ll come in low and repeatedly punch the knife into your stomach from a very close distance.  This sort of close in knife attack, consisting of very small and sharp arm movements, are nearly impossible to side step or deflect.  To see this in action to a web search of videos of prison stabbings and you’ll see this method actually being used.

Number Seven: Having your collar grabbed.  

 Grabbing someone by the collar has long since been a main way of intimidating and trying to control another person.  In studying reports of real acts of violence we see one and two handed collar grabs not only used in intimidation before the actual assault but even during the assault.  Often while fists are flying someone will attempt to grab the other person by the collar and hold him while they strike him with their other hand

The good news here is if someone grabs you by the collar that means that they’re close enough to hit and that they’re tying up one or both of their hands.  If you know how to capitalize on a collar grab you can turn this to your advantage.  One should learn how to take advantage of a collar grab when it is statically holding onto your garment as well as when it is pulling you forwards and pushing you backwards and/or up against a wall or other object.

Number Six:  A two handed choke. 

Like the collar grab the single handed and two handed choke is widely used both for intimidating and during the actual violent encounter.  People seem to have an instinct that tells them to attack the throat of another person leading to strangulation being a widely used method of assaulting and killing.  Being choked while standing up is a real possibility but also is being choked while you are on the ground.  In many cases we see someone being knocked to the ground, or tripping, and another person climbing on top and using the opportunity to choke the other person into unconsciousness.

Defenses against single and double handed chokes should be practiced both while standing and on the ground.  As with the lapel grab there are many benefits from getting choked in that the other person is both close enough to hit and has their hands tied up; being choked is a great opportunity to break someone’s arm.

Number Five: The sacrificial lamb.   

The sacrificial lamb is a tactic used by many gangs and other types of criminals where one person will either distract an intended target from the front while others attack him from behind, or the person will attack the intended target from the front and if things go poorly then others will jump in and help him out.  This is a very successful method for ambushing a target so anytime you’re approached while out and about you should always assume there is more than one attacker and you should position yourself so you can check around you to see if anyone else is approaching.

Learning to defend against multiple attackers is a must for anyone interested in learning to defend themselves.  Also, this is a good example of why anyone engaged in self-defense training should take up running because if you detect that you’re about to be attacked by multiple attackers often running is the best defense.  I was taught you should be able to sprint all out for at least 100 yards because most people can only sprint for maybe 40-50 yards so if you can go all out for 100 yards you should be able to outrun them over a distance. 

Number Four: Being attacked from behind by surprise.   

No criminal wants a fight so most will try to stack the deck in their favor as much as possible before they make their move.  Attacking from behind and by surprise are both key elements in most criminal attacks.  Since no one has eyes in the back of their heads these type of attacks can be very difficult to deal with.

Having a heightened state of awareness when you’re in areas where crimes are more statistically likely is always a good place to start.  Areas like parking lots, gas stations, public bathrooms, elevators, hallways, and other areas where you’re with people you don’t fully know or trust are all areas where you should have your head up and be actively looking around.

Limiting distractions is another great method in preventing these attacks.  Often people are walking around on their cell phone, listening to music, or engaged in some other task instead of paying attention to where they are going and what is around them.  Not being alone is another great method; if you are with other people or even with a dog you have more eyes to detect when someone is approaching you and there is a degree of safety in numbers.

I always teach my students to adopt a 45 degree angle when at all possible.  When they’re in line, ordering at a counter, standing by their car, using an ATM, or even using a urinal instead of standing flush to it where you cannot see behind you, you can turn to a 45 degree angle and now you can see what is in front of you, to the side, and even what is behind you with little effort.  I also use this while sitting at a table or behind my desk.  If you’re sitting squared up to the table or the desk you’re trapped by it to a certain degree but if you adopt a 45 degree angle you are freer to get up and move if you need to.

 Number Three: The sucker punch

This is another great example of criminals, and bullies, not wanting a fight but rather a victim.  To a certain degree a true sucker punch is very hard to defend against because it is very difficult to see coming.  However, if you pay attention to when a sucker punch is normally thrown you can better your chances of avoiding it.

A sucker punch is often used during an “interview.”  This is where a criminal approaches you and engages you in seemingly harmless conversation to test you to see if you’re a viable target and to distract you while they get closer to you.  They often will do something like ask you what time it is and when you look down at your watch they’ll step in and sucker punch you.  If you believe you’re being interviewed you should keep your distance, check the area for other potential attackers, and then never take your eye off the other person.  If the person does come closer you should become assertive, aggressive if necessary, and be ready for the sucker punch.

If someone is approaching you they’ll often throw the sucker punch once they cross into “punching distance.”  Generally when someone is about 4 feet away from you that is when they can step in and punch you with little difficulty so when someone crosses that 4 for 5 feet away from you zone that is when you should be looking for the sucker punch to come.

When someone is close to you already generally they will act like they’re disengaging you before throwing the punch.  Often they will turn away from you and then turn back and throw the punch or they might step back like they’re backing off and throw the punch.  Another common method is someone who is quite upset suddenly acting like they’ve magically calmed down; if a person who was very upset suddenly becomes calm and even tells you that they’re going to let things go then there is a good chance a sucker punch is seconds away.  All these things are an attempt to lull you into a false sense of security first so that you won’t see the sucker punch coming.

 Number Two:  The right roundhouse punch. 

World over most people are right handed so it makes sense that if they were to punch you it would be with their right hand.  The roundhouse punch is a natural method of striking even seen in other primates, so if you combine these things together it is no wonder that the right roundhouse punch is statically the most common method of attack you will face.

The benefit of this is that if you know this is the probably method of attack you can be on the lookout for it.  Plus, since this attack is wide and circular it is often telegraphed and easy to defend against simply by stepping in and getting inside the circular path.

Number One:  Charging forward and throwing multiple punches.

 While the right roundhouse punch is the most common method of being attacked this is also incredibly common and arguably the most effective.  Whether it is during a robbery, home invasion, fight on the street, or even in the boxing or wrestleboxing ring this is one of the most effective ways of ending a fight and it is used by martial arts masters and professional bare-knuckle boxers as strategy and by common thugs and criminals by instinct.

The reason this is so effective is firstly that there are multiple punches to contend with rather than just one or two.  Being attacked by continuous punches makes it very hard to protect or avoid them all plus since each punch generally comes at your face each punch is concealing the one behind it making them hard to see.

The second reason this is so effective is because the aggressor is not simply standing still allowing you room to maneuver, rather they are charging forward.  By charging forwards they are throwing off your sense of distance and timing making the blows very hard to counter and this drives your weight backwards on your heels making it very hard to move.  Even if you do manage to move, since they can move forward faster than you can move backwards it is very easy for them to just run you over.

I learned this when I was about 14 or 15 and my instructor called it the “Tiger Attack.”  My instructor told me that as soon as I saw an opening, normally someone dropping their hands, getting distracted, or settling their weight more on one leg then the other, to suddenly charge forward with the goal of running over them, stepping on their foot if I could, and throwing repeated punches or tiger claw strikes at their face.  This technique is fast, effective and very hard to defend against.  Wing Chun had a similar method called the “straight blast” and supposedly it was even Bruce Lee’s go-to method.

This is more difficult to defend against but it is so incredibly common that it should be one of the major techniques we practice defending against.  Some methods of defending against this are to bend your knees and drop down into a deep strong horse stance which puts your head under their shoulders.  This will get you under their punches and if they do hit you they’ll glance of the curvature of your skull.  Next you can step forward striking them under the armpit or under the chin with a nice powerful high block, palm strike, etc.

Another method would be to simply step forwards into their attack with a strike of your own.  Since they’re coming forwards you should smother a couple of their punches and the force of their body coming forwards should make your strike all the more powerful. 

You could also drop down low in a tackling technique if you feel comfortable with wrestling but wrestling during a real violence encounter is never advised.  However, you could drop to a knee and strike upwards into the groin or grab their leg and do a takedown.

If you notice that attack early enough when you still have control over your balance  you can sidestep or even step back with one foot and pivot your body towards them to counter in that manner.

You should never try to kick because you’ll have little power and will just probably fall over and if you do try to strike you should focus on soft tissue targets since your weight will most likely be pushed backwards and you’ll have little leverage.  I’ve also had success during training with stepping forwards, grabbing them, and doing a “drop-back throw” or a “sacrifice throw” as it is called in Judo.

If you’re interested in the art of self-defense or you teach any self-defense discipline then these ten attacks should be what you focus a lot of your training on since they show up more often than not and have proven to be very effective when used against both the general public and trained fighters alike.