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Hell Hath no Fury

Like a woman with self-defense training

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It's a line to live by: "You should be polite and kind to everyone you meet, but you should also have a plan to destroy them." Tom Iradi, a firearms expert from Eagle Rock Training Systems, uttered this gem of a quote at the first free self-defense seminar called P3 (Practical Personal Protection for Women) last month.

P3 came about after Sandra Graunke, a local real estate agent, was carjacked at Carolina Place Mall and sought the skills to protect herself. She teamed up with Rob Hunter, owner and instructor at Hard Target, and Iradi to get the word out to all women susceptible to attack. "You don't have to give someone a ride like I did," Graunke told our class at the seminar. "An assault can happen anywhere and anytime out of the blue. If you take a basic self-defense class, you will have an experience to draw from should [you] get into a dangerous situation."

A dangerous situation was exactly what I thought I was in after arriving and realizing we couldn't wear shoes on the mat, and here I was without socks or a recent pedicure. C'est la vie. Most of us sat casually on the mat, waiting, while others chatted with friends that tagged along. Then in comes Hunter, turning the iPod tunes up and inviting us to stretch out those stubborn muscles. Eventually, my body loosened up enough to tolerate sitting Indian-style, a tradition I'd abandoned after kindergarten.

The innocence of kindergarten definitely had no place here. You need three points to survive an attack according to the P3 method: training, experience and my personal favorite, viciousness. Training began with what I call the "hanging ten," a nonthreatening stance where one arm is fully extended, palm facing the attacker, while the other hand sits cocked back, ready for a finger jab to the eye should things get heated. The idea was to keep this stance a comfortable distance away from the attacker, so we basically chased each other around until we mastered this unassuming art. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon this was not, but a workout nonetheless.

The next lesson was a bit more complex. The five levels of awareness were coded by colors like the air quality monitors they have on the weather broadcast. White meant you were unaware aka "completely oblivious because I was on my stupid cell phone!" Yellow was "I see somebody." Once somebody officially invaded your personal space, you were at level orange. Red meant you decided what course of action to take. Time's up, 'cause now you've entered the black zone where there's only room for action. This was a rather hard lesson to digest because (1) I'm super self-conscious so I'm liable to attack if someone simply gives me the once over and (2) I'm the queen of indecision -- "Do I run or kick butt?"

"Escalation of force options" rounded out lesson three. Hunter demonstrated the proper technique for wielding a small knife to cut major arteries of an attacker. Slashing up your attacker will give you a window to escape as his/her attention deviates to self-preservation. He also warned us about going against our nurturing nature and being prepared to do as much harm as it takes to survive. "Hey Rob, duly noted," I thought as I eagerly practiced raking and spraying my partner's eyes with my palm stick (a substitute flashlight/pepper spray device).

Iradi's subsequent lesson on firearm handling didn't bother me as much as I had expected. He was insightful and funny, going through different sizes. One was small enough to fit on a belt buckle. How about a gun totin' fanny pack for those quick draw days?

To graduate, each lady had to prove a working knowledge of each lesson in a reality-based training scenario. Hunter was the attacker in full-padded glory, just in case some spirited participant got a little slap-happy (sorry, Rob). For the most part, my class fared well against the villainous Hunter ­-- kicking, kneeing and sometimes clawing their way to freedom. Some gave up under the enormous energy drain of escape attempt, rallying back only after classmates cheered on. I, on the other hand, couldn't wait.

When it came time for me to face Rob, I approached him confidently even though I had no idea what I was going to do. He asked me where I lived, a question a few women had answered openly. "No where you need to know," I said with attitude.

"What are you afraid of?" he asked, buying time to recoup from twelve or so previous bouts, while also trying to create a fearful situation. My fears -- spiders, heights and large bodies of water -- as it turned out were not very relevant to this exercise. So, Hunter just attacked. Out of nowhere, I used the blocking maneuver he'd taught us and somehow managed to slam him (unfortunately not pictured to the left). I was ecstatic and even did a little Muhammad Ali strut afterwards.

There was something I dreaded, the escape from rape scenario. I don't know any woman who doesn't have a fear of rape in the back of her head. The key to getting out of this situation was to create space using your knee and then kick until the attacker's body is away from yours. Easier said than done. I did as I was told and nothing worked. So, I flipped out and attacked until I was able to shove Hunter away. He said I graduated A+ because I threw more punches than anybody else. I also ended up with a skinned knuckle from punching Hunter in the helmet one too many times.

Afterwards Hunter invited me to take a few classes. "You certainly have the athleticism and propensity toward being a great martial artist!" He told me. We'll see, Rob. For now, I'm satisfied knowing that I'm powerful enough to protect myself. Learning self-defense is truly an empowering feeling that all women should experience.

The next free P3 seminar will be Sat., Sept. 19, at 10am. For more info go to www.hardtargetmartialarts.com.

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