Spend some time in Tom Henzey’s dojo, and you’ll quickly realize that the message he imparts to women in his self-defense classes at 7 Tigers Tae Kwon Do is a simple one: Protecting yourself should be instinctive, reflexive and as natural as breathing. “Your instincts will keep you alive,” says the straight-talking black belt. “Unfortunately, people in this city are often lulled into thinking it’s Mayberry, and they let their guard down. You can’t stick your head in the sand and pretend predators are only in the big cities.”
Henzey says it is important to have a plan of action in mind before you’re attacked. “You need to resolve that you’re going to do something, and it has to be effective,” he says. The following photographs feature 7 Tigers students Chris Morris, Barbara Maxwell and Megan Grimes simulating threatening situations that women may encounter, and some of the moves they can use to stop their attacker so they can escape.
While the photos are a good place to start, the most effective way to protect yourself from an attacker is to learn the moves from a trained professional. See the sidebar on page 21 for local self-defense resources.
Break the hold
A favored move of many attackers is a choke hold, which Chris puts on Barbara in photo 1. Choking is an act of dominance, and an attacker often will shake his victim’s head from side to side so she will resist, which makes him more agitated. “You have to get him off your head before your oxygen is cut off and your vision gets fuzzy. You need to keep your wits about you and act immediately,” Henzey says.
Although women have been told to go for the groin, this can be a mistake, because “these guys know what they’re doing and may have a groin cup on.” If he’s got his hands around your neck and is within arm’s reach, jam your fingers into his voicebox, as Barbara does in photo 2. A poke to the eye (photo 3) is also effective.
Go for the soft spots
If you are attacked, Henzey advises zeroing in on areas of a man’s body that you can damage. Kick him in the shin or knee, as Barbara does in this photo, or stomp on his foot. “You may just get one shot, so it’s got to be effective. And once you break free, run. You do not want to go toe-to-toe with the guy,” Henzey says. If you’re going to yell for help, don’t scream “help”; yell “fire” instead. Draw attention to yourself. If people hear “help,” they may not want to get involved or they might assume somebody else will come to your aid.
Make a rear exit
If someone grabs you from behind, as Chris does to Barbara in photo 1, you shouldn’t have to think. “Thought slows everything down; self-defense needs to become a habit,” Henzey says. Instead, immediately thrust your butt backwards (photo 2), into the attacker’s intestines, which is very painful. Aim well, though, because “if the guy has a big gut, it won’t do you any good to hit it,” Henzey cautions. “It’ll be like smashing a pillow.”
Bring him to his knees
Chris is about to backhand Megan in photo 1, but Megan, in photo 2, quickly moves into a hold that both stops him and prevents him from getting away. In photo 3, Megan brings Chris down and knees him in the intestines, which allows her to run. No matter what you’ve heard or read, it is important to do something, emphasizes Henzey. “The person who forced himself on you will be there forever,” he says. “Even if you only slap him, you’ve at least fought back; you’ll know you’ve hit him and hurt him. By inaction on our part we empower these guys and we’re intimidated by them.”
Stop, drop and stun
Another good move is to drop, break the hold and throw your elbows back into your attacker’s ribs. Or throw your head back and smash him in the face, as Barbara does in this picture. With either move, you’ll stun him, he’ll release you and you can take off. You can also grab an attacker’s crotch and shake it as hard as possible.
Do some leg work
As a rule, men have more upper body strength than women. But from the waist down a woman is equal to a man in strength, Henzey explains. “Not only do legs have twice the reach and five times the power of a fist, but with training, legs will move 60 to 90 miles an hour.” When Chris comes at Megan with a knife (photo 1), she throws a crescent (or circle) kick to his forearm (photo 2), which opens his hand and forces him to drop the weapon.
LEARN THE MOVES
Where you can learn more about self-defense7 Tigers Tae Kwan Do’s self-defense class offers women the chance to try out moves on a man. Offered Mondays 7:30-9pm. $30 for six classes (and t-shirt). 2335 Seminole Ln. Call 296-9933 or visit 7tigers-jidokwan.com for more information.
Athletes in Motion (AIM) specializes in after-school programs for students but also offers an adult self-defense class, usually held at Jack Jouett Middle School. Next class tentatively slated for summer. Call 800-323-3755 or visit www.aimusainc.com/ SelfDefense/SelfDefenseHome.html.
PVCC’s Center for Training and Workforce Development will begin a self-defense class on March 22 at the International Black Belt Center of Virginia off 29N near Pier 1. Class meets Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7:30-9pm. For more information call 962-5354 or visit www.pvcc.edu/cftwd/ and look for the Spring Schedule.
The Sexual Assault Resource Agency usually offers a Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) class. No upcoming classes are scheduled, but to stay current on scheduling call 295-7273 or visit www.sexualassaultresources.org/rad.html.
The UVA Police offer a RAD class with 12 hours of training in personal safety, including the opportunity to test your moves on an “attacker” in protective gear. Cost is $25 for four weekly three-hour classes. To schedule, get a group of 10 together and call Becky Campbell at 924-8845, or call to get on a waiting list for the next grouping. For more information visit www.virginia.edu/uvapolice.