Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My friend Beverly is getting her MBA in Digital Media, which I frankly did not even know existed as a degree, but she has become a window through which I view a whole world outside my own.  

See here her blog entry detailing how she taught me to join the current century. 

If there's one thing I've learned in this job it's that people have talents and skills that make life brighter and better and that they're almost always happy to share them with you.  This girl is going to do big things one day, mark my words (you heard it here first!).

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Get 'Em While They're Young

My gift to you: a video of a 4 year old and a 10 year old smacking me.  

These brothers are learning to practice defense against headlock from the side, a common schoolyard hold.  Once you tell a little kid they can hit you as hard as want and they won't get in trouble they'll take that ball and run with it.

The belly strike they're giving me is meant to be a groin strike, which we usually train striking the top of the thigh if your partner is not wearing a cup.  Since my legs were black and blue from training arm pulls with them last week, we moved the hits up to my stomach.  Once the technique is learned I'll put a cup on and let them make the groin strike. 

The video wouldn't load to the blog, so click this link to view it on my Facebook page. Enjoy.

Click here!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Guess What?

I was awarded Instructor of the Year at Fit and Fearless last night at the staff Christmas Party!  Yay!  Thanks, y'all!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

New interview

A couple of years ago a cop friend of mine told me something that's been clanging around in my head ever since.  She said, "The police are not responsible for your safety.  YOU are responsible for your safety.  The police are just there to clean up the mess."  

That made a huge impression on me and has seriously influenced my philosophy when I teach.   Since most of us don't walk around with a cop at our sides, we need to be proactive about our own safety.  

Sometimes people we live with are the ones that pose a danger to us, and that can leave us feeling totally vulnerable and alone.   Yesterday I posted an interview I did with Lisa Lucas, formerly of the Domestic Violence Unit at the Travis County Sheriff's Department (she is now a patrol deputy).  

There's a lot of good information in there about what to do if you find yourself in danger at the hands of a loved one.  Even if you are not in that situation and don't expect to be (of course, who does expect to be?) it's still worth a listen.  The information you learn may help change the life of someone you know.  

Check it out here, and thanks to Officer Lucas for taking the time to help us out.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mean Girls

This has happened to me twice... I'm chatting with a girl I just met & she asks what I do for a living.  Once I tell her I'm a Krav Maga instructor she gets all tickled and says she ought to train, and tells me what she does for fun:  she goes down to Sixth Street on the weekend and picks fights with guys.  This is to say, she says or does something so irritating or offensive to a male stranger that he tells her to shut up, go away, etc.  So she punches him in the face as hard as she can.  

Since a guy will get hauled off to jail if he punches a female, he feels like he can't retaliate (or, in this case, defend himself) so she "won".   And these girls were pretty proud of themselves when they told me this & expected me to applaud them.  It was everything I could do to restrain myself from removing their teeth.

The truth is, I was so shocked and offended by them that I really had no idea what to say.  So I got very quiet and still and said that if they act like that they can't train at our school.  

Really, I chickened out.  I tend to say cruel things when I'm really angry and I want to avoid that, plus I was so stunned by their behavior that my brain shut down.  Saying Fit and Fearless won't accept students who bully and attack others its true, but it was still a cop out on my part.  Here's what I'd like to say:

*If you punch people in the face for fun you deserve to get punched back.  I don't care who you are. There are people who engage in this behavior because they are with a friend who trains in martial arts & the puncher assumes they're immune from retaliation because their friend will "take care of it".  If I see someone acting like this I will not help them.  After they get their ass beat, I'll tell their mother on them.

*Young lady, the man who is not punching you back is not refraining because you're so tough.  He is using self control because he doesn't want to go to jail and/or he's been taught not to hit a female under any circumstances.  The fact that you're exploiting this makes you a bad person.  I will now refer you to the previous point.

*You're making me look bad.  Many people assume that women who engage in the "hard" martial arts are crazy or mean angry bitches with a chip on their shoulder.  I make a point to dress very girly and be nice and friendly so that people understand that normal girls like to train, too.  Your behavior is reinforcing the stereotype of the angry-nutjob fighter girl.  

*You are preventing other women from training.  Yes, this is a continuation of the previous point, but the last one was mostly about me.  This is about every female who has been told there's something wrong with her because she wants to train.  It's for every female who has hidden or downplayed the fact that she trains because she doesn't want to be judged as being damaged or warped or hating men.  Getting women to walk in the door of a martial arts studio and accept that it's okay to hit and be hit on the mat is difficult enough.  If other females believe that it's okay for normal women to step on the mat and go hard they're more likely to give it a try.  The fact that you assault people then brag about it makes sane women want to avoid anything that even resembles you.

*I'm not quite sure how to put this, but I also believe that a person who has been subjected to an injustice, as the men you assault have been, tends to adopt a "never again" attitude.  I don't blame them.  What this means to me is that he is more likely to strike a woman in the future, and it will probably not be a woman who is as prepared for violence as you seem to fantasize you are.  Violence against women is endemic in the human race.  I suspect you may be cementing the belief batterers hold that we all have it coming.  

I think that about covers it.  If anyone can tell me how to say that in under one minute and without resorting to the swear words that are so dear to me, I'm taking suggestions.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Just Do Something

"While Barkley continued to straddle the woman, who was crying, two women walked by on the street and did nothing, the affidavit said."

Just a few days ago, two women walked by a man obviously assaulting a woman near the UT campus.  They didn't bother calling 911.

Now here's the thing:  I know why people act like this.  Anyone who has ever been subjected to my Kitty Genovese drill knows, too.  I don't care, it's still infuriating.

(I'm not the only one who's angry.  Read my friend Jennie's blog on the same subject.)

What happens is're minding your own business and something shocking happens.  Someone is suddenly assaulted right there in front of you.  Probably it begins and ends before you even understand what's going on.  This is why people just stand around there looking around in YouTube videos when "something bad happens".  It's been over for several seconds before the bystanders even start whispering among themselves "did you see that?!".

Or maybe it's not over that fast and you have the opportunity to help.  But you probably don't.  Seriously.  The more shocked you are by that statement the less likely you are to actually be of any use under pressure.

Because...your brain freezes.  (Whaaaaa?...)

Then  denies.  (No, that can't be happening...I've misunderstood.  Are they filming a video?  You know, the film industry has been booming in Austin.  But it looks like he's really punching that, I'm imagining that, it's not that bad)

Then it freaks & goes numb.  (What am I supposed to do?  Nobody else is doing anything.  I don't want to get hurt. I don't want to get in trouble. He could have a knife! Nooooo.....just keep going, he'll be fine.)

This is normal.  Unfortunately, most people get stuck here.  

What it comes down to is that people don't know what to do, so they do nothing.  

But as I tell my students after the Kitty G. drill, you are going to have to live with your decision, whatever it is, for the rest of your life.

If you're reading this blog, you probably have some knowledge of or at least an interest in self-defense training, and therefore some clue of how and when to intervene.  

But what if you are unable or unwilling to physically jump into an assault in progress?  Should you just pretend you didn't see it?  Not if you want to sleep at night.

Try this:

*Just yell STOP!! as loudly and commandingly as you can.  Do not make a request.  Make a COMMAND.  I was shocked when this actually worked for me once out in public.  Let them know you see them and what they're doing.  If you are not actively in immediate danger do not leave the area until it is safe for you and for the victim.  Stay on the job like a dog on a bone.

*Hold up your smartphone like you're filming or taking pictures & say you got them on film.  Hopefully you actually do.  You may have to run like hell if they turn on you, so be ready.  In the time it takes them to process what just happened & shift gears you can have a nice head start.  Yes, I'm being completely serious.  

*Call 911 & say loudly that you're doing so.  Remember, you're not just trying to catch a criminal, you're trying to stop a crime in progress.

*Recruit anyone else who may be around to help you.  Bang on doors or wave down cars if necessary.  Remember, you are not making a request, you are ordering them to act:  "Call 911 NOW, I'll watch where he goes." People are astonishingly obedient.  Mostly they just want someone to tell them what to do.  Again, I'm being serious.  The more sudden and frightening the situation, the more obedient they become to clear and authoritative orders.

Please know I'm not talking about consensual fighting.  If two people you don't know are in a brawl, I'm not convinced that's your problem.  

But if a man is straddling and choking a weeping and struggling woman on the sidewalk and you just stroll on by, you should carry around business cards that say Rotten Bastard so the rest of us can avoid you like the plague you are.

Please do one thing for me by Sunday.  Please start a conversation with someone you know that goes something like this..."Did you hear about that woman who was attacked near campus?  Those women saw it but walked by and did nothing! Can you believe that? What would you do?  I wonder what I would really do?  Well, I guess I could get out my phone..."

Plant the seed that blooms into citizens who know what they can do in an emergency.  This is the first step to a person actually doing something.   

And if you are someone who is willing to jump in physically to help a victim of crime, I hope you train, and I hope you're training with me.  You're the kind of person that's awesome to have around.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Flip Side

What goes up, must come down.

Let's talk about an important and often overlooked aspect of training:recovery.  In Krav we are all about GO GO GO, grrrrr HARDER!!!   It can be easy to burn out.

Some people look at rest and recovery as something for the weak, when they are actually critical to remaining strong. This becomes even more important as we pass our mid-twenties.  As I've gotten older (I have a polaroid of myself riding a dinosaur to the local tar pit) I find it's not difficult to perform while training, but recovering takes longer, which can hinder the next session.

If you haven't built active recovery into your training, don't it now. 

Try these methods: 

Stretch.  You have time to stretch.

Speaking of have time to stretch.  Do it.  Ballistic stretching (not bouncing, but not holding a stretch for long periods either) before training, and extended, longer-held stretches after training.  This will keep your body supple and prevent the pulls and tears of muscle and tendon that will keep you off the mat.  We do not have post-class stretching in Krav simply because there isn't enough time.  Do it on your own, preferably immediately.  You can plop yourself down in the lobby or go outside.  

During my morning combatives/conditioning classes (ahem...Mondays & Wednesdays @ 6:15 a.m.) we always spend the last 5 minutes of class stretching.  Do it do it do it.


For "normal" sedentary people massage may be an extravagance, but for us it's a godsend.  Massage will work out the kinks that inevitably develop through training.  You've undoubtedly been told by your instructor to "not be so tense" when you punch.  The tension in your shoulders sticks around, particularly on the arm with which you throw the cross.  Have the therapist work on that - also I have them do extra work on my forearms, wrists & hands, and calves & feet. Those areas take a lot of punishment in training, so help them out.

My husband & I go to Massage Envy once a month, but if you feel that's more than you want to pay, try going to a massage school.  Their treatments are half the price or less of a regular massage and they do a fantastic job - because you have to fill out a grade sheet for them afterward & they want a good grade.  Also, there's no tipping, because they aren't professionals yet.  I used to go here every two weeks & was never disappointed, but there are loads of other schools in town.

If you want hard-core extreme-o napalm massage, try Airrosti.  When you see people walking around with what looks like colored masking tape all over them, pity them and envy them.  They've probably been to the Airrosti guys over on Bee Caves Rd.  It hurts and it's expensive, but it works.


I've been seeing chiropractors Dr. Bob Levine & Dr. Colette Zygmont for years & I'm always looser & in less pain when I walk out of their office than when I walk in.  Dr. Bob has his office right in the Fit and Fearless studio, and charges students only $20 for an adjustment, which is a steal.


If you haven't tried the Yoga for Athletes classes at Fit and Fearless, do yourself a favor & get in there.  The class is included in your membership so you're already paying for it, and it will help you become more flexible and stronger.  

We are incredibly lucky to have Dr. Jonci Jenson teaching yoga here.  She's a Naturopathic Doctor, so she really knows her way around the human body, and her class is not about wearing cute yoga clothes and saying om.  Dr. Jonci has also trained in Krav Maga and MMA (as has Dr. Bob) , so she knows where you hurt and will teach you how to take care of it.  For general health issues you can listen to her weekly radio show or visit her office.  Fore more information click here.

Any yoga you have access to will help your flexibility, strength, and breathing, so give it a try. 


Loads of stuff has been written about the importance of getting enough sleep, so I'll just say this.  One night this week, just go to bed half an hour earlier.  If it makes you feel better, do it again.

Drink water

Try this:  get a large plastic glass & put it by your bathroom sink.  In the morning fill up the glass & slam it as you get ready, before your coffee.  In addition to everything else you drink that day, slam one more glass during the day & one in the evening.  It'll help your insides not feel like all the plants outside look.


I am a supplement maniac, but this is a pretty controversial subject, and one that people on all sides can be loudly passionate about.  If you don't care to supplement, be sure you're eating a very nutrient rich diet & hydrating all day.  I will say that when the economy tanked our income shrank so I cut out our supplements.  I didn't recover as well from training, so I put them back in. Do whatever you want, but it works for me. 

Do something different

People who train in Krav Maga are usually pretty obsessed with it.  It easily gets to the point that it's all you think about, talk about, and want to do.  As fun as this crazy thrill ride is, it's also a ticket for a ride on the Burn Out Express.  Regularly do something completely different, both physically and mentally.  Personally, I walk my dogs on the greenbelt, looking for new plants & animals and also attend a montly book club with nice ladies who don't do Krav and don't want to.  Taking yourself completely out of a training environment (or work, or the one person you spend all your time with) gives your mind and body the break they need to make the best of your time on the mat.  It will keep you from becoming a one-dimensional person & push the reset button on your brain.  

This is a list of all the stuff I do (though the sleep thing often eludes me).  Try the ones that make sense to you, and I'd love to hear anything you do to recharge so I can try it too.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Preparing For The October Belt Test

If you're planning to take the Level 1 or 2 belt test on October 8, now is the time to prepare.  One of the most practical steps you can take is to make use the book Complete Krav Maga by John Whitman and Darren Levine.  

When you signed up to take classes you probably received a little white booklet that lists all the techniques in each level, plus other information.  If you didn't receive a white booklet, ask at the front desk.  We were out of them for a while, but I've seen some new ones floating around lately.  Anyway...the problem I had with the white booklet when I was preparing for my first belt test was that I couldn't remember the names of the techniques.  I could do them, I just didn't know what they were called, so just reading a list of names meant little to me.

So I bought Complete Krav Maga & solved my woes.  And I still use it within an inch of it's life.  Here's a current pic of my book.

Every technique for each level through brown belt is covered, along with step by step photos.  Use the book (or the white booklet, if you prefer) to make sure you've practiced each technique you'll be tested on.  Once I've been taught a technique in class I put a little check mark on the page.  Once I'd practiced the technique with my trainer in my weekly private lesson I'd put his initial on the page.  So if I had both a check and an "H", I knew I'd done the movement at least twice.  As the test drew near, if there were no symbols on a technique, it was time to get busy.  

In no way do I mean to imply that practicing something only twice means it has been mastered & you're ready to test it.  But if you're leafing through the book as you prepare & see no symbols, ask your instructor to cover it, and/or practice it in your private lessons.  That way there'll be no surprises in the test. There are certain techniques, particularly in level 1, that we cover like crazy (cough, cough...palm heels & groin strikes...cough, cough).  These are the go-to go-crazy moves we want you to have mastered in case of a real attack, & that takes a lot of repetitions.  Unfortunately, if you're only able to train a couple of times a week, that can mean you miss out completely on some of the techniques you'll be tested on.  Use your booklet or Complete KM to make sure you've trained all the moves at your level, and don't hesitate to ask us to cover something in class.  

Before you test

Between now and the day of the test you need to get an instructor to sign a Permission to Test form.  Ask the instructor you've worked with the most, as they need to know you're ready.  If we sign your permission form & you fail, it makes us look bad.  So if I don't teach you regularly, I won't sign your form.  Please do this & sign up & pay for the big day at least a week before the October 8 test date.  If not enough people sign up, the test will be postponed.  It's a major buzzkill to expect to participate in the test the next day, be nervous the night before & walk in to sign up & find out either that you're not eligible to test because you didn't get your slip signed or the test has been cancelled.

The day of the test

There will be a "seminar" that anyone can attend.  Every technique from stance and movement through the end will be taught & practiced.  The seminar is actually the longest part of the day, and is required for all testers.  Afterward there will be a short lunch break - don't eat too much or you'll just throw it up later!  If, after the seminar the instructor feels that you won't pass, you will be asked/told to not test.  Ask any questions you have at the seminar, during the exam no questions will be answered.  Bring more water & sports drinks than you think you need, along with some protein bars, fruit, shotz bloks, or whatever you need to keep you going for a full day of hard training.  You can bring a small cooler if you like your drinks cold.  

Any questions?  Shoot me a line or grab one of us in the lobby, we're happy to help.  Good luck & train hard!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Wheelchair Manifesto

A couple of times I've had the pleasure of having a person in a wheelchair show up to try out a Krav class. I love this. Thinking about how to put someone at an uncommon disadvantage in the best possible position to survive an attack and get home safe gets my brain juices flowing in the right direction.

In both cases the person was worried about "holding back" the rest of the class. I'm going to say it out loud: stop it. You have as much right to train as anybody, and we have a spot for you on the mat right there with everybody else. Almost every student comes to us with some sort of disadvantage to training, some are just more visible than others. Every student who sticks it out improves and grows stronger. Every single one.

Take a look at what you can do if you give yourself the chance here. Andy Campbell and the others are not special and they don't have superpowers. They just kept showing up to train.

Here are some things you can do to put yourself in the best possible position for success:

*address the issue of strength. Someone who wants to dominate or harm another chooses their victim because they think they're weak. Some people will assume that because of the chair. Surprise them by being strong.

First, grip strength. Unless the person in the chair has a neurological or muscular condition that causes weakness, he or she will probably have better than average grip strength (assuming they regularly manually manipulate the chair). Make it better. If you need to grab someone & get them close enough to keep punching them with your other hand, you want to be strong enough to do that. Get one of those squeezy things & squeeze it. A lot. Engage the pinky. CrossFit coach Jeremy Ross tells me the pinky is an important & frequently overlooked component of grip strength.

Second, arm & shoulder strength. There are loads of dumbell and barbell excercises you can do at the gym (overhead press, bench press, face pulls, pull ups, etc.) Also do exercises that manipulate your own body weight, because that's what you'll be doing if you get dumped out of the chair & have to fight from there. If you can't do pushups yet, start facedown on the ground. Get up to your elbows as explosively and quickly as you can. From your elbows, get up to your hands. Again, do it with as much power and speed as you've got. Keep it up until you can explode from being face down onto a high pushup position. Now, start cranking out pushups.

Do combat crawls on various surfaces. If you've only done them on the mat, the parking lot is going to be quite a surprise.

Pull yourself up from a downed position using various rails or bars. Get creative. At the same time you'll get strong.

Figure out the best method to get quickly back into the chair from various positions & hone that skill. It's super important.

***Occasionally do all these things without taking the time to use your hands to rearrange your legs so they lay straight. In a crisis you won't have time to make sure everything is all perfectly lined up. Training from whatever position you land in will give you a tremendous mental and physical advantage when you need to put your skills to work for real.

When you come to class, try to have some sort of locking mechanism on your wheels that will prevent you from rolling backward when you punch. But if you don't have it yet don't wait to come until that's in place. We can back you up to a wall to give you some stability, but you will eventually need to be able to stabilize yourself in an outside environment. You will also need to strap your feet down so they don't drop onto the floor & trip up your movement. However, the straps should have a breakaway component so you can separate yourself from the chair if you get dumped. I have an idea about how to do this, but I suspect the wheelchair community already has a better plan in place that I just don't know about.

Now let's train!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

About Getting Hit In The Face Really Hard

In seven years of training, first in Karate & then in Krav Maga, I've only been hit really hard in in the face three times, and all were accidents.

The first time was during a drill and a big ol' Texas linebacker thought his friend was his "attacker". He didn't know that his friend & I had exchanged places & where the friend's tombstone pad had been, my face now was. That big ol' boy whipped around & BOOM punched me right in the mouth. Thank God he was wearing those little fingerless MMA gloves. I always expected to go down if I took a hit like that, but instead I just wordlessly turned around and marched straight into the ladies room to count my teeth. They were all there, the only weirdness was a big swollen black spot on my bottom lip, so I just marched back onto the mat & finished the drill. I was shaking so hard I was useless, but quitters never win, etc. My neck was completely stiff & sore for 3 days, which was the only fallout.

The second time was during Phase B. Long story short, I missed a punch defense & my partner was going very hard and not wearing gloves. When he punched me I saw a weird simultaneous flash of light and flash of blackness, then turned into an angry 3 year old. I clenched my fists & stiffened my arms at my sides & marched back & forth, stomping. I was trembling so hard my jaw was chattering (standard operating procedure for me under an adrenaline surge). But here's the thing. After my intial flash of anger (not at my partner, just a surge of general anger) I looked at the instructor, AJ Draven, who wore a look of complete boredom. He was peeking at me discreetly from the corner of his eye, pretending to ignore me. This is how I knew I was okay. I've always been grateful to AJ for handling it that way. So I stomped over to my partner, put up my dukes & said, "Go". Here is the result:
Yes, my lips are also split.

And now for something completely different. This past weekend I attended an instructor training with John Whitman. During a pause in my training I stepped completely off the mat & was standing in the lobby looking out the window. A guy in the class, about 6'3" & 225 lbs., delivered a powerful inside slap kick (I didn't know there was such a thing as a powerful inside slap kick!) to a padholder who wasn't paying attention, and the pad flew out of his hand. I happened to turn around at that moment and saw this giant black thing right in front of my face. It looked like a giant asteroid hurtling toward earth in an old sci-fi movie. BOOM! Right in the money-maker! My head flew back hard, sending my weight over my heels ,and in slow motion I sank to the ground onto my behind. Yes, I went down! I don't like it, but facts is facts. Here you can see the road rash.

And here's the thing: there was no flash of anger, no adrenaline surge, no uncontrollable shaking. I just instantly turned into a zombie. The guys were surrounding me yelling, "OHMYGODAREYOUOKAY?" and I had no idea, so I just sat there in a haze until John walked over and barked, "She's fine, get back to work!" And you know what? I WAS fine. But if he'd said, "OMG, call 911!", I would not have been fine. My stupor left me in a highly suggestible state, which is disturbing, because I like to believe I am someone who thinks for herself. As the science teacher in the group put it, "A six pound pad traveling at at about 40 miles per hour. That's a lot of velocity!" But John said I was fine and I believed him, so I walked onto the mat and got back to work.

The take-home lesson: the difference between being focused and at least aware that you're in a situation where you should protect yourself, and being totally taken by surprise (as in a sucker punch) can mean the difference between going home safe and going home in a bag. Had I been on the street & taken a hard sucker punch to the face and then lots of follow-up punches and kicks, could I have snapped out of my zombie-like state and defended myself? I used to think I could, but now I'm not so sure. I'll tell you one thing - I'm damn well going to work on it.

What can I do - what can YOU do - to prepare yourself for such a scenario? First, you can accept that it is possible that it can happen to you. I was surprised and embarassed by the fact that it took several seconds to snap out of it. Second, when you catch yourself hesitating in class during a self-defense technique, GO. Just fight. If you do the "wrong" defense and counterattack, you will still reap more benefit than if you allow yourself to stand there trying to remember what you were supposed to do. Third, when you're out in the world, pay attention to your surroundings. If I hadn't been off in la-la land thinking about when it would rain, I believe I would have recovered faster. Focus on aggression and shortening the freeze every time you're in class. I will, too.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Shots Fired

Here's my review of the Sure Shots shooting seminar hosted by The Blackstone Group (BSG Services) and Dillo Dynamics: It was awesome!

We trained all day, from 9 to 6, and still only barely scratched the paint job on the surface of what there is to know about firearms. I have begun to think you could study for years and still find there was more to discover.

What put me at ease anyway is that I've had weekly shooting sessions with my friend Heath for the last 2 months - I buy his ammo & pay the lane fees, he points my gun in the right direction for me. I'm supposed to be practicing to not look like a goober when we do weapons at my next Phase training, but it paid off in spades yesterday. I was quite nervous shooting the first 5 rounds, but after that it began to feel familiar and was just fun in the (105 degree) sun.

Making it even better was the volunteers Blackstone brought out. Each group of 2 shooters had their own coach, who stayed with them throughout the day. We had 15 shooters, so that's a lot of people volunteering to stand out in the heat. My coach was a man I already know (I teach his son & he helped me out tremendously once when I was injured in class). I confess I was hoping he'd coach me for a bit, but fortunately I ended up with him the whole day, which means I hit the jackpot.

And what a day it was! I ended up using one of their Glock 19's (which I now know won't be the type of gun I purchase, as I had trouble with the magazine release all day) & we shot standing still, moving, behind concealment (we learned the difference between concealment and cover), and shooting while holding the gun in various positions. We also shot one-handed, which was easier than I expected - which brings me to another point. Every lady but me (if you read the last blog post you know this was an all-female shoot), found it painful to shoot holding the weapon close to the body. It was too hard on the wrists.

However, I have an old wrist injury that has forced me to do push ups on my knuckles (instead of supporting my weight on my palms) for well over a year now. I found shooting without the support of my extended arms to be painless & pretty easy, so there you have it. Start doing your push ups on your knuckles!

I also shot a John Browning 1911, a timeless work of art that is smooth as silk but surprisingly heavy.

I shot an M-freaking-4. That's what's in the photo.

And the queen: The H&K UMP .45. This is the gun I taunted and caressed after I shot it. My coach actually had to remind me "it's just a tool" because I kept whispering to it. Seriously, I could feel my testosterone levels skyrocket after I shot it, and I was jabbering away about it non-stop at breakfast this morning.

And I want to do it again. Oh, yes I do.

I was talking with a friend this afternoon about getting a group together to go out and do another seminar, so if you're interested, contact me via the blog comments or on Facebook.

And another thing. I want to thank the folks who worked the seminar for their time, expertise, patience, and attitude. These men all looked like they just stepped off the cover of Military Hero magazine, and they were just the nicest and most generous people ever. Females engaging in a stereotypically male pursuit often face eye-rolling men who just put up with their presence to be polite, but do not take the females seriously. This was NOT the case at this seminar. Regardless of the student's level of experience she was treated as a serious student, capable of achieving any goal she was willing to earn.

There was also a woman volunteer, my friend Teresa J. of the Austin Police Department. Teresa consistently sets the standard for professionalism while still being completely approachable and generally awesome. My great thanks to her and her most excellent husband Jason for inviting me to the seminar.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bang! Bang!

Well, I thought I was doing that other thing, but now I'm doing this! There's a women-only shooting seminar this Sunday out in Liberty Hill and the cost is only $50 + ammo. Shooting guns is the most fun I've ever had wearing earmuffs. You should come out, too, ladies!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Who Knows?

I have no idea who this guy is, but...

There's a seminar in Austin at Castle Hill Fitness this Friday, July 8 on recovering from trauma. He is a Somatic Experiencing practitioner, similar to Jules Shore. You can read my interview with Jules here, to learn more about the effects of trauma on the body & mind.

The seminar is from 6:30-7:30, and it's FREE. To get more information, click on the event's Facebook page.

I have no idea what to expect but I'll probably check it out, as this sort of thing holds enless fascination for me. If you're there, too, come shake my paw!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Ladies of Legend

Today's Ladies-only class was awesome. I totally dropped the ball and forgot to advertise the upcoming class, plus it was a holiday weekend, and I still had a group of ladies in cute clothes ready to whoop some butt.

After some warmup drills we worked on the concept of bursting in toward a pull. I didn't teach arm drags or hair pulls, just bursting in, period. Then we played monkey-in-the-middle, where the defender is dragged around by her hair, clothes, arms, whatever we could grab while still holding a pad for her to attack. She also had to put up with being body-slammed with the pads, then turning to attack that pad.

From there we went on to practice a scenario that a fellow student described to me of what happened when she was attacked by her ex. He (once again) assaulted her and attempted to murder her - but she fought him off! We all defended exactly that attack, using that defense, against each person in the class. So, student who told me your story (I'll tell you who you are privately), you just helped a lot of people survive that type of attack thanks to your courage under attack and your willingness to share!

Next we worked the concept of running away vs. running to. The difference is largely mental (like so much else we do) and you can actually see the switch in the student when she makes the change. Very exciting to watch that happen, we'll do the drill again in the morning level 1/2 classes next week so the guys get a crack at it, too.

The last thing we did was create a plan of what we will do in case of attack. Now obviously, you can't plan for every scenario - and it's usually the last thing one expects that actually happens. But by creating a basic plan and talking it out with someone, and even practicing it, your chances of success (meaning survival) increase tremendously.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when creating your first plan:

Who do you spend the most time with? It may be your co-workers. Create the plan based on a scenario in which you are with that person or persons. Are you at the location of your job? Are you out to lunch together? We are not trying to make a prediction here, just practicing thinking of these things objectively and logically.

If you are in the office, where is the most logical place for a person to attack you? Would they just be entering from the lobby? At your desk? In the parking lot?

This person you are frequently they know how to fight? Will they be able to talk to the person or distract him (or her) while you get help or initiate defenses? Can they call the cops for you?

What is the fastest exit you both can get to? What if they chase you through the exit? What is the fastest safe place you can reach?

Bring these questions up to the person you have in mind. They may roll their eyes at you, accuse you of being a scaredy-cat, etc. Tell them your teacher told you to have this conversation and keep at them.

A plan does not consist of, "yeah, I'll probably fight and scream, you should just take off".

A plan looks more like "I'll distract him while you run. You always have your phone on you, so dial 911-SEND. You will keep running. Do not look back to see if I'm okay, do not come back for any reason. I will fight the second he is distracted and you start running. If I survive I will go straight to the Starbucks next door. Tell the 911 dispatcher the ambulance may find me there instead of in the office. If I can't escape the office I'll barricade myself in Bob's office. His desk is near the door, I can use it the block the door." (Question: Can you move Bob's desk? You'd better find out.)

Having a plan is empowering and can keep you alive. Having a pre-set place to run TO makes you run faster (seriously), and makes it possible for help to reach you sooner.

Lastly, sometimes the people we spend time with (even those who love us) don't really take our efforts in Krav Maga seriously. They might believe we are too small, too nice, too whatever. Maybe they think violence doesn't really happen to nice people. We are cautioned to "just give him your purse" (as if that would stop a rapist) or we are otherwise counseled that we will get hurt if we fight.

Of course, we will get hurt if we fight. We might even die.

We will also get hurt and maybe even die if we do NOT fight - if the attacker wants to hurt us. He may even take pleasure in that.

In certain situations, compliance with an attacker might ensure your survival. In others it might get you killed. You must listen to your gut during the violent encounter itself.

But know this: even a little bee can sting. Even a small person can defend himself or herself against an attacker. You are worth defending, and you can do it.

Need an example? Check out this awesome entry on Badass of the Week. (Warning: profanity!)

Next time someone tells you that you are too small to defend yourself, remember Badass of the Week's little Rukhsana Kauser and the terrorist who beat her family so he could rape her. If she could defend herself and her family, you can do it. See you next month, ladies!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I Glove U

New students are commonly confused about which hand protection is best for them. I realized last week when when two different students showed up wearing weightlifting gloves that it might be time to tackle the glove issue. Different gloves (or wraps) have different functions, read below to see which might be right for you. Note: When you start training your friends might try to help you out by giving you a pair of gloves they aren’t using. If you’re unsure of whether you should use them in class, look at the placement of the padding on the glove. In Krav Maga class you will want protection for your knuckles (from impact) and for your wrist (from buckling upon impact). Weightlifting gloves have pads on the palm and inner fingers which will not help you when punching. Batting gloves have no padding and aren’t helpful in class either, though I do use them at the Box when doing pull ups.

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Wraps are traditionally worn under boxing gloves to further protect the knuckles and wrist. Wraps alone offer minimal protection for the knuckles, but they’re certainly better than nothing. They offer excellent protection for the wrist, and have the added benefit of being completely adjustable, both in placement and in snugness. They also leave the fingers completely free to grab your opponent or your water bottle. Plus, let’s face it, wraps look pretty cool.


Wrist wraps are just what they claim to be, consisting of a stretchy fabric that supports the wrist, with velcro closure and a loop for the thumb to stabilize the wrap. These are a good choice if you need a little extra protection for the wrist and nothing more. They are a good stabilizer to try when you’re almost-but-not-quite healed from a wrist injury.


Fingerless gloves, also known as grappling or MMA gloves, offer more knuckle protection than wraps while also supporting the wrist. They are good for striking focus mitts or other hand held pads, but don’t offer enough shock absorption for going all out on the heavy bags. Compared to wraps, they offer less wiggle room for your fingers but are much quicker to apply to and remove from the hand.


Classic boxing gloves offer the highest level of protection for the hands. They’re my favorite choice for punching anything. When you’re going for timed rounds, switching pads with your partner every other round, they’re a fast option for making the switch, as you don’t have to drive 10 fingers into their own little finger hole, as with MMA gloves. If you’re just starting your training and working to get into shape, you might start with 12 ounce gloves and work your way up to traditional 16 ounce gloves. Either way it’s quickly going to feel as if you’re holding a brick in each hand. With boxing gloves, the higher the weight, the thicker the padding.

I eventually came to own all the types of hand protection listed, and you may wish to do the same. However, if you’re just beginning, consider which one will best suit your needs and start with that. If you need anything else it will become apparent during your training. Don’t hesitate to ask your instructors which equipment they prefer. We love to talk about this stuff & will yak your ear off about it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Protect Ya Back

Sometimes a little change can make you or break you.

We go hard in Krav and ouchies like big bruises and sore muscles are just the cost of doing business if you want to train. As one of my early trainers told me when I was whining about being sore:

***Everybody has aches and pains. You can have the aches and pains of an athlete or the aches and pains of an overweight couch potato. Pick one.***

However, there's a difference between an ouchie and an injury. An injury to the shoulder or knee (I'm icing my knee as I write this) can significantly inhibit your training. A back injury can take you out of the game permanently.

So it's extremely important not only to train smart and know when to attack and when to ease off, but also to protect your spine by strengthening your core. It may not be fun to do core exercises, but you only get one spine. You're never going to get another one.

Does it sound like I'm lecturing you? Yeah, I kinda am.

Here's a video of some core exercises suggested by Stuart McGill, world renowned Professor of Spine Biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada. McGill is the guy professional sports teams, governments, and rich dudes fly from all over the world to be treated by.

You will find that he dislikes crunches, and we do loads of those, don't we? So does every other gym I've ever stepped foot in, so take his advice and make it work for you. (Spoiler alert - here's your little change.) When you do sit ups or crunches, raise up from the chest & maintain a neutral spine and neck. Imagine there's a string attached to the ceiling and to your sternum and it's drawing your sternum straight up. It's hard, which is awesome, and saves your back.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

No Spoon Feeding

I was talking to my friend Heather the other day, about teaching and how to do it right. Heather is a behavioral specialist, specializing in Special Education, for a few Central Texas school districts. Did you like how I worked "special" 3 times into one sentence? I do. I worked with her at Austin ISD for several years and after watching her consistently be the smartest and most competent person on the planet, I pretty much take anything she says as gospel.

She taught me that one of the reason students come out of school with no problem-solving skills is that all the necessary pieces of information to solve a problem are handed to them. Consequently, they don't know how to puzzle out for themselves what they really need and don't need to reach a desired conclusion.

So I thought about how that might apply to teaching Krav Maga. We do generally (not always) say "here's how you handle this particular problem. Practice this technique." Which is great - up to a point.

So in today's Women-Only class I decided to make them figure it out for themselves. We sat down & I asked, "What if you know you're in some danger but the fight isn't on? What can you do to head things off before they even begin? And what are the probable consequences of those actions?" They sat and waited for the answer - but nope!. They were giving the answers today. Here are the excellent answers they gave:

*walk/drive to a crowded area (yes, we want witnesses!)
*ask for help from someone who works there (assuming that applies)
*pull out your cell phone (I love this, as you can take a picture of them - an act which has solved some crimes - or you can show you are prepared to take action without escalating the situation.)
*maintain strong eye contact
*use social engagement, or try to talk your way out of it
*maintain distance
*call 911
*loudly order them to leave you alone (if they refuse, you just learned a lot about their intentions)
*make a scene (if in public)
*yell or scream

These last 3 are actually some of the most difficult for many people to perform. The social pressures to NOT yell, make a scene, etc. in a public place are very, very strong. Each of these actions can have different consequences. When you consider which of these options you are most likely to choose, you must consider several things:

*Are you accustomed to drawing boundaries in your normal life? That will influence how strongly you are able to tell them to leave you alone. That will influence their reaction.
*If you yell or make a scene be prepared for people to back away from you. Consider saying things like, "I don't know you, stop touching me, I don't know you, you're scaring me, etc." You will have witnesses that the other person was the aggressor. That may not translate into help in the moment, but if they don't believe its a family or couple's squabble your chances of getting help improve.
*If you prefer to run, are you fast? Will you be hindered by a child, an elderly person, even your shoes? What if they catch you? I'm not saying you shouldn't run (I have run away from a dangerous situation!), just that you need to put some real thought into your choice.

Later we moved to the hallway leading the the garage and worked on drawing boundaries, then palm heels, elbows, and knees. Then defending our friend against another attacker, which was nice.

The last exercise was walking the gauntlet. Each pair of partners had to quickly discuss what they were best at, of the techniques we had worked on in class (drawing boundaries verbally, combatives, running to a pre-determined safety zone). They also had to decide how they would attack the pair who were walking the gauntlet. Would they just taunt them? Would both attack one person of the pair? Two on two? The goal was to make a decision in the moment how you were being attacked about how to defend and escape. Do you defend as a team? Does one defend and one go for help?

Frankly, I also had a secret goal. By having the students decide how to attack different people they are forced to look at the defenders perceived weaknesses. I want them to look at someone and decide how to attack them without getting hurt themselves. I want them to think like predators, just for that moment. If they understand how to be a predator, I hope they understand better how to defend themselves from one.

A final note: During the drill one woman panicked and ran, leaving her partner to defend herself alone. She felt terrible about abandoning her partner, and now I wish I hadn't teased her about it. Of course I didn't realize at the time she was upset. But here's the thing: she got away. She's a survivor. I like survivors. She'd said earlier she thought she'd be likely to run when faced with danger, and she did. Her partner successfully fought her way through, so it was fine. I doubt that young woman would have fled on her own if she'd been with a loved one, but she was with a stranger, so she split. Works for me.

Please know that your first job is to survive. Please know that violence in real life is nothing like it is in the movies. If you panic, your body is going to take over and do what it needs to do to survive. That's its job.

Thanks to Kelli for her general awesomeness in class today, and to everyone who came!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Woof?

There is a technique called woofing that involves extreme domination of another individual, either verbally or physically or both. I first learned it from Rory Miller when he came to Austin to teach a seminar.

A common example of woofing is to completely immobilize the person & whisper something in their ear like, “The rest of the class thinks this is just an exercise, but I’m about to make you bleed. There’s nothing you can do to stop me, and no one will help you, they’ll just stand there and watch because they don’t know it’s real...”

The goal might be one of a few things. It might be to incite someone to fight at a higher than normal level of intensity because their adrenaline level skyrockets. Or maybe it’s to see how the person will react. Will they struggle, freeze, cry, give up?

It’s a dangerous game, because to work it must be very convincing and frightening - but it’s also the kind of behavior that can destroy relationships.

Twice this month I’ve been called upon to woof students as the first step of a long drill in which we were trying to get untrained female students to overcome their social conditioning and “unleash the beast”. Both were large groups of women I mostly had never met before.

The first time I was too soft on them and was just being generally annoying, like an older sister teasing her younger siblings. I was told to stop being so nice and do it right. To be effective I had to act like a real predator, saying things like, “I’ve been watching you for weeks, and now that I’ve got you tied up I’m going to fuck you in the ass so hard...” So I said that to the next student up, and it worked, but she never looked me in the face again for the rest of the day, which rattled me.

The next time we did the drill was a couple of weeks later, and I took a different approach. I knew a couple of students were from SafePlace, a battered women’s shelter, but I didn’t know who they were. I wasn’t willing to take a chance on re-traumatizing someone who has actually been assaulted, but I had to get their adrenaline levels up fast or we were just wasting their time. So I grabbed each one by the face, like palming a basketball, shoving her back & pinning her hard against the wall by her face & head. With the other hand I pulled out her ponytail or braid & messed her hair up while saying cruel things.

If they were carrying a few extra pounds I called them a fat-ass.

If they were petite I told them they were weak and pathetic.

If I knew they had children I told them the kid was ugly and stupid and would always make bad grades and be a loser.

I told pretty much everyone they sucked.

It was fascinating to watch their behavior. Some tried to immediately fight, others started breathing heavily, but did not try to fight (they were instructed not to fight me). Others endured calmly, calculating, waiting, plotting ...

After about 10 or 15 seconds I’d release them, yelling “GO!!” and giving them a shove toward their first target.

It was also fascinating, to me, to observe my own feelings about what I was doing. Saying cruel things to people was stressing me out so much my stomach was in knots for hours afterward. But physically dominating them was actually kind of fun. Maybe there’s hope for me in sparring, after all.

Some women chose not to participate, and that’s fine, too. I like that they drew a boundary and stuck with it.

The last two women to go through the drill were friends of mine, which changed things considerably for me. It’s one thing to jack up the adrenaline levels of a stranger when I know it will help her in the end. It’s a whole other ballgame to poke at people you personally care about. But it’s also unfair to them to give them a half-assed version of the drill. So, I told one of them I was having an affair with her husband & told the other her son was stupid & I never liked him. When I released that one, she yelled, “Get the fuck out of my way!!”

Incidentally, it’s hard to woof the woofer, so when it was my turn to go, the first time we did the drill, my instructor, Kelly Campbell, was my woofer. I just shook my head & grinned, so she let me go then suddenly attacked me from behind. She is STRONG! I wasn’t grinning then! I struggled, unwilling to strike her. I wormed and wiggled as hard as I could until she let me go so I could complete the drill. Yes, my adrenaline level was UP!

I want to thank everyone who participated in the ladies seminars in April, especially Kelly and Linda Lyra. Woofing is hard to do (the talking part is, anyway) and hard to endure, but it serves a very important function. I hope the females reading this will come to my monthly ladies-only class at Fit and Fearless in Austin. Held the first Saturday of every month at 11:30, it’s free to any female, so come train and I will only say nice things to you.