Thursday, January 12, 2012

As Many As It Takes

Not a day has gone by since Esme Barrera's murder that she hasn't been the subject of a conversation, news or blog update, or Facebook post.  

The man who killed Miss Barrera and assaulted at least one other woman New Year's Eve night is still at large.  The following Saturday my free monthly women-only self defense class exploded - I walked out into the lobby of FnF after teaching a small intro class to see the lobby filled with over 50 new women.  It blew my mind.  Several other martial arts schools in Austin are also offering free women's classes, which is wonderful.  The more people who train the better.

However...I read the text version of a KXAN news report a couple of days ago that was really cool, right up until the moment that it made my blood run cold.

There is a kung fu school in town offering 2 free months of free self defense classes to women.  This is no small thing, as they have to pay an instructor, the light bill etc.  The school rep was also giving some good advice and I was very happy reading the story until I read that they teach women you should only ever strike an attacker once and then run away.  Grrr...

His larger point, which I agree with, is that it's not appropriate to increase the danger you're already in by standing there trying to beat the guy up if you have the opportunity to escape.  This is true.  Get the hell out of there and call the cops.  It's the reason I run wildly out of class sometimes during a demonstration after I successfully defend against my "attacker".

What I strongly disagree with is the idea that you should assume that one punch will neutralize an attacker.  Hey, maybe it will take one punch.  That would be awesome.  Maybe it will take 3 punches, 2 elbows to the face, and a strike to the groin.  Maybe you can start shrieking like a banshee, as one of this fugitive's victims did, and he'll split.  What I'm getting at is we have no idea what it will take to neutralize an attacker in some future unforseen attack!  

I'm pretty much never the strongest or fastest person on the mat.  Sad fact.  But I'm certainly willing to keep trying if at first I don't succeed.  So if I seriously wanted to harm someone and had the means and opportunity to do so, I really think it would take it would take more than one punch from most people to stop me.  I'm not saying they couldn't stop me.  Punching me in the face would certainly be a good start.  Think how much more true this would be when trying to defend against someone bigger, stronger, and accustomed to violence.  

Ultimately, I want to say this:  1) You CAN learn to defend yourself, but you must be willing to do whatever the situation requires, whether that's striking once and running, fighting like a demon, screaming, hiding, etc.  

2) Please use your own brain when it comes to people telling you about self defense.  If it doesn't sound right, ask for an explanation.  It's not rude, just ask nicely.  But ASK. And then try it out for yourself.  



  1. Hello Ms. Westbrook,

    I'm pretty sure I can say that Sifu Vyvial has never advised anyone to hit only once. One punch or one hit is not even in our vocabulary. We always chain multiple movements into one attack. During the live show he mentions that you can never trust one attack or "trick" technique.

    Check out the link here:

    I would say that you want as few movements as possible in order to escape. What we specifically do is give women one punch knockout ability in just a few months of training. However, we train a minimum of three movements in order get the timing right with the hand techniques.

    What Cathy was saying to Noelle during the news report is that you don't need one more strike, you don't need to fight someone - you just do enough in order to either avoid the attack or to escape. It's just not a good idea to train either a man or a women to stand there and duke it out with an attacker. If you can get away after one attack why continue? Economy of motion and simultaneous attack and defense it is what we do and it is what we have been doing for hundreds of years. We are not a sport style martial art, we don't compete, we are not cardio kick boxing… No one here in Austin does what we do, like we do. Not saying that we are the "best" or anything like that, I'm just saying that we are the "other" option to standard RAD and martial art self-defense programs.

    It's nice to be mentioned, but please get your facts straight when using someone to promote your blog and group. Either a little research on your part, such as actually looking at how we train on our website, or even just saying that you are against people teaching one-move self defense tricks would have been better and more honest than what you actually wrote. "Grrr…" yourself. Also, we were on Fox News at 9, live on their AM Morning show and in the Statesmen, we have never been on KXAN.

    The Moy Yat Kung Fu Academy is offering, for free, 2 months of ongoing classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights for two hours with 4 instructors. This is a huge time commitment, however, this is something that Sifu Vyvial really cares about. The Academy is very good at what they do, and they have a very unique perspective when it comes to physical and mental self defense training. The majority of self-defense programs being taught in Austin are not only useless, but actually fall into the "what you think you know, may get you killed" category.

    You are more than welcome to attend anytime if you have any questions or would like a better perspective than what a 6-minute news blurb can offer.


  2. Hi, Sarah, thanks for writing. My intention was not to be disrespectful your sifu, or anybody's sifu in particular, which is why I didn't print any names of schools or people. There are loads of schools offering free classes right now, including yours and mine, obviously. The karate school across the street from us is, too. Everybody is urgetly trying to help women learn to stay safe against this guy, since he hasn't been caught.

    I don't even know if it was your sifu they were talking about, as I deleted the link. I originally read (and re-read, to make sure I wasn't crazy) a news report on KXAN. (pause) ...okay, I just went to the website you gave me and watched the second video. Maybe KXAN was referring to that video in the story?

    I believe I said in the blog post that the school referenced in the article was reaching out to the community at their own expense, that I agreed with the person by saying to get away asap instead of sticking around to keep fighting, and that they had given lots of other good advice in the article I read.

    I'm sticking my opinion on the one-hit and run statement, though. Based on what you are telling me, the instructor in the video probably said more about it than appears in the video, but that's what happened to make it into the story.

    My goal, as I said at the end of the article, is to encourage students to think about what they are taught in class - any class, including mine and your sifu's. Students, especially beginners, can get locked into a "because my teacher said so" mentality under pressure that is hard to burst out of. If one hit does the job (especially one delivered simultaneous the the defense), awesome. If screaming your head off works, great. If it requires more than that, well, they need to understand that the possibility exists and be prepared to address the danger as it is presented. And whether a student learns that from Krav Maga, Kung Fu, Wing Chun, or whatever else, is secondary, frankly.

    Thanks for the invite to your school. I teach on Tuesdays and Thursday's, but I'd love to come train sometime! I started in Chayon-Ryu and love learning from different styles.