All posts in July 2009

Just a hunch? Maybe not…

A piece in the New York Times this week, third in a series of stories about the research of “Brain Power,” sheds interesting light on the existence and importance of human intuition.

The concept of a hunch, or a gut feeling, is explored as it relates to soldiers’ abilities to detect hidden explosives in war zones. Woven through the research is the story of Sgt. First Class Edward Tierney, who impulsively ordered his patrol of nine men to fall back from a car holding two small boys parked unassumingly on a sidewalk in Iraq. Seconds later, the car exploded.

The story concludes:

“Since then, Sergeant Tierney has often run back the tape in his head, looking for the detail that tipped him off. Maybe it was the angle of the car, or the location; maybe the absence of an attack, the sleepiness in the market: perhaps the sum of all of the above.

‘I can’t point to one thing,’ he said. ‘I just had that feeling you have when you walk out of the house and know you forgot something — you got your keys, it’s not that — and need a few moments to figure out what it is.’

He added, ‘I feel very fortunate none of my men were killed or badly wounded.'”

The article delves into the science behind this phenomenon of intuition, explaining that the humans are often subconsciously aware of details that accompany danger, and they feel a sense of urgency even before the brain has time to process those details.

‘”Not long ago people thought of emotions as old stuff, as just feelings — feelings that had little to do with rational decision making, or that got in the way of it,’ said Dr. Antonio Damasio, director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California. ‘Now that position has reversed. We understand emotions as practical action programs that work to solve a problem, often before we’re conscious of it. These processes are at work continually, in pilots, leaders of expeditions, parents, all of us.’ …

As the brain tallies cues, big and small, consciously and not, it may send out an alarm before a person fully understands why.”

The importance of listening to intuition – whether you are on bomb patrol in Mosul or meeting a new “friend” at a party – cannot be underestimated. One of the leading books on this subject is called “The Gift of Fear,” by safety expert Gavin de Becker. GDB describes intuition as knowing something, without knowing why. The book goes on to explain that two facts about intuition are always true:

1. Intuition is always based on something, even if you can’t consciously see a reason to be wary.
2. Intuition will always lead you to a safer place, never into danger.

Trusting our intuition is one of the greatest tools we have as humans to guard our own personal safety. But going through life ever vigilant and prepared to listen to our survival signals does not mean that we live in constant fear. On the contrary, because we know our intuition will warn us of danger, just like Sergeant Tierney’s intuition warned him of an imminent explosion, we feel at peace, unthreatened, comfortable in our own skin.

This confidence we gain by acknowledging and trusting our intuition, in fact, allows that very intuition to function more effectively. Consider this statement in the New York Times piece:

“In war, anxiety can run as high as the Iraqi heat, and neuroscientists say that the most perceptive, observant brain on earth will not pick up subtle clues if it is overwhelmed by stress.

In the Army study of I.E.D. detection, researchers found that troops who were good at spotting bombs in simulations tended to think of themselves as predators, not prey. That frame of mind by itself may work to reduce anxiety, experts say.”

Thus, our intuition makes us feel more confident and secure, and that very confidence allows our intuition to function at a heightened level, keeping us even safer, making us feel even more confident, and the upward spiral continues.

The moral of the story is:

1. Intuition is one of your most powerful safety resources.
2. What appears to be just a “hunch” is likely a signal that your brain has not even processed – listen to it!
3. Trusting your intuition will raise your confidence, allowing your intuition to thrive, keeping you safer, and so on.

Next time you know something without knowing why, trust your instinct. Your brain knows more than you realize!

Wing Chun

So, I told you all I would keep you posted on the self-defense training I’m trying out these days, and I realized it’s been awhile. After taking a Krav Maga class, I started learning the basics of Wing Chun, a form of Kung Fu. Wing Chun was one of Bruce Lee’s favorite types of martial arts, and it just so happens that this style of combat was created by a woman who needed to defend herself against an abusive man. It is designed to be used against larger opponents and focuses alot on stability and relaxation. I have practiced yoga for several years and am 5’2″, so these things really appealed to me. In addition, I happen to have a friend who has been willing to teach this to me at his house once a week, in exchange for Graphic Design work. This option fits my budget and busy schedule very well, so I couldn’t pass it up.

I’ve had three or four sessions so far, and wanted to share some of my findings with you. One thing I like about Wing Chun (and the environment in which I am learning it) is that it’s very simple. The main focus is on maintaining balance, a strong foundation, and protecting the center-line of the body. If all of these things are in place and working together, it becomes much easier to remain calm in a bad situation, and if you are stable and aware, it becomes much easier to throw your opponent off balance. Though Wing Chun is considered to be a high martial art, it doesn’t focus on yelling, making funny noises, or breaking through bricks with your bare hands, none of which seem very practical to me. At this point, I have only learned the very basics, such as how to move my body in unison, with the power coming from the hips, how to throw a punch without hurting myself, and do this with maximum force, and some basic elbow strikes, blocks, and kicks. I must say, I am really enjoying these lessons and find this to be one of the more practical forms of martial arts as well as a relaxing and centering past-time. Plus, it looks really cool once you get these moves down and can do them really fast. Your friends will be totally impressed.

Another important lesson that I have learned is to keep my shoulders relaxed and learn how to use the elbows, hips, and knees to generate power. Being relaxed not only allows us to remain focused and not freak out, but also allows us to read our opponent. For example, say some scary bad guy grabs my arm. If I tense my arm, that arm is no longer serving me as a weapon and I am forgetting about all the other tools I have at hand. Also, he can feel that tension and respond by using MORE force. If I let that arm relax, then I can focus on the other parts of my body that ARE available to me. Also, if my attacker is tense, and I am relaxed, I am able to recognize the instant that he releases tension and respond by kicking his ass before he knows what hit him. This stuff is so simple and makes so much sense, some days it’s hard to believe I’m just learning it now. But, that’s kinda how it goes with self-defense, you don’t know how easy it is to be your own best protector until you find a good sparring buddy.

On that note, I want to talk a little about how this experience is affecting me. I don’t consider myself to be a very aggressive person and don’t particularly like the idea of physical confrontation, so when my friend told me a during our lesson a few weeks ago to punch him in the solerplexes, I had a rough time with that. I understand that it is necessary to put this stuff into practice and use proper form and know where to hit, but I think, like many women, the idea of fighting is just not natural to me and I don’t want to use violence. On the flip side, as a member of Girls Fight Back, I am constantly exposed to stories of violence and tragedy, so I know just how possible it is that I may be faced with a situation in which fighting could save my life. Maybe all the Kung Fu training in the world won’t protect me from all the scary bad guys out there, but maybe, just maybe, the skills I am learning now will allow me to take care of myself if the opportunity arises. I think it is better to have these tools in my toolbox in case I ever need them, than to be “stuck up shits creek without a paddle” as they say.

Ben Roethlisberger

Having been born and raised in Pittsburgh- I know a thing or two about the Steelers. I’ll spare you all the details of why I think they are the greatest team that has ever lived, why Pittsburgh trumps every other sports town, and what the Steelers mean to the city. I also know a fair amount about violence; particularly against women, the statistics of those who report crimes involving sexual assault, and the aftermath they endure.

You can likely imagine how disheartening it was to find these two things intertwined when I read the headline “Roethlisberger accused of sexual assault.”  Ben Roethlisberger being the young quarterback that led the Steelers to their Super Bowl victory this year, the second of his career.

The alleged victim of the incident, Andrea McNulty, is a casino host for Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe. Her lawsuit claims she was asked by Roethlisberger to his room to fix his television. Once there, he refused to let her leave and sexually assaulted her. There are many more details, but I’ll just stick to the basics here.

The incident happened nearly a year ago but the civil lawsuit was only filed this week, at which point starts the comments…horrible comments about this woman’s character; “She knew what she was going up there for.” “She’s only looking for a payday.” She’s just some cheap casino worker.” “She was asking for it”…to skim the surface.

Worse  I find, are the comments that state Roethlisberger must be innocent because McNulty waited an entire year before she brought on the lawsuit or because he’s famous and can therefore have anyone he wants. Of course he wouldn’t have to resort to rape!

Perhaps being in a position to know more about violence than the average person has jaded me? Perhaps I assume that most people know rape is more about power and control than sex.

And why did she wait a year? The lawsuit claims McNulty told the Director of Security at Harrah’s, but it was brushed aside. Even more horrifying is her claim that he told her she was “over- reacting” and that “most girls would feel lucky to have sex with someone like Ben.”  He allegedly continued by saying the hotel president, a friend and fan of Roethlisberger’s, would “love her even more if he knew about this.” McNulty claims she was afraid to come forward because no one would believe her, that Harrah’s would side with Roethlisberger and that she would be fired. This does not seem out of the ordinary to me, as approximately 60% of victims of sexual assault don’t ever report it. If they do, it can often take time to build up to that.

Imagine what it would do to your spirit if after building that courage and coming forward you were immediately vilified; that no one believed you, that you are blamed for the crime against you. I know it’s awful to say, but in a situation like this – I almost hope she is lying.

Otherwise, there is a young woman who was attacked at her place of employment and then humiliated by those tasked with her security. She then spent a year living silently with her assault, all the while the country cheered for and glorified the man that assaulted her. When she came forward she endured countless personal attacks on her character, mental status and intentions.

Those injustices are almost too hard to take. Perhaps it is easier to convince ourselves that she is lying or that she is at fault.

I don’t know the truth, but I do know that placing blame and name calling won’t bring anyone closer to finding it. I know that the number of women who have been assaulted since this incident took place is staggering. I know that many of them will site this case and others like it as reasons why they will remain silent. I know we need to be responsible and mindful of our accusations, as they affect more than just one.

If Roethlisberger is guilty this young woman will have endured more than anyone should have to, and it will be a blow to Steelers fans across the country. If not, he deserves justice and I hope he will find a way to free himself of the speculation that will follow him after such an accusation.

It’s fitting that this incident has been so public because of the association with the Steelers, whose logo represents iron, coal and limestone- the raw materials of which steel is made. Attempting to bend or break it would be quite a fight….

Chris Brown

Yesterday I watched the video apology of Chris Brown, for assaulting Rhianna this past February.  I’m all for forgiveness and allowing people to make mistakes without raking them over the coals for the rest of eternity, but this video struck me as incredibly insincere.  Perhaps it was the script, or blaming things on his gaggle of attorneys or the perfect lighting for the video shoot.  All the parts fused together looked like one big performance.  But it got me thinking, is this something you can truly apologize for anyway?

Several years ago when I was still reeling from losing my friend Shannon McNamara to homicide, I found some solace in watching documentaries and real-life shows about murder. In many of these films, the killer was caught and brought to justice.  And in many of those instances, there was a tearful apology from the accused to the family for taking their loved one.  Sometimes the killer even recognized the almost insulting act of saying “I’m sorry” for taking the ultimate gift of LIFE.  In Shannon’s case, we never got an apology or an admittance of guilt, but I doubt it would have made much difference anyway.

Domestic violence and murder are not the same crime. However, according to the National Women Abuse Prevention Project, thirty-four percent of the women homicide victims over age 15 are killed by their husbands, ex-husbands or boyfriends. (So physical assault can lead to a lethally violent outcome.)  But yesterday as I watched Chris say he had been such a good guy up ’till the moment he beat his girl, I had to wonder if Rhianna and countless women who have been battered by their partners felt as insulted as I did.  Apologies are great when you’re late for a meeting or stain a borrowed sweater.  But when you try to throw your girlfriend out of a car?  When you smash her head into a window?    When you punch her in the eye?  When you repeatedly punch her in the face, WHILE driving a car?  When you utter the words “Now I’m really going to kill you” after all of this?  Oh, it keeps going…read the full police report by clicking here.

I’m sorry Chris Brown…but your apology just doesn’t cut it for me.  You need serious help.

Having Faith

I loved Megan’s recent article on being Paranoid versus being Proactive. It reminded me that just about a week after I returned home from the Girls Fight Back Training Academy, my husband and I were lying in bed, just about to drift off to sleep when I suddenly had the thought that the door wasn’t locked. It was strange because I didn’t think “Hmmm..is the door locked?” or “I can’t remember if I locked the door or not.” I simply thought “the door isn’t locked.” So I got up and locked it. My husband asked what I was doing and I told him I was going to lock the door. When I returned to bed, he asked, “so now that you’ve had this training, are you going to be paranoid all the time?” I simply asked him, “What’s paranoid about locking a door that is unlocked?” (and for the record, it was unlocked) Our conversation continued and finally ended with a discussion over who empties the dishwasher more often, but that really isn’t the point.

The point is that it is hard to separate the idea of being careful about your safety from the idea that you are being paranoid and suspicious of everyone. Both my husband and I were raised in small towns where people don’t just leave their doors unlocked, they leave them wide open! I have one member of my family who still to this day doesn’t even have a key to their home. It is unlocked 24/7. In fact, recently someone accidentally locked the door as they were leaving the house and this relative had to call a locksmith to get them into their own house! Since I practice simple safety precautions (like actually locking my doors), I’m used to being called paranoid or (when it comes to my daughter’s safety) overprotective.

I won’t lie, when I’m out running errands with my daughter, I am a little hyperaware of our surroundings and our safety. People often offer to help me with things like putting up a grocery cart or carrying bags to my car. They usually offer this help because I am carrying too many bags and digging through my purse for my keys with my 15 month old wiggling around on my hip. And for the most part, I used to refuse the help 10 times out of 10. Why? Because I didn’t trust people. Or really because I didn’t trust myself.

You see, when you don’t trust your intuition, it is easiest to go to one extreme or the other. You simply choose to trust everyone or trust no one and accept whatever comes from that choice. For me, I trusted no one and that meant doing everything myself and having lots of headaches.

This week, I took my daughter to lunch at one of those fast food type Japanese places. You know, the ones that have those yummy rice bowls with chicken and zucchini.  While I was waiting for my food, I started the process of getting my daughter situated in a high chair.  Well, I got the chair and dragged it over to my table only to realize that it was sticky and gross.  I decided I needed to get out a wipe from my wipe case and clean it off.  Now my daughter is still in my arms and I’m digging through my bag to get the wipes.  I find them and that darn wipe won’t come out.  I’m just about to try and pull it out with my teeth when this man comes over and asks if I need any help.  I’m just about to say no, thank you when I stop for a moment.  I realize that I don’t have a creepy feeling about this person.  My intuition shoots me a quick message to say, “he’s OK.”  So I say yes and this nice man gets out the wipe for me and cleans the chair.  He even goes to get my food at the counter and brings it to me!

As my daughter and I are enjoying our lunch, I realize that by trusting my intuition, I have freed myself up to have faith in others.  I can count on my intuition to guide me towards helpful, honest people and away from those who mean me harm.  It feels great to believe in the goodness of people; to know that my instincts can guide me through any situation; and to know that the next time the guy who bags my groceries offers to cart them out to the car for me, my answer will be YES!

Want a live GFB seminar for NO FEE?

My name is Erin Weed and I’m the Founder and CEO of Fight Back Productions, which originally began as Girls Fight Back in 2001. (http://girlsfightback.com) Over the past 8 years, I traveled the nation with the GFB seminar, teaching over a half million women to become their own best protectors.  I have also written a book, produced a live DVD and spoke at hundreds of schools, colleges, corporations and women’s groups.  And today I’d like to offer you a seminar for NO FEE during August 2009.

Let me explain…just 4 weeks from now, I’m expecting my first baby.  This transition into motherhood helped me realize how crucial it was to find other young women to give the presentation in my place.  After a national search this past Spring, the selection committee chose 6 incredible women to fill this role as Speakers for Fight Back Productions. In June, the selected Speakers spent a week here in Colorado for the GFB Training Academy. In the mornings they were ground fighting, taking on multiple assailants, getting out of pinning situations and wielding off armed attackers.  In the afternoons they were on stage, learning how to convey this life-saving safety and self-defense information to everyday women using humor and empowerment.  It was exhausting for sure, but they all made me proud.

Each of them graduated from that rigorous GFB Training Academy, and then began a 6-week intensive web study course.  As of July 31st, they will complete the online course and be ready for live speaking engagements. After Labor Day, they will begin traveling the nation for the Official Fight Back Productions Fall 2009 Speaking Tour.

The Speakers would love to practice in front of live audiences before the tour starts. Therefore, we are currently seeking schools, colleges, businesses, non-profits, women’s organizations or public institutions who would like to host a 90-minute seminar for NO FEE during the month of August 2009.  We only ask you pay the Speaker $100 to cover her expenses and giveaways at the seminar. We are looking for groups to arrange a no-fee event in the following geographic areas:

Salem/Portland, OR
Seattle, WA
Los Angeles, CA
Chicago, IL
Nashville, TN
Winston-Salem, NC

If you’d like to set up an event for August, please call 1-866-432-2423.  Feel free to circulate this limited time offer among your friends, colleagues and networks.  This is a first come, first serve opportunity, so call soon and save a date!

I’m not paranoid. I’m proactive…

Have you ever been laying in bed and you’re really comfortable, with your dog all curled up next to you and the pillows situated in perfect form? It’s the best! Then all of a sudden you get that nagging feeling that you didn’t lock the front door, or turn off the stove, or set the alarm? Now you’re faced with a difficult decision. Do I leave my comfort zone to check something I very likely did do? Or do I stay in my little nook and convince myself that all is well?

Unfortunately, many times we let the idea of not being paranoid take over and we resist doing the very things that can give us peace of mind and in some cases keep us safe from harm.

That alarm system is probably unnecessary, that person you get an uneasy feeling about is probably “fine”, that noise you heard was probably just the neighbor’s dog. How many times have you thought one of those things? You also likely spent a fair amount of time contemplating and worrying when through all of that “probably” you could have just made a proactive decision about your security and moved on with confidence.

Home alarm systems are a really effective tool in safety and peace of mind. If you can afford one, they are a great investment. If you can’t afford one, or perhaps live in a dorm or other residence where the system wouldn’t work, then check out our online catalog! There are some really great, cost effective door and window alarms that you can use anywhere!

If you get a nagging feeling about someone and your intuition tells you to stay away- there is a reason! Don’t let yourself be convinced that you are simply being paranoid. The polite police are not going to come get you if you are firm in your decision to keep these people out of your life.  Whether this is a co-worker, babysitter, or someone you met at a party don’t brush aside warning signals that you might regret later.

That noise could be your neighbor’s dog or it could be something else. I don’t suggest “checking it out”- we’ve all seen THAT horror movie! Why not take a proactive approach and call your neighbor? Ask if their dog is outside, or if they heard a similar noise. If you are really nervous, you can call the non-emergency line of your local police department and ask if there is someone in the area who could drive by and make sure everything is ok.

Any of these options are better than sitting around “hoping” you were right and that nothing bad will happen. Paranoia is worry without a plan. Proactivity is the plan. So get up from your comfort zone and go check the front door!  If you were right and you did lock it- so what? You’re just that much closer to the refrigerator. Get another spoonful of ice cream and call it a night!

Nesting

Only 4 weeks to go until my baby arrives, and I’ve been nesting up a storm!  By reading that, you’d assume I’ve been busy cleaning the bathroom tile with a toothbrush or painting the baby’s room.  Not so.  I’m finding there is another kind of nesting for female business owners that I call “Business Nesting.”  Let me tell you, the cleaning can wait and the garage re-organization project may fall in the “things to do next year” category.  The baby furniture will get assembled…eventually.  But creating marketing materials and talking to sponsors for the upcoming Fall Tour and designing our public relations strategy and planning events around the USA and making sure my new Speakers and Sales Reps are ready to rock…well that can’t wait!

These past few months of training and creating systems for the future of Fight Back Productions has been one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done.  It’s pushed me way beyond my comfort zone, in a good way.  While the final trimester of pregnancy brings on a whole slew of physical ailments from bladder overdrive to acid reflux, the excitement of building a company to be bigger than myself has kept me going.  And when people tell me to slow down, it’s hard…just because I’m having so much fun.

Maybe this makes me some sort of freak, but I have to say, just thinking about a world with more education about personal safety and self-defense thrills me and my staff. Our approach is fresh, new and different than anything you’ve ever seen in regards to personal safety education.  As John F. Kennedy once said: “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”  The upcoming Fall ‘09 Tour will reveal a whole new layer to our company vision, and it’s going to be new and awesome and better than ever.  Just wanted to post and say STAY TUNED for some good stuff…

Bad Victim Advice for Teens

Here are Fight Back Productions, one of our primary goals is to encourage an open dialogue about safety, an issue that is too often swept under the rug as unnecessary (denial) or sensationalized to the point of being more harmful than helpful (intimidation). To that end, we welcome questions through our Web site, girlsfightback.com, and make every effort to answer each question in a public forum such as this blog so that as many people as possible can benefit from the information. We’ve all heard it before, but chances are, if you have a question, someone else has the same question and would love to hear the answer.

Recently, we received a question through girlsfightback.com from a mother who is concerned that her teenage daughter thinks she is invincible and does not take safety and violence prevention seriously enough (walking down dark streets alone at night without a second thought, etc.). How could this mother help her daughter understand why avoiding unnecessary risk is so important, she wanted to know?

One of the most important aspects of living a safe life is simply being what we call a “bad victim.” This means making yourself a harder target for criminals of violent or malicious intent. Put yourself, for a moment, in the mindset of a “scary bad guy” (who, incidentally, doesn’t have to be a GUY at all, but could be a dangerous character of any gender, race, age, social status, etc.). If you’re headed out with the intent to, say, steal a woman’s purse, everyone you encounter as you seek your target is part of your “victim pool.” In this victim pool, you, as a scary bad guy, have two choices: “good victims” (easy targets) and “bad victims” (hard targets). Who do you think the bad guy is going to look for? Of course! The good victims, or easy targets.

If we start to think about what kinds of behaviors characterize easy targets and avoid those behaviors, we can avoid much of the risk that’s associated with violence. For example, an easy target might be alone in an isolated place (as the author of our email described her daughter). Easy targets might be distracted by their cell phones, iPods, lost car keys. They might be dowtrodden, shuffling, looking insecure or vulnerable.

As we start to recognize these key good victim characteristics, we realize how easy (and how important!) it is to make simple choices that cast us as a bad victim: we can avoid being out alone at night in isolated areas, put our phone calls and music on hold to pay attention to what’s going on as we walk around and walk tall and make eye contact with people we pass, choosing to be aware of our surroundings.

If we make these small changes in the way we interact with the world, we instantly become a “bad victim,” and greatly reduce the risk of becoming a victim of violence.

Being a “bad victim” can be taught to teens as well. However, it has to be conveyed in a way that is cool, practical and will make them look/feel strong. While there is a lot of fear-based self-defense advice available, most teens tune out when they hear it, because its delivered in a tone they don’t connect with. Our advice for helping teens live safe is to give them a copy of our book or DVD, both of which speak the language of young women today.  Buy here online: http://www.girlsfightback.com/All-Items.

Should I live here?

With the summer months comes the season of moving. For those of us who are fortunate enough to rent an apartment, the eventual time comes when our lease expires, rents are hiked and we have to look for a new abode. Knowing this, I started looking for apartments months in advance to try and get a good idea of what buildings were available and what safety measures are taken to ensure my safety as a tenant. The findings diverse, I wanted to take just a moment to write down some safety ideas in contrast to the unsafe things that I saw on the apartment trail.

Mail boxes and apartment signage: Not many people really think about the information that is posted on their mail box or intercom system, as we want to get the correct mail and have friends access our apartment easily. The problem comes however, when people we don’t know or “scary bad guys” get a hold of the same information. Instead of writing your full name on your mailbox and intercom, consider putting only your initials. Your friends already know your name and if they are privileged, you will have given them your address information prior to their visit. Same goes for your mail or delivery person, who will have your address in advance.

Invitation only: During visits to potential apartments, I walked into several complexes by way of people opening the door for me without question or doors being propped. I even called random apartment codes addressing myself as a delivery person and don’t you know, they buzzed me up. Scary! Communities and individuals need to take responsibility for their own safety as well as their neighbors. A word of caution that propping doors is a big no-no. It only takes a moment for someone to gain access to your building and front door when you prop your doors. Think smart! No invitation, no access.

Peep holes: Should you be fortunate enough to find your next awesome apartment, check to see if your door has a peep hole. If it doesn’t, ask your manager about installing one. S/he should be more than happy to assist you with this, but should they decline ask if you can install one yourself. Peep holes are super simple to install and are a cost effective way to add an extra security measure to your home.

Lighting and overgrown foliage: I went to a few apartments at night, for the sole purpose of seeing what the complex and area was like at night. At several of these locations, I saw things that I would have missed during the day, one of which was lighting of common areas. I brought the lack of lighting to the attention of the managers, who quickly replaced the bulbs and instantly made the space safer visually. Be sure to report lack of lighting and even overgrown shrubbery on site to a manager, so that they can remedy the situation.

Locks: In addition to the common sense that doors should always be locked (I’ll save you my rant on that one…) be sure to check to see if the locks on your new potential apartment are new. Many managers do not change the locks with each new tenant, which is simply not cool. Despite the fact that some keys are marked with a lovely “Do not duplicate” engraving on them, this is no deterrent for  key cutters to make extra copies for you. (Yes, I have tested this theory) That said, we can never know how many previous tenants and extra copies of your apartment locks are floating around. Let Managers know that new keys are a must for all apartments. If their response to your comments or suggestions goes unnoticed, pay attention and trust your instinct about whether this is somewhere that you want to live.

Apartment ratings: Go online and search ratings for the apartments that you are interested in. Speak with current tenants on-site (away from the Manager) and casually ask them questions about their time there. You will find some surprising comments that may convince you to rent or look elsewhere. Factor in that some people are just never happy with apartment managers and often take out their frustrations online as a form of retaliaiton. Do pay attention to the numbers and feel free to use this tool as a guide to help you find the right place for you.

Finally, trust your intuition! Pay attention to how you feel as opposed to how your roomate reacts or Manager speaks about the building and apartment. Ultimately, you will be the one signing the lease and living there, so trust your gut and listen to yourself. You are your own best protector….

Good luck and happy house hunting!

Be a Bad Victim . . . And Look Good Doing It!

Very recently, I took one of my favorite people to a krav maga class to put her on the path to becoming her own best protector and to show her fighting is not about strength or size (she’s “fun sized” like me), it’s about spirit and will. Well, she loved the groundfighting portion of the class and is figuring out a plan on how to fit more classes into her life and budget. Mission accomplished!

However, we were driving back from the martial studios and she asked me a very common question: How do I keep bad guys away from me? I started talking to her about being a bad victim/hard target, especially on the street when she popped in a surprising question. She asked me, “What do mean bad victim . . . like wearing pants?” Now keep in mind my friend is a strong, educated, and successful woman. However, she also proved that there are still unfounded stereotypes about how women should act in the world if they want to avoid attackers. For example, if you don’t want to be attacked, don’t do the following: wear a skirt, wear a dress (especially if it’s short), wear high heels, or go out by yourself at night. I think it’s time we put these ideas and stereotypes to rest because they’re not accurate, they’re not empowering, and they’re not even practical. I do not know one woman who never has to walk to car by herself or occasionally dress up her style with an adorable dress or skirt. And you know what? We have every right to do both of those things. That’s right, it’s your right to walk around by yourself and look fabulous doing it!

My friend and I kept talking about what it really means to be a bad victim on the street and I did my best to explain to her that it’s really not about what you wear. It’s how you carry yourself. Carry yourself with confidence, use strong body language and make a choice to be aware of what is around you and you are being a bad victim, even if you are wearing a skirt while walking to your car by yourself at night. I encourage all women to be a bad victim but I also encourage doing it with style!

Improvised Weapons

This past weekend I dragged my boyfriend to an outlet mall…just to “look”. One of the items I was checking out was an oversized handbag. You know the kind, where you can fit anything you would need should you unexpectedly become trapped on a desert island. I don’t recall his exact reaction to my love of this bag, though I do recall the words “suitcase” and “insane” being thrown around. Little did he know that this bag and its’ contents could save my life. Yes. Save my life.

On any given day you can likely find a hairbrush, blackberry, keys, sewing kit, pens, spare heels, a belt and a camera in my handbag. If it’s been one of “those” weeks, you can also add a hairdryer and a can of soup I grabbed for lunch. These items all serve a purpose in my daily life, but in a life threatening attack they can also become improvised weapons.

Think for a moment what you could do with those keys, that pen, or those heels. Would it be more effective to hit someone with a bare hand, or one with a hard object such as a cell phone or camera? Perhaps even my soup (If you’ve ever improperly stocked your cabinet, you know what that feels like when it hits)! My hairbrush is no joke either. I certainly would not want to be on the receiving end of a blow from that. If someone caught me on a hair dryer day…well…that’s a Ceramic Pro 2000, so good luck to you.

I was recently reminded by an amazing 17 year old girl who lives not too far from me about how the tools we keep on hand in our everyday lives can help us when we find ourselves in a dangerous situation.  The young woman, a member of her school’s marching band, was attacked by two assailants who tried to mug her as she walked to school. The girl punched one of the men in the nose, kicked the other in the groin and beat both with the marching band baton she remembered was in the bag she was carrying. This gave her enough time to run to safety. Deputies searched the area around the school for the muggers, looking for a man who was holding his bloodied nose and the other limping.

It’s an important lesson to muggers everywhere- don’t mess with women and our handbags! You never know what’s in there…

Self Defense Classes

We often get asked about self-defense classes. What are the best classes to take, where can I find one, what are the differences between them…Well, I have asked all of these questions, too, and know that I am training to become an expert on personal safety and self-defense, I decided to do the research for you and share my findings on this lovely little blog!

So, I’ve heard alot about this thing called Krav Maga, an Israeli form of martial arts. People have told me that this is the only style of martial arts that applies to real world situations, so last week, I decided to check it out for myself. I contacted the Denver studio via their website and was invited to try a free class. I arrived at the studio, located in the thriving Five Points neighborhood, as the intermediate class was finishing up. While I filled out the typical sign-your-life-away paperwork that studios such as this require, I observed the class as it finished up. It seemed quite intense so I asked the receptionist if this was an intermediate class and when she responded that it was, I felt relieved. Clearly my beginner’s class wouldn’t be so intense, or so I thought…

We started, as many martial arts classes do, by lining up at the front of the room and taking a bow. Then we went right into jumping jacks (something that my muscles remember vaguely from high school) then alternated with push-ups and some basic blocks with a partner. I asked the woman I was attempting to punch if this was a self-defense class or more of a cardio-kickboxing class. She assured me that it is a self-defense class with a very intense warm-up. After this we moved to the floor for ab-work (another distant memory for my core muscles) and then did a little stretching. The tone of the warm-up was similar to what I picture boot camp to feel like; a super tough guy yelling at you and attempting to break you down. By the end of the warm-up, I was terrified, but I didn’t run.

Next we got with a partner and practiced hitting pads with our palm-heel. This was getting fun. As a student of FAST Defense, I have grown to appreciate my adrenaline as an important survival tool, and I love self-defense classes that give me an opportunity to channel it and make it work for me. Next we moved into some attack scenarios, first watching the instructor and his assistant walk through a frontal choking situation. He showed us how to get out of this and what not to do, then we broke it down into steps and practiced one step at a time with our partners. We started with a block, then added a palm strike, and finally added a knee to the groin. The order and speed in which we learned this was very easy to understand and really simplified the moves. Throughout the class, the instructor came around and offered feedback and criticism on our form and force.

We ended the class the way we started, with jumping-jacks, push-ups, and ab-work, but this time we had to move quickly from the floor into palm strikes and back again. This helped to prepare us for the idea that we may have to get off the ground and fight for our lives at some point, so we should be ready. The yelling and intensity of the class in general was also directly relevant to real-life situations. Most attackers will not walk up to you and quietly ask you to cooperate. It is much more likely that they will come in swinging or grabbing and screaming obscenities, so this type of training really helps to desensitize us. In addition to Krav Maga being a great way to get some practical self-defense training, it is also an AWESOME work out! I left the class completely in love and wanting to continue. Unfortunately, it is not cheap and I am financially challenged at the moment so I chose not to buy a membership, but if I could, I would.

The fortunate thing about not committing to one type of training is that now I can go take free classes in all sorts of martial arts studios and report back on how they differ. An artist friend of mine is an expert in Wing Chun, a form of Kung Fu. He approached me about building him a website and I agreed to trade my design services for his expertise. Last Wednesday was day one, so I don’t have alot to share yet, but as I learn more, I’ll keep you posted. So far, all I can really say about Wing Chun is that it’s main focus is on protecting the center-line of the body. It is a very slow and meditative practice and the polar opposite of Krav Maga.

That’s all for now, but check back next week for an update and take advantage of the free classes offered in your area (most studios will allow you to try one free before signing up). Peace.

Jenn Doe
Marketing Intern

Protecting the Gift

blog2Come see any Fight Back Productions seminar (check out our Second Saturdays program starting in August!) and you’ll hear us mention a book called “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin DeBecker.  It is one of the leading books on intuition and safety in the world and an absolute must read!  I’ve read this book a few times in my life and it always leaves me feeling empowered and educated; like I can see through anyone’s bull.

Throughout the book, DeBecker highlights stories of men and women and their experiences with violent crimes.  While the gruesome tales sometimes make me uncomfortable, I’ve always been able to process them and understand the necessity of telling them.  In order for us to fight back against violence we must first stop living in denial and accept that violence has always been and will always be a part of the human existence.

Somehow, it is easy for me to accept that violence against women happens and that as a woman, I run the risk of being a target.  What I learned from the Gift of Fear, the training I received at the Girls Fight Back Academy, and the work I continue to do in self-defense classes reassures me that I can handle uncomfortable or even violent situations should I find myself in them.

This week I began reading a second book by Gavin DeBecker entitled Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane).  I can’t recommend the book highly enough, but I also can’t express how difficult it has been for me to read.

You see, as the mother of a beautiful 14 month old daughter, I find the horrible tales of child adbuction, neglect, sexual assault, and physical abuse too hard to accept. It would feel so much nicer to pretend that they don’t happen.  When we live in denial, we can pretend that our children aren’t at risk or that we don’t have any real responsibility to ask tough questions in order to protect them.  We can ignore our intuition and say things like “he looks like such a nice guy” or “I’m sure she just fell down.  Children get bruises all the time.”

The downside to living in denial is that some children DO get abducted, some parents DO abuse their children, and sometimes bad things DO happen.  Being in denial means that not only do we ignore the existence of these bad things, but we also ignore any opportunity to prevent them.

Someone once said “with great knowledge, comes great responsibility.”  It has been a difficult and emotional experience to have my eyes opened to the violence that even the smallest beings of our species experience.  But I’m grateful, because now I have the knowledge necessary to protect my daughter and maybe other children.  I’m ready to accept that responsiblity.  Are you?

Pick up one of Gavin DeBecker’s books at your local library or bookstore, check out a Fight Back Productions seminar, and join us in this mission to make our world a safer place for every man, woman, and child.

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Not just another day on the bus…

We hear about situations all the time, where disturbed people get on to buses and passengers must decide what actions to take to remedy dangerous or uncomfortable situations. Yesterday was one such day.

After a long day of work, I got on my bus to head home. As I stepped off the first bus to transfer to another, a young man in his twenties followed close behind me, lighting a cigarette. As I waited for the light to change to green, I looked over to see him staring at me. He was taller than I, wearing a dress suit and black dress shoes. He held his black jacket in his left hand, loosely away from his body. His white with red pinstripe shirt, hanging out of his pants. He looked like a normal guy coming home from work.  However, there was something not quite right about him, though I couldn’t say exactly what it was.

As we crossed the street he followed close beside me. As he continued to smoke his cigarette, he proceeded to pull a faceless balaclava over his neck as he sat next to me on the bus bench. It was then that I knew for certain that something was off. There were several other people at the bus stop and my false sense of security convinced me to stay seated beside him. I was tired and I resented having to move from the only available space at the stop, in an effort to avoid this guy.

A minute later, my bus pulled up and I got on. As usual, there was only a few seats available so I took the first available seat before others got on. As I sat down, creepy guy sat down beside me. I opened my book in an effort to avoid any communication from him. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed his hand fall to the side of the seat that was shared between us. He slowly inched his way towards my thigh. He then took his other hand and went to pull something our of his pocket. I swiftly moved my hand to a ready position in anticipation of having to fight. When nothing happened, I left doubt to convince me that “I” may just be exaggerating the situation, I walked to the front of the bus to ask the bus driver which direction this bus took. This being my bus, I knew the answer but wanted a polite excuse to leave my seat. As I walked back to another seat directly across from this man, I noticed his hand was not in his pocket as I had first thought. He not pulling out a weapon, but he did indeed pull out something, covering himself with his jacket. I couldn’t believe what was happening on the bus, right in front of me, in front of everyone in broad daylight. I became enraged.

A man who was sitting beside this guy saw what was happening, became embarrassed and walked to the back of the bus. I looked over to a woman across from him and made eye contact with her. It was like I was looking for confirmation of what was happening. She looked back at me and we both knew what the other was thinking. Silence.

Something inside of me snapped and looked over at this man and said “Seriously! Are you kidding me with this?” No response. No one else said a word. I realized in a moment, from the way that he looked at me that he was psychotic. His direct stare and smirk sent a chill up my spine. My instinct told me that no verbal boundary setting would make a difference and that it was best to avoid him completely. As we came to the next stop, a little girl got on the bus with her mother busily attending the another child. As the little girl went to sit beside him, I heard the words come out of my mouth “No!” her mother looking at me, I repeated , “No. Not this bus.” Without question, she and her little girl got off. I walked to the front of the bus, told the bus driver what was happening and got off.

I pulled out my phone, dialed 911 and called the police. I gave them a complete description of this guy, including the bus number on the back of the bus. What happened next, I can’t know for sure.

Some people may experience a situation like this and shake it off as a creepy one. I however, chose to look back at the events and see what I could have done differently, what I did and what I won’t do again.

As people, as women, we tend to make excuses for our first reactions. We need to let our instincts guide us and not allow logic to blind us from potential danger. When I got off my first bus, I saw someone and instinctively knew something was wrong. I was uncomfortable that he sat beside me, but instead of moving I stayed seated. I allowed this man to sit beside me on the bus. I didn’t want to create a scene. Instead of telling him to move his hand, letting him know that he was in my space, I ignored my discomfort and made excuses to move. I looked to others for acknowledgment of something I knew myself.

All of the training in the world is not useful unless it’s practiced, acted upon in the real world. We have to be comfortable using our voices, trusting our instincts and putting them into action. One could argue that I made the right choices, as I really didn’t know this man’s full intent. He could have indeed become physically dangerous. Personally, as  a self-defense instructor, the physical defense aspect is less scary to me than the verbal boundary setting. I think that this is common to many women. It was a situation that was in many ways passive aggressive and a grey area of what should have been said or done. At the end of the day, despite questioning my actions, I made choices that kept me safe. I was able to stay calm and act in ways that didn’t escalate the situation. This allowed me to deal with potential danger and notify those around me of a threat.  I got the woman and girl off the bus, I told the bus driver what was happening and I then got myself to safety and called the police. Perhaps, that’s exactly what I was supposed to do; to be here to tell you about it.