Beast in the Garden

This excerpt is from The Beast in the Garden by David Baron who gave Matt Thomas permission to share a story about one of our Model Mugging graduates who survived an attack from a mountain lion. David’s book provides wonderful views on this fascinating subject.

Applying Self-Defense Skills Against a Mountain Lion

Model Mugging Self-Defense graduate Lynda Walters was jogging in Colorado and she described the following. beast in the gardenA lion stood on the opposite side of the creek, not fifteen feet away. Lynda stopped, Cool! She said to herself, astonished by the cat’s size and proximity. The lithe beast stared back, golden eyes and erect ears aimed at the woman. Lynda did not particularly like cats (she had grown up with dogs) and the lion’s gaze unnerved her. She felt disturbingly like a mouse before a house cat. The lion tensed its body and flicked its tail. It crouched, belly against the ground. In Lynda’s past encounters with wildlife (coyotes, bears) the animals had always fled when they’d seen her, but this creature displayed no fear. Lynda shouted “Hyaaaa!” (She learned from karate, not Model Mugging or she would have yelled “NO!”) and threw her arms skyward to assume a formidable air (This technique is taught in Protecting Children from Danger against dogs and bears). The lion did not budge. Lynda extended her right hand towards the rocky slope behind her, fetched a fist-sized chunk of granite and hurled it at the cougar’s feet (The David and Goliath drill from Protecting Children from Danger Course).

The lion hissed and crept closer. As Lynda stood, perplexed by the cat’s recalcitrance, her peripheral vision, (This is why we teach the 360 degree visual drill under stress) detected movement ninety degrees to the right. She turned and say on the low granite cliff that defined the edge of Dry Gulch, a second cougar, crouched. It circled slowly behind her. Panic descended. Lynda attempted an escape. She dove for the embankment behind her and scrambled up slope, animal-like, on all fours. She threw a second rock at the lion by the creek, this time striking its shoulder, the jolt interrupted the cat’s advance, but the other lion now pursued. Lynda continued her fast retreat, tossing cobbles and branches behind her to dissuade the cats from following.

She reached a ponderosa at the top of the slope and without conscious thought, began to climb (This is also taught in Protecting Children from Danger course). She moved instinctively. Lynda raised herself into the tree more than a human’s height off the ground, her bare legs – flesh in color and substance – evident against russet bark and olive needles. She clutched overhead limbs, squatted on her left leg and momentarily rested her right foot on a lower branch. While in this position, hunched in the pine’s sharp embrace, Lynda felt a sudden pain in her right calf. She looked down. One of the lions had followed her into the tree. Its whiskered face stared up, an arm’s length away, as it hugged the trunk with one front paw and gripped the branch beside Lynda’s right foot with the other. Lynda immediately saw what had caused the pain. Three claw marks traced parallel lines down her leg and dripped crimson toward her white sock. This is it, Lynda thought, I am going to die.

Nearly twenty years earlier, in 1971 a woman in Southern California was savagely beaten and raped despite having a black belt in karate. A friend, martial arts instructor, Matt Thomas, recognized a fundamental flaw in self-defense programs at the time; they taught women how to spar in the classroom, not how to fight in the street. From that realization, Thomas developed a new type of training he called Model Mugging (evolution of martial science), in which female students practiced fending off a male assailant (wearing a helmet and sixty pounds of protective equipment) by jabbing his eyes, kneeing his groin, stomping his feet. The training emphasized the strength in a woman’s legs and by forcing students to practice the techniques over and over, eroded their inhibitions and seared the lessons into muscle memory. Lynda Walters had taken such a course a few years back (in Colorado).

Now, faced with an attacker of an unexpected sort, she modified her training to fit the circumstances. She raised her left leg and stomped on the lion’s head. The cat tumbled to the ground. Lynda scanned the terrain for the other lion but couldn’t find it. This heightened her anxiety; she feared that the invisible cat would leap out of nowhere and alight on her back. Lynda began climbing again, hoping that altitude would confer safety. She pulled herself up through a maze of branches and needles, which grew thicker the higher she went. She contorted her body and squeezed through the tangle. When she was halfway to the top, the tree shook as if struck by a sudden wind. The second lion had now jumped into the tree and was creeping upwards.

Lynda scrambled higher and faster while the cat climbed with slow precision, picking its way through the limbs, its eyes focused on the woman above. Nearing the end of the line, the top of the tree, Lynda changed tactics. She snapped a dead limb from the trunk and broke off its smaller branches, fashioning a primitive spear (Improvised weapons taught in Protecting Children from Danger and the Advanced course), then thrust the weapon downward with both hands as if harpooning the cat. “F*** you! she screamed as she jabbed her tormentor. The cat hissed and batted the stick with its paws. “F*** you!” she yelled again. The lion backed down.


Modifying Self Defense Skills to Other Violent Threats

We do teach transmuting “fear into anger” and how to effectively yell “No!” instead. She performed the concept correctly! Overall both mountain lions treed Lynda for awhile but that evening, a deer ran down the trail and the cougars chased after it. Lynda was able to get back to safety. We applaud her courage and improvisational skill under stress. Lynda’s story demonstrates how the skills she learned in Model Mugging Basic self-defense course to apply their skills to stay calmer and focused when in danger within other stressful situations.

Lydia proved the validity of teaching martial science that benefits the lives of our students.

The Beast in the Garden written by David Baron first published by Norton and Company Publishing in 2005.

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