Denver Post – 1990

Finding Strength Through Fear

Men’s Model Mugging Class

Bill Scanlon

Bill Scanlon

By Bill Scanlon

Pull a knife on Bill Kipp in a dark alley, and you’ll be sipping soup in bed for weeks.

Kipp is muscular and athletic with a rock-hard jaw and a black belt in karate. But until he dropped his armor and really looked at himself, he was afraid of dark alleys and a lot of other things in his life.

He has found that no amount of armor or muscle can protect you from the big fears – yourself, not being in control, death.

Kipp confronted his fears in the form of a padded behemoth at a Model Mugging course for men. Now, he teaches the course at Boulder Karate. Matt Thomas started Model Mugging for Women 19 years ago, to teach women to defend themselves. Not many expected that the course would be anything but a joke when offered to men.

But men, too, need to confront their fears. The model mugger is a vehicle for remembering what really scares the hell out of you, and learning how to take back the power that was lost through fear.

Men, Kipp found, are afraid of their bosses, of not being loved if they don’t perform well, of not being in control, of not being able to pay the mortgage, of the guy next to them on the highway. In a back alley, it’s usually the man with the most crazed rage who wins, regardless of who had the most martial arts training.

At the weekend workshop, Kipp begins by asking the men where they would set the boundaries: When would you risk your life for another, when would you risk venting a rage that could hurt someone? When is it OK to feel angry or vulnerable?

“Men who need it the most are those who have that hard shell,” said Kipp.

Feel First, Then Fight

Techniques are taught, at first in slow motion. But the maneuvers never get too far ahead of the feelings – as the men are asked to resurrect the deep-seated fears. For many, it’s a primitive fear of death. Kipp has grown to believe that inside, we’re all very loving, peaceful, sweet, innocent boys. But the vast majority of us have built a shield to protect that little boy. That’s what we present to the world.”

So many things to fear, so much armor to build, so you can hold that little boy inside and say, “It’s OK, I’ll protect you. I won’t let you feel bad. In fact I’ll try hard to make sure you don’t feel anything.”

When Kipp was 5 years old, his parents sent him to ski school. “It was the most terrifying experience in my life, and they didn’t realize it,” he recalls now. But in Model Mugging, the mugger can be the ski slope, or the father who laughed at your clumsy attempts, the dog who bit you or the water in which you almost drowned.

Larry Fisher, a policeman, attended a Model Mugging class last week conducted by Kipp and Thomas. “To be able to talk about things that bothered me – with strangers – it was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Fisher said. “I was always afraid when I was little. My mom would pick my dad up from the factory every night and I would wake up in the middle of the night, with no one in the house and I’d be scared out of my mind.”

“I’m scared”

“This is something that sort of haunted me a good chunk of my life,” he said. “I felt both the shame of being afraid and the actual fear. My parents told me I wasn’t supposed to be afraid. Now that I’m a cop and I have plenty of guns and dogs, I still wake up at night and I’m scared.”

When it was Fisher’s turn, he laid down on a mat, as if asleep, and the mugger was a fierce presence that had come into the dark house. Fisher froze, but then shouted at the mugger to get out of the house. The mugger attacked, and Fisher was on him.

He acted like a man on angel dust, so intent was he to rid his home of this mugger and his soul of this fear. Fisher weighs 200 pounds, but the mugger, with 35 pounds of padding, outweighed him.

“I hit the guy with 10 or 12 knockout blows and he still kept coming. Some people in the audience said they thought his head was going to come off. A couple of knees to the groin and head are what eventually put him down. To have that outcome made me feel good. To vanquish the bogy man, the inner mugger.”

It will change him, Fisher said. “I’ve had to try to help people dealing with major traumas. It gives me a better understanding of what victims go through.”

Male and female instructors “teach that if it’s important enough, you can defend yourself effectively,” said Fisher. “But they are also ‘great believers in Run Fu.” Don’t hurt someone who cuts you off in traffic; save your new found power for when you are truly threatened.

Fisher wears a gun at work, and every day there is a chance he may use it. That scares him, too. “The last thing I want to do is shoot somebody.” After the Model Mugging weekend, he is a little less scared of having to do that, too.


Call 1-800-590-4687 for information on Colorado Mugging for Men. Bill Scanlon is a Camera staff writer.


Original article in Denver Post, 1990 – download file size is .64 MB.

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