Aiki News – Spring 1990






aiki newsBy Stanley Pranin

In this number we present an article which represents a departure from our usual fare. It deals with the subject of “Model Mugging,” a special type of anti-rape training. It so happens that a number of Aikido black belts, both female and male, have been involved in the development and spread of this highly-effective approach to sexual violence. We feel this subject is very timely, certainly in western countries, but also increasingly in Japan where incidents involving rape represent a serious social problem and undoubtedly are grossly under reported. The subject of the effectiveness of Aikido techniques is a much debated one. It is certainly true that although the dojo environment can provide vigorous training, practitioners, especially female Aikidoka, do not experience the reality of a life-and-death struggle as they would if accosted. Many techniques as taught in Aikido dojos are not even completed in the sense that the attacker is not immobilized. Also, depending on the technical orientation of the school, pinning techniques tend to be applied in a very lax way allowing a strong or flexible person to escape easily. Thus even in the event a person succeeds in applying an Aikido technique, the attacker has every opportunity to pick himself up and resume his attack. Do we seriously think even for a moment that this sort of training would prepare one for a violent street attack or rape scenario particularly one involving multiple adversaries? In any event, our readers of the fairer sex may find that Model Mugging training provides a viable answer to an ever present threat they must live with.


EDITORIAL By Diane Bauerle

WHAT? Another Editorial?

Well, with the advent of our single language edition comes the addition of an Editor, hence this page. I hope that you’ve noticed something else new in this issue of AIKI NEWS. Think back on all that you have seen in the past in these pages–the fascinating interviews with uchideshi now in their 70s and 80s, the technical photographs, the historical explorations and debates, the biographies and personal reminiscences of famous budo figures… What do all these have in common, besides Aikido and the martial arts? You guessed it! With but a handful of exceptions, all of our subjects and authors have been men. Part of this is due to the nature of the Japanese culture and the martial arts. But the fact is that fewer women in any culture practice martial arts, and fewer still stick around long enough to make an impact. We know that Aikido, due to its approach to conflict and violence, appeals strongly to many women who take up the art with enthusiasm. So where are Aikido’s women senseis and leaders? From personal experience, I know that it takes more than an ordinary commitment for a woman to progress from beginner to advanced practitioner. It can be tough for women to find role models, encouragement and support in what frequently seems like a man’s world. In order to help change this, we present the first in what I hope will become a long series of interviews with women practitioners. We also provide an overview of Model Mugging, in attempt to answer one of the questions women most frequently ask, ‘But what about self-defense?” We would like to continue to explore topics of specific interest to women in the martial arts, so if you have any suggestions for articles that might be of use to you or your students, please let us know.


Model Mugging Anti-Rape Training: Women, Martial Arts and Self-Defense

By Diane Bauerle

eye strike self-defense technique

Danielle Evans counter-attacking Model Mugger Julio Toribio

Many women take up the martial arts in order to learn how to protect themselves against rape and violence. But are these arts really suitable for this purpose? What alternatives are there for women to learn to effectively fight back and break the cycle of violence around them? To answer these questions, AIKI NEWS English Editor, Diane Bauerle, talked with Julio Toribio, to find out more about a system called Model Mugging.

Slender and elegant in her hakania and dogi she wanders across the dojo. Suddenly, from behind the pillar a man, his features obscured by the stocking mask he wears, reaches out and grabs her shoulder from behind. Instantly she reacts, trapping his hand against her own shoulder, ducking and turning under his arm, then pulling the man down in an arm bar.

The audience of university freshman is delighted at this display of Aikido self-defense techniques. In particular, the young women are encouraged to give the Aikido club a try, not only for the discipline, health benefits and camaraderie, but also for the protection such skills can give. But afterwards, the nidan woman who performed the demonstration comes up to me and asks the inevitable question. ‘Do you think that would really work?”

As a woman and a sandan I’ve thought a lot about the answer. The techniques are without question effective — I have felt their power both as thrower and thrown. Yet how would they work if a man, using his full force with violent intent, were to attack me? Frankly, I doubt that they would. No matter how well or long I have trained, how fast and instinctive my reactions, that training and those reactions would be competing with a set of fears and inhibitions that have been impressed on me since birth. Women are socialized to succumb to violence and are actively discouraged against effectively fighting back.

My young friend’s question is a natural one, since most women begin a martial art to learn to protect themselves against rape and other kinds of violence. And unfortunately, such skills are becoming more and more essential in this world. The facts back up the fears. In the United States in 1987, 911,000 rapes were reported. Today, one in five women can expect to be attacked during her lifetime, and one in ten will be raped. Even in Japan, where most American women can feel safe for the first time in their lives, the situation is deteriorating.

model mugger 1990Julio Toribio, an Aikido sandan as well as a Model Mugging instructor, says, “My purpose in life is to work to break the cycle of violence in our society. The Model Mugging program has acted as a catalyst in my striving to achieve this goal. As a student and instructor, I am personally experiencing the process of attempting not to be a victim, remaining in power over myself dealing with fear, seeking release from anger, and feeling the pain of carried feelings, patterns and conditioning passed on from my culture, parents, relatives and society. When I teach Model Mugging I see this process going on with my students and this in turn serves as a reminder of my own purpose in life. As a result, l am able to help students participate in their process toward the same end of breaking the cycle of violence.”

Women (and men) in Japan were shocked at three brutal and fatal attacks against young women, all of which took place within six weeks last summer. One of those women was a black belt in karate. Clearly even women in supposedly “safe” countries need some kind of self-defense, and the martial arts as they are currently taught may not be fulfilling that need.

One reason for this is the emphasis in many Japanese dojos on the martial art as a “Way.” The average Japanese does not study a martial art in order to become a fighter, but to cultivate self-discipline and character, and as a physical activity. Even in martial arts where sparring against a resisting opponent does occur, participants are governed by strict rules, always pulling punches, or executing joint locking techniques and throws so as to avoid damaging the partner. Women martial artists who are faced with a serious assault may have never experienced what it feels like to deliver an attack with full force, or the feel of that attack actually connecting with another human being. Finally, in order to become proficient in any martial art, years of training are required techniques are usually complex and are practiced in response to specific kinds of attacks. Only a very advanced practitioner has the ability to instantly adapt defensive and offensive responses to meet any situation.

Unfortunately, many women martial artists develop a false sense of security, and their teachers may not acknowledge the need for further specialized training. Although there is no question that studying any martial art will improve posture and general movement in a way that makes a woman less likely to be chosen as a victim, the techniques that she learns in the dojo are not likely to hold up under the overwhelming power of an attack by a male.


In 1971 one successful American black belt karate competitor discovered this truth the hard way when she was viciously raped and beaten. She had never delivered a punch intended to damage, and she had never fought from the ground, where she quickly ended up. Her instructor felt that her failure had disgraced his dojo and teachings. Fortunately, fellow student Matt Thomas disagreed, and recognized that it was instead the teacher and the school that had let her down by teaching her techniques without teaching her how to fight against the kinds of attacks women face.

knee to head self-defense techniqueDetermined to address the critical need for a system designed specifically to protect women from rape, Thomas began extensive research, examining over 2,000 rape cases in police files. He devised his system with its emphasis on ground fighting and simple knock-out blows based on his findings and proceeded to teach it to a group of women. At the end of this first course, he put on protective gear and “mugged” each of his students, encouraging them to use what they had learned to escape his attack. Not a single student was successful in defending herself, so Thomas went back to the drawing board and further modified the techniques and teaching methods which became Model Mugging.

He was later joined in 1983 by Danielle Evans, a sandan in Aikido one-time student of AIKI NEWS editor-in-chief, Stan Praninj, and Julio Toribio, a martial artist with over twenty years of experience, who helped to refine teaching methodology, philosophy, instructor training, and the design of the “mugging suit.”

This suit, some 50 pounds of padded armor, is what ultimately distinguishes Model Mugging from all the rest. Not only are the woman taught simple and effective escapes and knock-out blows, and given help in overcoming the psychological inhibitions against fighting which frequently hamstring females who are attacked, but most importantly, they practice what they learn all out against an armored “model mugger.” AIKI NEWS editor Ikuko Kimura and I had a chance to talk to “mugger” Julio Toribio in Tokyo last October. He explained that Model Mugging takes advantage of the same fact that so frequently cripples women martial artists when attacked, “the way you train is the way you are going to fight back, if you ever have to. I’ve seen it over and over, with my students, and with myself…. If I’m training in the martial arts in a certain way, and I’m attacked in a different way, I’m going to respond the way that I’ve trained in the martial art, and I’m probably not going to be able to deal with the situation. But once again, the way that you train is exactly the way that you are going to react. And we train the women over and over to react against an attacker that is overwhelming them. And we teach them to deal with that much force, and to feel being victorious, to feel that they win the fight.”

graduation fightThis training occurs during a twenty-four hour basic course which is usually given in five weekly four-hour sessions, supplemented by several social gatherings and concluding with graduation when each student must successfully “knockout” the “mugger.”

The courses are taught by one female and one male teacher; the female teaches the techniques, the male does the “mugging.” 12 to 14 women, many of whom have been raped, join together in a caring and supportive atmosphere studying both physical and psychological techniques in order to find and learn to use their full power. Thus, the instructors must be more than merely martial arts teachers, but must also be able to counsel women who are confronting their deepest fears. The technical instruction takes place through a series of scenarios, taken from real-life rapes. After the women have been taught the technique they immediately apply it in this role-play. At first the “mugger” attacks fairly slowly and without using all of his strength, but by graduation he is attacking full out. When a blow connects which would have knocked him out were he not wearing his suit, he signals his surrender, and the fight is won. Throughout the course he also gives individual feedback to the students, “I tell you you’re not being effective. You’re not moving my body. This is what’s happening with you. You’re giving me a lot of openings so I can attack you,” explains Toribio.

BASIC Techniques

kick to head women self-defenseGround techniques are especially emphasized, since the first action of a would-be-rapist is almost always to throw a woman to the ground. This is actually the best position to fight from for other reasons as well. Most of women’s strength is in their lower body and when fighting from the ground a woman can use her legs and that strength to best advantage. The women are taught to swivel back and forth to keep their legs between them and the attacker, and to wait for an opening before delivering a knock-out kick to the head.

Standing techniques and strikes with the hands are also taught. But rather than teaching women how to punch with a closed fist, like in karate, the strikes are always done with an open hand. Toribio explains why: “Because there is a chance of breaking your hand. And because there are women who have never done anything, who have never touched anyone. Always just something like this Toribio delicately slaps the air. So this is the first time they strike. This [using the heel of the hand] is safe. You can learn how to hit someone like this and it’s safe and it’s very powerful. For a karate punch, you need training and it takes time. When I punch somebody like this, if I don’t know exactly how to line up my fist with my body and my center, I’m going to break my wrist. But when you teach somebody how to use an open hand, it’s like BAAMM! You just do it. It’s really natural. So we teach the women how to do it this way.”

A woman can have confidence that she can use these fighting skills because she has responded all out in the various scenarios in the classroom.

But all the simple techniques in the world, repeated over and over again will do no good if a woman cannot control and channel the fear and anger that are released when she is attacked. The Model Mugging course focuses on a number of psychological tools as well. Students are urged to stay in their bodies and keep alert for openings, to talk back or scream, to keep calm and reserve their energy so that once they start fighting they don’t stop until they have knocked the attacker out. And a woman can have confidence that she can use these fighting skills that she won’t freeze up, because she has been attacked and responded all out in the various scenarios in the classroom.

Toribio describes what goes on. “When we are fighting, when we are creating the situation, I always wear the suit. The women know that when I have that uniform on that I cannot talk like Julio. I’m going to be this mean bad guy. So unless they get hurt, because there is a chance that you can get an injury, they have to continue fighting. And if they do get hurt, they can call the name of the female instructor. That’s the signal, and then I will know, and I will stop what I am doing. But if they say, ‘Stop! Stop!’ I won’t stop. Or if I say, ‘Stop, don’t hurt me,’ they have to continue fighting. Because I can trick them. I can tell them things so that they’ll stop fighting. They’ve been times when the women get really angry and they slap me in the face, and I say ‘Why did you do that? Why did you hurt me? I’m not going to hurt you.’ That’s just a way for me to get closer to them. And they just say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ This is not the time to say I’m sorry because there are no rules in fighting, in defending yourself. No rules. Everything goes. But they’re conditioned that way. So if I say, ‘No, I’m sorry,’ or if I say ‘Stop,’ they react to that. Real attackers know that and they do those things to get their victims.”


The adrenaline charge released during this kind of training results in a very fast and deep body and mind conditioning that will take over if ever the student finds herself in a dangerous situation. One graduate reports that when an old friend suddenly came at her with a knife “a million thoughts rushed through my head in as little as five seconds…the one I responded to was — DROP TO THE GROUND!”

Linda Simeone successfully escaped her psychotic assailant with only a few minor scratches. Such an attacker is by far the most dangerous because frequently he does not feel any pain. But Linda knew what to do. “Thank God we had worked with this type of assailant in the Model Mugging class. I had been trained not to give up.”

grab from behind self defense techniqueHer success story is not the only one. According to Model Mugging statistics, 36 of their over 6000 graduates have reported being attacked. Two chose not to fight, thirty-four fought and got away, in one case over eight years after taking the course.

The Model Mugging course does not end after graduation. Reunions are held, and graduates keep in touch via the Model Mugging News.

One-day review courses are also available, as well as intermediate courses concentrating on dealing with multiple assailants, and advanced courses in how to handle armed attacks. One of the most useful support tools is the class videotape. “We use videotapes so that they can see themselves. We video the first class and we video the graduation. The contrast between what you look like the first day, and what you look like the last day is incredible. That really helps the women, for them to see how good they get physically… They buy the video and then they go home and they say, ‘Yeah, that’s me.’ And they can watch it any time they need a dose. Let’s say you go into a difficult situation and get out feeling glad to be out of there. Then you look at your tape and you feel really good. Or if you’re going to a place that’s really scary. Say you’re going to a job interview, or you’re going to give a speech, and you’re scared. You look at this tape and you get a dose of power.”



So what happens to women martial artists when they take the course? Toribio comments, “It’s interesting. A lot of students are black belts in other martial arts like Karate, Aikido, Jujutsu or Judo. They find that this is so different, and they go through a lot of frustration the first two sessions because it is difficult for them to use what they have learned in the martial arts. Once they learn the basic techniques, once they let go, they can use the power that they’ve learned in the martial arts, and they are incredibly powerful. It’s really hard for me as an attacker to deal with a martial artist after they understand that they have to let go and be themselves, that they don’t have to rely on any martial art.”

“I personally, and the woman that I work with, like people who have studied Aikido, because they have that passive mind, and try to avoid conflicts as much as possible, but they also know that you need to protect yourself. You’ve gotta be real too. This is different from someone who takes Karate, or competitive arts like Judo, who is trying to be number one or better than others. Sometimes they take the course and they’re really trying to beat the shit out of the guy, and they really forget that they are doing something for themselves, not to show other people…. You know, you need to take your belt off, and don’t think that you’re a black belt, but just do it as a woman, and see what happens.”

elbow to strikeAccording to Toribio, taking the course actually helps women with their martial art. “What the women have said is that once they take this Model Mugging course, and they learn these basic ways of defending themselves, then their martial art makes much more sense to them. Because they have the confidence that they can protect themselves with basic techniques, they don’t have to rely on the many techniques that they learned in the martial arts. It gets confusing in the martial arts because we get so many different ways of protecting ourselves that you cannot keep all that in your mind. But what Model Mugging has done different from the martial arts is just keep to some very basic techniques, just two or three good techniques. We teach you how to use them, over and over and over until it’s ingrained in your system.”

Model Mugging is a tool to help combat the fear of violence women face in their daily lives. It seems obvious that in this world of increasingly savage crime, that we all must take steps to break this cycle of violence. As Toribio says, “We do have to start somewhere, and I think Model Mugging is a great place to begin.” Martial artists have an obligation to be in the forefront of this struggle; every instructor owes it to his or her female students, and every female martial artist owes it to herself and her colleagues to consider the role Model Mugging can play in making this world a safer place to live.

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julio toribioJulio Toribio began his study of martial arts in 1968 at the age of 13. He has received the ranks of 2nd dan in Karate, 3rd dan in Aikido and 5th dan in Hakko-ryu Jujutsu. Toribio is co-developer of the Model Mugging Self-Defense and Empowerment Program and trainer of instructors. He is also co-owner of the Model Mugging of Monterey Chapter. Toribio’s main efforts are directed towards the development of effective methods of instruction for adults, children and disabled persons in the areas of self-defense and personal growth.

Original article in Aiki News, Spring 1990 – pages 14 to 20; download file size is 5.06 MB

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