New York Magazine – 1989

Fighting Back

New York Magazine -CoverBy Melissa Morgan

“We MAY NOT BE ABLE TO teach a woman how to let go of her fear,” Says Matt Thomas. “But we can teach her to use it. We can show her how to fight back.” Thomas, 38, is the founder of Model Mugging, a course in which women learn to defend themselves against assailants who are usually bigger, stronger, and male.

Thomas created the course in 1972, while he was a student at Stanford, after a friend of his was raped.
“I was frustrated and angry,” he recalls, “and I wanted women to know they had a choice.” Model Mugging, which offers classes in twelve cities, has only recently reached New York.

During an intensive two-week, 21-hour course, students learn to kick and punch their way to safety during simulated attacks by “muggers” wearing padded helmets and plenty of strategically placed body guards. The muggers don’t quit until the student delivers a “knockout” blow. She’s also taught to fight from a reclining position, because, Thomas says “how many women are raped standing up?”

fighting back

A Model Mugging Class

Thomas says that most women resist using force at first, insisting, “I can’t do this; I can’t kick him there.” But after the training, they don’t hold back. During the classes, the muggers adopt different personas, sometimes acting drugged or drunk. IN these situations, the attacker’s senses are dulled and it may take as many as six blows to knock him out. “We prepare students for the worst-case scenarios,” Thomas says.

Thomas has many success stories: There’s the Model Mugging graduate who was attacked, along with her pregnant cousin, while leaving a video store. They were grabbed by four men, and the Model Mugging student told them, “I’ll do anything you want if you let her go.” They agreed and dragged her into an alley, where she made her move: With a swift elbow to the head, she knocked out one of the attackers. She whirled and hammer-fisted another guy in the face. The others fled.

Another graduate was knocked unconscious in her office when a file cabinet fell on her. As the paramedics tried to loosen her clothing, she instinctively curled up on her side and kicked, knocking one of the rescuers off his feet.

“A woman walks away from this course with a sense of empowerment,” says a Model Mugging Instructor, “and the knowledge that there are no losers here. The only losers are out on the streets.”


Original article in New York Magazine – January 30, 1989

Fighting Back – New York Magazine Jan 1989 – page: 24, download file size is 217 KB

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