New York Times

Model Mugger Earns His Pay

By John Tierney

New York — David Tull recently became the newest fully certified Model Mugger in New York. He earned his certificate not by mugging models but by modelling as a mugger, which is possibly the toughest job in the city.

As an instructor at the Model Mugging self-defense course for women, he has days when his “to do” list looks something like this:

self-defense new york times

David Tull, left, in protective padding, is beaten off by a student in the Model Mugging class, responding to his attack.

Attempt to mug four women. Try to rape eight others. Tackle them, whisper horribly vile threats, tie their hands, cover their mouths with duct tape or pillow cases. Fail every time. Get elbowed in the jaw six times, jabbed the eyes 20 times, kicked the groin 60 time. End up helplessly prone, sweating inside a 40-pound padded suit, as his head is stopped by a “victim” and the audience cheers wildly.

“Sometimes I wake up thinking, “Ooh, boy, I’m really not looking forward to this day,” said Tull, 29, who lives in downtown Brooklyn.

Appropriate Model Muggers must have a special blend of toughness and sensitivity: the capacity to take beating after beating and then join in group discussions featuring frequent mentions of “healing” and “empowerment.” The class, taught in a gymnasium on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, is billed as the only self-defense course that “allows its students to fight full force to vital areas of the body.”

The Model Muggers have consequently devoted a lot of effort to equipment design. By Trial and error, broken bones, and groin injuries were once recurring problems, and one pioneering mugger was knocked out 17 times. They have built a suit and helmet with three inch padding that protects against the techniques taught in the class.

“The worst ones to take are the axe kicks to the head,” Tull said, referring to a straight-legged downward kick administered when the woman is lying on her side and the mugger’s head is between her heel and the floor. “The helmet protects you, but you still feel the force of the blows.”

The most difficult part of the job, Tull said, is the talking. When he’s in action he thinks of himself as the character named Loco, the name is on his helmet, whose conversational style ranges from the sadistic to the drug-crazed to the psychotic.

Often the muggers are given dialogue from characters in a woman’s past, like an incestuous father or an abusive boyfriend. Sometimes they play less well-defined roles, like a woman’s anxiety about being ugly or inadequate. Either way they get beat up.

By the time he knocked off work, Tull had lost 15 fights, sweated off a few pounds, the temperature inside the protective suit has been gauged as high as 120 degrees,and fulfilled the final requirement to become a certified Model Mugger.

The ceremony ended with Tull peacefully linking arms with the women and standing in a circle.

Model Muggers are prohibited from dating any students within a year of the class, and the policy is strictly enforced. Tull said the only benefit he was looking for was a chance to help women, and he looked pleased when students afterward thanked him for being such a good mugger.


Original article in The News Journal, New York Times News Service, page 8, Jan 4, 1993 – download file size is 276 KB.

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