Black Belt Magazine – May 1986

model mugging

 Model Mugging

The Rape You Prevent May Be Your Own!

Black_Belt_Mag_1986_cover_Model_Mugging_Self_DefenseBy Mary Tesoro
Black Belt Magazine

The room is dark and still. Except for the soft, rhythmic rising and falling of her chest, the woman lies motionless, supine, her head nestled in the folds of her pillow, and her arms sprawled to either side, her legs angled slightly. She neither sees nor hears her assailant’s approach. It isn’t until his massive frame is entirely upon her that she has any indication of the attack.

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In the Model Mugging program, women are actually assaulted (above) by a heavily padded attacker. Women are taught (left) to bypass their “freeze” response and use their voice assertively if attacked, which prevents many real-life rapes.

An eerie, unfamiliar voice whispers “Your husband’s dead in the other room. Relax if you want to live…”

Her heart pounds wildly, every nerve in her body screams, and a wave of nausea overwhelms her as she realizes she is pinned. She offers no resistance as he moves down her body, yanking her pajamas off. Just as he reaches her feet, she turns slightly, draws one leg up, and kicks him square in the face. “I’m gonna kill you, you bitch!” he screams.

Again she kicks. As her heel strikes his head, he falls off to one side. Somehow, he manages to get back on top of her. She jams her fingers into his left eye, and he reels backward, clutching his face. She kicks one more time — and something within her knows it was the knockout blow, the one which will incapacitate him for five-to-fifteen minutes. She escapes.

Simultaneous with the would-be rapist’s collapse is the sound of a shrill whistle and wild cheering. The scenario is not the woman’s home, but a special training room. The “mugger” is not a rapist at all, but a martial artist attired in 50 pounds of protective equipment. The “victim” has only trained in self-defense for 21 hours, but each of those hours was devoted to study in what many experts believe to be the most effective women’s rape defense course available: Model Mugging.

Model Mugging is a highly specialized training system that teaches women a knockout defense against an assailant of any size. The course is unique in its use of a specially trained, heavily armored assailant—typically a black belt martial artist. During special training sessions, he relentlessly attacks the women in the program until they deliver a “knockout” blow (a blow which would render unconscious anyone not protected by the mugger’s special gear).

The students don’t merely practice techniques, they use real, full-force defenses against the padded muggers in simulated rape scenarios. For most women, this is the first all-out, no-holds-barred fight of their lives.

Among the various situations presented are the “bus stop” scenario, which includes conversation before the attack, and the “bedroom” scenario, where, with the lights out, the woman is pinned while lying in her normal sleeping position. Women even go through “psycho-mugging” scenarios, where the mugger emulates a crazed assailant who doesn’t respond to her defenses because a psychotic state, or a drug like PCP, has dulled his senses. In this case, it may take five or six knockout blows to stop his attack.

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When attacked by a rapist, women in the Model Mugging program are taught to draw (1) their legs up. If the assailant attempts (2) to position himself between the woman’s legs, she draws one leg back and delivers (3) a side kick to his face.

Participants’ reactions to attacks become instinctive and long-lasting. Women have reported successfully stopping attacks up to eight years after taking the course. Twenty-two women have reported being physically attacked subsequent to graduation. Two chose not to fight, three were successful in getting away from their assailants, and of the 17 women who chose to fight back, all knocked out their assailants within five seconds. Scores of other graduates have reported using psychological strategies from the course to foil attacks before they reached a level of violence.

Model Mugging was founded by karate black belt Matt Thomas 13 years ago in response to the brutal rape of a female black belt karate student. Although the woman was a successful tournament competitor, she was unable to defend herself in her real-life attack. She had never before actually hit anyone full force, nor had she learned to fight from the ground—where rape victims invariably end up. She returned to her dojo (training hall) feeling she had disgraced it. Her instructor agreed.

Thomas, a martial artist at the same school, disagreed. “I felt that we had let her down. We had taught her an art, but we hadn’t really taught her how to defend herself against the kinds of attacks to which women are subjected.”

According to experts, one in every three women in the United States will be sexually assaulted sometime in her life. Sexual assault is no longer considered a crime of passion; it is a crime of violence in which sex is used as the weapon. It is motivated by a need to express power, dominance and control by hurting, humiliating and degrading the victim. A rape occurs approximately every 30 seconds in the U.S. This means that at least four women have been raped since the average reader began this article.

“When I learned how prevalent rape is in our society, I saw a critical need for a fighting form to specifically address this outrageous form of assault,” says Thomas, who left the karate school and spent two years collecting data on over 3,000 rapes. “I felt we really needed to get back to what the martial arts are about—that is, providing tools for the survival of an oppressed group of people. We have to look back to the origins of the traditional martial arts and ask why they were formed, and we have to apply that same principle to what women need now.

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When attacked by a rapist, women in the Model Mugging program are taught to draw (1) their legs up. If the assailant attempts (2) to position himself between the woman’s legs, she draws one leg back and delivers (3) a side kick to his face.

“Look at Kung Fu,” Thomas continues. “It was designed in China because priests were not allowed to carry edged weapons. Bandits would say ‘Oh boy, here comes an unarmed priest. Let’s go attack him.’ So the priests devised a system of fighting empty-handed, or with sticks.

“Karate,” Thomas says, “was developed by the Okinawans as a guerrilla warfare movement because the Japanese wouldn’t allow them to have edged weapons. That’s where board breaking came from—because they had to punch through the armor of the Japanese foot soldier, which was often lacquered bamboo.

“Jujitsu,” he adds, “was developed because weapons often break. The way the Japanese armor was designed, if you threw a heavily armored samurai, the flaps would fly up and you could slip a tanto (dagger) in between the chinks of armor.

“Women in our society,” Thomas reasons, “deserve and need their own form. If we’re going to teach them self- defense, it’s very critical that it work for them on the street. And they must learn in a short time span; we can’t lock them up in a temple while they’re learning a martial art and then release them eight years later. They’re at risk now.”

Although the rape of the black belt karate student provided the intellectual impetus for Thomas to embark on his path toward developing an effective rape defense, the emotional spur to action came when his girlfriend, a pacifist, was raped and so brutally beaten that she was hospitalized for weeks. This incident reached beyond his sense of morality into the depths of his heart. “My sorrow and outrage were incredible,” he recalls.

“Model Mugging conditions women to bypass their fears and gain the capability of knocking out their assailant…”

Based on the data he obtained on methods most often used by men to attack women, Thomas designed and taught a rape defense course. “I taught a version of today’s (Model Mugging) course,” he explains. “For the graduation, I dressed up in a very primitive version of today’s Model Mugging suit and attacked the women. All of them failed.”

Realizing that teaching technique alone wasn’t enough, Thomas retaught the women, “mugging” them at least 30 times each. “They all did exceptionally well after that,” he says. “That’s basically how it started, and it’s grown from there. Since 1972, we’ve graduated 4,200 women.”

In 21 hours, Model Mugging conditions women to bypass their fears, get in touch with their own personal power, and gain the capability of knocking out an assailant in the first five seconds of an assault. “In order to do this,” Thomas explains, “we have to go about it in a very scientific way. We have to give them a realistic simulation, but we have to apply it gradually so we condition them to success. We methodologically push them beyond their perceived limits. We start off the muggings easy, then increase the intensity and make it harder and harder for them to win, until finally, by the end of the class, we’re assaulting them with tremendous power. By then, their responses are so effective, if we didn’t have the (protective) suits, we wouldn’t survive.

“In the traditional martial arts, there are many taboos,” Thomas notes. “You’re not allowed to gouge the eyes or kick the knees, seldom is the groin a target, and you’re never allowed to kick the throat. When you have to fight in real life, you tend to respect these taboos. How many women do you know who have been socially rewarded for kicking a guy in the groin? Yet, they have to overcome that inhibition.”

Model Mugging stresses full contact to vital zones—knees, face, neck, and groin. By counterattacking with full force against the padded mugger in simulated rapes, women’s bodies learn the feel of delivering knockout blows. Such body conditioning is the key to the program’s success.

“Basically, we set up an adrenaline state and train them under the adrenaline state until they do the correct procedure,” Thomas relates. “Later on, when the adrenaline state is aroused in a similar way, they will do the only thing their body remembers—which will be the ‘no-mind’ warrior state where it’s reflex action. Most of our graduates who’ve gone up against a real-life assailant say they don’t even remember what they did to knock him

“For example, one graduate was grabbed at 11:00 p.m. in a subway station,” Thomas adds. “She stomped both the mugger’s insteps, turned around, kneed him in the groin, kneed him in the face, kneed him in the ribs, kicked him in the head, and didn’t remember what she had done. It wasn’t until I read the hospital report that I knew exactly which techniques she’d used.

“None of our graduates will ever be great tournament fighters or win forms contests,” Thomas says, “but they will do very well in mugging simulations where they can kick and punch with full power to vital zones. And they have done very well on the street.”

self defense black belt magazine sleep scenario

In the Model Mugging “bedroom” scenario, women are taught how to cope with an assailant who attacks them while they sleep. In class, the woman lies (1) in her customary sleeping position and is pinned by the “mugger.” She waits for the appropriate opening, then uses an eye strike (2) to put distance between herself and her attacker so she can pull (3) her legs up and into kicking position (4).

Thomas welcomes the skepticism of other martial artists. “Sheryl Duran, one of our senior instructors and a martial artist for 14 years, first came to debunk us because her friend was taking the course,” Thomas notes. “She’s been with us ever since. I’ve had doubting martial artists stick their heads in the (mugger’s) helmet and get kicked by beginning women—it changes their opinions real fast.”

Like many police officers, Carmel, California, Police Lieutenant Don Fuselier was skeptical about short-term self-defense courses. “Having been involved with police academies and rape crisis centers for about seven years,” Fuselier says, “I have always been opposed to self-defense classes for women. Until I saw the Model Mugging course, it was my opinion that women learned just enough to really get themselves hurt. I changed my mind when I reluctantly attended my daughter’s graduation from the course. I was completely impressed by what I saw. I now heartily recommend the Model Mugging course to any woman who has concern about her personal safety. In fact, our entire female staff has been given the opportunity t take the course.”

Said Carmel Police Officer Cheryl Berry: “I had taken other self-defense classes, but could never remember the techniques. This course is different because my body learned a conditioned response. I’m anxious to take the intermediate (multiple assailants) and advanced (weapons) courses.”

“I think the use of padded muggers is what makes the course effective,” says Mara Cantor of the Monterey, California, Rape Crisis Center (MRCC). “It gives women the opportunity to break through their initial fears of fighting back and experience what it feels like to hit somebody full force. They get to make their mistakes in a safe environment, rather than on the street. We at MRCC think it’s certainly the most effective self-defense course we’ve seen, and we expose all of our advocate trainees to it.”

Coached by a highly skilled female instructor, women develop focus, strategy, and powerful technique in a supportive environment. Thomas believes the female instructor is essential to the course as a role model. “It’s not just a physical process—we have to change 20-30 years of psychological conditioning in 21 hours,” he says. “Most women have been led to believe they need a man to protect them. We have to change these attitudes—empty the old cup and fill it again with fighting spirit. In Model Mugging, women find this spirit in a very short time. What we do is put them in touch with their own power. We’re just unlocking what’s already there.”

Jackie is a rape survivor and Model Mugging graduate who, like nearly half of all rape survivors, was subdued by verbal abuse. Learning to withstand verbal abuse is an important part of the Model Mugging training. “The model muggers said awful things to me, with horrible voices,” Jackie notes. “It was worse than in my real- life attack, but I got used to it. I know I will never be victimized in that way again.”

“One of the greatest surprises for me,” relates Blair, a nutritional consultant, “was finding out how much strength and power I have. I believed that the more fear I felt, the more inept or paralyzed I would become. I found out that’s not true. If you deny fear, you’re not dealing with your environment realistically. I learned to stay with my fear and experience the energy it mobilized in my body. I no longer worry that my only alternative would be to yield or to rely on grace that an assailant wouldn’t want to maim or kill me. I now have the tools to choose my options.”

“Adrenaline is the body’s natural response to fear,” explains Danielle Molles Evans, Monterey’s head female Model Mugging instructor. “It is the body’s preparation to fight. We teach women, rather than to deny their natural response to danger, to channel that energy into an effective, instantaneous counterattack.”

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The Model Mugging women are taught to use “can-opener” techniques such as eye gouges (1) or biting (2) to get the mugger to release his grip or choke hold. Once free, they distance themselves for a knockout kick.

Evans is a black belt in Aikido and has taught the art for over 11 years in Monterey. “I have been opposed to short-term self-defense courses in the past,” she says. “I felt that a woman had to train for years and years in a martial art to be effective. The sad thing is, most women can’t or won’t put in that amount of time. When I saw the innovative approach of the Model Mugging course, I immediately decided to bring it to the Monterey Peninsula.”

Model Mugging has been taught at Harvard, Radcliffe, Wellesley, and Stanford universities in addition to several major U.S. cities. It continues to expand throughout the United States.

The biggest problem is finding good model muggers.

“For the first ten years,” Thomas says, “I couldn’t find another mugger to stay in the suit longer than six months. Unfortunately, there’s a tremendous amount of energy and skill required. Most of our muggers are martial artists of black belt rank. But it takes more than the belt. Only about a quarter of those who train ever become ‘muggers.”

The mugging suit has developed over 13 years. Each one costs nearly $1,000 and takes 80 hours to modify. Developing the armor for the suit was no easy task. There have been 55 instructor injuries, 46 sustained by Thomas during the evolution of the suit. “I’ve been knocked out 15 times in designing the suit,” he says.

What man in his right mind would, of his own free will, subject himself to concussions, injuries to the neck, back and knees, fractured ribs, heatstroke, and groin, eye, jaw and kidney injuries? “We are warriors who accept the potential for injury because we believe the cause is worth fighting for,” Thomas explains.

The suit has evolved to the point where such injuries are rare, however. It weighs about 50 pounds and can drain seven pounds of vital fluids from the mugger’s body in one session. As the women taking the course discover, these special men are not in it for “kicks.” It takes a great deal more than strength, stamina, and specialized fighting skills. It takes a lot of love.

Model mugger Julio Toribio, a martial artist for 16 years, explains his personal motivations: “Three years ago, my mother-in-law was assaulted in front of her own house. She had never learned to fight; being a peace-loving woman, she had never expected to be attacked. When she was found the next morning, she was dead. The poor woman had been stabbed over 20 times.”

Toribio saw Model Mugging as a means to channel his overwhelming rage and grief into positive action. He became a model mugger in order to “teach other women to do what my beloved mother-in-law could not do—to fight back and win.”

It can take from six months to a lifetime for a woman to get over a rape. The array of aftershocks includes depression, guilt, shame, inability to trust or love, sexual dysfunction, and the dissolution of relationships. Divorce and suicide are also fairly common. “I’ve seen women whose lives have been devastated by a rape come to terms with that experience in Model Mugging,” says model mugger David Keip. “That alone makes all the kicks in the head worthwhile.”

Kelp isn’t kidding when he says many women come to terms with their previous experiences in the course. The scenarios are so realistic that many rape survivors relive their assaults. “Only this time,” Evans notes, “they come out as victors.”

For years, women have been instructed not to fight back. “But,” Evans says, “That’s because women don’t know how to fight back.” Knowing when and how to fight back can mean the difference between life and death. Assaults have too often proven fatal to the woman with no recourse but submission. Model Mugging is in the business of offering women tools to make their own choices.

“No one rapes without leaving an opening,” Evans says. “In Model Mugging, we teach women what to do with that opening.”

About the Author: Mary Tesoro is a freelance writer, martial artist and instructor in the Model Mugging program who also works as a counselor for the Monterey Rape Crisis Center. This is her first contribution to Black Belt Magazine.


Original article in Black Belt Magazine, May 1986, pages 32 to 37; download file size is 4.31 MB.

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