Self-Defense Success Stories

Women Self Defense Stories

Continued from current newsletter:

I flew cross continent to take the MM Basic Training in 2005, as a 35-year-old me was a picture familiar to sexual abuse survivors: blaming myself for everything, mistrustful, socially awkward, self-doubting, trapped in powerlessness and low self-worth, and trying hard to hide how vulnerable I was.

What followed was the shock for which self-conscious and hypervigilant me was not prepared: kindness, compassion, selflessness and determination of the entire Model Mugging team to make a difference, from the school founder to the director, to the “assailants” and instructors. My old self was struggling, yet Model Mugging spoke to my heart and mind in a way that no psychotherapies did.

The training was intense, packed with strategies and skills, layered as a snowball and tested through various scenarios. A wreck as I was, I started to cry, repeating “I can’t win”, during my graduation demo. I was ready to give up when the class ladies started to chant “Yes, you can! Go! Go! Go!”. I felt I would be betraying not just myself but them too if I didn’t even try…It did take me a while until the instructors assessed that I achieved my defense objectives, but I am glad they didn’t go easy on me – this way I know that I truly made it.

In one course, Model Mugging gave me an opportunity to re-write my past and made me understand and embrace that I was worthy of protecting, and that I was capable of protecting myself… Transformation started from there. Shortly after my return home, I got a very low job offer. Following a year of failed interviews, the “old me” would have probably taken that offer. But Model Mugging taught me that nobody had the right to treat me wrong. So I mustered the strength, entered into negotiations and got that offer improved by 20 percent.

I was no longer willing to tolerate being taken advantage of – nobody had the right to take anything away from me, violate my boundaries, force me to do what I didn’t want to do, or stop me from doing what I wanted to do. I became unwilling to put up with the harassment of my landlady, found a new place and moved. I dared to speak up in meetings when I had a better solution, or when somebody needed support for a great idea. Slowly, I warmed up and started to make new friends, accept dates and be reckoned with professionally.

I kept getting stronger, building up on the progress and learning from setbacks. A lot of great things happened to me since; some not so great too as I took unnecessary risks when the old trauma was re-surfacing and compelling me to take them. Still, even as I was making unwise choices, Model Mugging training ran at the back of my mind and kept me from crossing the line that would put me in harm’s way.

Ultimately, Model Mugging saved me from myself, and from the consequences of poor choices. 18 years later I still remember most of the MM Basic Training, however, increasing violence and crime suggest that Advanced Training is in order. If MM shares my story and you see it, please say “Hi” if you run into me at the 2023 Advanced Course.


Other Women Self Defense Stories


Most Model Mugging self defense success stories do not involve using physical skills. Most of our Basic self defense course graduates are able to de-escalate threatening situations using their verbal skills. These descriptions or personal accounts of self defense stories are from graduates reporting back to Model Mugging or to other self defense instructors.

If you are a graduate and would like to share your story, please send us your narrative of what occurred and  email your story. When graduates find safety from their experience in taking Model Mugging, it is rewarding feedback for instructors.

Most of our accounts are female self defense success stories, but we do have male success stories as well. More stories will be posted over time.


Recent Success Story

Overcoming Fear and Walking with Confidence – Double Success

Janice’s participated in a Model Mugging course in Los Angeles in the late 1980s. She wrote, “The program was recommended by an ER nurse who experienced violent assault. She described MM as informative, empowering, and healing. I was reluctant to participate, but she offered to retake the course with me. She was an angel.

I was the victim of a stranger stalker as a college sophomore. One night I fell asleep studying and awoke to him standing next to my bed, warning “Don’t move a muscle”. He wore gloves, had a large knife, and told me that he was going to kill me. He taunted me and described following me for several weeks and also entering our apartment previously (without my sister’s or my knowledge).

After a prolonged interaction and negotiating for my life, I was eventually able to get up on my feet and escape to my younger sister’s room. She was alive and asleep. Together, we were able to hold her bedroom door closed while the intruder pushed, banged, and raged from the other side. We used a landline to call 911 and the police responded quickly. The perpetrator ran. There was an investigation, but the stalker was never identified or caught. The worst part was that he looked and sounded like a “normal” guy in his 20s. There was nothing about him that would have stood out or caused alarm had I seen him in a public setting (prior to meeting him in my bedroom).

For two excruciating years, I suffered relentless PTSD. My sister and I never slept in our old apartment again. We moved to a security building. My sister never slept in the new building with me because she was afraid to be in the same apartment as me. She was afraid to be near me.

Based on the advice of investigators, I changed my car, my job, my school, and my even my leisure activities. I had a hard time communicating with friends about what happened. I sank into isolation.

By some miracle, a kind and wise nurse brought me to Model Mugging. I was skeptical but desperate. During the first class, group members shared their stories, and I began to feel a camaraderie of shared pain buoyed by hope. I began to feel confident that I could learn skills to help me feel safe again. I began sleeping at night. By the end of the course, my PTSD was significantly resolved. After graduation, I was sad to leave my Model Mugging friends and our weekly meetings, but I had a life again. I was able to graduate college, travel for work, and function in the world.

Twenty-five years after my Model Mugging graduation, I was standing with one of my teenage daughters at the intersection. It was about 9 pm and a man began running across the dark street, advancing rapidly on me and my daughter, clearly intent upon harm. I automatically threw up an arm, and yelled, “Stop! Stay the Fxxx away!” He paused. I continued with the strong outstretched arm and the verbal stream of “Get the Fxxx Away, Not Us, Mother Fxxxx”.

The light changed and my daughter and I crossed the street. He followed us, but at a distance. I continued to yell at him, and he fell further behind. We entered a drug store and within 5 minutes, a woman ran in from the parking lot yelling that a man had assaulted/mugged her as she exited her car. The manager seemed dazed and unsure of what to do. I suggested he phone the police.

My daughter and I strategized how to get back to our hotel, which was a few blocks away. I was able to think clearly, offer consolation to the victim, give advice to the store manager, and also make plans with my daughter. I was not terrified. I was cautious and focused on staying as safe as possible.

I am so grateful to Model Mugging for all that I learned, have used, and remember. Before becoming a mother, I travelled often for work, alone. Model Mugging gave me the confidence and skills I needed to have strong boundaries in unfamiliar surroundings. I learned to employ strategies for personal safety and to function comfortably and effectively while working amongst a wide variety of male strangers (television crew members). Because I was a news field producer, I constantly worked with new people in new settings. But I was prepared. Declining an invitation from a stranger was an emotionless, automatic, and easy “No”. And I was able to sleep through the night in hotels (alone).

Model Mugging made it possible for me to live a happy life. I do not think this would have been possible without that intervention/training. I am so grateful for this program and for the Model Mugging legacy/tradition within my own family. I hope this program will remain in place for many more families, for many more decades.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”


History of Self Defense Success

The First Success
The first known effective physical self defense success story by a Model Mugging graduate occurred in 1974. She was a Wellesley College student and had taken the course less than six months prior to being attacked. At she was waiting in an icy parking lot for a shuttle from MIT to Wellesley College, in  Boston.

The assailant approached her from the front and grabbed her in a bear hugged. He simultaneously pinning her arms to her sides. She couldn’t use her heel palm to the nose or eye strikes so she just kneed him in his groin. He dropped to the ground, clutching his nuts and ‘mewing like a kitten’. She said he was much easier to defeat than her Instructor, Matt Thomas, who she had to striking and kick multiple times during her class.

She was surprised she had disabled him with just one strike. She got up and ran. When she got to safety she felt nauseous and cried as the adrenaline rush dissipated. She said she thought she was lucky. But at the same time, she thought the assault wasn’t really a major attack because it was so easy.


Fronted Off
Another Wellesley College student was approached by an assailant. He, too, approached her from the front and grabbed her in a bear hug. She dropped to the ground and kicked the assailant in the groin. The assailant doubled over and fell to the ground writhing about. She stayed poised on the ground expecting that more was going to happen. When he didn’t get up, she ran to safety. She too was surprised that her defense was so fast and effective.


Party Rebound
A petit Wellesley College student  appeared timid and very young, well under age 18. She was trained in Model Mugging by Matt Thomas and Kyung Bok Yoon, (Tae Kwan Do champion Jhoon Rhee’s god-daughter) in 1974. The assault occurred near Harvard Square, not long after she had taken the course.

She was approached from the side and grabbed by a guy who slammed her against the building. She said she had the wind knocked out of her. When she rebounded off the wall she simultaneously hit him with a strike to the throat. She used her index and middle fingers together to strike the soft hollow spot below the larynx and above the collar bones. This was taught as a “party release” and not a strike to deal with an obnoxious and intrusive aggressor at a social gathering. It usually causes a choking or gagging reflex. Instead of pushing as was taught in class, she jabbed with the two fingers. The assailant backed off, coughed once, and staggered before falling on the ground. She remained ready and thought he might come after her again, but immediately realized he was not getting up. She ran to safety and sobbed as she came out of the adrenaline rush.


Putting Her Foot Down
The fourth defense involved a Wellesley College student also trained by Matt Thomas and Kyung Bok Yoon in 1973. This success story was relayed by the Model Mugging graduate’s roommate. The assault occurred in 1976 or 1977 after she moved to Las Vegas. She was working as a cocktail waitress when she was grabbed in the parking lot just after 2 am. The assailant had been hassling her inside the bar and followed her out to her car.

He grabbed her in a bear hug from behind. She stomped on his instep with her high-heel shoe. The assailant immediately let go of her shrieking in pain as he fell backwards to the ground. As she stomped, she “nailed” his foot into the warm summer asphalt with her high-heel. He either fainted or hit head on the pavement when he fell backwards, and was knocked out. She ran away like Cinderella wearing only one shoe.


A Good Friend to Have
Pam had taken Model Mugging at Radcliffe College in 1973. She defended herself and a female friend against multiple assailants. The assault occurred on Cambridge College about 3 or 4 years later. Two assailants began harassing both her and her friend. When one of the assailants grabbed her friend, the graduate closed in and heel-palmed stuck the same assailant in the nose. He fell backward holding his face. She continued to close and kicked him soccer style to the groin. The assailant fell to the ground. The graduate turned and the second assailant fled. Our graduate and her friend fled to safety.


Alberta’s Story
Alberta took Model Mugging in the Bay Area during 1983 and used her skills in 1985. She says, I had just gotten out of my car to open the garage door. The landlord’s car was parked next to mine on the driver’s side. Alberta said, “This guy walked around the car next to mine. He was wearing a sweatshirt with the hood up. The effect was as if he had on a ski mask. I thought at first he was a neighborhood kid on a prank. Then he said, “Give me your purse and the keys to your car.” It hit me that this was real.

My one thought was to get into the car and lock the door. I got in and shut the door but didn’t get it locked. I was yelling all the time and shouting ‘NO!’ He pulled the door open, so I crouched back onto the car seat with my feet up and in kick position. I saw a good kick for the groin so I let my kick fly, but I don’t remember it landing. The next bit is blank. But I looked up and he was gone. So I locked the door and leaned on the horn until one of the neighbors came out and called the police.

Even immediately after the incident when telling the police about it, I could not remember seeing the kick land or the assailant leave. I feel my shouting and determination were as important as the kick in making him flee.”


The Body Does Remember
Santa Barbara Model Mugging graduate Marie was knocked out when a filing cabinet fell on her while at work. She told her story at a Santa Barbara Model Mugging Annual Reunion in November 1987. This story is more about successful muscle memory, than a self defense story.

“I was at work when a large file cabinet came down on me, hit my head, and pinned me to the floor. I was unconscious for at least an hour before anyone found me. My co-workers called 911 and paramedics responded. They were trying to put me into a “scoop”. I don’t remember any of this, but when I woke up in the intensive care unit, one of my coworkers, who had also come to my Model Mugging graduation leaned over my bed and said, “Tom and Mary would have been so proud of you.”

I looked up at her and said, “What are you talking about?”

She said the tow paramedics turned me over to my side. One was working between my knees and feet to see if anything was broken. When he got down to my feet, I rolled over onto my side, still unconscious, and did a side thrust kick to his chest that knocked him up against the wall. My co-worker said, “Oh my God! That Model Mugging really does work! I told her that I did not remember any part of the incident, but I got a true understanding of body memory.”


Model Mugging Saved My Life
Linda was attacked on March 18, 1988 by her friend exactly one after an article on Model Mugging ran in The Tolucan. Linda’s story was featured in the San Francisco Examiner in February 1989. She wrote the full story about when her friend of seventeen years took a knife from his belt and rushed toward her, “Model Mugging Saved My Life”.


Lupe’s Story
Lupe graduated from Model Mugging  Santa Barbara Basic self defense course during the summer of 1988. Then at the end of September in 1988 she was attacked while walking with her pregnant cousin downtown Santa Barbara.

“On the first Sunday in September my cousin and I were on our way to a video store. We had to park a block away from the store. As soon as we got out of the car, four big Mexican guys were getting out of a VW Rabbit and began harassing us in Spanish. (She is Mexican and speaks Spanish) They were saying things like, “I want your ass”, which sound even worse in Spanish. I chose to ignore them, because I knew that answering them back would only make them do more.”

The guys followed me and my cousin down the street for a block and stopped in front of a bar while we went into the video store. We stayed in the store for at least twenty minutes and then headed back to the car. They were passing in front of a walkway between two buildings when they attacked.

Two of the guys came out of the walkway and grabbed me. One was in front, one grabbed me from behind. I didn’t have time to put my arms up, they were pinned at my side. The one in front was telling me to walk into the alley. I started yelling – I was thinking more of my cousin. I didn’t want them to attack her because she was pregnant.”

Lupe had already explained to her cousin, who had recently come from Mexico, about the emergency calls, and told her to request a Spanish speaking 9-1-1 operator if she called police. Lupe shouted at her cousin to run and call 9-1-1. Her cousin ran.

These guys walked me into the alley. Two of the four were trying to help me but bot really helping. They were saying things like, “Hey, man, let her go.” The guy behind me was grabbing at my ass. I had been wiggling trying to get away, and I noticed when I did he go stronger. My heart sank and butterflies in my stomach, but I told myself, ‘OK, Lupe, just relax. Relax.’ I noticed when I relaxed his energy went down. I started looking around, noticing my surroundings. I knew the area.

The guy who grabbed me from behind stepped away. I had been measuring my distance. When he did step away, I elbowed him right in the face. His nose started to bleed. I ran forward. I knew I could run out through the other alley and get away, and if I ran back they were there.

The other guy, the one who was had been in front of me, ran after me. I stopped and, as he caught up to me, hammer-fisted him in the groin. He bet way over. I looked at the other three. One guy was holding his face. The one I had just hit was still doubled over holding his groin. I held my hands up and said something like, ‘You want it too?’ they let me run past them out to the front.”

Lupe ran to the payphone where her cousin was still trying to get a Spanish speaking operator. Lupe told them she had been assaulted and described the attackers, who were getting into their car. The operator asked if she had gotten the license number, then asked if she would go get it. Lupe decided not to, fearing the guys might have guns in the car. The police arrived after the car drove off and were unable to locate the car.


Bug OFF!

Larissen wrote to Model Mugging in Spring of 1994, “I wanted to write and thank you for teaching the self defense class at the Claremont Colleges. This spring break I was camping with friends just north of Santa Barbara.

In the evening after it was dark, I was going out to put some stuff in the car and I noticed a man walking along the trail. When he saw me, he started walking my direction. I was very nervous, but remembered my verbal negotiation skills. He said he just wanted to talk and was carrying a glass beer bottle under his arm. I was able to get him to leave and we had no further problems with him. However, without the class I wonder if I would have left so much space between us or been so firm about getting him to leave. This simple incident could easily have gotten out of hand quickly, particularly if I hadn’t had the self-confidence or experience to tell people to leave me alone.

Afterwards, talking to the women in the tent about the incident, neither said they would react that way. They either wouldn’t see the danger or would freeze up.

I just want to thank you again. You are doing a good job.”


The Day I Was a Knockout on the Beach

Nancy is a Kansas City Model Mugging graduate from 1992 who protected herself from and attacker in 1994, but later in life, she used her “I’m worth fighting for!” mindset to fight breast cancer.

“I stood on the beach in Puerto Escondido, Mexico, staring at the ocean early one morning when a stranger crept up behind me, clasped his hand hard over my mouth, and swung his other arm around my waist.

Move in! my coach yelled. Even though she was half a continent away, it was as if she were screaming in my ear, telling me what to do. I spun around to face the assailant and pressed against him so it would be harder for him to control my body. Then I slammed the heel of my palm into his face and threw my knee into his crotch as hard as I could. We tumbled onto the sand, lukewarm salty waves splashing over both our faces while I struggled. I wondered if I was going to be drowned and raped all at the same time.

Five years earlier, after a series of personal setbacks put my life in the crapper, I signed up for a class called Model Mugging, where women like me learn to deliver a knockout blow to single, unarmed assailants. During class, highly trained men dressed in gigantic padded suits attacked us, and we learned how to land strikes that would render them unconscious. The cracking sound my elbow made the first time I belted it against my mock assailant’s head, and how the force of that violence changed something in me, are embedded in my memory. It was a defining moment in my life, a time for me to change the way I was living.

After the fight on that beautiful Mexican beach, I scrambled up the shore, putting as much distance as I could between the man and me. My arms flailed chicken-like because of the sudden rush of adrenaline that coursed through my body, but I was safe, and the bad guy was lying still in the sand far away.

Model Mugging helped me in ways I never could have imagined. And ironically, so has my experience with cancer. In fact, there’s a lot of overlap between the two experiences. In my 20s, making myself a priority didn’t come naturally. Like a lot of women, it was easy for me to put myself last. That class, though, drilled into my psyche that I deserve to be safe, that I have a right to speak up for myself, and that I need to defend my well-being.

Those lessons came back to me again years later when I felt a hard lump near the surface of the skin on my right breast. “Don’t worry about it,” my doctor said the next morning during an exam. “It doesn’t meet the characteristics of cancer.” I got a second opinion. In fact, it was cancer: triple-negative, which is a particularly nasty variety. “You need a mastectomy. Tomorrow,” a surgeon told me a few weeks later.

I got a second-second opinion. And, in fact, I didn’t need a mastectomy. Ultimately, I had a nipple-saving lumpectomy and saved my breast with the same statistical outcome as a mastectomy. Throughout my treatment, I questioned my doctors. I asked them to explain again and again the terms I didn’t understand, and I researched alternatives that would enhance my ability to heal. I traveled long distances to get the best treatment I could find. I listened carefully to the advice of doctors and nurses, and I did my best to follow it.

Like that self defense class all those years ago, cancer’s assault on my body reinforced the lesson that I am worth fighting for. I learned that I can make my life better through knowledge, discipline, and self-care. I learned that these choices benefit not only me but others around me, too. Especially my daughter, who is watching all the time.

In my 20s, I determined I would regain my strength and pursue my dreams. That decision was a gift. And although I recently haven’t had to slam anyone in the head with my elbow to assert the same decision, in my own way, I’m happy with my response to cancer. I’ve chosen to heal body, mind, and soul. My family and I are back, vacationing in Mexico, a country I’ve always loved. I hope I don’t find any more lumps in my breasts and that our only encounter on the beach involves fruity drinks and pretty seashells.

But just in case, I’m ready.”
By Nancy Brier


Good Old Verbal Boundary Setting – February 2016
Katie shares her Boundary Setting Story:  “Late night, I stood at the bus stop that was well lit, and my back against a fence with my elderly mom. A homeless individual approached us and immediately encroached upon our personal space immediately. He was about an arm’s length. The conversation, if you could call it that was as follows.

Homeless guy (HG): want some gum?? Brandishes folded packet that may have innocently contained gum, but more likely contained methamphetamine.

Me: NO.

HG: Want some gum? It’s good! Sugar free!

Me: NO. Back off.

HG: It’s good! Why don’t you want some? Do you have bad teeth?


HG: That sounds like a good idea.

Then he retreated back toward his stuff. We considered walking to the next bus stop, but it was several deserted blocks away, so the bus came three minutes later and after boarded, he ran up to the bus and smacked the window where we were sitting.

Good old verbal boundary setting. Never fails me!”


A Glance and a Block

Elizabeth  completed the Basic Course over 20 years ago and reported back to us in March 29, 2016.

“I had not actively used the physical defense skills – UNTIL last week.

I originally took the course when a friend invited me after one of my internship clients had been brutally assaulted. I was so moved by my experience that I immediately found a course in Colorado, where my sister was attending college, and signed her up, too.

I often speak of how powerful this experience was, and how grateful I am for it, but never so much as last Tuesday morning. That morning I arrived at the clinic in San Francisco where I work a couple of days a week, and as I approached the entrance to the building, a man asked me for money.

I shook my head “no”, as I began to enter the code to the building in the outside keypad. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of his fist moving towards my face. My body responded immediately. I turned towards him and quickly raised my forearms to block him, while shouting “stop!” I had my briefcase in one hand and coffee in the other. He came at my again, and I responded again with movement, voice, and block.

He stumbled away. Some women passing by called if I needed help. I asked them to call the police.

I didn’t freeze. I wasn’t hit. I wasn’t traumatized. But I was adrenalized and angry, and that energy helped to fuel my response. The outcome could have been very different. It continues to amaze me that the body remembers and responds before we are actually able to cognitively track what is happening. I am so very grateful to my teachers at Model Mugging, and to my fellow students who had the courage to take this course.”


Emily’s Story
Emily was attacked in 2008. She participated in a children’s version of Model Mugging in 1999 and describes successfully keeping her freedom.

“When I was in college I spent a summer in Ethiopia and was walking home one night, a man got out of a taxi and grabbed me by my hair, forcing me into the cab. My Model Mugging training kicked in, and I was able to kick the door back out before it latched. Still restrained by my hair, I tried to knee the man in the crotch, but unfortunately he was very tall, and my knee didn’t reach high enough to hit the target. He laughed in my face, amused by my feistiness. But when he reached down to open the door to the cab again, I formed points with my fingers and poked him in the eyes. It took him by surprise enough to give an opening to the cab driver, who up to this point was watching passively, to encourage him to tell him to leave me alone. Still reeling, but trying to save face, he got in the cab and drove away.

I am very lucky that the man wasn’t more determined, but I also am very fortunate to have had the training of Model Mugging. I felt the muscle memory of that training turn on, and I had tools to adapt to the situation I was in. I can’t know what would have happened if I didn’t have that training, or if I would have found another way to defend myself, but in a country where violence against women is prevalent, the possibilities are not pleasant to consider. In an ideal world, no one would need to learn those skills, but of course we don’t live in an ideal world and I feel strongly that everyone should learn those skills.”



If you have a success story you would like to share – please contact us.

Many more graduate self defense success stories will be posted over time.



Links to other Testimonial information:

Four Common Self Defense Testimonials

Personal Testimonials from Self Defense Course Graduates

“Model Mugging Saved My Life!” – graduate success story

Self Defense Reflections

Model Mugging Self Defense Articles

Overcoming Fear- You Can Do It!