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Smart Woman: Fight Back and Live

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Should you fight back against an attacker? For years, the conventional advice was no, that women who fight back are more likely to be hurt. But since the mid-1980's, many studies have shown that women who fight back suffer injuries no more severe than those who don't and are less likely to be raped.

Py Bateman has been teaching women how to defend themselves since the 1970's. A black belt in karate, she championed fighting back when the idea was still controversial. "It just didn't make any sense to me that if someone was trying to hurt me, I should let them do it," says Bateman.

On a bright summer's afternoon in 1984, Bateman's teachings were put to the test. "I came home and there's this long hill I had to come up, and then up the stairs and as I came though the gate on to my back deck, I was grabbed from behind by the hair," she says. Injured by an attacker with a knife, Batemen remembered the advice she had given her students. Protect your throat with your hand. "And there I was in that situation, and I didn't even think about it. I got my hand up. I cut my hand, not my throat, and I was right," she explained.

She got the knife away, she fought and she lived. But she says it wasn't her black belt that saved her. It was something any woman can have. "The most important thing that a woman needs to have is the will to fight back," she said. Bateman's advice is to take a self-defense class. You may not remember every move, but you'll remember the feeling. Just the feeling in your body that says, "Yes, I can do it."

Limit Your Risk

Stay Safe: Once an attack commences, the likelihood is the victim will be hurt in some way, so the best strategy is to avoid the attack in the first place. Make sure your home is secure and your car doors are locked. Be aware of your surroundings whenever you're out (day or night) and don't go alone if you can avoid it. Remember: most attacks are by someone the victim knows.

Be Prepared: Take a self-defense class specifically designed for women. Even if you've studied martial arts, take a self-defense class. Facing an attacker who wants to hurt you is very different from facing an opponent who fights fair.

Try This! Following are three of Py Bateman's strategies for escaping an attacker. Try them (gently) with a friend. Use technique rather than strength:


Escape techniques

1) Breaking a grip on your upper arm: This technique uses your hips for power. Have your partner grip your upper arm with both hands. If the grip is on your right arm, step out to the side with your left foot (vice versa if you're gripped by the left arm). This allows you to rotate your hips as you twist your arm free. Once you're free of the grip, you're poised to run away.

2) Breaking a chokehold from the rear: Have your partner grab you gently around the neck. Make sure that the hands are around your throat. This technique pits your strength - your thumbs - against your attacker's weakness - his pinkies. Run your thumbs up your chest until you come to your partner's pinkies. Being careful not to hurt your partner, firmly grasp the pinkies and jerk them out to either side as quickly and as far as you can.

3) Breaking a chokehold from the front: As your partner (facing you) grasps you around the neck with both hands, clasp your hands together. Point your hands up toward the ceiling, bringing your elbows together. Raise your hands straight up over your head, keeping your elbows as close together as possible. Make sure your hands go all the way up over your head. This motion ensures that the rotation of your shoulders releases the hold.
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