After the #MeToo movement, women are choosing to strike back, literally

After the #MeToo movement, women are choosing to strike back, literally

Instructor Kayla English drills a takedown with Christian Bergman at the Tactical Martial Arts Academy in North Chesterfield. PARKER MICHELS-BOYCE

As a teenager, Melody Bergman spent hours in front of the mirror at the karate dojo practicing her punches and kicks, shadowboxing against imaginary attackers.

None of it helped her, though, when she found herself pinned to a bed by a 6 foot, 3 inch man who outweighed her by more than 100 pounds. Bergman was a journalism student at Brigham Young University on assignment in 2002, interviewing a war veteran at a nursing home in Provo, Utah. She recalls the interview went well – until it didn’t.

“Everything was normal, and then he came at me and pinned me on the bed. He said, ‘You know that you want this,’” Bergman remembers. She managed to slide off the bed using a passive technique she learned at the dojo, allowing her body to go limp to loosen his grip: “You fight the energy to hold you tight, just droop. And that’s how I got out.”

As a survivor of multiple sexual assaults as a young girl, and a difficult marriage later in life, the attack in 2002 wasn’t Bergman’s most traumatic experience. She never reported the assault, and didn’t tell anyone about the incident. But it made her rethink her martial arts training.

After her first marriage fell apart in 2012, Bergman moved to Chesterfield to be closer to family. She married again later that year, and she and her new husband were looking for a school that focused on self-defense and street smarts. She found it in North Chesterfield, at the Tactical Martial Arts Academy. Led by Keith English, who has six black belts in multiple disciplines and trains law enforcement officers for local police departments, the school was perfect for Bergman and her husband, Christian, who is also a martial artist.

“Traditional martial arts has its place. In the street, it’s just not enough,” says Bergman, now 39 and a mother of two boys, 8 and 12. “When I ended up in a situation where I was attacked, I didn’t end up using my katas, my punches and kicks. I needed something more practical. I needed something fast.”

Over the past few years, more women are beginning to think like Bergman. In the wake of the #MeToo movement that launched a national conversation about sexual assault, and the election of Donald Trump – who won the presidency in 2016 despite multiple allegations of sexual misconduct – many women are fighting back. Literally. Across the country, dojos like English’s martial arts academy are giving women the tools to not just fend off an attack, but to gain a sense of self-empowerment in a culture where girls are more often socialized to be passive and polite than assertive and combative.

“A lot of women when they first come here don’t have the personality, frankly, to defend themselves,” says English, who has 43 years in martial arts training. English has an extensive background in combat hapkido, and created his own street-focused form called “hosindo,” which is Korean for self-defense, incorporating a variety of grappling, striking, joint-locks and throwing techniques. He also spent 18 years as a professional bounty hunter. “If you are going to defend yourself, it really takes an aggressive type of nature,” says English, who’s 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weighs approximately 250 pounds. “In real life, big people attack small people. We spend a lot of time with women … to help them understand that they are powerful, and they can choose to use it if they need it.”

English says more than half of his approximately 200 students are women, or about 60%, and over the last few years he’s seen the numbers increase. He attributes this to a rise in awareness, or more specifically the viral videos that quickly spread on social media following attacks. Last Wednesday, for instance, he spent the entirety of his adult self-defense class dissecting an attack caught on video and broadcast on Fox News.

In the video, a woman in California was attempting to escape the clutches of her estranged boyfriend, and ran to a neighbor’s home for help. A doorbell cam caught her ex following close behind, grabbing her by the hair and dragging her onto the lawn. The woman screams for help and he threatens to kill her; a neighbor told CNN she witnessed the man repeatedly stomping her in the front yard.

“She passes the car out front,” English tells his students. Why not bang on the car, see if you can set off the car alarm, and then slide underneath? “Running down the street and hiding under a car. This is called using your surroundings.”

The lesson: The best self-defense is avoiding, or escaping, an attack. Of course, with some training, the woman in the video could have disabled the man when he reached for her hair, gouging his eyes, English says. His students then work on a brush-trap technique – defending, or brushing, the arm that is either reaching to grab or striking,…

Original Article Source…


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