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Q&A with Model Mugging

Q&A with Mark Vinci, of Model Mugging, about self-defense and empowerment for women.

How can taking a self-defense class be helpful to survivors of sexual assault or abuse?

A women’s self-defense program should sensitively deal with the emotions and personal issues of survivors’ past abuses and assaults that will often surface during a realistic self-defense course. For example, the Role Model Mugging System can assist women to work through feelings of emotional pain and terror. A student who has a flashback is assisted in staying focused and is empowered with the assistance from her female instructor’s role modeling and coaching.

Survivors of sexual assault/abuse, who became graduates of the Model Mugging program while receiving concurrent therapy, have commonly stated, “Fighting the assailant was more emotionally healing than the years they spent in therapy.” This phenomenon is different for each survivor.

Instructors are not therapists, but the intense healing occurs because rape traumatizes a woman mentally, physically, and emotionally. While therapy usually concentrates on mental and emotional methods of healing, the overall healing process can become accelerated from completing a Model Mugging course because students physically deal with their fears in a psycho-dramatic way created from the scenarios. Working with our physical bodies we can impact or spiritual side.

Sexual assault is the physical theft of a woman’s spirit, and survivors can come away from the Model Mugging course feeling victorious that they are changing feelings of victimization.

What can a survivor do to feel more comfortable taking a class if they are scared of being touched?

A survivor taking the course is commended on her courage!!!

Discomfort is a natural feeling for many survivors because they are facing the memories of their abuse head on, and because they often experienced physically harmful touching in a setting where they often felt helpless to stop it.

The Model Mugging course is a very physical course, but then so was the assault/abuse experienced by the survivor. A survivor experiencing fears about being touched needs to feel comfortable with her instructors.

If a survivor feels uncomfortable, she may consider taking the course with a different instructor (or instructor team). Or she just may not be ready to take the course, and there is nothing wrong with that.

What would you say to someone who feels that taking a self-defense class is a waste of time, because they have already been assaulted?

That is all the more reason to take a self-defense course!

Unfortunately we cannot train women before they might be assaulted and show them how to be a tougher target for predators. But we can’t go back and change the past if a student has already been attacked. Often it is even more important to teach a survivor how not to be attacked again.

• Survivors can heal and find their inner power, but also protect themselves in the event of a future assault.

• A significant percentage of survivors are victimized multiple times throughout their lifetime. A good self-defense program can help them stop this cycle of abuse.

• Predators can quickly identify women with low self-esteem, weak boundaries, and almost naturally seem to be able to manipulate survivors into positions where further victimization can occur.

• A women’s self-defense course should help survivors learn to establish boundaries, raise their self-esteem, influence internal thought patterns and self-talk to more positive and outgoing mind setting images.

• We cannot change the past, but we can influence our future of what we want to do and where we want to go! Self-defense is a path many women have successfully used to do things in their life they had only previously thought about.

Could you give a brief overview of what kinds of things could a person expect to learn in one of your classes?

We have developed a women’s self-defense system that is now based on almost 40 years of continuous research.

• Our weekend self-defense program will address the 5 Principles of women’s self-defense and tie them into learning the typologies of sexual predators and the criminal mindset, the four phases of a sexual assault while physically practicing ways to manipulate situations to a woman’s advantage in realistic scenarios.

• Women learn tactics on how to fight powerfully as a woman while identifying the assailant’s vulnerabilities. Women are taught to understand and work with the natural physiological changes that occur within our bodies in adrenaline state.

• Other important topics include assertiveness and boundary setting, legalities of using injuring force, building self-confidence, while using the benefits of group support while fighting.

• Women naturally learn to overcome the inhibitions about inflicting injury upon a criminal. They develop the mindset and physical skills to win as they identify their path toward personal safety and freedom!

If you could give a woman only 5 safety tips, what would they be?

1. Criminals / predators can be anyone. Most criminal victimizations are perpetrated by someone the survivor knows whether it is burglary or other types of theft, sexual assault, child abuse, and intimate partner abuses.

2. Fear is your friend. Welcome fear; it is an evolutionary gift from our ancestors. It can be used to escape danger as well as be transmuted into life saving fighting energy.

3. Accept responsibility for your safety. Your safety is a based on choice – that leads to other choices as a situation evolves.

4. You will feel the threat in someone’s behavior faster than seeing the confirmation of the threat in their appearance.

5. Your intuition is your greatest alarm system to identify danger. If you feel something is not right, listen, assess your options, and then immediately move toward getting a safe distance from the danger.

The paradox of self-defense demonstrates the more prepared you are to defend yourself, the less likely you will ever have to.

What should I look for when choosing a self-defense class?

When selecting a women’s self-defense course, consider some of the following points that are briefly discussed below:

• Feminine empowerment based on the energy of love; a love that generates self-respect, self-defense, self-esteem, and self-love. The paradox of Feminine Empowerment is that women are the ones who empower men.

• A male and female instructor team. The female instructor is the role model for the students to work toward developing self-mastery and empowerment; and the male instructor assists in the physical and psychological progression of skill development.

• Scenario based training exercises that are also called fear adrenal stress training or reality based self-defense training. This is where you practice your skills in realistic scenarios that women are commonly assaulted, that calls upon no thought muscle memory responses.

• Instructors trained and certified in the use of a padded assailant. Equipment of this nature is not only physically dangerous to an inexperienced wearer, but if used rashly can be emotionally and physically dangerous to students, especially survivors.

• Training that controls the levels of stress with a continuous evolution of psychological and physical skill progression toward a no-thought state of fighting. The physical training must progress in a manner that reinforces success while escalating the intensity and realism as the course progresses that ends in women defending themselves with full speed and full ‘no holding back’ power!

• Deals with personal emotions and building self-confidence while taking into consideration the effects of the Rape Trauma Syndrome in the training process.

• De-escalation training through verbal negotiation skills. The ultimate goal of the course should be for women “to win without fighting.”

• Crime Prevention skills and strategies to avoid being victimized by a wide variety of criminals in the first place.

What special training do your teachers go through to learn about rape trauma syndrome, and how do you feel this helps them teach survivors of sexual assault about self defense?

Awareness and understanding of the phases in Ann Burgess’ and Lynda Holmstrom’s (1974) progressive research identifying the Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS) is essential for instructors in women’s self-defense.

• Also important is how other components of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) may impact a survivor’s reactions during the course.

• Another key element in understanding the RTS is looking at the mindset and typologies of the predators because studying their motivations and actions provide a greater understanding of how survivors are impacted. This is where instructor training takes on higher levels of meaning for teaching preparation.

Do you always advocate in your course that it's best to try to protect yourself, or do you also discuss scenarios with students where fighting back could make the situation worse? If so, what advice do you give in regards to handling those situations?

We always advocate that it is best for a woman to survive. A woman’s decision to fight back when assaulted is a choice no one can realistically pass judgment upon her, because no one can ever be in her situation, in her body and frame of mind, and be dealing with that particular assailant.

Overall a woman has four general options to choose from, and she is forced to decide on at least one course of action (surrender, negotiate, escape, and fight). We teach women how to use all four general options. Also important is a student’s understanding of the various types of rapists, their motivation, and assaultive behavioral patterns is a key element in a decision to physically fight back. In terms of advising how to handle situations described in the question would take several pages to clarify.

Do you offer techniques for what to do when confronted with a person who has a weight or strength advantage?

The whole Model Mugging System was founded upon overcoming the male advantages of size (weight), strength, and speed. We teach women how to fight using their strengths as a woman against an assailant’s psychological and physical vulnerabilities.

Concluding remarks?

I have been training and empowering women in Model Mugging Self-defense for 20 years. I have a wide background of training and experiences. I am currently completing the preparation of a two volume book for publication; (1) Five Principles of Women’s Self-defense, (2) Crime prevention and Personal Safety.

Model Mugging is based in Los Angeles, California, but we can teach a basic Model Mugging women’s self-defense and empowerment course over a weekend at a convenient location for a group of 12 to 15 women. Our mother daughter classes have been very powerful experiences for women.

If you have further questions or would like to read more about women’s self-defense, empowerment, and personal safety then please click to our website – www.modelmugging.org

Thank you for the opportunity for us to help more people find their path toward empowerment!

Mark Vinci


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