Weapons of mass deception

This article appeared in the March 14, 2008 issue of the Royal. It has since been updated to reflect current facts and statistics.

Afraid you won’t know what to do in a life or death situation? Fear not, we’re here to help you in the event of any emergency. Here are some handy, affordable and readily available items that can be useful in any threatening situation. Continue reading

Tang Soo Do…Tang Soo Don’t: A black belt’s guide to personal safety

While cleaning up my room, I came across an old issue of my high school newspaper, The Royal, dated March 14, 2008. The issue featured a couple articles on self-defense. Although it’s been four years since its date of publication, the information is still relevant. Since this is my honors capstone project, I thought it would be useful to include these articles simply because they represent the social relevance and overall longevity of the project. Although the self-defense classes have come and passed, these blog entries, this documentation of what went on and general information on self-awareness will remain a permanent fixture online. So, I hope you enjoy these articles. Please note that I have updated these articles to make them timely. Continue reading

Self-Defense classes | The Role of the Teacher

As a self-defense instructor, your responsibilites stem much further than simply explaining the techniques required for increased safety and awareness. Each student is at a different level of skill when they enter the training area.

For example, when I first taught the classes in November of 2011, my primary student was coordinated enough to follow along but struggled when combining blocking with moving foward. She had plenty of aggression, which is a must, but lacked the coordination to do it all smoothly. Eventually, she tackled this burdon, but in order to do so, we spent the better part of two lessons going over the basics, and she spent a lot of time outside of our sessions practicing.

However, then there are students like Giannina Gonzalez, a sophomore athlete who took a few martial arts lessons when she was a child. Although Gonzalez had only been five years old when she attended martial arts classes, and yet, she had the remarkable ability to recall what she’d learned 15 years ago.

Gonzalez picked up on the basics at an alarmingly fast rate, and by the close of our two and a half hour session, she was comfortable with not only the basic strikes and defensive moves I instructed but also showed adequate skill for escaping wrist grabs and choke holds. However, as always, I explained that it would be her responsibility to continue practicing these moves to keep her awareness and technique sharp in the event of an emergency.

When all else fails…just remember to S.I.N.G.


Sandra Bullock’s character, Gracie Hart, has the right idea in this clip from the 2000 Blockbuster hit, Miss Congeniality. Although she makes parts look much easier than they are, the S.I.N.G. acronym is an excellent defense strategy, as is the palm strike to the nose.

When teaching self-defense, my karate school typically instructs young women—and men too—to strike with an open hand. This is more to protect themselves than the assailants. There are simply too many ways to create a fist incorrectly, such as wrapping your fingers over your thumb rather than placing it across the curve of your forefinger and middle finger.

Anyway, when in doubt, you should definitely S.I.N.G. when being attacked. Here’s a few reasons why…

First, let’s review what the targets are in S.I.N.G.: Solar plexus, Instep, Nose, Groin.

Solar plexus. In martial arts, we learn quickly that it’s essential to release all of your air from your lungs when you strike, not because it adds power, but rather, it prepares you for a counter attack. Getting hit unexpectedly in the solar plexus only results in one thing: the wind gets knocked out of you, which in turn, leaves you vulnerable for additional attacks. Unless you’re assailant is a trained fighter or body builder, the little area just below the ribs and above the abdomen will be soft and easy to strike. And, it’s an easy target.

In the demonstration provided by Bullock, she elbowed Benjamin Bratt in the solar plexus when he attacked her from behind. Do not be afraid to also punch there. It can inflict a similar amount of damage, although the elbow can inflict more pain because it’s so pointy.

Instep. Once you’ve struck him in the solar plexus, he’ll already be weaked. Jamming your heel onto the top of their foot can do some major damage. Ladies, if you’re wearing stilletto heels, this is a great opportunity to not only inflict pain in the foot, but also in the shins. Simply scrape your heel down the length of their shin. Instant pain.

In some cases, you might find that your assailant has attacked you from behind and placed you into a bearhug, rendering your arms useless. In this case, you should stomp on his feet before moving on to elbowing the solar plexus. The instep should provide the necessary distraction to leave him unprepared for the next few strikes.

Note: If your assailant is wearing steel-toed boots, the instep method may prove useless. Plan accordingly.

Nose: Have you ever been hit in the nose? It hurts. And it jars your senses, makes your eyes involuntarily water and burn. Since it’s made of soft cartilage, it’s a lot easier to break than a bone, and it’s a pretty easy target when someone’s coming right at you. Two great techniques for striking the nose are the palm strike, as Bullock showed at the start of the clip, and the back fist to the nose. Either technique has the potential to do some serious damage. In fact, if you strike someone with enough force using a palm strike, you could force the nose into the brain, causing irreversible brain damage (in theory).

Groin. Ahh, the sweet spot. Little boys learn early in life to protect that region after they accidentally run into a few end tables or kitchen cabinets. This can immobilize your opponent. Combine it with the other three steps from S.I.N.G., and you should now be running far away from your opponent as he writhes in pain on the concrete.

I bet you never thought a Hollywood movie could be so educational and accurate when it came to self-defense, huh?

Warning: Self-Defense can lead to a false sense of security

Although every young woman and even young men should understand some fundamental self-defense strategies, it’s important to acknowledge the truth of the matter. Self-defense can lead to a false sense of security. This is especially true when a student attends one or two lessons and think they’re prepared for an attack. Just because you know how to block a punch doesn’t mean you’ll actually be able or prepared to do so in a real fight. In self-defense classes, we often spend all of our time teaching students how to defend against straightforward punches—punches that have proper technique and are easy to spot.

Unfortunately, when you’re on the street, your assailant might have missed the memo that he’s supposed to let his intentions be made. More over, he’s more likely to come at you swinging, and basic self-defense doesn’t always cover that.

Truth be told, when I was younger, I was a victim of this false sense of security. I was probably 8 or 9 , a green or red belt at the time, and I was playing with some neighborhood boys at my grandma’s house. When one of them decided to choke me, I forgot all of my martial arts training. My friend had to pull him off of me. Although it’s a little embarrassing to share this story, it’s important because it proves that you don’t know how you’ll react until you actually enter a situation. That’s why it’s so important that you avoid dangerous situations at all costs. Don’t go anywhere by yourself at night if you can help it and always plan an escape route. If you’re at a party, how would you get out if things went sour?

Self-Defense Classes Reflection

Better late than never. Back in November and early December, I hosted a series of self-defense classes. Fortunately for me, this was a trial run, as only a few students attended (for three of the classes, I only had one student present).

Although some would see it as unfortunate that I didn’t have a great turn-out, I looked at it as an opportunity for growth. This was my first experience teaching self-defense outside of my karate school without my instructors to guide me. And I’m happy to say that I did just fine—once I got over my nerves.

My student, a nutrition and dietetics major was such a trooper. More than anything, she proved my hypothesis from my capstone’s plan, that it takes multiple classes and outside work to truly grasp even that basics of self-defense.

One thing I noticed was that it took must more effort to teach a basic block than I’d expected. I always forget that beginners don’t have the coordination to step with one foot while blocking with the opposite hand. It just throws you off. Not only is the stance awkward but so are the motions.

I found myself thinking back to my time as a white belt as well as my time going up the ranks of Tang Soo Do. As I grew older, I learned that mirrors were my best friend, because they never lie to you. So, with that in mind, I led my student to the mirrors in the front of the Aerobics Room and we spent quite a large amount of time focused on our techniques in those mirrors. It helped her become more fluid with her transitions from blocking one side to the other and it helped me see what she saw when she didn’t realize she’d goofed up.

I also noted that it was difficult to teach a class with no pads for kicking or striking. While I learned most of my techniques by pacing up and down the floor, strking the air with my arms and legs, I acknowledge that actually striking a target helps with accuracy.

My student learned some basic self-defense moves to get away from wrist grabs and even chokes, but at the end of our sessions, I made it very clear that she needed to continue practicing if she hoped to use these techniques in real life some day.

In this series of self-defense blog entries, I’m hoping to discuss not only some basic things to keep in mind when it comes to self-defense, because it’s not all about technique. A lot has to do with simply being smart and avoiding dangerous situations altogether.

Don’t make self-defense over compliated!

Take a look at this video for an explanation of how to defend against someone who grabs your shirt (lapels).

The key here is to aknowledge that he’s tying up both of his hands in an effort to intimidate you. This leaves you with free reign to pummle him with knee kicks, punches, palm strikes and, my personal favorite, the “bop” on the ears.

Remember, once you get him to let go, don’t continue to fight…the main purpose for self-defense is to escape from high risk situations as quickly as possible.

Challenges of getting started: Teaching Self-Defense

Black Belt Promotion

Each time we are promoted to a new Dan rank, we take a solemn oath to respect the art, to not wield it in a negative fashion and to educate others of its importance.

Teaching self-defense is hard. And I don’t just mean the actual teaching of the seminars. My challenges stem further back, beginning with applying for the event at Seton Hill. It wasn’t like I was jumping through hoops or anything, but I did have to deal with some “cultural” issues.

Before I applied to teach the seminars, I approached those in charge to discuss what I would need going in to make sure the events would be approved in a timely fashion. My biggest fear would be that the event would get approved and then I’d have to produce more documentation ahead of time. Unfortunately for me, I was shot down almost immediately. When asked if I was a certified instructor, I made the mistake of answering: “I am a second degree black belt in the Korean art of Tang Soo Do. While in high school I served as a student instructor.”

My  mistake was that I did not clarify that in the culture of martial arts,  being a black belt is equivalent to being a certified instructor. Although you are only considered a “dedicated beginner” when you receive your first degree, you understand enough about the art to train others. In fact, you are encouraged to share and educate others.

To solve this conundrum, my head instructor, at Harshall Karate Academy, had to sign a certificate listing that I was certified to teach Tang Soo Do and martial arts. He remarked that this was actually beneficial, because in the past, we’d never had a need for such a certificate. Now, we can use the certificate for all of our black belts, which, in turn, adds value to the degree.

As it turned out, the certificate was enough and I was able to register my events for the self-defense seminars. The first one, conducted yesterday, was successful but only reached a small amount of students. Read about it in my next blog 🙂

Self-Defense Seminars…an introduction

As a part of my Honors Capstone at Seton Hill, I’ll be conducting a few self-defense seminars on campus on Fridays from 6:30-8 p.m. in McKenna Center’s Aerobics room for the remainder of the semester (minus the week of Turkey-day). The second half of my capstone involves social media—tweeting and blogging specifically. I’ll be posting various tips and important facts about being aware of your surroundings rather than solely writing about how to conduct proper self-defense.

Finally, I’ll be posting images and other comments from my classes. If all goes well, I hope to also teach the for about a month in the beginning of Spring Semester.

To segway into the topic of self-defense, I thought it would be fitting to post a few old self-defense videos I developed back when I was a freshman as part of a project for Media Lab.

This first video shows some more advanced techniques that may or may not be covered in my self-defense classes. It all depends on the skill level of my prospective students.  Stay tuned for more videos over the next few days!