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Author Topic: Self-Defense & Fighting Back
Heather
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I fell upon this page this week, and wanted to put it here because it was so well-done: http://kidshealth.org/teen/safety/safebasics/self_defense.html

One thing I'd posit to add here, that RedGoddess and I were discussing when she visited, is something I put in the section of the upcoming book that addresses self-defense, that is perhaps a bit provocative and/or questionable for some folks.

And that's this: my addition to anything like this is that if you ever find yourself in a position where getting away doesn't work, and trying to redirect either doesn't work, or you know it's just not going to, is to fight like hell.

I didn't have room in the book to get into all of why, but most of why I say that, there and when I've talked about self-defense in other settings, is that I find so many of us who have been abused and assaulted and who did NOT do everything in our power to resist, have an extra heap of guilt to deal with per feeling like any of it was more of our fault than we already feel like it is. Yet, when -- again, when nothing else works -- we do this, even if it means one extra physical bruise, my personal experience and what I hear from others is that having done this makes one aspect of healing a lot easier. (I can speak a lot more to this, but I'll sound like the big hippie I am when I do per talking about cultivating warrior energy and the lot, so I'll save those additions for later, if they're needed/wanted.)

It's a tricky thing to say, because with some attackers, fighting back harder may make THEM fight harder, while with others, showing resistance may make them back off in terms of it being clear that the easy mark they picked isn't so easy: a victim appearing vulnerable is usually the biggest draw for an abuser and attacker. And unfortunately, there's really no way to know who is who in many situations, especially with strangers.

So, what do you think? What have your experiences, those of friends and family, been with this? And while we're on the topic, how confident do any of you feel about your ability to self-defend? if you feel good about it, in the interest of helping those who feel less confident, what has made you feel more so?

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September
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My experience has been that, no matter how good I am at being angry and assertive and loud in situations where my physical safety isn't at stake, when it really matters, I go into deer-in-headlight mode and freeze up.

And I've been in the situations where it matters, and a couple of them turned into worst-case-scenarions and yes, not having been able to defend myself still makes me feel like I am somehow to blame.

I keep meaning to take self-defense classes, as I hope that would make me feel more prepared and confident. At this point, I've merely started working out more in general, to get a better feel for my body and how to use and control my stength.

It'd definitely be cool to hear some self-defense tips from other ST users!

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Heather
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One of the big bonuses of taking self-defense classes, September, is that it tends to up confidence in being able to self-defend, and even just that air of confidence alone -- without anyone having to raise a hand -- tends to help ward off attacks.

So, even if you can just find a one-day seminar or workshop, I'd encourage you to do it.

I had this fantastic experience a few years back where I was out walking my dog at night, and I had that hinky feeling you get when someone is tailing you. Lo, it was two early-twentysomething boys (I say boys because at my age, they are boys to me), and when I caught their eye, there was a moment I felt them trying to intimidate me even with a look as they stepped up a little closer. I'd just taught a class earlier that day, coincidentally, in which I was teaching self-defense, and then I'd done my own trainign for myself for another hour: so I was feeling particularly empowered, even more than usual, and without even thinking about it, stared them down, stood perfectly still, and just said. "Just try me," in an exceptionally calm, clear voice, again, without even thinking about it.
And they VANISHED. Seriously? They moved elsewhere so quickly, that you'd hardly have even known they were there.

And that's the sort of thing some self-defense training can do just in terms of the energy that comes off of you, without you really DOing anything at all. It's a really cool thing.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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-Lauren-
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I'm not confident at all in my ability to fight. I have a mostly meek personality with brief flareups of rage when appropriate. Anytime I've tried to physically defend myself, speak up, or fight back I've always gotten hurt twice as bad then if I just hushed up and took it.

I've become trained in pepper spray and gun use. I hope to eventually move to an area where women can easily obtain a concealed weapon license. I believe that only with a gun can I be stronger than a man.

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Heather
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Yeowch.

From a self-defense perspective (and I'll do ahead and fess up to a personal bias while I'm at it, even despite what's generally advised per not using guns for self-defense, I am strongly anti-gun), the trouble with that is that it is VERY easy for an attacker to get your gun away from you and use it against you.

So, generally, self-defense training will focus more on using your body, your voice, escape skills and your attacker's energy/movements against them. In fact, even with a gun, if you don't know how to do those things, since generally you won't see an attack coming from a dictance, a gun will often be far more of a detriment than a help, because if you don't know that stuff, getting a gun away from you will be exceptionally easy.

One thing to bear in mind with self-defense is that it's often not about strength at all. It's about speed, about cunning, about learning to do movements that throw an attacker off their guard because they weren't expecting them, which allows you the abiluty to simply get away. So, no one actually needs to be stronger than the person attacking them: often, they just need to be smarter and more prepared.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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cool87
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As bad as it sounds, and it's not a matter of me not having enough confidence or so, I personnally think that if I was in a dangerous situation where fighting was all there was left to try to get away, I would simply freeze and not be able to fight or do anything.

That's what I fear the most and I've had situations before, not of that kind though, that might tell me my reaction would be just that (no fighting) if a bad situation ever arises one day.

I'm not into martial arts or anything but I particularly think I'm good, even though, at doing some basic punches and kicking.

So the thing for me is that although I'm confident my punching and kicking is good, I am really not confident that I'll be able to use those kicking and punching in situations where those are needed.

[ 02-24-2007, 02:04 PM: Message edited by: cool87 ]

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Heather
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Before I shove off for a bit, one response I'd have to what you're saying cool, is to recognize that often times, when an attacker does use more force, it's often not force that benefits them.

In other words, you throw them off balance, so they get less accurate, more random, and it can become EASIER to get away, ot knock them down so you can, rather than what you'd assume, which is that it'd be harder.

I think everyone has that fear of freezing up: I know I do sometimes, too. But it's also a head trip that I think -- especially for women -- has a lot to do with ideas about "natural" passivity, or being reared to be passive or acquiesce, and this stuff -- while it takes effort -- is all stuff we are capable of unlearning. And that unlearning isn't just -- or even at all -- about learning to punch or kick in a certain way, but to begin to know and not question that we are powerful, and that that power is of all types; physical, emotional, intellectual.

So, when someone comes at us physically -- and in an attack, those people usually aren't using their brains very much -- we have ALL those sources of power to draw upon, not just the physical or brute force. If you can't get yourself in a headspace -- or clearly the situation is such that this is the reality -- of knowing you're stronger or more skilled physically, even just the headspace of "I am SO much smarter than them," can do a LOT.

[ 02-24-2007, 02:05 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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cool87
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quote:
So, when someone comes at us physically -- and in an attack, those people usually aren't using their brains very much -- we have ALL those sources of power to draw upon, not just the physical or brute force. If you can't get yourself in a headspace -- or clearly the situation is such that this is the reality -- of knowing you're stronger or more skilled physically, even just the headspace of "I am SO much smarter than them," can do a LOT.
Yeah, although I don't think my brain would work at a maximal capacity if I was ever faced with one of those situations. [Smile] I think it would freeze too. I'm still not too confident about it, so that's definitly something I will have to work on.

[ 02-24-2007, 02:12 PM: Message edited by: cool87 ]

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Heather
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There's a cool sentiment that Ellen Snortland, an awesome writer and the author of "Beauty Bites Beast," simplifies really nicely, and that is simply this: that none of this sort of thing is about women's smaller size (in general) or lack of strength. It's about a culturally induced and purposefully enabled ignornace that leads us to believe we are, in some essential way or in general, helpless.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Ecofem
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I can be very aggressive (or self-defensive). This doesn't apply to all situations (I'll mosey down the street totally listening to my headphones) but a lot of time (at night, if I get a weird feeling about a place, etc.) On one hand, I'm anti-violence; on the other, I'm all in "fighting mode" if the need arises. I'm 5'6", am strong, and walk with confidence; I've done a bit of martial arts training to hone my skills. I also fully realize that up against a 6' muscular man I'm at a physical loss; however, I believe my mindset, adrendelin, and thinkfast!-ness would give me other advantages.

- For me, it's all about being alert: sounds, smells, sights, and gut feelings. I'm only wear headphones during the day and try to wear shoes I can run in at night. I look behind and around me at this time. If I'm feeling sick or out-of-it, I work even harder to focus on getting where I need to go versus thinking about feeling sick or weak.

- I'll ask for company if I'm alone and feel uneasy. I had to leave a concert early; the venue was in a town I didn't know and the path to the train station was through a wooded/industrial area. A friendly-looking couple was leaving at the same time, so I asked if I could tag along because I was alone. They had no problem with this, and I felt a lot safer.

I'll definitely cross the street or even walk down the street versus the sidewalk if it's not well-lit or someone's coming. And if someone feels insulted by this ("I just wanted to say hi!", "you're overreacting!"I don't take it to heart. I know I'm a good person and they should respect my judgement.

If I'm in close proximity to someone/s and I get a weird, I say hello and look them in the eye. (As in, "hey, I know what's going on here. I'm watching you.")

- I believe so much of this is mindset, and I've been "training" that "ready to fight back" mindset since I was a young teenager. I love wearing skirts and dresses because they're fun, but they all help my mindset. I used to wear short skirts and boots on purpose as a way to make myself comfortable with being uncomfortable. To remind myself of my vulnerability and, therefore, think especially defensively. It's like I put one on and I go into aggro-self-defense mental mode... I'm definitely less approachable or friendly-looking when I wear a dress or skirt, but it's ok.

- Additionally, per the mindset, I find it helpful to stay physically active to keep my body in shape, practicing kicks and punches and stuff. I also try to stay mentally active where I'm picture myself in attack situations and mentally picture myself fighting back and getting away.

- The door to my apartment building was finally fixed, but it would be so easy for something to hide and wait or come through the courtyard. At night, I look around me, then shove the door open, hit the light, and look around before entering.

- From my hiking instructor (who'd tell us safety tips and horror stories of hikers on the Appalachian Trail): If you're being followed by people in a car and you're on foot in nature, and there are trees around: Run through the wooded area because they'll have to stop and get out, and that gives you more time.

(This make me seem paranoid or skittish or violent, but I think I'm generally friendly and approachable but prepared, too. I'll leave out examples for now -nothing too "exciting"- but that's my style and advice.)

Question! What to do when someone says, "I'm going to kill you if you don't come along and do what I say" but you don't see a weapon? I've heard different takes on this, but I assume running away is best. It's like, they could shoot at you or follow, but at least you have a better chance of survival than when you're completely in their hands.

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Gwaihir
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I was going to ask and wonder why it is that more women aren't taking self-defense lessons, that they're afraid they'll freeze up, etc, but I think the "culturally induced and purposely enabled ignorance" quote just answered it.

Taking self-defense classes, especially sparring can help a lot with the "freezing up" mechanism and I've heard that shouting "stop!" or just shouting in general will help unfreeze you if you find yourself in that situation.

When I was about fourteen my mother made it absolutely mandatory for my sister and me to take self-defense lessons and I took them right up until I graduated. I haven't used them for a long time, mainly because I haven't needed to so I've forgotten a lot of specific moves but I've retained enough basic knowledge to be able to "ad-lib" moves to where I'm still confident enough to protect myself.
Years ago when I was young and foolish, I got into an online fight with some feminist and rape and incest survivors during which I criticized them for not fighting back, words I deeply regret now, but at the time the message I felt they were giving me was "don't fight back, men are too strong and you'll only lose anyway." . .and that seriously pissed me off.

At one point in my life I had to walk down a really bad street late at night alone and I was terrified, I mean, who wouldn't be. A funny thing happened, though, I started "feeding" off of the fear and getting a heady rush from it. I think it was my brain going "Ok, I'm going to have to fight someone soon, so I might as well just get ready for it." After that I didn't feel afraid anymore, I just aggressive and guarded and full of adrenaline. Thankfully, nothing happened to me that night and I got safely home without having to fight someone.

Fear is natural when encountered by a threatening pressence, but I have enough self-defense knowledge and confidence, I think, to where in a fight, I'd be afraid but my fear would soon melt away into anger (who the hell do you think you are trying to hurt me?!!) and that would give me strength to keep fighting.

A few handy self-defense tips I've learned that I'll share if you like. .

-keep your eye centered on your opponant's chest. It's the core of his body and where the movement of each of his chosen attacks originates. By doing this and paying careful attention you should be able to anticipate most of his attacks and block or evade them more easily.

-keep your knees BENT. People think looking over someone gives them the advantage? Nope. When someone's looming over you they're off balance and at an extreme disadvantage; at that point you can pretty much knock them over with relative ease.

-keep your fists up protecting your face and your elbows at your sides protecting your ribs. When taking self defense you'll learn much more in depth about preassure points and weak spots on the human body, but anyway, when punching don't just punch with your arm--throw your whole body into it. An arm by itself doesn't have much power but your full weight behind it executes a formidable attack.

-one nifty thing I learned is if someone grabs you by the throat, DON'T throw your head back like you'd be inclined to do in real life: dig your chin into his hands--that makes it much harder for him to keep a grip on your neck, then jerk your shoulders around forcefully, turn around and walk away (or in this case run away, I'd assume) Movement like this against the attacker's hands renders it physically impossible for them to keep a hold on your neck. .

I'd like to share more if I can think of them, but this post is already getting toooo long! [Big Grin]

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Heather
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Another good one to counter throat grabbing (now let's see if I can explain this with words, tricky, tricky....)is to slide your arms between the attacker's, as if you were reaching stright up to stretch, and then you can fling your arms open very quickly, which often will cause them to lose both grip and balance.

Ecofem, per your question: running away? ALWAYS your best option, period, end of story. Someone will always be less likely to be able to hurt you when you're running away than they will when you're staying put.

Gwaihir, I have ALWAYS made a point of trying to get women in the habit of yelling and shouting whenever they throw punches or kicks, even in basic training, because if that becomes habit, then you may yell without even thinking about it if you find yourself throwing a strike. Yelling accomoplishes SO much. Not only does it possibly call attention for help AND throw off an attacker, but it's simply very energizing to yell: it ups your adrenaline, which means you're more likely to be faster, quicker to act, etc.

Awesome tips, y'all! Thanks for adding on! [Smile]

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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theshadowskill
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"-one nifty thing I learned is if someone grabs you by the throat, DON'T throw your head back like you'd be inclined to do in real life: dig your chin into his hands--that makes it much harder for him to keep a grip on your neck, then jerk your shoulders around forcefully, turn around and walk away (or in this case run away, I'd assume) Movement like this against the attacker's hands renders it physically impossible for them to keep a hold on your neck."

does that really work? wow thats handy.thats actually happened to me, where i would tilt my head back when i get choke from behind.

so size has no bearing on a persons ability to fight back? im gonna say right now i cant fight worth a damn. generally what i do is ill start throwing punches like crazy adn theyll do the same and ill eat alot of punches but i wont stop. then whoever gets tired loses the exchange(this is bad because u get hit alot. iv broken my eye socket because of this method.) well anyways im not a giant so what would u say is good for a small person to fight a big guy should do?im asking because im like 135 and every fight iv been in iv lost becauase of grabbing and getting thrown [Confused]
is there "moves" i can do? like say...step on their foot and hit them with a sucker punch?

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Ecofem
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quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
Ecofem, per your question: running away? ALWAYS your best option, period, end of story. Someone will always be less likely to be able to hurt you when you're running away than they will when you're staying put.

Thanks for your answer! What if you do see a gun or knife? Still run, assuming it's not on your skin or pointed at you?
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Heather
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Still run. A moving target, always better than a static one.

Your average attacker isn't usually a skilled marksman, so they're unlikely to be able to get you moving. Plus, for the rare few attacks where someone does have a gun, it's relatively common for people to have them unloaded or not even working just because they know it's a good way to scare someone.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Gwaihir
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I've been taught lots of moves concerning how to disarm opponants with knives and even opponants with guns (though I would NOT recommend trying to do that unless you are very highly trained)
and I can't quite remember the exact way to do it. .curses.. I'll have to get my dad to train me in those areas again since he's a black belt now.

I also heard this from a cop who came to my high school to give a demonstration on street safety. . if an assailant's pointing a gun at you and tells you to give them your wallet or whatever--just give it to them without a fight, but if they're holding you at gun point and they're trying to get you to go with them ("Shut up, don't say anything/come with me/just get in the car" etc) THAT'S when you start screaming for help and running, because they don't want a huge scene that will draw attention to them, and whatever you do, DON'T get in the car.

Shadowskill, I'm not sure if the throat-grab thing also applies to getting choked from behind, as I've only been shown what to do if it's an attack from the front, but I imagine the same rules would still apply: dig your chin down as far as you can, and in the case of a chokehold from behind your best bet might be to curl your back forward and just jerk your shoulders around again to get him to let go.
Now that I think about it, I wonder if in that position with your back curled forward you might even be able to use his arms as leverage and pull him right over you, flinging him down to the ground. . . .I have no idea if that would work though, so don't try it at home, kids. [Wink]

And yes, size has no bearing on who's more likely to win a fight. A bigger guy could win, by sheer brute strength, but if he's up against a smaller and much more highly trained martial artist it's a safe bet the smaller guy could win.
I remember overhearing a conversation a really small woman had in karate class. . she must have been about 5'2 or 5'3 and she was talking about how during a sparring session with this huge meaty guy twice her height she forgot to keep her strength in check and nearly broke his arms.

Also, stepping on someone's instep is in fact a good move. Knees are fairly week points and good for kicking out as well. As for suckerpunching. .well, I say there's no such thing as "fair" fight when your life is on the line. [Big Grin]

Another thing that's one of my favorites (though I have no idea how you would incorporate it into an active fistfight) is grabbing your opponant by the side of the head, or just holding it steady with the side of your palm, and with your other hand ball it in a fist and stick the middle knuckle out a bit, so it forms an arrow.
Right underneath your earlobes and just behind the bone where your jaw connects to your skull is a very sensitive nerve which you'll find if you feel around for it. Jam the point of your middle knuckle right into that nerve below your opponants ear and keep drilling into it. It hurts like HELL.

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logic_grrl
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I think it's worth adding that in a self-defense situation, you generally don't have to "win the fight" as you would in a pure martial arts context.

What you're aiming for is to free yourself and/or deter your attacker for long enough for you to get out of there - a strategy handily summarized in the UK as "bash and dash" [Big Grin] .

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"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it." - the Talmud

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wobblyheadedjane
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The most poignant thing a friend told me once regarding self-defense (in that it's always stuck with me, 7+ years down the road) is to think of the most hideous, squick-worthy attack on your vulnerables and to go for it - get at eyes, tear at lobes and noses, that sort of thing. Obviously, this is more of a last-ditch effort when they're up close and running wasn't an option, but I always remember him telling me.

Lots of what Ecofem has said applies to me as well (high fives for preparedness, girl!) If I'm walking at night, no music, make sure someone knows I've left where I am coming from and someone is where I'm going, expecting me. I remember I was staying in a hostel in a big Canadian city a few years back, and was walking from the station alone to the hostel around midnight. Two guys approached me saying, "Hey, what are you up to tonight?" to which I answered, firmly but calmly "I'm going home to meet my husband." That way, they knew (even if it was a lie) someone was expecting me, and that I wasn't afraid.

Like Eco, I trust my gut instincts, and listen to them as often as I can. I was an RA for two years, so I learned to filter bad sounds (angry yelling, discussions going to a bad place, fighting) from annoying but tolerable (drunken yelling, movies, etc.) even while I was asleep. Even out of residence, I've called the police a few times because I could hear sounds of domestic violence in other apartment buildings, or a fight that escalates on the streets.

I took tae kwon do for about four years as a youngun, and a few years back I had some jiujitsu training with a friend who ran the local club - I quit that soon after due to personal problems between the two of us, but I did learn some handy things on getting up and away quickly, where to keep your hands for quick and easy defense of your face, and that sort of thing. The downside to this was that in the grappling practice, it was very hard for me to break his holds, or throw him, which was disheartening for a while. If I can't throw a medium sized and weight guy off, how could I do it with anyone else? I suppose it relates up to the advice in the opening post at that point.

I've found Gavin de Becker's Gift of Fear to be a useful read - I've actually lent it out to a friend, who has been having some trouble learning to trust her intuition and she's found it useful.

I alert people as often as I can to bad situations developing so I don't have to handle them alone. I've told a bus driver a few times where my stop was, and there's been someone following me/talking to me up close/taking pictures of me (this actually happened!) Sometimes it amounts to nothing, and I feel a bit ashamed that my trust in humanity is so low I couldn't be friendly to someone who might have been lonely - but I just can't bring myself to do it because the one time you ignore your intuition, it'll bite you in the butt.

Normally, I used to take walks at night by myself (2 or 3 AM) around campus, or bus to teh sketchier parts of town after dark to visit my boyfriend at the time, and think nothing of it, even when I was aware of my surroundings but lately I've been more cautious - cabbing if I can, using my cellphone, whathaveyou. In a strange, silly way I feel like with a fiance who loves me and would be wrecked if something happened to me, and being closer to my family now than ever, I would be ungrateful or foolish to put that trust in me at risk for no reason. Probably, being on medication for depression is another reason why I don't take unnecessary risks too.

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Unlucky at cards; lucky at love.

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logic_grrl
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Okay, here's something that just occurred to me:

It seems like so far this thread is almost entirely focusing on attacks by strangers in the street.

While that's a very real risk, I know the statistics say that women are somewhat more likely to be sexually attacked by someone they know, usually indoors rather than on the street.

How does that change the picture? What do we need to think about and know in order to improve our chances of protecting ourselves in all situations?

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"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it." - the Talmud

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Heather
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As I understand the stats and the realities, when we're talking about rapes, yes, by all means, women are VASTLY more likely to be attacked in their homes, by someone they know, and usually well.

General physical assaults, though -- like muggings -- are still mostly stranger-based as I understand it. (I also didn't mean for this to be about women only, though obviously, when we're talking about things like increasing assertiveness, that's usually more often an issue for women than it is for men.)

But I think with a lot of this, with ANY kind of physical attack, is applicable. Given, there's an extra issue in there when the assailtant is known, which is how you get the gumption to fight back at all, especially if you've been beaten or otherwise assaulted over time. And that's a far tougher thing than much of what we're addressing.

One way I usually talk about that is to capitalize on the moments when someone who has been routinely abusing you does or says something and you have a different reaction than usual. In other words, rather than say, your reaction to any sort of abuse being "I know, it's my fault," or "I deserve this," or "He's just had a bad day," you instead find yourself thinking, even for a moment, "Bull$#!@!" or "That's not true!" or some such. Those moments of clarity can provide strength and a greater chance of, again, just plain getting away -- and then we get to the part where you do what you need to to get the hell outta dodge.

[ 02-25-2007, 10:43 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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feefiefofemme
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I'm not particularly strong, and I'm on the small side, but my mom has had me in KidPower and TeenPower classes since I was tiny. I think it's given me a lot of confidence and knowledge about how to deal with situations where I'm in danger of physical harm. They teach a lot just about awareness when you're walking alone or even with someone else, and about preventing physical assault, but also how to respond if the situation does come to physical blows.

A note on weapons: Most times the best thing to do when your attacker is carrying a knife is to throw something at them (such as a purse or bag) and run. After all, better to lose your possessions than your life. And being hit in the face with a heavy backpack is bound to throw anyone off for a few moments. The same pretty much holds true if the attacker has a gun. Real life is not the movies, or even the newspaper (remember, the paper only reports incidences where bad things actually do happen, incidences where people get away from bad situations are much more common, just not newsworthy), and your random street thug will, in all likelyhood, not be a trained marksman. A lot of the time, they're just using the gun for intimidation purposes, and expect you to be too scared to react intelligently.

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Alice
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I've been thinking about this a lot. Before I got my car a few weeks ago I would sometimes have to go on walks late at night, with my baby in his sling or in the bjorn. I carry my keys with the biggest one between my fingers, because I read somewhere that if you stick it in someone's eye it will disable them for awhile.

A few years ago I was walking down the street pretty late and this guy grabbed my shoulder. So I grabbed his arm and twisted it as hard as I could, and then I ran away super fast into a store. I asked them if I could use the phone to call someone to pick me up. I was shaken up and scared, but I also felt pretty tough, in a self confidant kind of way. I used to be a modern dancer, so I was in good physical shape and pretty fast and flexable, I could get out of a tight spot. I miss that so much.

I've also been attacked indoors by guys I knew. One boyfriend I had in particular would squeeze my wrists really hard if I tried to leave, he fractured one once. He's in Iraq now. I rarely stood up for myself, until the last time. This is so dorky, but I stood up on the couch (he was 6'3", I'm barely 5'2") and stared him down, I didn't say a word. I left and didn't go back.

What kind of self defense training should I take? Should I take an actual defense class or some kind of martial art, or what?

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Gwaihir
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The self-defense I learned, Alice, was Kenpo Karate, which is a highly defensive martial art, so I would recommend that. I learned more moves than I could count and I think all but one of them were moves that were made to counter attacks. You learn how to get out of strangleholds, shackleholds, half-nelsons, full nelsons (wrestling terms, I believe) and you learn how to disarm opponants with knives and even guns, how to break opponants arms, noses and knees. Just about all of the moves are meant to disable your opponant in some way, and I do mean DISABLE. . as in, a lot of these techniques are brutal enough so that you use them effectively against an attacker and I can pretty much guarantee he's not getting up for a while. . which leaves you plenty of time to escape!

You had the right idea when dealing with that guy on the street: running away and calling for help is one of your best options.

As logic girl stated, though, most men that attack women are those that the woman knows and trusts, which I can only imagine would be twice as difficult to escape from. I'm not sure what I'd do if I found myself in that situation but I hope I'd still have the strength to stand up for myself. [Frown]

By the way, BIG kudos and congratulations on getting away from that abusive boyfriend and standing up to him!

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SnowLhite
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Living in South Africa self-defence is a major part of everyone's lives. I remember at pre-school level being taught that if anyone ever tried to clap their hand over your mouth to silence you to bite them. It was quite relevant as our school was near the local prossie hang-outs and there were people in the area who were grabing kids at the time.
I think confidence really is the key, I have a tendancy to wander around after dark (which even in my posh suburb is pretty darn dangerous, even more so as a girl) but I've found that just simply being aware of your surroundings is a great preventor. If you notice someone in the area, make a note of them and how they react to you, keep your eyes open for places to run for help. I also have a tendancy to walk beside the main road as it's much better lit.
I know from experience that I'm not gonna lay down and take anything from anyone trying to come after me.
Screaming really does help. My best friend and I were almost mugged walking past the beach on our way to a restaurant. These two guys come running up to us and tell us to hand over our stuff and they wont hurt us. My friend and I just start yelling and swearing at them, they back off a bit cuz now we're alot scarier than the two little girls we looked like. I nearly laid into the one guy before my friend pulled me back. Apparently my flight mechanism is stuffed, but my fight one's on steroids.
I think having older siblings is also a gift - I spent most of my life physically fighting with my older brother (by ten years) , so I know how to protect and defend myself from someone alot bigger than me. And I refuse to have any shame whatsoever when it comes to how you fight back.
Go for sensitive areas, crotch number one. I'm a strong advocator of "go for the groin". There are also lots of pressure points on a body that are small that you don't even need to hit with force. Like the one Gwaihir mentioned - if you get those hard enough you can actually deafen your attacker for life by bursting his eardrums. There's also a trick where if you get a hold of his hand and even just one finger - if you can squeeze the end of the finger parrallel to the middle knuckle - it hurts like all hell and there's not much you can do to get out of it. Try it on yourself and you'll see how sore it is. Also reduces the ability to use that hand and you can actually break the fingers if you squeeze enough. Other places you can aim for are the solar plexus, for those who don't know it's that spot just below where your ribs come in. There are also several ways to use your oponents strength against them. As Gwaihir said, keeping your knees bent is a good move - it lowers your centre of gravity and makes you harder to knock down - it also gives you a freedom of movement and prepares you to run. Even if you can just manage to grab the guys arm and turn so that his own motion carries him past you, he's likely to lose his balance and is disorientated at least.
If you're gonna hit someone it's better to tuck your thumb inside your fist a little, it acts a bit like a knuckle duster and stops it from being at right-angles to the movement and helps prevent damage to it, however the best way to hit someone is to have the thumb to the side of your palm, fingers curled up away from the palm and to hit them with the base of your palm as this has less direct impact on your arms.
And as one of my slightly agro friends always says to me - beat the heck out of him, at least it prevents him from hurting someone else.

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~Snowy~

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Selkie
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I feel fairly confedent about my self defence abilities. Being put into a situation where your abilities are fully tested, but your not in any real danger, but there is a very real motivation to do well, has done wonders. You do well in a situation where you KNOW both people are going full out, and you come out on top, that is a massive boost (fencing and wrestling). Both of thoes are extreamly competitive, and deal alot with both the mental and physical of fighting. Doing both for years has made me feel extreamly confident that if I am ever attacked, I stand a darn good chance of doing some real harm. (EG- this is banned, because this will break thier neck... you kind of remember thoes sort of things)

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"Fear is the mind-killer"
-Don't be afraid.

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ElevenEleven
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I was going to post this as a new topic but decided to use the handy Search function instead. [Smile]

Anyway, I am a very petite, very un-athletic young woman living in a big city. I know the basics of staying safe, but lately a little voice in my head has been whispering that taking self-defense classes might be a good thing. The little voice got louder a few days ago when I found myself in an unfamiliar area late at night. This happened when I was actually with my boyfriend, but he's similarly short and thin, not to mention incredibly gentle; any kind of attacker would probably be able to easily overpower him as well.

So my question is, what kind of self-defense class would benefit me the most? From what I can tell, self-defense classes for women vary from very comprehensive and thorough to impractical and downright sexist. I like kickboxing (I'm not a violent person, I swear) but I'm used to punching the air or a punching bag and a real-life situation would undoubtedly be very different. I've also heard Judo and jiu-jitsu are good forms of defense for smaller people, but I really don't know anything about traditional martial arts. Suggestions would be helpful, so if you have any, please post them.

(And Heather, if you read this, I read in your bio that you taught self-defense for women, so what would you suggest I look for?)

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orca
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Glad this one was bumped up. I've been having some safety concerns myself since I started taking night classes and driving myself around at night. Plus, I barely weigh 100 pounds and I'm only 5'2, so I feel like I'm sort of an easy target.

When I was in middle school and high school, the P.E. coaches actually taught us a little self defense, but not much and I can't remember it at all now. I have heard some things from various sources and I was wondering if they were true.

If someone grabs your arm, is it true that you should push into their thumb instead of jerking your arm away?
Someone told me that if attacked and my life was in danger, I should use the ball of my palm and force it into their nose and push their nose upward. Does that actually work?
I was also told in school that clapping my hand hard on their ear would make them deaf. Is that true?

I don't exactly have the time or money to take any self-defense classes either (not unless my college offers them) so I was hoping for some suggestions. One of my big problems is that some of the self defense things people say to do sound so....oooky, like breaking their nose or poking their eye out, that I just don't think I could do it. Plus, I have a hard time coping with the idea of physically hurting someone, even if it's my life or theirs. I'm just not sure I could do it. Any suggestions on how to deal with those emotions?

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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-Firefly-
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quote:
If someone grabs your arm, is it true that you should push into their thumb instead of jerking your arm away?
Someone told me that if attacked and my life was in danger, I should use the ball of my palm and force it into their nose and push their nose upward. Does that actually work?
I was also told in school that clapping my hand hard on their ear would make them deaf. Is that true?

I've been doing traditional Yoshinkan Aikido (as practiced by the Tokyo Metropolitan police) for 5 years now, and we've definitely been taught that the thumb is the weakest part of the hand. Fighting against it is probably a good bet to get out. Although I will have to say that it's difficult.

For the nose thing, I'd say it's unlikely to work. Your target wouldn't stay stationary long enough for you to be able to aim, and hit hard.

Same kind of situation for the ears. Would be very difficult to get that shot in if the person is moving and trying to subdue you. Also, it won't make the person deaf as far as I know, but it supposedly does hurt.

Personally though, I wouldn't try any of that. In Aikido, we learn to redirect an opponent's energy and use it against them. The big thing though, is to hone your focus, timing and speed. It's about being aware of your environment, and never letting anyone get close enough to grab you.

Any martial art is a time investment though. You have to train hard and seriously. So if any dojo claims that you'll be a black belt within a year, run the other way. Same deal if they guarantee you a black belt. They're just in it for the money. It's sad to say, but there are many dojos out there that just try to pump out black belts, and chances are, you won't learn much through them. With a reputable dojo, it takes years of practice and commitment.

As for your question about emotions, I'm not sure of the answer. I don't like hurting people, but the more I train in a martial art, the more I realize that if it's me or the attacker, I have to be the one who walks away. I still have trouble with that sometimes though. I keep being told I need to develop my "killer" spirit. It takes practice, and a high level of confidence in yourself I think.

Anyways, this is getting really long. Hope this kinda helped. [Smile]

[ 10-22-2007, 10:15 AM: Message edited by: blysse_norwood ]

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Narwhal
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Eleven: If you're interested in studying a martial art, then Kenpo, as Gwaihir mentioned, is a good one. I haven't studied it, myself, but I know people who have and it teaches a pretty ruthless sort of self-defense. I've studied Shotokan, one of the old traditional forms of karate, and I'd say it's good, too--not as aggressive as Kenpo, but still good. If you're very small, I'd stay away from the likes of judo, which focuses more on up-close grappling. My preference, being also very small, is not to let an opponent get close enough to use his size to dominate me. Aikido is sometimes recommended for women and smallish people of any gender, because it relies on deflecting attacks and using an attacker's energy against them, but my understanding is it takes years of study to master, so you wouldn't want to rely on it any time soon.

Otherwise, if you're more interested in a short-term self-defense class, sometimes those are offered through community recreation centers and the like.

And in either case, you can always ask to meet the instructors ahead of time to make sure the class is right for you--in the case of traditional martial arts, you can often sit in on a session and meet the other students, too. [Smile]

Edit: Blysse is absolutely right about ALL traditional martial arts taking a lot of practice and commitment, btw. I didn't mean to make it sound otherwise. [Smile] And for me, personally, the greatest benefit has been not just from the techniques I've learned, but from the sense of confidence I get. Just being in a situation in which it's encouraged that you yell and get all sweaty and be powerful is very...empowering!

[ 10-22-2007, 10:28 AM: Message edited by: Narwhal ]

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SelfDefenseAmazon
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Self Defense Practice Tips.
Hey all. I teach self defense tactics and combat to women 12 years and up. Here are some answers to some of the questions I have seen. I not only teach this stuff but have used it at different crazy points of life so I know what works and what doesnt.

First, play with your own pressure points. Stick 2 fingers in the hole of your throat and you will see how effective it is.

Palm strikes (not closed fists) work excellent against the lower part of the nose, hitting upward, full force. You can throw someone just by taking their head off balance from their feet. Then always finish with a stomp to head or knee. Run BUT ONLY WHEN IT IS SAFE TO RUN.

But finally, mental state is 90% of effective self defense. Learn to get pissed rather than scared when someone violates your space, your body and such. Everyone in my class first says Mike Tyson could easily take a 120 female, until I tell them later that the female is a Rottweiler. Why do you think that is? Hmmm. All the Rott has is teeth.

Be safe!!!!!

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Bun Bun
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Over the last couple of years, the city I live in has gotten progressively more dangerous. Just a few months ago, an elderly man was stabbed down the street from me... So of course, I'm definitely more alert than I used to be. If I'm walking after dark, I ALWAYS have my boyfriend accompany me. While I'm no wheres near petit (5'8), my boyfriend is a towering 6'3. He also has very broad shoulders. I feel very safe around him because of this. Also, he grew up in a part of China that was riddled with gangs, drugs and violence. He knows how to protect us if need be.

However, as university approaches, my dad is thinking of taking me to this speciality shop to buy mace. I'm totally in agreement with this for two reasons. The first being that a friend of mine, who lives downtown, was on her way to a cafe when an escaped pitbull from a crack house came rushing at her. It jumped towards her, and she quickly sprayed it with mace and bolted towards a nearby store and called the police. Her quick reaction, and the mace, saved her life, if not saving her from vicious dog bites.

The second reason is a lot more scary to me. I have pretty bad asthma. It's been slightly under control since I started a new medication, but running more than 100 metres or so is almost out of the question. I'm terrified of not being able to breathe. If I had mace, I would have more time to get out of a dangerous situation.

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orca
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Bun Bun, I'm seeing two problems here.

1. While it's great that you feel so safe with your boyfriend, it's not so great to depend on him so heavily for protection. Depending on someone to be there to protect us 24/7 is a little dangerous and can sometimes end up with disappointment or resentment if that person fails to live up to our expectations of them. You have to be able to take care of yourself, too, and not just have your safety entirely dependant on another person.

2. Mace probably would not be a good idea for you to use if you have asthma. Even when used correctly (which is difficult when you find yourself in the situation, especially if you haven't had professional training on how to use it), you still run the risk of accidentally inhaling the spray, which would be incredibly bad for someone with asthma. I would suggest looking into other options.

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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SelfDefenseAmazon
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Bun, Bun:

I teach self defense for women and the 2 things that come up is the "freeze reflex" and the reliance on something outside herself--boyfriend, mace, firearm. The "freeze" reflex is part of a mental process, when under stress called, tachypsychia. It is was makes time seem faster, slower or stop. The really great news is that it can be changed with simple training and confidence.

You cannot rely on anyone, or anything, but yourself. You actually may need to be the one that helps your boyfriend. Women can defeat stronger and larger attackers. Period. I am 5'0 tall and have done it numerous times in my crazy life. Size really doesn't matter ;-). Mental state does. Not even Mike Tyson would attack 120lb female......if the female was a Rottweiler. Yet, a dog has only one physical tool--her teeth. The remaining is sheer ferocity, and signaling to a bad guy that "boy, this is going to be a bad day if you even think of it." We women, with far more tools, can outdo that Rottweiler. It is 90% mental, and 10% technique.

I see you are in the Bay Area. There are 4 hour Women's Self Defense and Combat seminars offered in Oakland on Sundays and San Francisco on Saturday. No one is turned away for lack of funds. Our goal is to train 12000 women in 10 years. Be part of the new girl army.

Email [Edited: I appreciate -- very much -- wanting to get self-defense to women, but our user guidelines don't allow for emails to be publicly posted. Perhaps you have a weblink for your organization you can share instead? Thanks! - HC]

[ 04-19-2008, 11:42 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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SelfDefenseAmazon
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whoops......sorry Heather. We don't place a public link as, like battered women's shelters, we have found it safer to now post locations of workshops. No worries. Thanks for letting me know.

Lori Wallerstein

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Bun Bun
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Thanks for your guys' concern, but I'm thinking maybe that I didn't quite express myself properly. I'm not relying on my boyfriend for protection, really. I just feel safer if I'm with somebody at night. I'd be more likely to be attacked if I was alone, rather than if I was with someone who looks intimidating. It's always safer to travel in groups than to be travelling alone. This is only during dark, remember. I'm perfectly confident to go out during the day, morning, and evening alone. I just feel safer during the night to be with another person, and I honestly can't see a problem with that, though I do see the basis for your concerns.

But as I said. I'm alert. I'm an artist, so I am very aware of my surroundings, especially little details. I do trust my gut instincts, and stay out of situations that could potentially lead to an attack. If I feel uneasy, I get myself to a place where I feel more comfortable. Also, I think it helps a huge amount that I look confident and walk confident.

I thought I might add as well, there was this great TV show on awhile ago (I believe it was either on Spike TV or OLN or something of that kind), and it was daily survival tips. One of the episodes focused on urban survival tips, and they put people into fake situations (which were terrifyingly real) to teach them how to respond in a real situation. One of them was a man asking for the time, but he turned out to be a mugger. The title of the show was something along the lines of "how not to die".

(And amazon, I actually live in Calgary, Canada.)

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