“My lead instructor in the “D” group, Joanne Lombardi, was going to be teaching the 8 week Women’s Self Defense Course and I wanted to assist. I was happy when Joanne told me that now, as a Yellow Belt, I would be allowed, and she welcomed the help.
Since this would be my first time as an assistant, I was a bit nervous about doing a good job. I wasn’t concerned about myself in general, but for the women that came to the class for self defense instruction and relied on me to help them. Although I would be monitored by senior instructors, I felt that it was a personal responsibility to ensure that each student that I worked with understood the techniques.
The first class (Week 1) was a majority of questions and answers pertaining to the legalities of physical force used against an attacker. All the questions were detailed and no one left without an in-depth answer. Some of the answers seemed unsettling because of the violent nature of the force that may be required to defend one’s self. In reality, this was all necessary discourse before hands on instruction was to begin.
Phil Messina, founder of the art of Bo Fung Do and owner of Modern Warrior, explained the legal details involved in a potential conflict while making it clear to the class that they have an “absolute right to defend themselves”.
Several women needed to be re-assured over and again that it was ok to save their own lives. This is not an un-common reaction because most of us are taught to run away when possible…but that is rarely an option and not realistic.
We prefer peaceful solutions and a non-violent approach to any situation, but in truth, we must understand as these students were made to understand…you are in control of your life, you have the power to stop the attack, and you must be the one going home safely to your loved ones!
Week 2 brought less questions about legalities, and the hands on explanation and techniques taught to these women were being applied. I watched faces and attitudes change. As they developed each technique, I saw a new sense of confidence and a more relaxed and controlled group of women.
As the weeks passed, this group of 12 had changed dramatically, they wanted to learn, they wanted to get better and none gave up. As a first time assistant, I grew with them and was so proud to be a part of their transformation.
The final week (Week 8) was a class designed for the students to test the techniques they had practiced and the confidence they had gained inside themselves. Confidence goes a long way out in the street when predators choose their targets.
One week prior, Joanne explained in as much detail as possible, what to expect. She explained that some students will get nervous, some may get nauseous, and others may become afraid. But she urged all of them to fight through it and stressed the fact that fear changes a potential victim into a dangerous weapon.
(Week 8) June 12, 2012
Joanne gave the women final instructions and a brief summary of the techniques along with what was to be expected of them. While this was going on, 4 “Bad Guys” were suiting up in padded suits and protective head gear assisted by other instructors. I sensed tension, anticipation, and fear. But these 12 women didn’t realize that they had already beaten their first fear…they showed up for the fight.
Now, the anticipation was over, the four “bad guys” emerged from the adjacent room and silently marched to the rear staring quietly back at the students. They were unrecognizable and daunting. Their huge protection gear made them taller, wider, and seemingly unstoppable.
In Modern Warrior fashion, the surroundings also transformed. A brightly lit gym was now dark, foggy, and cold. Along with other “surprises” a friendly atmosphere was now a stage set in reality. The women were ready to be called up one at a time while each of the four intimidating figures waited for the signal to engage.
Now, with my curiosity peaked and my expectations high, one by one each woman started the fight from the ground as the attacker was called…”Bad Guy in”, by Joanne. And from the ground, the students had incredible mobility, far reaching limbs, and enough strength in their legs to send the bad guys flying.
As everyone cheered encouragingly, the intended victim turned attacker pursued the former threat using their feet, elbows, finger jabs, open palm strikes, and knee kicks. The women were instructed not to stop until Phil Messina yelled “break”.
The students were attacked on the ground and from behind in a standing position. Some were grabbed high; some low, pulled by their hair, and lifted from the ground. Every one of them turned ferociously against their attackers and fought back.
An emotional rush went through me as I shared this feeling of victory with all of them, to be part of it all, and play my small part helping this class of 12 become aware of the tremendous ability inside them.
And…if ever anyone of them are in a situation where someone is trying to prevent them from going home to their loved ones, that voice in their head is going to scream two words very loudly….NOT TODAY!”
-Account written by Phil B.