Monday, May 7, 2012

Does Size Matter?

....OF COURSE SIZE MATTERS! (Well... Read On...)  

From my FAQ Page: What about the size issue? Lay it on us, Dr. Ruthless. Does size matter?

Yes...and No. First, the yes: Face it ladies, of course size matters! No bull. The average male will likely have more strength, mass and lung capacity than most females. Heck, a big dude can kill you by accident. Being overpowered is always a potential reality.

And this is precisely what dictates our need for smart strategies and techniques, and for unorthodox and EXPLOSIVE tactics that capitalize on our strengths: speed, agility, surprise, cunning, a lower center of gravity (excellent for balance, throws, and maintaining a solid base), good intuition, and powerful emotional reserves that can transform petite women into formidable fighters. We don't have the privilege of being sloppy or dicking around. We need to get in, get to it, free ourselves and get out. It's a biological imperative that females need to be SKILLED AND NASTY in self defense.

So ultimately, No. It's not about size. Self defense is not a contest of strength—it's a matter of survival. Raw will and determination are just as important as skill. Case in point: when a psycho / would be rapist attacked my slender friend in her home one night (He was disguised as her kitchen trash bag! He then leapt up and attacked, knocking her to the floor), her spindly legs aided by adrenaline morphed into battering rams. Her  savage kicks and screams, fueled by terror, worked--her attacker fled out her window. On the other side of the "it's not the size" spectrum, in 2006, a heavyset (technically obese) 51 year-old woman in Portland, Oregon fought off and killed her weapon-wielding attacker /home invader with her bare hands, leaving him heaped on her floor—choked to death. These accounts, not Hollywood stunts, are but two examples of real self-defense.

That said, you want to sharpen every edge. This is why my teaching advocates EXPLOSIVE no-nonsense opening moves and the element of surprise, and why you must come to know your killer instinct intimately - the way a woman knows her heart, her sex and her soul. Owning this facet of your human potential IS in itself a deterrent. If you don't think you have it in you, now would be a good time to smack that thought out of your head! 

Here is what anthropologist Margaret Mead has observed about our ladylike kind:

"When women disengage from their traditional role they become more ruthless and savage than men. Men will fight to show off their prowess and impress females, but when women fight, it is fierce and to the death...They display no built-in chivalry."

While this may not always be the case, consider Mead's quote an affirmative goal. At its biological core, the imperative for us smaller females to be "ruthless" in defense of our lives and our loved ones may also be tied into the maternal instinct housed in our primitive brain along with our survival instinct. At its peak, the maternal and killer instincts come together, giving us girls a double dose of whammy. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Death By Ball Squeezing!

"Seize & Squeeze" Takes on New Deadly Meaning

Balls. Always been a good target in self defense if you can get a hold of 'em.

I've known of testicles being ruptured, battered, and bruised - not to mention ungodly searing pain from getting snapped in the nuts: I'm talking fall straight to the ground, vomit, pull your knees up, while your whole system temporarily crashes or shuts down - the result of good cracks, whacks, smashes, knees and assorted evil "hand jobs."

That said, it's important to understand that SOME MEN pumped on adrenaline and "the fight" CAN withstand direct hits and strikes to the groin without it stopping or seizing them in the moment-- the effects (see above) arriving after the fact. YES, some guys ARE that pumped and just plain gnarly.

But this is the first time I've heard of DEATH resulting from ball squeezing.

Check out the article for possible medical explanation.

And let's not count on it ladies. But in the meantime, and by all means, IF YOUR LIFE OR INTEGRITY IS IN JEOPARDY - Seize and squeeze! 

Monday, April 16, 2012


TWO BEEFS ! QUIT IT! (Do I look like I'm joking? ) 

(1) Those in WSD need to stop wielding this awful phrase as your promo: "Don't be a victim!" Or worse: "Choose NOT to be a victim!"

Let's be clear: YES to sensible risk reduction, heightened awareness, early recognition of danger/ testing/ behavioral clues, good body language, intuition turned on (ALL CHECKED). Now THIS: NO woman CHOOSES to be a victim or to be attacked. Even women who "do everything right" - how they comport themselves, how street smart they are; they can be Black Belts and kick ass power feminists-- and STILL be violated or raped. And "not at fault." 

(2) Ditch last century verbiage: Some in Women's Self Defense still promulgate that self defense is about knowing "YOU'RE Worth FIGHTING FOR." That you're worth it.

As one who is steeped in SD and as a former psychotherapist, while I appreciate where this is coming from, I find this comment mildly insulting; the insinuation is that most women DON'T think they're worth fighting for. I disagree. To me this smacks of a victim mentality pinned onto and often attributed to women. 

Sure. It may in fact be relevant for women struggling with DEEP self esteem issues or domestic abuse whereby they've internalized the doubts of their abusers and diminishing self perceptions. But most women today KNOW they're worth fighting for and WANT to protect their bodily sovereignty. They need to learn HOW and how to overcome fear and other inhibitions. 

Let's MOVE the conversation forward- not backward!

PS. Oh yes that's me with fabulous INVESTIGATIVE DISCOVERY TV producer CHRIS G. I was recently interviewed for a forthcoming (this summer) episode for a new show featuring Dates From Hell . (But seriously. These are remarkable real life stories of women's resolve, smarts, fighting hearts and... fighting back powers. 

The episode I was called in for is the amazing Keri Potts, who heroically daringly escaped from a rapist in Rome. A predator not only intent on brutal rape but possible a killer..... Stay tuned and I'll share more.  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

How To Take Down an Oral Rapist-- And NOT Get Hammered

Free Blow Jobs - but not the kind he had in mind.   


This headline infuriated me as many do: 

Thinking about the 18 year-old young woman he raped, sent a sharp then sinking pain into my heart. I know all too well - from working with survivors - the trauma that rape and sexual violence leaves in its wake. How these moments can unravel into months and even years of suffering.   

So I decided to share a fairly simple and wickedly surprising means of striking back in an oral rape, which is common in sexual violence- and more precisely how to NAIL this motherfucker.(It's a question I've been asked often.)  First let me say there isn't just one way-- self defense is never a cookie-cutter or one size fits all. No one technique will always work. In this case where the rapist is wielding a hammer threatening to beat women who don't "get him off" there's a few options in terms of fight-back-to-escape strategies. It's never (rarely) easy, but victory is never cheap. (And no I'm not talking about biting his dick; dicey at best.) 

With training you can learn how to wrap and trap his weapon-wielding arm then instantly move in to attack his face/ his throat/ his eyes bringing your best in-fighting tools to bear: elbows / palms/ hammerfists or stabbing, smashing, or punching hand strikes. Or you could capture his arm and drive rapid knee strikes into his nether regions or whomping kicks aimed at disabling his mobility (lower limb destruction).THEN you could slam him down, throw him away and escape seizing the hammer on your way out. Ta-dah! 

For added panache, imagine flashing him your best Thelma & Louise look of disgust, then casting your eyes his way one last time (so you can give details to the cops) fixing your gaze on his now shriveling manhood while muttering aloud: 

"Pffft! Dude, you call that a tool?" (You get the idea...) 

The story of the 51 year old Portland Oregon woman who was attacked by a man wielding a claw hammer comes to mind. She not only wrested the weapon away from him in a life and death struggle, she then killed him with her bare hands, strangled him to death on her kitchen floor. Good thing 'cause he wasn't just a home invader but a HIT MAN who'd been hired by her estranged hubby, sent to KILL HER. (Talk about reversals!) 

But for now we'll bypass assorted strikes - which, by the way, can have different effects on different bodies depending on myriad variables; from the individual's state of mind and blood alcohol level, to how buff or tough he is-- and we'll stick to a mechanically easier solution with concussive head-banging impact for Mr. Jack Hammer- assuming it all goes as planned. (Note: He's only 150 pounds of punk.)  

Before we get going you must PROMISE me that you would ONLY do this if and when you have the MORAL AUTHORITY  to do so and are under attack. It 's not a technique to employ on your ex or current (boyfriend/ hubby) cause you can't stand him no more. OK? 

One more thing: Sexual sacrifice is a lousy option no woman should have to face. That said, what's most important here is being prepared with the OPTION to fight back. 

Now let's get cracking and NAIL Jack Hammer.  

Let me preface this by saying that we're going to FEIGN COMPLIANCE and insert ourselves into HIS plan then employ a grand reversal: 

(1) Note exactly where that hammer is - which he'll soon forget about - then slowly PROCEED to your knees, assume the position he expects and encourage him to step real close so you can give it real good. But first, try to negotiate placement: try to persuade him to stand where there is open space behind him and maybe some hard head-banging surface- you'll see why in a minute.

(2) Next, help him undress. That's right: help him undo his stinking pants so that he suspects NADA and so that he gets used to seeing your hands near and on his body-- you'll see why in a minute. (*Cough* If you start to feel a little bit o' puke in the back of your throat, that's OK. You'll get to spit soon. ) Encourage him to lower his pants down to his mid-thigh at least so that his legs are effectively trapped in his pants like a sac. If he resists, tell him in your best lying voice, "Baby  I need lots of room to work my special mojo on you." Once he hears that he'll likely oblige. In effect you are NOW leading his head- as in his mind, his big head, so to speak. 

(3)  Most Important part! From on your knees, a
ct as if to oblige then as soon as his mind starts to float (see yellow above) take your two hands, grab his  ankles  - make this VERY VERY SNAPPY -- and YANK his motherfucking legs toward you from the back of his ankles, YANKING hard and FAST. I said YANK as in one forceful TAKING move. Do not just PULL. I repeat: do NOT pull - that will NOT do. This move is your ticket to freedom.

If all goes well, and it should, this yanking of his ankles TOWARD YOU hard and fast will TAKE HIS BALANCE and he WILL SLAM Back & DOWN onto the hard merciless ground, hopefully banging his (big) ugly head.  But to add OOMPH and make it a REALLY HARD LANDING also do this: AS you grab-to-yank his ankles simultaneously RAM your HEAD into his hip region (or drive your shoulder tackle-style into his knees)  further forcing his loss of balance and SLAM DOWN. 

Understand this: Because you're ON YOUR KNEES you're stable so you can DO BOTH without losing your base. 
(4) Faster than you've ever moved in your life, quickly get up, raise your stronger  leg's knee and STOMP DOWN HARD ON HIS BALLS while his privates are splayed. Repeat as needed. Then RUN like your ass is on fire, and depending on where you are and how far you need to go to get to safety, SEIZE that hammer from his hand and IF NEED BE BECAUSE HE'S STILL CONSCIOUS AND IN ATTACK MODE... you know what to do. (Your choice of additional no-nonsense techniques here.)   

Call the cops and don't forget to tell them how YOU feared for your life and what he threatened you with. 

(5) It's time: Spit. Spit. Spit! Let the full emotion out. Expect to feel charged with emotion, expect to shake, to feel terror and / or rage. 

And this: You did it!!! 

You saved yourself from THAT trauma of being sexually violated. Of course there will be residual feelings or fear from this terrifying event but you WILL deal with that with help and loving support.  

Not only that but by saving yourself and NAILING MR. HAMMER, and hopefully cooking his ass, you will have rallied the FIERCE FEMME for ALL WOMANKIND. 

We will ALL thank you. Because In the end, we're ONE BIG HOOD: Womanhood. 


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

GOT FIERCE? How To Be A Self Defending Dame

In the mean time (did I say, MEAN time? Hmmm...) here's a piece  I wrote for Huff Post. Consider its forthcoming 'welcome to my new blog" description as the juicy land of what shall be here.  
Here is the Huffington Post blog in full:" 
"I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself."
--Susan B. Anthony, 1871

Amen sister. My head is nodding feverishly. Ms. Anthony's words stir holy fire in my heart. If I was an Evangelist preaching to women, my sermon might begin: Behold the power and saving graces of your fierce lower selves. In other words, ladies, herein lies the power to save our own pretty asses!
Before I gush about morphing arms and legs into spears and battering rams, and how to stick it to a rapist, and where I get off being so fresh, let me ask: What if instead of being fearful, you learned how to be fearsome? What if instead of feeling endangered, you knew that you too could be a dangerous creature? And what if your newfound strength could help rescue the world?
It can.
Let me introduce myself -- and my spanking new blog. My beloved trade name is Dr. Ruthless. A 26-year veteran trainer of practical, no-nonsense self defense, I have earned a reputation for teaching women how to call upon their primal nature and tap into their killer instinct, when all else fails, to effectively fight back. When I say fight, I mean, well ... like a junkyard bitch.
I'm also a woman who knows what it's like to be scared to death. In 1985, I had a terrifying home alone encounter with a knife-wielding would-be rapist, which I foiled with war cries that sent him fleeing. This experience propelled me further down the martial arts path, into the down and dirty methods that would become me. At the core of my teaching lies this knowledge -- consider it tip number one: When escape is not an immediate option and the only way out is through, you cannot just defend -- you must counterattack.
And oops, did I mention I'm five feet tall on a good hair day?
Nearly 140 years after Ms. Anthony's declaration -- as violence against women continues to plague our world  -- her words retain a pressing urgency. For sure, we've advanced. Today's women can negotiate multimillion dollar deals, become fighter pilots and lead basketball teams to win WNBA championships. But put a woman in a face-to-face encounter with a determined sexual assailant (or worse) and she may be clueless about what to do. "How is it," in the words of feminist author Martha McCoughey , "that so many women still don't know how to hit?"
I am sure that some part of you does, yet for millions of women this instinct and capacity (our primal warrior spirit) lies dormant, buried beneath fear and myths of incompetence, bound by the artificial constructs of femininity, by conditioning of one kind or another and by internalized restraint.
Put another way, this power got lost or drained somewhere between the cave and the condo.
It's a dangerous disconnect. Strategies aside, my greatest spiritual task then is to help women reconnect to this fierce female force and to liberate fire from fear.
And let's face it -- the fear of violence or sexual attack is every woman's fear, often coming to the fore when a woman senses danger or feels that chill. We're all familiar with gruesome reports that make headline news: the NYC woman who was beaten to a pulp  in a bathroom stall for rebuffing a man's request to dance; stories preceded by these heart-sinking words -- she was last seen at -- not to mention reports of domestic violence, sexual abuses and atrocities heaped upon women and girls all over the world, beamed to us from afar -- and not so far.
Not all women's brushes with fear or danger are dramatic. But they leave tracks in the female psyche -- which take a toll.  
The gig is up! It's time for a radical shift, a bold new vision of strength and capacity for 21st century women. I propose that instead of shunning aggression, you must view it as a resource and learn to wield its tools. No more outsourcing your protection to husbands, boyfriends, fathers, men in khaki or blue uniforms -- nor viewing it as something for the fierce few. It's time to bring this bad girl home!
As a culture, let's ditch last century's lunatic New Age notion that we women folk are all compassionate, do-no-harmers; that flow and force are not mutually compatible.(I'm a worker for peace; you want me to slam what?) To safely navigate our world and continue making strides, we peace-loving gals need to be packing primal power and heart, armed with know how to physically explode into a "meat target" and the will to bring it in a heartbeat.
don't suggest that learning self defense is the solution to violence against women -- of course not; such ignorance makes my lip curl -- or that it's always effective or the best option. But what I am saying is this: when we discourage women from learning violent self protection, we inadvertentlyencourage them to submit to victimization and to suffer its traumatic aftermath.
Finally, let me share -- lest anyone think I'm a God-forbid, radical -- that as a lapsed Buddhist and former psychotherapist, I believe in the curative power of empathy and compassion. I feel deeply connected to all living things. But talk and empathy aren't always saving graces. In my view, the prayerful and primitive, our higher and baser selves are not opposites, but complementary energies.
I know this Beast Girl part of myself intimately -- as I believe all women should. It is ancient, as old as the womb itself, born in the primordial fires of love, fury and survival instinct. With more to come, let me just say, this isn't just my story or truth. It's your story, too.
Looking forward, I shall liken this blog to an online Savage Beauty Parlor -- a place where women can be coiffed in the Art of War, get a free survival makeover and celebrate the smashing power of their hips! I'll also be treating you to success stories of everyday women who are doing it for themselves,  kicking ass and taking names, and to female warriors and deadly dames from all over the world who embody and ennoble this red hot fusion of fierce and female. (Check out India's Pink Vigilantes.)  
Be warned: I'm not one to sugarcoat the harsh realities of being attacked or what it takes to fend off larger, stronger creatures, so please understand that fighting back is a grubby, gritty, affair. It's inherently dangerous. It takes raw courage and a warrior's mindset. It means harnessing ungodly terror, tapping the utility of ire; dishing out punishing blows and sucking up pain.
Like I said, self defense is for females.

This brings us to lesson number one. It is the Mother of all Truths, the greatest nugget of wisdom I could impart. So mainline this, receive it in full. Burn it into your consciousness. Ready?
Regardless of technique, you are the weapon. The delivery system. Everything else is a tool, a force multiplier.
To learn more about becoming a self-defending dame, please watch for my further blogs. I'll be dishing out goods: from practical tips and tools to working the inner life to how to grow a warrior's heart. Welcome to my world! It's your world too!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Girl Talk-- Straight UP and DIRTY

The Power of Language.

Don't sugarcoat it! That's my motto when it comes to dishing about fight-back self defense. 

I've been thinking about this a lot. Perhaps because I've taken some flak from folks about my choice of words like "killer instinct" - Can't you just call it survival instinct? -- and my language around clobbering skills and other colorful phrases like WHY we need to learn how to "BUST SHIT UP."  

The reason I choose not to make it more palatable, or to speak of this more kindly once we've entered the realm of Fight For Your Life---is because it IS fucking harsh. And because language is powerful. I want phrases describing what IT takes and what TO do if you must explode into a target / close on an enemy / ATTACK the head / bash and pound ... sink into your consciousness. To become "second language" not just second nature. Because one day this unvarnished talk, it's dirty imperatives could save your life. 

I encourage women to adopt the language of combat for this purpose. Because it keeps it real and removes the taboo. Attributing nice, lady-like language to the learning of something that is intrinsically DOWN and DIRTY--that spirals us into the basement of our BEING--is not only supercilious but downright dangerous. There is nothing polite about being attacked or counterattacking. 

So I don't worry about offending: What would be more offensive than BEING ATTACKED? 

It isn't just the doing and owning of female force that is liberating, but the language of combat itself is freeing.  

Yet many women remain overly concerned with not hurting or offending others and habitually frame their expressions and communications in "nice" ways, fearful of how they may be perceived. In the context of self defense (and female vulnerability) this manifests as -"I didn't want to hurt his feelings or appear like a bitch so I said OK..." - when perhaps that same woman might have been better off being impolite/ DIS-agreeable/ DIS- obedient or forcefully conveying "NO. FUCKING. WAY." 

They are famous words: I didn't want to be impolite so I (fill in the blank). Tragically they are sometimes famous LAST WORDS.  

Self defense means giving YOURSELF permission to do what might otherwise BE unthinkable. This also means giving yourself permission to say it straight, to speak your mind. And when it comes to fighting back, to proclaim language that might otherwise be repugnant. 

Or Dirty. 

Which spirals me back to the point of my blog: Ladies, it's time to get F'ed! 

F. As in Fierce. As in Fight. As in Fearsome. And sometimes, in the most dire of straits, you just might need to-- how shall I say?-- "Fuck Someone Up."  

Repeat after me... WORD.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


It's become vogue to tell women to use weapons of opportunity such as keys or other handy devices or objects. 

Of course some of us have been advocating this for years.  I'm BIG on encouraging women to weaponize and to learn to use their environment in self defense - whether that means wielding handy desk or kitchen objects as self defense tools or learning to use surfaces such as counter tops (for example in this B & W photo above). In this picture, I'm shoving off of the ladies room counter top (note the full force in my leg) to slam backward, slamming HIM into the metal stall behind us. I have padding- HIM! This could be the opening move to release the "strangle." 

But here's the deal: unless you bring full ferocity or wield a hand held item with REAL SAVAGE intent to harm in order to escape, it's useless. And it may just piss off a would-be attacker. 

Take a look at this video clip for example. With maybe one exception (the use of her index finger knuckle; the PHOENIX technique) her delivery is lame and ineffective. She lacks intent (not to mention POWER; note how her hips lag behind) and real commitment to drive the "weapon" of choice HOME so to speak.  

Now imagine wielding a key/ a pen or nearby vase (to the head or face) or your pepper spray but with the attitude of this Warrior Dame.  

Now, we're talkin'--and looking good.  If you need to go physical and wield an object as weapon do yourself a favor. 

BE THIS Warrior Woman and not the Damsel. Overcome what you must to bring "it" to bear. 

Friday, February 10, 2012


Fierce and Female: A Self-Defense Expert Challenges Women To Define What is Non-Negotiable

What happens when you combine primal self-defense methods with the insights of a psychotherapist and the heart of a warrior? Meet Dr. Ruthless, also known as Melissa Soalt. An award-winning women's self-defense expert and Black Belt Hall of Fame recipient, Dr. Ruthless emerged at the forefront of the women’s self defense movement in the mid 1980's and has created her own “Dharma of Defense.” You can see her in action in her acclaimed DVD, Fierce & Female.

Her teachings encompass the physical and spiritual dimensions of self-defense. She unabashedly advocates for women to leverage their Killer Instinct —not for the sake of destruction, but to preserve and protect life. In this interview, Dr. Ruthless shares her perspective on the female warrior spirit and why we must learn to mobilize our survival instinct and forge fear into fire.

Brooke Axtell: What attracted you to training in self-defense and teaching other women how to defend themselves?

Dr. Ruthless: In my late teens, I lived in the Middle East and traveled around Asia. I was attacked multiple times and violently groped. I learned I was a scrappy bitch. I successfully fought off rape attempts in Israel and Pakistan and I suffered a lot of indignities. Women who have been violated know what it’s like to be reduced to anti-matter. It’s utterly dehumanizing. I also witnessed appalling inequities, the ways women are controlled by men. This birthed my undying reverence for female disobedience and the need for women’s self defense.

When I came home I began training in martial arts. Then, a decade later, in the middle of the night, a rapist broke into my home. He had cut the power and phone lines. I heard the creaking floorboards as he headed for my bed, knife in hand. Fortunately my screams sent him fleeing before he reached me. That was a terrifying event. It propelled me from martial arts to the more practical, down and dirty methods.

BA: You have a unique approach to self-defense. How would you describe your Dharma of Defense? How did it evolve?

DR: My paradigm evolved from decades of immersion in the study of self-defense and the warrior mindset. Warrior paradigms are traditionally male. This mindset is dispassionate, detached and steely. It doesn’t fully connect to women. So my approach defines a female warrior paradigm. It's far more primordial. It addresses female realities (spiritual, physical, emotional) and helps women capitalize on their greatest strengths. It is rooted in my concept of Fierce Love and the radical ability to turn fear into fire. It's a fusion of primal self defense - which plugs into elemental powers and capacities- and the resolute heart of the female warrior. 

We need to honor ourselves with a larger view of spirituality that includes this fearsome potential. My paradigm closes the divide between our 'higher' and 'baser' (animal) selves and imparts a unifying, more wholesome and lustier  self-persona. I view this as part of the Fighting Eros of Life. 

My work is born out of two very deep feelings: love and fury. Women must know they too can be dangerous creatures and not just feel like the endangered ones.

BA: Can you tell us about the fighting methods you teach?

DR: Attacks against women happen at terrifyingly close range. The predator will use his greater size and strength to dominate his intended prey and gain compliance or control.

I want women to have the option to fight. Tight quarters calls for explosive, instinctive, uncomplicated in-fighting skills that rip from our lower center of gravity and base of power, from our hips, legs and core. I teach women smart timing strategies, how to harness the formidable charge of fear and adrenaline, refashion their bodies into decisive penetrating weapons (plus how to wield handy weapons) and counterattack to escape. 

If a female chooses to fight back she needs to be armed with this ferocity and skill. The killer instinct, nestled within ferocity, not only helps fund a woman’s fight, but it can also help a woman kill her own fear which is sometimes necessary.

BA: You speak extensively about awakening the warrior spirit in women. What is the warrior spirit and how can women reconnect with this?

DR: The female warrior spirit has always existed. It is a primordial seed that needs to be released from the field of potentials and realized in our waking dimension. We need to grasp its memory, this elemental power from our prehistoric past and bring it into the present. With the courage it liberates, we can create far more equitable and enlightened societies.

I abhor war. But we can reject war and embrace the warrior spirit. We don’t have to relinquish our ideals for a just, compassionate world, but we also need other tools. We need to own this choice to aggressively even violently fight back to protect what we hold sacred.

One way to connect with this spirit is by tapping into our lineage. When women hear real accounts of female warriors and “deadly dames” throughout history, they begin to cultivate new ways of imaging themselves and can internalize this spirit.

BA: In your experience training women, what are the inner obstacles or beliefs that keep women from aggressively resisting attack?

DR: It comes down to fear or socialization—much of it is rooted in the myth of female defenselessness or other internalized beliefs- "I'm too small; too weak; don't have it in me." Some internal conflicts stem from a religious ideal that disallows force or where self-love and this expression of power does not extend to the woman or Mother--only to protecting the child.

In the context of self-defense, these diminishing beliefs become obstacles, the "inner muggers" that can put a choke hold on female force or create potentially lethal hesitation. Conflicts need to be reconciled in advance, for example, “I'm a worker for peace. You want me to slam what?” This is imperative because all systems must be GO.

When women answer the question: What is worth fighting for? What is non negotiable, and define their sacred boundaries, ferocity naturally arises. This ferocity doesn’t just gift us with strength, but it dissolves inhibitions and arouses the will. So it’s a superpower. 

We need to be willing to fight for what we value most. I don’t see this in opposition to the calling to make the world a better place. On the contrary, when women receive the warrior spirit, and reap its muscle and might, this not only saves lives but it helps heal the ills and indignities imposed by fear. So it’s a curative tonic.

BA: How have other religious or spiritual concepts hindered women from embracing their capacity to physically fight back?

DR: In any fundamentalism, regardless of faith, where men and male religious authority maintain control and "protection" over women's bodies and behaviors, fighting back is a diminished opportunity. At this level, male protectionism has a dark side. Female force is intentionally kept in check, and unleashing it could be met with dire consequences.

But there are other hindering forces. Some “New Age” ideologies propagate the insidious notion that women are the all-nurturing, all-benevolent, pacifistic creatures devoid of aggression. This lopsided view is dangerous. It furthers the disconnection from our primal selves. Any teaching that fails to honor and validate women's aggressive potential, alongside the strengths of empathy and nurturing, does women a grave disservice.

We need to expand the definition of love. Love is fierce. Instead of shunning aggression, we must view it as a resource. Spirituality should not just be based on the higher self. Talk and empathy are not always saving graces. When we discourage women from learning aggressive self-protection, we inadvertently encourage them to submit to victimization and suffer its traumatic aftermath. We have to make space to include this vital aggression as part of our womanly nature.

BA: What kind of mindset shift needs to happen for women to fully embrace their capacity to fight?

DR: It's a monumental shift in stance: from ask to take. Women have traditionally been groomed in the virtue of asking, of “May I?” whereas men have been entitled to take. Sexual assault is violent entitlement, is taking without consent. Historically, taking and ownership have been privileges of men.

Effectively resisting attack hinges on women giving themselves permission, without apology, to not only be aggressive, but to take control. Gloria Steinem once remarked that taking is, in itself, empowerment for women. Nowhere is this more true than in fight-back self-defense when now may be the only time that matters and you literally have to take charge. When the only way out is through you have to counterattack and become the huntress not the hunted.

For a female, this is the ultimate reversal. Until recent times, this wielding of forceful resistance, especially in the face of control and fear, has been largely unthinkable. Forbidden. For many, it remains counterintuitive—so it takes learning and unlearning.

BA: If you could say anything to encourage women to pursue self-defense, what would you say?

DR: “Do it! Here’s the deal: Regardless of technique or method you are the weapon. The delivery system. Everything else is a tool, a force multiplier. Once this is fully understood, the need to acquire skill and cultivate our will becomes luminously clear. And to truly take our bodies back, this learning is vital.

Women are called to help the world, but as we challenge the old systems there will be violence and opposition. We need to lionize ourselves and be prepared. We need to mobilize our courage to burn down apocryphal myths and attitudes that perpetuate rape and violent entitlements. Fighting back is not the only or always the best solution, but it is a significant piece in the war to combat violence against women.

When women confront their deep-seated fears, which all women feel to some extent, when they realize their primal self-defending powers and consciously embrace the willful warrior spirit, it changes everything. Far beyond its life and dignity-saving benefits, the embodiment of the Fierce Female is vital to liberation itself, to shifting self perceptions, creating new internal power states, and to re-balancing the world.

In the end it doesn't matter how you get here—whether you're pushed by fear or pulled by power—what matters is that you arrive.”

NEWS!!! I'm thrilled to announce that this Q + A has also been posted to GLORIA FELDT's website on her 9 WAYS Blog. Check it out!

©Melissa Soalt. No copy without permission. All rights reserved. Portions of this interview will be published in a forthcoming book.