Self-defense at 2017 Montana Farmers Women’s Conference

3 rivers defense

The Montana Farmers Union Women’s Conference will take place on February 10 -12, 2017 at Chico Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa

Brigitte Schulze and Three Rivers Defense will do a self-defense workshop on how to free yourself from grabs and holds.

Attacks against women often start with attempts to restrain them – holding, grabbing, or pulling them. We’ll learn how to break free quickly, and how to counter- attack as necessary to escape to safety.

We are looking forward to training with the women of the Montana Farmers Union and everyone else who joins us for some training, soaking at Chico, and inspiration for cultivating our potential. The conference is open to anyone.

Join us! Everyone is welcome!


Denial of violence is a powerful psychological defense mechanism, easing anxiety and lulling people into believing they live safe, idyllic lives. They don’t want to think about the possibility of violence. Negating the possibility of violence makes them feel more secure and comfortable. They often proclaim to be strictly non-violent, abhorring violence as universally bad. They like to say that violence never solved any problem. But denial comes at a price because it dulls our awareness and our risk management abilities.

Denial also works in other ways when people deny what real violence is.

Some people confuse self-defense with martial arts or training drills in the safety of their gym or dojo. Self-defense against a criminal attack is nothing like sparring in the dojo. Even boxing matches and mixed martial arts, Muay Thai, and other sanctioned fights have strict rules, aimed at preventing severe injuries and civil and criminal liability. For example, there are illegal targets, like the eyes; illegal weapons, like eye gouges; and illegal weapon/target combinations, like stomping a fallen opponent on the ground. Fighters are matched up by experience, weight, and gender. They begin and end fighting with the bell. Referees make sure that the fighters spar according to the rules, and time limits determine the length of each round. Ambulances stand by in case anything goes wrong. Contenders consent to mutual fights at agreed upon times, dates, and locations. They study their opponent and train for the fight to be in the best possible shape on fight night.

Predatory criminal attackers on the other hand generally choose their victims based on the victims’ perceived vulnerability, surprise, and lack of preparation. Attackers rely on their own superior strength, size, and power. They choose the time and the location of the attack, preferably isolated places with easy access and escape for the attacker, and no witnesses. The environment may be a dirty hallway or a bathroom stall, not a comfortable training gym with clean, padded floors and water-filled ergonomic heavy bags. Instead, the ground may be asphalt or cement, littered with broken glass. The attacker may reek of sweat or alcohol, and have oozing blisters.

In an ambush, you may be hit first. You may be injured, in pain, and blinded by blood or tears, while trying to recover and defend and counter-attack. Real attacks cause stress reactions, like freezing, tunnel vision, and auditory exclusion. You may experience decreased pain, increased strength and speed, but also loss of fine motor control, and of the ability to think, plan, and act strategically.

The more you deny the realities of violence, the greater the costs you will pay in a real ambush by a predator. In situations where you have a chance to think and choose a course of action, for example in imminent partner assaults, you also need to weigh potential legal consequences of exceeding force justified under the circumstances. This is especially true in altercations that are more appropriately termed fights rather than attacks, such as bar quarrels. When you have a chance to de-escalate or walk away, any violence you use may ultimately be considered assault, or aggravated assault or even attempted homicide if you for example cause internal injury.

Think about denial and be honest with yourself. Do you have the attitude that you live in a safe community and that your chances of encountering violence are slim to non-existent? Do you have a realistic appreciation of your risk profile and of your ability to de-escalate or defend against and neutralize threats? Do you fantasize about counter-attacking physically, putting your attacker in the hospital with hardly a scratch to yourself, and being welcomed by the community as a local hero? Do you have illusions about your ability to flip the switch from civilized person who usually relies on persuasion, negotiation, or appeasement to asocial fighter ready to seriously injure or kill another human being?

Being mindful requires you to be as realistic about your risks and as honest about yourself, your capabilities, and your attitudes, including your hang-ups and your fantasies, as possible. Watch some videos of attacks from Closed Circuit TV cameras to see how fast and brutal some attacks are.[1] Talk with some emergency room nurses or doctors to learn more about the type of injuries they encounter. Violence can be bloody, painful, debilitating, and expensive. You may need to pay bills for doctors, hospitals, physical and other therapy, as well as potentially staggering legal bills if you are charged or sued in a civil law suit. You may lose income. In addition, you may suffer emotionally and mentally as a result of having been attacked or having injured or killed someone in self-defense. For all of theses reasons, the best defense is avoidance whenever that is a safe option.

Sometimes, unfortunately, avoidance is no longer a safe option.

When you need to fight back to save your life, it helps to have basic skills in using the tools of violence for your protection.

[1] See for example,

Self-defense and Functional Fitness

Learn self-defense, get a great work-out, and have fun with your friends.

Our training is based on your body’s natural reactions to stress. We use easy to learn and retain gross motor-movements for self-defense.

Under stress, your body reacts with DNA-programmed intuitive reactions. The moves we teach build on your instinctive responses, and are therefore faster and more stress-resistent than any fancy, purely cognitive based, techniques.

Functional fitness and self-defense at our gym at 612 W Griffin Drive, Unit C, in Bozeman, Montana is affordable and allows you to schedule your training at times convenient for you and your group.

For example, a 3-hour training with 5 friends is only $50/per person. 8 hours are only $114/per person.

You can choose training segments, dates, and times convenient for your schedule.

You can select a weekend, or schedule the training for several shorter sessions during day or evening hours.

We welcome all fitness levels and physical abilities.

Contact us or call Brigitte at 406.580.5190 for more information.

Ivan can take a punch


Parking Lots Safety – Crashes, not Predators, are your Greatest Risk

When people think of parking lots and self-defense, they often immediately think of predators lurking in dark spaces. But for most people, danger from distracted drivers or from being distracted themselves is much greater.

Based on National Safety Council statistics, 1 in 5 accidents happen in parking lots. A false sense of security is one contributing factor. Lots of people, both drivers and pedestrians, are talking on their phones, texting, or otherwise preoccupied. But even crashes at slow speed can kill or cause significant injuries.

During this the Holiday season be extra-careful in parking lots, both when driving and when walking.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Self-awareness and Hardening Yourself as a Target

Physical, mental, and emotional self-awareness are crucial components of self-defense. Many predators are very adept at assessing people’s vulnerabilities and needs. Hardening yourself as a target starts with an honest, objective self-assessment.

Your personality

Personality can be described as habitual characteristics of behavior, temperament, and emotions. Think about what you project about yourself to others. How do others generally perceive you? Do you come across as assertive? Shy? Demure? Compliant? Quiet? Cooperative? Trusting? Suspicious? Domineering? Strong-willed? Weak? Insecure? What personality traits make you a soft or a hard target? Are you easily flattered, impressed, or otherwise influenced by other people? Which type of people or under what circumstances?

Your current mood and constitution

Predators are also generally attuned to their targets’ vulnerabilities due to their current moods and physical constitutions. When you are lonely or sad, for example after a recent loss or break-up, you may be more susceptible to someone’s charm, manipulation, or faked solicitude than when you are physically and emotionally healthy and strong. The serial killer Ted Bundy was a master at tuning into his victims’ physical and emotional conditions. For example, one of his victims had just broken up with her boyfriend. Another one was preoccupied with exams.

Your passions – how people connect with you

Also think about your passions. Do people use your social, political, recreational or other interests to attempt to manipulate you? Predators sometimes fake shared interests to gain their targets’ trust and make them let down their guard. Obviously, most people enjoy social interaction with others who share their interests. A lot of us do. But be careful when new acquaintances try to use your passion to force trust or to manipulate you into doing things you wouldn’t do otherwise.

Your current focus

Make a habit of asking yourself, where is my focus? For instance, as you are running in the early morning hours with few people on the trails and your thoughts wander to your work or kids, train yourself to return your focus to your surroundings.

Throughout the day, whether we are driving on a freeway, walking down a city sidewalk, or enjoying our morning run, our thoughts digress. For instance, you may be worrying about an exam, a presentation at work, or your sick dog. You may be fatigued or worn out by a nasty cold. You may be upset about an argument with your spouse or a friend. Pre-occupation with thoughts about the past or the future often diverts our attention from our environment. Thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations, for instance pain from a sore throat, can all distract us from sensing and processing signals from the world around us. One way to harness your situational and environmental awareness is to make it a habit to refocus on the present moment.

At a seminar at the annual Martial Arts Industries Association  conference in 2014, a presenter suggested that we should ask ourselves periodically, “Where am I? What am I doing? What should I pay attention to right now?” This is good advice for business; it’s also a good habit for safety. It’s so easy to tune out as we are driving or walking or doing anything else throughout the day. This simple series of questions can bring us back to the here and now. And that is where we need to be so that situational awareness can protect us against ambush as well as accidents.

Awareness of your physical self: gait, posture, and demeanor

Mental and emotional self-awareness is your first step to hardening yourself as a target of opportunistic predatory violence. Another crucial step is physical self-awareness.

Researchers Betty Grayson and Morris Stein conducted a classic study on victim selection with prison inmates convicted of violent crimes like armed robbery, rape, and murder. They showed the inmates videos of pedestrians walking down a busy New York City sidewalk and asked them to identify people they would pick as targets. The criminals’ answers were remarkably uniform even though they couldn’t articulate their criteria. Analysis of the videotapes showed that the inmates’ victim selections were based on perceived vulnerability and lack of environmental awareness rather than other criteria like size or gender.

The preferred victims’ postures, gait, body language, and general demeanor were similar in that they signaled timidity and weakness. For instance, their posture was slumped and their gait lacked “synchrony” or fluidity and wholeness. Shuffling, a short or awkward stride, and a general lack of athleticism and of awareness were seen as signs of vulnerability and weakness. The Stein/Grayson study suggests that people demonstrating environmental and situational awareness and athletic, fluid body movements are less likely to be targeted.

You can project more assertive body language by practicing these postures and movements:

  • Roll your shoulders back and straighten them.
  • Lift your chin.
  • Look around you with a relaxed demeanor, rather than looking down.
  • Walk with a comfortable, fluid stride.
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets and unencumbered.
  • Engage in physical activity that you enjoy and that helps you become comfortable with you body and with movement.

Awareness of your voice and how it’s perceived by others 

Our voices also communicate assertiveness as well as insecurity and vulnerability. You can train yourself to sound more assertive. Start by becoming aware of the tone of your voice, and its rate, pitch, and inflection. Work on developing a calm and confident tone. Talk with a moderate rate, not too fast and not too slowly. Listen to the pitch of your voice. Practice for a moderate pitch, neither too high not too low. When we are suddenly afraid and the autonomous nervous system activates a sympathetic nervous system response, our voice changes and becomes high pitched, raspy, and fast. We can counter this effect by slow breathing: breathing in slowly, holding our breath for a second, breathing out even more slowly, and then repeating the sequence. Slow breathing can calm us physically as well as mentally.

It’s especially important to note the inflections at the end of your sentences. If you raise your voice at the end of a sentence  you’ll sound unsure. For instance, when you tell someone, “I’m not interested” or “Leave me alone” and raise your voice at the end, you may well be perceived as asking a question or making a plea, rather than giving a command. If your inflection stays at the same level, the voice signals a willingness or invitation to continue interaction. You may also be perceived as being unsure of your intent. When you watch national news with experienced broadcasters, listen to their use of inflection. As long as someone’s presentation is continuing, they’ll also continue with the same inflection. At the end of their statement, they will lower their voice. Practice lowering your voice at the end of the sentence when you give a direction, and you’ll instantly sound more assertive.

Good self-awareness is a great way to start hardening yourself as a potential target.



Stand up to harassment – don’t escalate the situation

Verbal Harassment

I have some reservations about the safety pin movement that I wrote about in another post. With those caveats, here are some suggestions for situations where you notice that someone is verbally harassing another person:

  1. Assess the situation for physical risk to the harassed person and to you. Ask yourself ahead of time, do you have any skills assessing risk? If not, you might educate yourself about risk assessment.
  2. Do you have de-escalation skills? If not, you might want to educate yourself, and practice.
  3. What if the harassment escalates to physical violence? Do you have a plan on what to do?
  4. If the harasser is threatening to hurt the person physically, your best option might be to call 911. I say “might” because the harassed person might not agree that law enforcement is the best option.
  5. If your assessment is that there is no immediate physical danger, you could start by asking the targeted person if there is anything you can do for them. Don’t make assumptions.
  6. You might ignore the harasser while you support the targeted person by simply standing with them or engaging them in friendly small talk, such as talk about the weather. In some situations that might be the safest and most effective action to take. More effective and safer than engaging with harassers. The harasser may leave. On the other hand, ignoring harassers can also empower them. They also may turn their aggression to you. Are you prepared for that possibility? How?
  7. You might support the targeted person by being a witness which might cause the harasser to stop. Sometimes, people take video to deter harassers, a strategy that may or may not work, and that may also put you at risk.
  8. Again, don’t assume that you know what the targeted person needs or wants in the situation. Don’t escalate a situation based on your need to assert yourself.
  9. For situations that are clearly non-physically threatening, you might remember NNSS for NOTICE harassing behavior, NAME the behavior, tell the harasser to STOP, and SUPPORT the targeted person. But this is a simple framework, which may be appropriate only for relatively benign situations.
  10. There is no panacea for verbal harassment; support the targeted person in a way that respects them and feels safe to you under the circumstances. Again, redundancy intended, don’t assume that you know what the targeted person needs and wants. And remember, what “feels safe” to you may not be.
  11. If a targeted person is visibly upset, you could ask if you can call someone for them or do anything else for them. Respect the targeted person’s autonomy.
  12. Sometimes there are creative indirect ways to support a targeted person. For instance, a woman heard that a person  at a sandwich shop asked that the sandwich be made by the white guy, not the Indian man. She made a point of asking that hers be made by the Indian man.


Strategy or Tapping into Anger?

Instructors in women’s self-defense courses often tell their trainees to tap into their “anger” when they are assaulted. This has always struck me as condescending and sexist as well as counter-productive. In trainings with primarily male participants, I’ve never heard anyone suggest that we rely on rage or any other strong emotion to counter-attack. Instead the emphasis is usually on reacting strategically.

Once a counter-attack is your safest option, a strategic mind-set serves you better than one hi-jacked by anger. Learning to see vulnerable, accessible targets and to use your natural and improvised weapons efficiently and effectively generally protects you better than rage.

Using intuition strategically is different from being fueled by anger when counter-attacking. Being able to access and react to your body sensations and your emotions, like disgust, fear, or unease, is important to increase your safety and to recognize, reduce, and avoid threats. But once you are at a point where you need to fight back, strategy will probably serve you better.

And in most encounters, it can be helpful to strive for “the cold face.” This is what the Mongols called a facial expression of a person who had mastered strategy and showed no emotion when dealing with aggression.

The Mongols

Domestic Violence – Self-Care

Domestic Violence Awareness Month began with the first Day of Unity observed in October 1981 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Read more…

Domestic Violence – “Accidents”

Domestic violence is one of the most significant violence issues in our communities. It may also be one of the  more preventable types of violence. But prevention requires awareness and knowledge of the violence dynamics involved. It also requires action.

Many years ago, I lived two houses down from a young woman in her twenties. She was married and had a toddler. One evening, as I came home from work, I saw her in her yard.  She had a black eye and bruises on her face. It was an accident, she said. She had fallen and hit her face. I was a young attorney, pre-occupied with a trial, and I didn’t pursue the issue. I didn’t do anything to support her or to refer her to resources. And neither did the other neighbor who lived next door to the woman and had heard her screaming.

This woman is no longer alive. Her husband shot her in their home a few years later, by accident, he said. He was never charged.

You can start with educating yourself on domestic violence issues. You can learn about supporting a friend or acquaintance that you know or suspect is being abused by a partner or spouse. But bear in mind that ultimately people subjected to abuse must make their own decisions on what actions to take.

It’s also important to remember that abusers often burt their partners without leaving any obvious signs like visible bruises or black eyes. Abuse often starts with emotional and/or mental intimidation, manipulation, coercion, and control tactics. Abusers often isolate their partners from friends, family, co-workers, and others.  to learn more call your local domestic violence organization support line.

Here are some resources:

Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (providing contact information for Montana domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking resources as well as other state and national resources)

National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence

National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

National Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center



Domestic Violence – Wearing Purple isn’t Enough

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. But awareness or wearing the color purple isn’t enough; it’s only a start. Inform yourself, get involved, become part of the movement to make lives better.

Here are some events this week:
Bozeman, October 8th, Taste of HAVEN
Dillon, October 8, Dillon Women’s Resource Center Women’s Symposium

What is domestic violence? What do you associate with the term domestic violence?

Domestic violence can be described as the systematic use of physical, emotional, mental, economic, and/or sexual abuse tactics to gain and maintain power and control in an intimate relationship.

Abusive partners often isolates their partners from friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers and others. Isolation is one factor to watch for.

If you are interested in learning about how to help someone in an abusive relationship, contact your state domestic violence coalition. They may have resources for you or refer you to your local organizations.

Here are some resources:

Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence

National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

National Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center