The newest New Energy profile from NRA Women features Nikki Turpeaux, CEO and Founder of Archangel Tactical, LLC and Get A G.R.I.P. Ladies. Here Nikki shares her own personal experiences and encourages the resolve to continue training and developing a confident skill-set.
“Just because you feel safe doesn’t mean you are,” says Nikki Turpeaux.
The first thing that comes to mind when people hear ‘’Personal Safety’’ is martial arts or firearms training. Being in the security industry the last 11 years I had the chance to attend many training courses. Continuing education is my first priority and I attend as many seminars and courses as possible each year. In all of them, the conclusion I reached is that preparation and prevention can be your number one tip for your safety whether you are a civilian or a security professional.
An experience I encountered at the age of 16 changed my life priorities and choices at that time. What I am today is the result of an attack I survived then that left me bleeding and half dead in an alley. I didn’t think that the attacker would “allow” me to live. I didn’t think I would live to see my family again. That “man” was the reason I got involved in the security industry and later into martial arts training.
In this article I would like to focus more on female self-defense courses and what can work for us and what won’t.
To clarify my comments here, I am not writing this article from a martial artist or an instructor’s point of view, but from the female perspective interested in learning some basic tips on how to protect her life.
My personal experience with martial arts began as a teenager and continues to this day but the bottom line is I’m expressing here my opinion as a woman, a student and a former attack victim, and I’m pretty sure some martial arts instructors won’t agree with it. My goal here is not to offend anyone’s work but to address some concerns from the female perspective.
During an attack there are many factors that affect all of us at the same time. There is surprise, physical pain, adrenaline and that horrible thought and feeling that someone else besides you can decide if you will be breathing the next couple of minutes or not…Your nervous system is red-lined. You experience a faster heart rate and rapid breathing and an increase in blood pressure. An effort from your body to control and adjust to the experience of the fear during the attack is in full defense mode. Some people might notice sensations in the stomach, head, chest, legs, or hands. Now multiply those physical responses with factors from the threat you are dealing with. Maybe a gun or knife or a much larger person or multiple attackers.
No matter how good a martial artist or instructor you are (no matter how many times you have practiced your art), there is nothing that can compare with dealing with a real life threat. Nothing can replace the experience and test you and your abilities more than an actual attack.
We know that in some cases women are stronger than men. Yes, there are examples of men being weaker, but generally speaking let’s agree that for discussion, men are stronger. The aim then is to help women think differently and a bit more strategically. We don’t have to learn to beat someone down, we have to learn where we should be, or what we should do so we don’t end up in a situation where violence is likely to occur. We have to learn to speak up when we are not comfortable –being vocal will Alarm a perpetrator as well as bystanders. No one wants to attack someone that will fight back or someone that will make a lot of noise or attract attention. As with all predators, attackers prefer to go after the weak, sick and vulnerable. It’s a simple “Cost vs. Gain equation.
We should not accept our environment as it is, rather, we should shape it and learn where we should and should not be. We can influence a potential attack simply through posture and by thinking ahead. Begin with “I won’t be a victim,” and then don’t allow it to happen. I would also suggest you consider what kind of environment you wish to be in and avoid those you know to be questionable. We can prevent danger and create a safer place for ourselves and our loved ones simply by being smarter and more prepared than a potential attacker.
No one can offer you a 100% safe environment, someone can attack you because the opportunity to do it exists. By being trained and self-aware, you prevent or postpone an attack. According to statistics more than 2/3 of the attacks against women could be prevented if they were trained in simple and basic self-defense.
Women, are known to have strong intuition, something that alerts us or makes us feel that there is something wrong with a person or situation. Use it! Think in advance what actions you could take that would provide you more safety. While you are driving, shopping, at home, dating, clubbing etc.
Research online will find many self-defense courses available but, 99% of them are delivered by martial arts instructors with no other qualifications. Even fewer of those Instructors are women. From my personal experience attending many of those courses, I found that the students were treated, trained and handled like martial arts athletes or professionals, and the major effort of teaching was focused on the fight or fighting back instead of avoidance and predator profiling. So, from the first moment students get in the class they learn how to become the victim and get involved in an attack.
The truth is, Self Defense Instructors make their money teaching what they know, and what they don’t know, they leave to someone else. Most have no formal training in altercation avoidance or conflict resolution so they teach reactive methods rather than proactive planning.
Now, my questions are how a normal woman, a mother, someone who has never delivered a punch or a kick in her life can learn fighting techniques in one to six lessons?
And more important, how can she apply what she learned in the gym successfully on the street? How will she react to a real threat from an attacker who doesn’t look like or act like or smell like her Instructor? Who won’t stop short of hitting her in the face or grabbing her body or ripping her clothes?
I see Instructors teaching blocks, arm bars, headlocks etc….I am over 30,with experience in sports and martial arts and I still don’t have the flexibility to make a successful headlock with my legs, and I’m wondering how someone is teaching that and believing that a woman with no experience or practice will apply it in real life?
I have been asking instructors if those techniques work in real life and for some reason they all say yes.
These Instructors are missing some important facts:
- They are male
- They have been practicing for many years
- They teach in a safe environment usually chosen by the student
I find it more dangerous to teach someone something that she is not ready to apply in real life than not teaching it at all. Teaching and reinforcing a false sense of confidence could lead to catastrophic failure. Can you imagine what would happen if a victim kicked an attacker and because of her fear-adrenaline, she kicks wrong or hits the wrong target? If he stays on his feet, He will fight.
Even if the attacker didn’t originally have the intention to seriously injure the victim, he might lose his temper or use more force than intended.
Not all attackers retreat if you fight back, some of them will fight harder and stronger.
More serious are knife and gun disarming techniques…Learning to disarm a plastic knife and gun can be catastrophically worse if the instructor has never used a firearm for his living. I have seen everybody participating in knife disarming, smiling and taking their time, doing it again and again….I’m not so sure if they would deal with it the same way if they had a real knife to practice with.
As a female I tried to apply some of the techniques I learned to real life.
Not all of them worked for me and I belong to the women who have a previous training in martial arts and sports, so it makes me wonder how it would work for a Mother or Grandmother?
I do understand the ”business part” of someone running a training course, but our responsibility as instructors starts with a loyalty to the people who are paying us to learn something that will save their life?
There are a small percentage of people who know what they are teaching and are doing it right. They have a background from law enforcement, martial arts and the security industry. They have gathered their experience and teach realistic techniques. There are people out there, professionals that are focused on teaching intelligence based tactics… brain vs. Braun. As women we must learn to think and out-think We must search for Instructors that know how to teach us, and know what to teach us. And we must learn under stress. We must allow ourselves to be tested under extreme conditions and continue to train to not be victims.
Founder & Worldwide Director
The reason I wrote this article is due to a horrible crime that took place several days ago in Greece. A 34 year old woman returning home late at night, while unlocking the door of her apartment building, was grabbed and pulled away by a violent criminal. She was raped, beaten, doused with gasoline and then set on fire while she was still alive. Despite living in a crowded neighborhood where many people heard her screaming, not a single person went out to see what was happening until it was too late. The most horrible part is that both her father and brother could hear a woman screaming, but they never thought it was their beloved family member.
The criminal, a 27 year old, who has been accused in the past for sexual attacks by other victims, had been released back into society due to a lack of evidence to convict him. He was described as a male with strange and abusive behavior toward women. The blame cannot be solely shouldered by the Greek Justice and Authorities for allowing this man to continue his abusive acts which ultimately ended the horrible murder of this woman.
I would like to raise the attention to fact that people in today’s society are failing to care about others or act to assist someone in distress. If one of the neighbors, hearing her first screams, had gone outside and yelled at the criminal or made his/her presence known might have assisted in stopping the crime which would have saved the poor woman’s life. Witnesses said they heard a woman screaming, but, they were scared to go outside and see what was wrong. Several just didn’t think it was something serious enough to investigate. It must be horrible for the family members and neighbors to know they could have saved this woman’s life if they had acted instead of hiding. This lack of action will most likely haunt the community for a long time.
We are obviously not responsible for the actions of criminals within our community, however, we are responsible for or actions or lack thereof. Being a responsible citizen that cares about his/her neighbors can save lives. You don’t have to be the hero that will stop the crime by physically engaging the criminal. You can be the hero by just paying attention and reporting suspicious or criminal acts. Let’s think about it, maybe the victim wasn’t our sister or daughter, but if it was, wouldn’t we pray that someone would act if they heard her screams for help and react fast enough to save her? I’m sure we all would pray for that.
Leaving the comfort of your couch and going out to see what’s taking place can save people’s lives. Criminals don’t want to be captured and usually will flee if confronted by witnesses. Making criminal aware that someone is watching is an extremely strong deterrent to their criminal activity and makes for a much safer community.
Athena Academy Founder
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Our training and experience has given us a more heightened sense of awareness, thus giving us the ability to have strong skills in foreseeing situations. Athena Academy curriculum puts a huge emphasis on a “know-before-you-go” mentality and sensitive perception with situational awareness. We teach you how to anticipate, de-escalate and escape life-threatening situations.
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The first thing that mostly came up in peoples mind when they hear ‘’Personal Safety’’ is martial arts or firearms training. By being a Close Protection Operative the last 10 years I had the chance to attend in many training courses available to improve my skills. The conclusion I came up with is that preparation and prevention can be your number one tip for your personal safety.
We know that only in some cases women are ultimately stronger than a man. Yes, there are examples of men being weaker, but generally speaking, I will say this is not the case. So, the aim is to help women think differently and a bit more strategically. We don’t have to learn to beat someone down, we have to learn where we should be, or what we should do so we don’t end up in a situation where violence is likely to occur. We have to learn to speak up when you are not comfortable –being vocal will scare the daylights out of a perpetrator.
We should not accept our environment, rather, we should shape it and learn where we should be and where we should not. We can take control just through our posture and by thinking, “I won’t be a victim,” and then not allowing it to happen. I would also like for people to consider what kind of environment they do want and then go out and seek such.
No one can offer you a 100% safe environment, someone can attack you because he has the opportunity to do it. By being trained and self warned you get this opportunity from him to attack you. According to statistics more than 2/3 of the attacks against women could be prevent if they were trained in simply and basic self defence tips.
As women, we have a strong feeling of intuition, something that always alert us or make us feel that there is something wrong with, use it! Think in advance what actions you could take that would provide you more safety. While you are driving, shopping, being at home, clubbing etc.
This time I will take the opportunity to share with you some simple tips that you can use when travelling, tips that every one of you can follow.
-Make an online research over the last criminal incidents on the area you are going to visit.
-Make some copies of your ID, Driving License, Flight details, hotel you are staying and give them to someone you only trust and you know he/she can act calmlyy if anything happened, at least it will be someone who can give full details for your trip to the authorities.
-Choose a hotel room that is closer to emergency exit. Even if a fire occurs wouldn’t you prefer to be closer to the exit? Make sure your room is locked during all time you are inside.
-Get yourself a map of the area you are visiting and mark on it ‘’Safe Places’’, those places can be Hospitals, Police Stations, generally places that have crowd and are guarded. If anything happen run there to ask for help.
-Use a money belt, to secure your passport, ID, credit cards and money. Keep only a small amount on your pockets or wallet only.
-Sometimes it can be difficult, but try not to attract the attention. As a traveller is better to blend with others instead of putting a mark on you that will say ‘’new in town I have no idea’’.
-Be aware of people who approach you to get information, make questions, accidentally fall on you etc. In most cases they may be pickpockets trying to get a chance to reach your pocket.
-If you are going to visit a club and someone offer you a drink, prefer something that can be in a bottle and opened in front of your eyes. Keep your drink always attention so make sure no one put anything in it. If you have to leave it for a while, order another drink when you come back.
At the beginning, keeping those tips in mind can be difficult or makes you tired, but remember as long as you follow those steps in your daily life those will be automatically thoughts later and you will follow them without even thinking of it as your brain will adopt them.
Founder, Athena Worldwide, LLC
Female Protective Services, Training & Consulting