Get Mad — And Then Get Even!

November 28, 2009

Whenever an article is emailed to me or I receive an alert regarding a victim of an assault that used “self-defense” to ward off the assailant I find it imperative to post the published story.  I always give kudos to all self-defense instructors because females need us – there are plenty of females to go around to train and teach.  Hats off to Gabby for thinking and reacting, not becoming frozen in fear and thank you to Bonnie and Ronald Thiel for reaching out to their community with their WISE program (Women Initiating Safe Environments).

Self-defense classes teaching women how to protect themselves

By Ruth Fuller
Special to the Tribune

November 27, 2009

Gabby Parlier knew she was breaking the No. 1 rule she learned in her women’s self-defense class when she walked home alone in the dark on a deserted highway.

Parlier, 18, said she heard her attacker running up behind her before he grabbed her and demanded money. He was armed with a knife, she said.

“I started screaming bloody murder,” Parlier said of the attack earlier this month in Augusta, Ga. “There were no cars, so no one could hear me. I knew from my self-defense classes that I had to take him to the ground.”

Parlier, who recently moved to Augusta from Johnsburg, credits her self-defense training at the Spring Grove FlyingDragons Martial Arts Academy and WISE, or Women Initiating Safe Environments, for saving her life.

Parlier’s attacker punched her in the face and dragged her into the woods. She said she kicked him repeatedly and eventually freed herself and ran away.

“The kicking finally got him to stop and they were kicks I learned in class,” she said. “That’s what saved me.”

Bonnie Thiel, owner and head instructor of the school where Parlier trained, said it’s satisfying to know that she has helped someone like Parlier.

“It is my passion,” she said. “If I can stop women from getting raped, that is what is important to me.”

It’s a woman’s instinct to be a nurturer, but that makes her more susceptible to attacks, Thiel said. Women tend to be more trusting and afraid to hurt people’s feelings, which can put them in dangerous situations, she said.

Thiel, 56, is assisted by her husband, Ronald, 59, who is the school’s associate instructor.

Thiel has been teaching martial arts for more than 24 years. She began taking classes at age 31 after having four children.

“I needed to do something to get myself out,” she said. “I was shy and afraid of my own shadow. I looked like a victim all of the time.”

Not looking like a victim is key to not becoming one, Thiel said.

“It is the same as a lion going after the weakest in a pack of elk,” she said. “An attacker will go after the weakest-looking woman.”

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every two minutes.

Alex Paiz, 16, of Round Lake, said she is taking Thiel’s class so that she never becomes one of those statistics.

“It could happen to you whether you think so or not, so I want to be ready,” she said.

Julie Kim, 38, wants to be able to better protect her twin 6-year-old daughters.

The Vernon Hills resident said she learned to be less timid in the class. Timidity is a trait that many women share, Thiel said.

Yelling out a loud, forceful “No!” gets attention, scares a would-be attacker and helps wake you up, Thiel said. The problem is, many women think they will look silly if they yell or cause a scene.

Thiel teaches women that to defend themselves against an attacker, they must be mad instead of scared.

“Anger outfights fear,” she said. “Everyone will be in shock at first, but if you don’t fight you may never go home, so you have to get angry.”

At the end of the six-week class, which costs $99 for a total of 13 hours, the women get the opportunity to go one-on-one with Thiel’s husband, who wears protective gear. They can kick, knee, punch and use their full strength to try to escape — all in the dark.

“Women always think it’s not going to happen to them, or ‘I can fight back,’ but you don’t know until you are in that situation,” Thiel said. “It’s a mind-set after leaving here. The women are pumped and they are ready to go.”

Parlier said she wasn’t prepared for just how draining an attack would be.

“In the class you feel safe and they aren’t hitting back,” she said. “But I know the self-defense classes gave me the physical strength and the mental strength to fight back.”

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