True Story: Courage in Paris & Tips for Self-Defense

In Vixely’s latest iPad Magazine Second Issue, Vixely Lead Editor Nora Bass describes her True Story and firsthand experience of an attack while in Paris, and offers her quick tips for self-defense. Our hope is that through this story, women see the importance of self-defense, and take even one class to learn how to defend themselves in the event they are ever in danger—which we hope is never.

Read on for excerpts from Vixely’s iPad Magazine Second Issue features, “Courage in Paris” and “Tips for Self-Defense.” Download Vixely’s iPad Magazine to read the full articles.

…There was a belief I had as a post-collegiate New Yorker that I carried a certain sensibility with me in terms of my personal protection. I knew not to walk with my iPod on at night or in areas I didn’t know, and I knew to always take a cab home after a night out and not wander as visible prey. In most parts of Manhattan, it is hard to find streets without cabs, doormen, workers or other passerby at all times of day. In fact, the city had made me more afraid of overwhelming crowds than of being alone as it was such a rarity. However, unlike the gridded routes of New York, Paris is full of twisting passageways and Smart-car crevices such that you can find yourself very alone, very quickly.

As I headed down the passageway, I noticed the storefronts around me were all closed, and I could hear the crisp click of my heels bounce off the stones on which I walked, echoing in the morning silence. The light outside was dim, but slowly reflecting that early morning beaming sun through the black of night that makes the sky a back-lit, royal blue. I suddenly did feel very alone, and something did not feel right. I immediately heard the rapid tapping of footsteps behind me, and as I turned I saw a man running straight at me 10 feet away. Pale-skinned with dark, shiny hair, jacked shoulders beneath a cream wool sweater and a leather jacket, and wearing stonewashed jeans and white sneakers, he pulled his right arm back as he ran closer toward me. I remember looking at this man, and having the time to wonder why on earth he was running at me! Did he need directions? I was a fool.

His right fist plunged into my face against my nose. I had been punched, and I had no idea what I was feeling. He punched me again in the face. It felt like…nothing. I was in shock before pain. I wobbled backwards, falling over against a stone statue behind me to the ground. He dragged me with both of his hands by the lapels of my coat into an opening between two storefront doorways. My legs were flailing and I writhed in his grip. He straddled me to keep me still and then placed his hands around my neck, strangling me as I screamed for my life. His hands gripped my neck tighter until I actually couldn’t make sound as he whispered “Shhh” in my ear. Things slowed down in that moment, and with my cheek pressed against the ground I remember thinking this was how I was going to die. Then, all of the sudden, my body became otherworldly. In a purely animalistic, fight-or-flight state, my torso squirmed, my nails clawed at his face and my legs kicked him over, and I felt every muscle in my body pulling me upward. Somehow, and I don’t know how, this surge of wild physical aggression got me upright, and with every morsel of energy l had left, I looked into my attacker’s eyes and pleadingly, angrily, defiantly screamed “TAKE EVERYTHING!” pushing my purse into his arms and turning on a dime to sprint back from where I came. My legs moved so fast underneath me I could not feel them.

Flying through the entrance to my hotel, I immediately collapsed on the floor, sobbing and screaming for my mother. I was too weak and confused to take off my coat, but I noticed the shoulders were covered in my hair. My throat ached from the grip of his hands around my neck; it was difficult to breathe or speak. Rushing into the lobby, my mother shrieked upon seeing me. I was promptly taken to the hospital, and as I laid in the back of the ambulance, the paramedic encouraged me to cry, repeating “Let it out. Let it out,” in a soothing tone as tears streamed down my face.

…When I returned to New York, I entered  my  apartment  to find  scented candles lit, bouquets of flowers and a fruit basket on the kitchen counter. My roommate peacefully sat on the couch, her arms wide open. She bundled me in her arms. Every gesture of affection I received after the attack seemed to have a new meaning. I slept in her bed every night for the next two weeks.

I remembered that my colleague informed me her boyfriend was trained in martial arts and self-defense. The invisible shield of safety I always believed I had proved non-existent, and I needed to feel safe. My stomach would leap up when I heard footsteps close behind me, which was constantly in the city. I called my colleague and immediately asked for his number. I soon had a date with my new self-defense guru.

My instructor, Louie, is Chinese and a first-generation American. At the ripe age of 14, he was apparently taken in by a sensei (a master in martial arts) who trained him to fight. Louie told me he learned almost everything he knew from his sensei, who first taught him how to withstand an attack by hanging him from a ceiling by his wrists, repeatedly punching his stomach. Louie lived in a fairly spacious, old apartment on the Lower East Side. His living room was his workshop, fit with knives and swords on the walls and weights on the floor. While he was slim with a gentle demeanor, Louie was lethal: he was trained in over seven types of martial arts and self-defense, including Muay Thai kickboxing, jujitsu, karate and boxing. In our first session together, he told me he would never ask this again, but he wanted me to walk through my attack exactly as it happened, so we could analyze how I could have better fought back. Interestingly, Louie told me my attacker likely intended to rape me, as attackers who just want money don’t typically impair their targets. “What if I had used Mace on him?” I asked. “You have to know how to use your own body before you try to use anything else,” he explained. My eyes widened as I learned more about the ways of this dangerous world where people literally fight to get anything they want.

Louie and I met for four hours each week for the next six months. As we practiced strength-building exercises and self-defense techniques, I felt as though I was learning a new language, though one of the body where every movement had new meaning. I learned how to effectively throw a punch and how to use my own momentum to toss a man twice my size off from on top of me. At the core of Louie’s teachings were two vital components to fighting: strategy and power. A fighter’s strategy—how they read their situation and analyze their opponent—is elemental to knowing how to attack. Power, more than strength, I also learned, is what fighters use to win in combat. Powerful fighters fight from within; they are immovable in their stance, and they are fierce in every action. Combined together, power is what you find in yourself and apply to physical strategies to keep you alive. These lessons changed my life.

Emphasizing the importance of knowing self-defense to protect yourself from danger, Vixely’s iPad Magazine Second Issue offers three quick and essential tips every woman should know. Here is one:

How to Throw a Punch.

Throw a quick, “one-two punch.” Use compact motions so that your arms stay level with your shoulders.

  • First, punch with your left, leading arm (jab) and then follow with a heavier punch using your right arm (cross).  Your jab is your range-finder; your power is in the cross.
  • As you punch, shift your body weight left to right (front to back). Twist your hips up through your shoulders as you punch to get the most momentum as you swing.
  • Keep your body low with your knees bent to increase your stability and improve your ability to react.
  • Aim to hit your target squarely at a 90 degree angle. Do not fully extend either arm when you punch; your elbow should still be slightly bent when it hits your target.
  • Recoil your arms quickly. Aim for your opponent’s weakest body parts, including the nose, throat, sides of neck, liver, lower ribs (stomach) or under the heart. Avoid hitting hard areas such as the jaw, shoulder and upper rib cage. One shot to the stomach can often be the most effective.

Download Vixely’s iPad Magazine to read “Courage in Paris” and to learn more tips for self-defense.

About Nora Bass

Nora is Vixely's Co-Founder and Lead Editor. She has over ten years of experience in women's health with Gen Y women for major brands. She is the author of Vixely's best-selling iBook and is a featured writer for The Huffington Post as well as other websites and magazines. She attended Hamilton College where she concentrated in Economics and Cultural Studies. She is a proud supporter of organizations around the world promoting women's education and empowerment.

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One Response to True Story: Courage in Paris & Tips for Self-Defense

  1. Caitlin August 23, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

    Holy S, Nora! My heart was in my throat when I read this. I cannot wait to read the full story in Vixely! Thank you for being brave and telling this story.

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