My Experience with Model Mugging Women’s Self-Defense Workshop

Zoe Zuniga
Jan 17, 2019 · 7 min read

I don’t like to fight but lately, we all need to get into fighting-shape as our economic system breaks down and the crime rate goes up.

Hopefully, we will create a new system shortly, that works for all and walk away from this broken economy.

But in the meantime, it makes sense to brace ourselves for the escalation of fear, desperation, and chaos.

On that cheerful note, I thought I would write a review of the Model Mugging class I took over two weekends.

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In Model Mugging, we learned to fight from the floor like these guys

A few years ago, I wanted to learn self-defense, so I took a Model Mugging class. I know, it’s a weird name but it is derived from the use of padded instructors known as “model muggers” to simulate assaults.

I had taken Karate as a kid and had enjoyed it but realized that the martial arts I was practicing was a very formalized technique and probably would not be useful in the street.

I wanted to learn street fighting techniques

I needed to learn to defend myself against a larger opponent in the street. In the karate dojo, I was pitted against people my own size and we followed the rules, pulled our punches and never practiced full out for fear we would hurt each other.

Model Mugging is a super revved up confidence-building course for women and kids. They also have a separate course for men. the first day in class was all about building our female power and mental conditioning toward being assertive and looking as “un-victim-like” as possible. The first thing we learned was to look invulnerable while out in public, not back down or show fear.

Bullies tend to pick on people who have defeatist body language. So even if you are small you can appear to be too-much-trouble-to-deal-with leading a bully to go look for someone else to bother.

Model Mugging is down and dirty, not elegant or graceful

In Model Mugging the general technique for fighting is geared toward a female or child having to fight off a much bigger person. This is totally different from the fights we see on TV where people use fists and move quickly and effectively and make fighting look cool and easy.

Most of the moves we learned in the class were at close quarters. We learned to get out of someone’s grasp as they held us from behind We learned to jab at the eyes or throat or groin or kicking with our feet and legs while we were on the ground.

This made a lot of sense since that is where a smaller person will usually end up pretty quickly in a fight. It’s brilliant to teach smaller people to fight from down on the ground and kick up into knees and groins because our legs are much more powerful against a larger opponent than our hands and fists.

But sadly, model mugging is not as effective as it could be because there is very little physical power behind it. To be effective with your legs you must train to actually kick 200 pounds of a living person by using a heavy bag in all the positions we trained in at the model mugging class.

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Heavy bags simulate the feeling of kicking someone who weighs more than you

We practiced by kicking and punching in the air and of course, this was just for two weekends. We were told to go home and practice regularly to keep the muscle memory. But what they didn’t say was that we should run not walk to a heavy bag gym to build strength.

Model Mugging is a great start but to be safe, add resistance training

Model Mugging is a great start, but it is misleading to think you will be able to really defend yourself effectively if you don’t do strength and resistance training as well as flexibility and agility training.

Yes, the elements of surprise and assertiveness are a lot better than no training. But they may not be enough to keep you alive in an emergency when you need to disable someone long enough to get away.

Over the 4-day course we each got two practice fights with a real padded model while everyone else cheered us on. We learned to pump ourselves up and be bold by making noise and cheering each fighter on.

We got to fight full out and kick and struggle as hard as we could because our practice fights were with padded guys.

Like fighting in slow motion

The fights were exhausting. It felt like I was fighting in slow motion because, well… I was!

When I watched the other women fight the padded assailants it didn’t look anything like the fights you see in movies with quick powerful blows and cool superhero effectiveness. These awkward movements were labored and feeble.

I was one of the fittest women in the class because I was training regularly in cardio and strength and was working as a Pilates instructor at the time. I can’t imagine an unfit woman having much chance if I felt this inept.

It is totally demoralizing to fight a padded male who is twice your size and to realize you are not really able to do much.

It’s easy to get injured fighting full out when you have not been conditioned to strike against 200 pounds with bare hands and feet.

I was pretty badly injured but managed to hide it from my classmates

The last day of class I hurt my hip and groin muscle badly when I kicked the 200-pound assailant into the air and up off my body during my last fight.

I didn’t say anything about my injury at the time because I didn’t want to discourage my classmates who were so impressed by my strength and power. It took 6 months to recover fully from my injury.

By the last day, my classmates felt that we could do anything if we just asserted ourselves. I know a lot of the women left feeling less fearful.

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I sorely wished I was stronger after taking Model Mugging

Was model mugging worth it?

Model Mugging is better than nothing, but it would be much better to be conditioned over a longer period of time through resistance training before fighting padded models.

The class would be a roaring success if we built strength over a 6-month period then did the fights with the padded males. Of course, this would probably make it too dangerous for the models.

I not only injured myself during the two-weekend course, but I felt worse emotionally afterward and I was not sure why. The general concept is a good one and everyone else felt so triumphant.

I had this gnawing feeling that I hadn’t accomplished what I wanted to

We had been encouraged to bring up any past attacks in the hopes that fighting and winning against the model mugger would help us overcome the old fear.

I actually felt less effectual than before taking the class, but I did not know why. I was a little depressed after the class. I assumed it was because I hated fighting.

I had been raped while hiking when I was17 years old and weighed about 100 pounds. I had the disadvantage of being inside the car already so I was pinned down before I could think. There would have been little room to kick at that point.

The guy was much bigger and heavier than me and I didn’t resist because I knew I didn’t have a chance to get out from under. I knew my chances of coming away uninjured from a fight with this guy were slim.

Instead of physically struggling I had talked the guy out of continuing, so he had gone limp in shame halfway through the act and let me go.

I was proud of how I used my wits and had survived and had not gotten myself injured or killed.

I didn’t tell anyone except my boyfriend. He said it wasn’t a “real rape” because he knew a rape victim who had been badly beaten and I didn’t have a single scratch on me. He was not my boyfriend for much longer after that.

Resistance training is key to rounding out self-defense training

Years later I realized the reason I felt so let down after taking Model Mugging was that I had once again experienced firsthand how weak I was and how little chance I had against someone who was not only stronger but weighed a lot more than me.

The concept of using surprise, leverage, and fighting with the legs and fighting from the ground was a good one. But the emotional, and in my case, physical damage was done by not preparing us to be physically strong before experiencing a full out fight with a padded assailant.

I think they should still teach the two-weekend course but emphasize lifelong heavy bag strength training as well as the self-defense technique classes.

Martial arts may not be enough for protection

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It looks cool and it’s a great discipline but it might not be enough

I see the same issue with Martial arts classes. People tend to be overconfident after taking martial arts. I have studied both Ju Jitsu, and karate. In classes, we never built our strength to protect ourselves but instead built reflexes and flexibility. Without this vital missing element of resistance training through actually punching and kicking against an actual force, you are at a big disadvantage on the street.

Should you bother to take Model Mugging?

By all means, YES! Take model mugging or another self-defense technique class and also join a boxing gym or, if you have space buy a heavyweight bag and learn to do a heavy bag workout and practice 3 times a week. That will give you the strength you need to disable and aggressor long enough to get away in the event that you need to.

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