Lori Carter wrote this really nice article about me and my self-defense classes!
At barely 5 feet tall, Judith Fein doesn’t look like she could intimidate anyone. But, boy, can she.The petite, curly-haired Fein, 64, is a former Army sharpshooter. She holds a black belt in tae kwon do and has taught self-defense techniques for the past 32 years.With three books to her credit, Fein teaches her students that 85 percent of self-defense is psychological.
“Whoever wins the battle for intimidation wins,” she said. “I teach how to get the assailant to leave, or if not, how to leave him in a crumpled heap on the ground.”In her self-defense classes at Santa Rosa Junior College and the Finley Community Center, Fein weaves hands-on self-protection skills with assault prevention techniques gleaned through years of research.
Students tend to be women, but men and families come, too.
Fein began teaching self-defense in the mid-1970s after she realized that of all the classes available, none was geared toward women.
A college instructor in San Francisco, she has a black belt in the Korean form of karate – a distinction she earned by fighting a male tae kwon do expert in Korea.Despite her martial arts skills, Fein said she was one of the first to begin teaching the “psychology of fighting back.”
“I love it. I get chills when I hear the success stories,” she said. “I have the knowledge, the credentials and the power to empower people – especially women – to protect themselves.”
In addition to leading community self-defense classes, Fein also teaches tennis at San Francisco State University and San Francisco City College.After growing up in New York, Fein moved to San Francisco to teach.She spent summers along the Russian River and eventually decided to make Sonoma County her full-time home, buying a house about 15 years ago.
“I always wanted to live in the country,” she said. With her martial arts background, teaching self-defense came naturally to Fein, but she never set out to write books.
A San Francisco Examiner article on one of her classes in the 1980s sparked a publisher’s interest, she said.Fein has a fourth self-defense book in the works, and is trying her hand at writing a novel for the first time.
She also is the director of EVOLVE Institute for Violence Prevention in Sebastopol, a nonprofit violence-prevention program.She teaches prevention first in her self-defense classes. Because most in-home attackers come in through an unlocked door or window, Fein advises planting thorny blackberry bushes underneath accessible windows.
On the street, sidewalk, jogging path or at the mall, she says, pay attention your surroundings.
“Assailants are looking for a victim or prey,” she said. “They don’t generally randomly pick people; they target people who are not aware.”Get off the cell phone, she said. Turn down the iPod. Don’t be distracted.Once assailants target a victim, Fein said, they do an “intimidation test” to check if a potential victim can be bullied.
At least half the success stories she hears from former students are won at this crucial psychological point, she said.”Most women have been socialized to freeze when threatened,” she said. “A victim feels they have no other options. You’re powerful when you know you have options.”If a confrontation does becomes physical, Fein said, it’s not a lost cause. A small, physically weaker woman can still fight off a larger, more powerful male attacker.
Take Fein’s example: She once fended off six male attackers at an art show in San Francisco.
While she was taking pictures in what she thought was a safe environment, she said six thugs surrounded her and tried to steal her photo equipment.”I immediately got into this rage response,” she said. “I was furious, I yelled, I kicked at them. I sent out a force field of fury.”
In her classes, students practice simple, effective moves to stun or incapacitate an assailant. She recommends punching a male attacker in his Adam’s apple, kicking a kneecap or spraying teargas.
Fein said many of the psychological and preventative techniques she teaches can help avoid sexual harassment and bullying in work or school.”If I can do it, anyone can,” she said. “It’s not about age. It’s not about size. It’s not about weight. It’s all attitude.”