Published: Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 4:05 p.m.
By CHRIS SMITH
Sebastopol pair collaborate on “Breaking The Intimidation Game–The Art of Self-Defense”
Usually when Sebastopol’s Judith Fein and Nancy Worthington are at work, each does her own thing. Fein teaches. An innovator in the field of self-defense, the former Army captain leads classes and workshops that train people — most often, women — to unleash their rage at any would-be assailant and, if the attack persists, to fiercely fight back.Worthington is an internationally known artist whose works include kinetic
sculptures that are whimsical but sometimes sufficiently political to get them banished from museums and exhibits. The partners always have critiqued and encouraged each other’s professional endeavors. Now they’ve created something together. “This is a total collaboration,” Fein said of their shared project.
It’s a book. Fein wrote it as a culmination of her 35 years of research into rape avoidance and resistance, and Worthington illustrated it with images of compatible and complementary drawings, collages, mixed-media reliefs and sculptures that draw from her nearly 40-year career. The pair view their book, “Breaking the Intimidation Game: The Art of Self-Defense,” as their collective magnum opus. If it succeeds, the art-enhanced treatise will inspire women to train to be always vigilant about their safety and prepared to drive off or, if necessary, immobilize any attacker who mistakenly identifies them as likely to be intimidated.
“This is my fourth book, and I feel it’s the best,” said Fein, who teaches self-defense workshops Santa Rosa’s Finley Community Center and classes at San Francisco City College and San Francisco State University. She was instructor for 10 years at Sonoma State University. www.torrancepublishingcompany.com
The central premise of the book www.torrancepublishingcompany.com is that if a potential rapist or attacker targets a woman, the outcome will depend on who intimidates whom.
“An assailant generally doesn’t randomly approach anyone and decide to attack him or her,” Fein wrote. “He will approach someone he thinks will make a good victim — someone he considers vulnerable and not likely to fight back.”
She teaches that the best defense to a possible attack by a stranger is to be constantly aware of your surroundings and prepared to act if you sense that someone poses a threat.
“You walk with confidence and self-assurance,” she wrote. “If you notice someone attempting to target you, or if your gut feeling tells you the situation is dangerous, you need to magnify your level of awareness. You send out don’t-mess-with-me signals.”
Fein urges women to practice using their voices and rage to project a “force-field of fury” capable of dispelling any notion that they are easy prey. Should the attack continue, she tells women to strike — hard — at the most vulnerable parts of the assailant’s body: The eyes, nose, Adam’s apple, groin and knees.
Fein believes it’s essential for women to practice how they will respond should they be attacked or come to sense that a stranger is preparing to try something.
At the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, Capt. Matt McCaffrey agreed. “If you haven’t trained to do it,” he said, “when you get into a stressful situation you’re not able to do it, or you don’t do it well or you’re going to freeze up.” “Under stress, training kicks in,” the veteran lawman said. Like Fein, McCaffrey believes a woman’s best defense against a stranger attack is to carry herself with confidence, look people in the eye and honor a sense that someone may mean her harm. “If the hairs are going up on the back of your neck, they’re going up on the back of your neck for a reason” he said. He believes everyone should think about how they would respond should someone select them as a potential victim. Would it be worth the risk to fight someone who wants to steal your car or wallet? And McCaffrey agrees with Fein’s premise that in the event of an attack by someone whose intent is to rape or otherwise harm a woman, it’s a distinct advantage for her to have been trained to strike back and immobilize the assailant long enough for her to get away.
Worthington brought to the book project the color plates of 10 pieces of her art that she and Fein chose to illustrate each chapter.
Worthington, who was pursuing her masters in fine arts at Pennsylvania State University when she met post-doctoral student Fein there in 1973, said she has always aspired to the make the world a better place with her art.
“I’m not quite as idealistic as I used to be,” she said. “But I still think art can make a positive difference.”
With this new corroboration, she’s hoping her art will help prompt women to become prepared to summons their rage and power at the moment they need it most.