Fighting Back!

For women who want tools for self-defense, not necessarily a black belt.

Illustration by: Jing Jing Tsong

Every morning, media personality Cindy Paliracio vows never to let herself become a victim again. When this well-known Island reporter was in college, she was assaulted in a dark alley one night.

“I was meeting my friends at the movies at the old Kuhio Theater in Waikiki. The parking lot connected to the theaters via a dimly lit path, and I rushed down the alleyway, preoccupied because I was running late. Someone leaped out of the shadows and grabbed me from behind,” she recalls. “I really thought I was going to die.”

She also knew, however, that she wanted to live. “I hit him with my purse, which stunned him enough to let me go. Then I ran like hell.” This fighting spirit is exactly why she plans to take an upcoming assault prevention course for women.

Every other month or so, about a dozen women meet for The Hawaii Zenyo Jujitsu Kai course. It’s a four-hour class that teaches basic self-protection moves. “Most women want to protect themselves. They just don’t know how,” says instructor Steve McLaughlin, a black belt in jujitsu who also has advanced degrees in other martial arts. He’s been offering the course for 29 years in Hawaii and Las Vegas.

Katherine Fisher recently took the class. “At first I was nervous, because women don’t usually interact physically with one another. But I quickly realized the techniques were easy to learn, and non-combative, and we all actually took on a playful attitude. He made it fun.”

Fisher adds, “It built up my confidence. I think we all left class standing a little taller.”

Make no mistake, this is not a martial arts class. McLaughlin’s techniques, he says, are based on common sense. “These moves are so simple, a 10-year-old can do them. In fact, I’ve had students as young as 10 and as old as 80. I’ve even taught a class of blind women and their seeing eye dogs!”

McLaughlin demonstrates just how easy it is by walking me through a choke escape. I’m leaning up against a wall and he wraps his hands around my neck. “Now drop down to the ground, quickly!” he coaches. I do. The sudden change of angle throws off the attacker and releases the grip.

This is one of many scenarios McLaughlin covers in his half-day clinic in Nuuanu. The most important lesson, though, is to avoid trouble altogether.

The next class is Jan. 25. Last day to register is Jan. 20.

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