Beating the freeze: Warren hosts women's self-defense course

  • Published
  • By R.J. Oriez
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
When Deb and Tim Shafer talked of "beating the freeze" to a group of women in the Fall Hall Community Center last week, they were not talking about weatherizing homes to face Cheyenne winters. They were talking self-defense.

The Shafers were at Air Force Global Strike Command's F. E. Warren Air Force Base April 7 to teach a self-defense course for women. The event, sponsored by the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program stressed that presence of mind is one of the most important factors in a survival situation.

"It's beating the freeze," Mrs. Shafer said. "You have something to do instead of nothing. That's what self-defense is all about."

Mr. Shafer, who towers over his wife of six years, gives an example of the freeze.
"Do you know what the natural reaction would be if I tried to choke Deb?" Shafer asked as he wrapped his hands around his wife's neck. "Do you know the reaction nine-out-of-ten people would have?" His wife demonstrated by reaching up and taking ahold of his wrists.

"They actually help me, because she's keeping my hands there," Shafer said. The couple went on to demonstrate what one trained response could be.

"This is so easy guys," Mrs. Shafer told the class. "It doesn't have to be hard."

The Shafers explained a man's strength tends to be in his shoulders and arms.
"A man's strength is up high," Mr. Shafer said. "That's great for a lot of things, but it makes you top heavy. Women's strength comes from the legs and the waist."

Mrs. Shafer showed the class how turning with her legs and her hips she could slip out of the hold.

"The first thing is identifying that I am going to have a natural, physiological reaction in a self-defense fight that may be contrary to what I really want," Mr. Shafer said. "If I can have a trained response, however simple, that is self-defense."

That realization was the goal of Kathy McCoole, SAPR program assistant, in sponsoring the self-defense workshop.

"It is very important for women to understand their strength," Ms. McCoole said. "It empowers them to be less of a target and more capable of taking care of themselves."

During the three-hour workshop, the Shafers showed the women techniques to deal with situations such as being followed, grabbed from behind or pinned down. They did not limit the lesson to breaking holds but also demonstrated ways to give a predator second thoughts about continuing an attack.

"The Shafers are not here to teach them how to kill their predator." Ms. McCoole said. "They are here to teach them how to escape from a predator, to take the predator down, to disable them long enough for the victim to get away."

At the end of the afternoon, the women had the opportunity to use the moves they had been taught in a final exercise the Shafers call "The Mill." Each student took her turn on the mat as her classmates came at her, rapid-fire, one after another.

"It's called muscle memory," Mrs. Shafer explained. "You want them to respond automatically."

"It was pretty intense," said Senior Airman Nicole Bishop, 90th Communications Squadron. "You get to use all the moves we learned on each other. It showed how, if someone actually were attacking you, your adrenalin would just get going and you knew exactly what to do once we learned everything.

"I had a blast, I really did." Airman Bishop added with a smile.