Wednesday, July 3, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Crime Busters

Self-Defense Course Is Helping Women Empower Themselves

Questions about crime

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Call Christy Scattarella at 946-3972.

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South Times

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A woman is about to be attacked.

She charges her assailant with all her strength. She kicks him in the groin. He bends forward, ducking his head. The next kick is to the head.

The would-be attacker passes out cold.

The woman with the lightning foot is neither Superwoman nor a female Bruce Lee.

According to Judith Roth, director of a self-defense course called "Powerful Choices," this woman could be anyone.

Roth said she teaches women how to knock out a potential attacker in five seconds flat. A woman's physical size is irrelevant, she says. The secret to power is attitude, knowing how to use one's body and lack of inhibition.

Women in her course learn not only kicks and strikes, but how to empower themselves through setting boundaries and standing up for themselves, she said.

Roth recently held a short self-defense course in Federal Way for 18 women. The course covered assertiveness, communication and awareness. Her regular sessions run 27 hours and cost $525. Formerly called "Model Mugging," the program has been taught to 8,000 women around the country over the past 19 years and to 300 Seattle area women for the past year and a half.

"Powerful Choices" is in the process of becoming a local nonprofit organization, she said.

Self-defense is an important skill for women, Roth said. One in three women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime, according to the FBI.

"We hear about rape, about women getting killed, but we don't hear what women can do in these situations," she said. "Women are seen as victims, as not having the ability to protect themselves."

"What we do (in the course) is break out of years of conditioning."

Women in the course come from all walks of life. Some are from sheltered environments, while others are victims of rape and incest.

"Some of these women have so much anger, and fear and grief," Roth said. "Instead of being overwhelmed by those feelings, they learn how to use that energy to counterattack."

The course is spiritual as well as physical, Roth said. Women stand in a circle and shout "No!" from "way down in their gut," she said.

Setting boundaries is very important, she said. For instance, when a woman is walking down the street and someone threatening begins to approach, a woman typically looks away, as if nothing is happening.

Or she might feel helpless and freeze. A woman can stop an attack from ever happening simply by communicating to a suspicious-looking person - either through glares or strong language - that he has no right to get any closer.

(Police agree that the best way to prevent a crime is to be aware of one's surroundings and act confidently.)

Roth said empowerment goes beyond self-defense. She told of one woman who'd completed the course who was irritated by a drunk on a bus.

The woman told the man to sit down and leave everyone alone. The man did. A woman who saw a man exposing himself started screaming that everyone should look and see what he was doing. The man ran off. Another woman saw a group of men beating up a transient. She told them to stop, and they did.

"I don't think women without training would have the courage to take charge like that," she said.

The self-defense course is offered in Seattle and Bainbridge Island; the course also will be taught in Tacoma starting in October, Roth said. For more information, call 726-7894 in Seattle.

Crimebusters, by Times South bureau reporter Christy Scattarella, appears Wednesday.

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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