Lessons Learned: Kickboxer vs Rapist

An article featuring a British woman successfully defending herself from an attempted rape has been making rounds through social media. The gist of it is, a woman was walking home in the early morning when she was attacked. After being grabbed, pushed over a wall and taking several strikes to the face, she attempted an armbar, to no avail. The man hit her several more times and started grabbing at her shorts when she was able to secure a triangle choke, until he passed out. Once he was out, she rolled him off, ran inside and called the police as she heard him drive off in his car.[1]

I’m glad to see this type of news being shared and the woman being praised for her actions. However, I haven’t seen any type of after action analysis about this, which I believe could be useful for others. This post is going to examine this attack and provide you with some of my lessons learned.

This woman’s preparation started two years prior when she started kickboxing. Whether her motivation for starting that training were self defense based or not, I can’t say. I can say, at some point she wanted to expand on her kickboxing base and took up mixed martial arts and attended a Jiu Jitsu self defense seminar.[2]

The reports that I read provided very little insight into the events leading up to the attack. Here’s what we do know:

  • It was 2am
  • She was alone
  • The attacker’s car was nearby
  • The attacker was hiding nearby
  • The attacker assaulted a man in 2011 and attempted to drag the man’s girlfriend into his van.[3]
  • Jan, Feb and Mar combined have a total of 110 reported violent and sexual related crimes in that area.[4]

Lesson one: Be in the now. Here we are talking about situational awareness. The goal is to deter being chosen as a target, if possible, and if not, see the pre-attack indicators prior to being attacked. We do not want to be caught off guard. The report doesn’t specify if she was surprised by her attacker, but we can assume that she would have used strikes to defend herself if she saw the attack coming, as kickboxing is primarily a striking-focused martial art.

Lesson two: Know what threats you are likely to face. Get ahead of the power curve by learning what type of crimes are happening in your area and what tactics the criminals are using. I covered how to do this in the Specialized Threat Assessment posts. Also, create a strategy and tactics to have in mind for dealing with the crime you are most likely to encounter (should be able to cover multiple types). Covered this here and here.

The reports do not tell us where she was coming from or why she was out at that hour. These details are important, because it can show us whether this was an attack of opportunity or premeditated. Let’s say, for example, she was a bartender and coming home from work. She may have set a pattern of routes and times that her attacker was able to identify in the pre-attack phase. This could explain why his car was parked nearby, and he was hiding so close to where she was walking. This is just one possibility. For all we know, she could have been walking home from a friend’s house and this was a crime of opportunity where the attacker saw her as she walked, parked ahead on the route and waited. I doubt that this was the first time he has attempted something like this since his last attack in 2011. It’s more likely that he wasn’t caught. None the less, thinking about events ahead of time and mentally preparing ourselves for them can greatly increase our chances of survival. This is called visualization. I covered this here.

I don’t know the exact location of this attack, so I looked at the crime in the overall area. Doing some minimal research, I found that from January through March there were a total of 136 dangerous criminal acts in the town (robbery, possession of a weapon, theft from a person and violent/sexual crimes). Of the 136, 110 were violent and/or sexual.[5] I’m not so alarmed at the total number of crimes, the town has a radius of about 28 miles and a population of about 112,000.[6] I’m more concerned with the type of crime. So it looks like over a three month period, about 1 in every 823 people were victims of crime and about 80% of those are violent and/or sexual. Probably some good information to know when deciding what to prepare for.

Lesson three: Avoid, if possible. Just because we can be somewhere at the time we want to, doesn’t mean we should. For example, let’s pretend the woman is a bartender getting off of work. If she knew that 80% of crime was violent and/or sexual, she may have had a coworker walk with her or give her a ride. If we know the time and areas that are most dangerous, we should do our best to avoid going there.

Lesson four: Be well rounded. Don’t limit yourself to one discipline because those tools or skills may not be available to you when you need it.

The woman had been training in kickboxing for two years prior to this attack. The skills she learned did not directly change the outcome of the attack. She was grabbed and pushed over a fence. This is not exactly kickboxing range. She used two techniques that were learned in her MMA training and/or in the Jiu Jitsu course. However, I would say that the two years of training in kickboxing indirectly helped her in this situation. I’m sure that in the two years of kickboxing, she had to be hit more than a few times.

Talking with survivors of domestic abuse and rape, I’ve often been told that they would fight back until they were hit hard and in fear of getting hurt worse, they would submit to the attacker. Full contact sparring can help with learning how to recover from being hit and how to counter. Also, if you haven’t been hit in the face before, getting hit for the first time during an actual assault can be quite a shock. It’s fairly obvious that her kickboxing and MMA training helped her in this regard. This reminds me of a quote from Marc MacYoung, “Training is good. Training, that prepares you for the circumstances you are most likely to encounter, is better.[7] With that being said, being well rounded is a great goal to have.

Lesson five: Be adaptable. Don’t try to force a square peg into a circular hole.

While taking strikes to the face, the woman was able to control the attacker’s arm long enough to attempt an armbar. The attacker defended the armbar, punched her several more times and started trying to take off her shorts. Instead of trying to force the armbar, the woman recognized that her legs were still free then transitioned to a triangle choke.

If what you are trying to do isn’t working, don’t get stuck in it. I see this a lot in my Jiu Jitsu class. People will try a technique and the other person is defending against it really well. Instead of transitioning to something else that is available, they try to force the technique that is being defended and usually exhaust themselves without getting the submission. This is also about getting inside of your attackers O.O.D.A. loop and staying there. For example, if I have someone in my guard and the person sits back, I’m going to follow them up, hip bump the individual and attempt a kimura. If that is defended by pushing me back down, I’ll go for a guillotine choke on my way back down. If that fails, I might control the head, jump shoulder and go for an armbar, then a triangle…etc. See what I’m getting at? My attacker is always defending or adjusting to me and what I’m doing. Action is almost always faster than reaction. Be adaptable to the situation by avoiding being so focused on one thing, that you miss other opportunities to capitalize on.

Lesson six: Commit to your response. Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly.

From the start of this attack until she choked her assailant out, this woman was all in. She didn’t quit, despite being pushed over a wall and repeatedly punched in the face. It doesn’t matter what your actions are; run, fight, scream, shoot or all of the above. Once you start, commit to your actions and follow through.

A quick review:

1. Be in the now.

2. Know what threats you are likely to face.

3. Avoid, if possible.

4. Be well rounded.

5. Be adaptable.

6. Commit to your response.

This woman is an excellent example of responding to a threat. This event shows that hard work and training are an important part of successfully defending ourselves but we can always be more prepared.

What other lessons can you take away from this event?



1-2 Anthong Bond, “Sex Predator Knocked Out…,” Mirror, 19 May 2015 (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/sex-predator-knocked-out-after-5724822
3 Ben Wilkinson, “Pictured: The sex attacker…,” Daily Mail, 19 May 2015 (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3088616/Throttled-victim-sex-attacker-picked-kickboxer.html)
4-5 http://www.police.uk/gloucestershire/AB2/crime/
6 http://www.cheltenham.gov.uk/info/100003/community_and_living/839/cheltenham_borough_by_numbers
7 Marc MacYoung, “Dueling vs Survival,”(http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/knifedueling.htm)

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