SHE feels his huge hands around her neck and his tightening grip. In an instant, with a series of hits and kicks, her tiny frame is free of her attacker, and she runs.
Irma Ischwara, a building draftsperson, is a qualified self-defence instructor, familiar with the techniques it takes to fend off a heavier, stronger male – in this case, her stand-in attacker is Tim Alexander, director of the Krav Maga training academy in Brisbane’s CBD.
“The techniques we learn give us the defensive tactics we need, but importantly give us situational awareness and confidence,” Ms Ischwara said.
Some of the women attention the Krav Maga studio signed up for fitness, others want to feel safe walking the streets or going to clubs and bars.
But some are here to ensure their own protection at home.
“It is not a point of being confrontational,” Mr Alexander said.
“We train in violence, but we hate violence.
“We train to feel in control and to deal with a situation.”
Most domestic violence involves a pattern of domination of one partner over the other.
Mr Alexander is aware that self-defence is often a woman’s only protection against further violence.
There are also situations when a woman hits back after experiencing a long history of violence and abuse from her partner.
Although she may use violence in this instance, she is not the most powerful or most dangerous person in the relationship and may continue to fear for her safety.
“Usually I don’t find out until later that a person coming here has suffered domestic violence,” Mr Alexander said.
“Women oppressed and controlled find it difficult to come to our training sessions.
“People are not forthcoming.
“There is a lot of shame and guilt placed on a woman.
“They believe it is their fault.”
Mr Alexander uses a program called “Stay Away” developed in Israel.
It is an introductory self-defence workshop for women, a starting point to stand up to men who are physically bigger and more powerful.
“We can empower a woman in a short amount of time,” Mr Alexander .
In the Krav Maga studio, a class of women set about practicing close contact defensive moves.
Mr Alexander is the male attacker.
The women demonstrate how to break free of a frontal attack, an attack with a knife to their face – using a dummy knife – and even an attack while they are vulnerable and lying on the floor.
“We teach women to use their natural reflexes,” he said.
“We start from a flinch response.
“Then simple strikes –hand, legs, knees. That’s self defence.”
The strikes are quick and powerful.
And when the attacker is repelled from a kick in the groin or off-balance, the woman’s first option is to run.
Mr Alexander said he had often seen the physical signs of domestic violence amongst women who came to his academy.
“The most common assault is a slap or punch to the face,” he said.
“A perpetrator can also be more calculating … this means bruising up the arms and shoulders.
“These sorts of injuries can be inflicted and then covered up.
“I’ve seen a woman like this, but with no injuries to the face.”
Mr Alexander stresses that his defensive training is about building confidence.
There have also been times that his team has stepped in to help women in situations of domestic violence.
“To provide the strength and courage,” he said.
“Not to fight back, but for the woman to leave, with our assistance.
“We have networks we can refer women to.
“We’ve not about confronting the individual, but we can offer the manpower to lift and shift and move a person out.”
By Mark Bowling