“Nice Guys” Should Finish First

16 Feb

Sometimes people misinterpret me as a man-hater.  Not. True. I love men! I work with some of the most wonderful men in the world. These men volunteer their time as practice attackers for my self defense classes. These men respect people for who they are and what they do regardless of gender. These men would NEVER want to make a woman feel uncomfortable. That’s why these men would never approach a woman they didn’t know. They would rather die than be mistaken for a creeper.

What a dilemma.

To (straight) women who are ready to give up on men: Don’t! Don’t give up, but do change your dating strategy.

I once asked a wonderful group of proven “nice guys” how they approach women. Almost in unison, they quickly responded, “We don’t!” So, where does that leave the women who are waiting for some nice guy to sweep them off their feet? I’m sorry to disappoint you, ladies, but the fact is you need to approach them. It’s 2011, it will be ok. I’ve dated plenty of really nice guys. Do you know how many of them asked me out? Zero. Do you know how many turned me down when I asked them out? Zero. You can do it. Nice guys are not scary. Even if they are not interested for some reason, you can count on them to turn you down nicely!

More obviously, if you really want a nice guy but always go for the cocky jerks– stop it. There is nothing attractive about disrespectful men.

To nice guys: You are the real men.  It takes strength and courage to stand up for what is right with so little recognition or rewards. I know you guys take a lot of crap for being nice and respecting women, and that is so wrong. I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with that and I thank you for staying true to who you are. It will pay off in the long run.

Now, go out there and ask out that person who has caught your attention! Don’t worry! The very fact that you are concerned about coming off as a creep means that you definitely won’t. All you have to do is be yourself because you are the best kind of man. Don’t try to be charming or suave. Do introduce yourself and strike up a conversation about neutral topics. Don’t lead with, “Can I buy you a drink?” Do offer sincere compliments if you feel like it. If you feel chemistry, do ask if you can call sometime and then call.  (You will win big points for actually calling.) I sincerely wish you the best of luck. You go guys!

How To Love Push Ups (Even If You Can’t Do One Now)

14 Feb

I can’t tell you how many women walk into my studio feeling seriously demoralized because of a real or perceived lack of upper body strength. Yes, men naturally have more upper body strength than women and yes, it can be really annoying when a man can do more push ups or pull ups than you without training. So what can we do about this?

As once said, “Don’t be a cry baby. Be a try baby.”

Push ups have been called “the perfect exercise” because they truly work the entire body and you can do them anywhere with no equipment. Women, in my experience, sometimes approach this exercise with hesitation. I can’t really blame them. If I hear one more fitness instructor refer to push ups from knees as “girl push ups” I am going to puke. I watch men do sloppy, pointless push ups every day because they would have to go to their knees to do them properly. Meanwhile I see many women who are ready to do push ups from their toes but lack the confidence.

Anyone can learn to do proper push ups, even if they start out with very little upper body strength. As with any physical activity, it is important to learn proper form from a qualified instructor to avoid injury and maximize efficiency. After that, it all comes down to your personal commitment.

Check out this instructional video and get started today. Set a goal you can keep, but know that the more often you practice, the faster you will see results. I recommend working on your push ups at least once per day (it takes 5 minutes or less!) but if that seems daunting start with 3 times per week. Anything less than that will leave you feeling frustrated.

Self Defense and “The B Word”

10 Feb

So much of self defense involves standing up for ourselves in social situations when that creeper won’t leave us alone. Can you guess the reasons why women often don’t?

  • “I don’t want to be mean.” (You’re not being mean, he is.)
  • “I don’t want to be rude.” (You’re not being rude, he is.)
  • “I don’t want to create an awkward situation.” (…You see where I”m going with this.)

All these answers and more boil down to a deeper issue that most women don’t want to say out loud:

“I don’t want to be a bitch.”

Now, why would a woman fear being a bitch when she could in the same moment fear being disrespected, intimidated and having her space invaded? I’ll tell you exactly why. Because when you draw a firm boundary with a creeper that says, “No, you are not welcome in my space,” he will either leave with his tail between his legs OR your worst fears will be confirmed. His charm will evaporate, his face will contort, he will look at you like you are a cockroach and he will spit, “BITCH!” right in your face. Even worse, he may start announcing this to anyone who will listen. “Look at that bitch over there…”

When this happens, if you are not prepared for it, you will feel your heart drop into your stomach. Your skin will crawl and you will want to disappear. It is a horrible feeling, which is why most women will do anything to avoid it.

Do not despair! You can defend yourself from the B word, and, in case this wasn’t made clear: You are NOT a bitch.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” She was a smart lady. She’s pretty much beat me to my whole point in one powerful thought… but since you asked– I’ll elaborate.

“Bitch” in a self defense context is code for: “You won, and being beat by a girl is bad for my macho reputation.”

Keeping this in mind, consider the following.

3 Reasons You Should Not Feel Bad That Creeper Called You a Bitch:

  1. This word has nothing to do with you. It’s about him. He’s embarrassed and he’s lashing out.  You could be the sweetest, nicest person in the universe and this jerk would say the same thing.
  2. By flatly refusing to internalize his attempt to put you down, you win FOREVER. That was the best shot he had at making you feel bad, and if that didn’t work, he’s got nothin’. Plus, you know already that he feels bad if he’s resorting to the B word, so win-win for you!
  3. You ditched the creeper– sweet! The main point is, this guy was creeping you out. Now he’s peaced out with no harm done to you, so long as you remember Eleanor’s advice.  All things considered, that was pretty easy.

Now that you’ve thought about how damaging this word can be to women even to the point of keeping them in physical danger, I hope you will consider one more step in taking this power out of oppressive hands. Please consider dropping the B word from your vocabulary when it comes to other women. Sisterhood is still powerful. Why would we use the oppressor’s tools against our sisters? He’s doing a fine job keeping us down without our help.

Rape? Or Rape-ish?

4 Feb

Last week women’s rights activists rose up in firm opposition of a as part of the No Taxpayer Money for Abortion bill. The overwhelming response was effective in that the from the bill.

The issue in short:

The bill limited federal funding for abortion to victims of “forcible rape” or incest, or cases in which the mother’s health was in immediate danger.

Why this is a big deal:

The term is unclear, but suggests that certain kinds of rape– statutory rape, rape of a person with a cognitive disability, drug or alcohol facilitated rape, or many instances of date rape– don’t really count.


One revealed that only 12% of undergraduate students whose experiences fit the legal definitions of rape identified themselves as rape victims. The same study showed that 84% of college aged men whose actions would be legally classified as rape said what they did was “definitely not rape”.

While rape may have a variety of legal definitions, I use ‘s definition in my classes because I find it to be the most clear:

Rape: Vaginal, oral or anal penetration without consent. This can be with a penis, finger or other objects.

Consent*: A clear and freely given yes, not the absence of a no.

*If a person is under 18, mentally handicapped, or intoxicated (with alcohol and/or other drugs) beyond a certain point, they are not legally able to give consent to sex.

There is no gray area with rape. No matter the circumstances, it is defined primarily by a lack of consent.

I’ve been so upset about this issue, and I know others find it upsetting as well. To leave you on a lighter note, I’ll share this link to the commentary by one of my favorite feminists, .

25 Jan

If you are a woman and you go out dancing, you will likely feel the need to watch your back– literally.

The scene: You are dancing at a bar or club with your friends, having a great time, when all of a sudden you feel someone has creeped up behind you. A man is “grinding” his, ahem, pelvis, into your, ahem, rear end. Sound awkward? Alarming? Disgusting? That’s because it is!! And this happens more than you might think.

Just yesterday I overheard a conversation between two young women describing exactly this.

“…Yeah, we were having so much fun dancing! But then this creepy 40 year old man came up behind me and started grinding on me– well, actually I didn’t see him because I wasn’t gonna turn around and be like, ’Hello!?’, but then my friends pulled me away so it was ok…”

Two main points stand out to me about this.

First, I’ll address the men (and some lesbians, you know who you are):

It is NOT OKAY to touch someone without their consent. It is NOT SEXY to have a stranger “grind” on you without your consent. Finally, GRINDING IS NOT DANCING, and although it can be fun, you should probably get to know someone before you grind your junk on them. Call me crazy.

If you want to impress/charm/romance a woman, or even if you just want to get a woman to notice you, the above strategy is not the way to go. You need to learn how to do 2 things: 1) Dance and 2) ASK someone to dance. Just as I was getting worked up this dancing issue, I was fortunate enough to chat with one of my best friends who had a refreshingly different experience. This young man who she has been flirting with was at a show with her, and he walked up to her and he said, “Do you want to dance?” What a man. He won BIG points for that one. And then, if this wasn’t clear, they danced. They did not “grind”. Don’t know how to dance? Take a class or learn from a friend you trust. It’s a natural form of human expression, and anyone can do it.

Now for the women:

It’s not your fault that men are doing this these days, and we shouldn’t have to constantly be on guard, but if this happens to you (and it can happen to anyone, it has happened to me many times), you have the tools to address the situation.

Remember the woman I overheard? “…well, actually I didn’t see him because I wasn’t gonna turn around and be like, ’Hello!?’…”

My question to her– why not? What’s the worst that could happen if you turn around and say, “Hello!?”

This shouldn’t be our responsibility, and I wish things were different, but as it is– if you do nothing when a man does this to you, he learns the lesson that it is okay for him to do this to women because there are no consequences of any kind and his little friend gets some over the pants action out of the deal. Now he will go on to do this to other women, because it worked out pretty well for him the first time.

More importantly, how does it feel to stand there and let this happen? My guess is it leaves a lot of women feeling helpless, embarrassed, disgusted, and more. Can you imagine a different reality? What if it looked a little more like this?

Man creeps up behind for an anonymous grind.

Woman: (turns and makes eye contact) “Excuse me?! Do I know you? Don’t you know it is extremely rude to touch someone without asking?!” (walk away)

Personally, I just give ‘em a sharp elbow/eye contact/”Back OFF, buddy!”. Every person is different. To each her own. So think about what seems most natural to you, and if it seems scary to try in real life, practice it in your head or even out loud until you feel confident about what you would say in this situation.

Remember, if someone touches you without your consent and makes you feel creeped out, that is a RED FLAG, even if the person seems attractive in other ways. You can do better. Hold out for the one who asks you to dance.

21 Jan

Last night I watched comedy special (she’s hilarious and super smart) and she had me rolling on this one particular joke.

Long story short, she described the experience of 5 guys in the back of a truck yelling cat calls at a woman jogging and posed the question, “In the history of the world, do you think that strategy has ever worked?!” (Go watch her special “Money Shot” for the punch line, it’s available on Comedy Central or through her website. P.S. Support , they are awesome and underrepresented.)

Anyway it got me thinking about all those times on a minimum-weekly/maximum-daily basis that we women get harrassed on the street, and how nasty it can feel. In NYC it is so bad that women have demanding that lawmakers consider passing legislation to restrict it.

Here are some things to consider when you have this experience:

1. Know that it is not a compliment, no matter what they say.

When you holler at EVERY woman and girl who passes you by, it is not a compliment. When you say invasive, nasty stuff like, “I bet you look real good in the morning” (someone said that to me recently, I didn’t make it up) that is not designed to make you feel good about yourself. It is designed to make him feel like he has the right to say anything he wants to any woman, because he doesn’t respect us.

2. Recognize that it has nothing to do with how you look or how you dress.

There have been days in the winter where I was so ridiculously bundled up and in a hurry that I looked like a large cranky muppet walking down the street, and my face was barely visible. It was barely clear that I even was a woman and I STILL got hollered at. I was like, “Seriously?!” Anyway there are some ignorant people out there who will suggest that when a woman trys to look nice, she is “asking for attention”. These are the same people who say that women “ask” to get raped. They are wrong. Period. Never doubt that. Unless I point a gun at a man’s head on the street and yell, “HOLLER at me! GO ON! NOTICE ME!!”, then it was HIS choice.

3. Remember that you have a voice too, and you can use it.

Ok I know this may sound cheesy or over-the-top, but here is my standard verbal response to creepy street harrassment:

“It is not ok for you to talk to me, or any other woman that way.”

I don’t use for every, “Hey, pretty lady.” but you better believe I used it for Mr. “I bet you look real good in the morning.”

If they try to argue, I don’t bother engaging but sometimes finish with a firm, “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

Give it a try. It works for me. They never see it coming. You walk away feeling like you took control of the situation and ended with the upper hand. What if we all said this, every time? Is it possible they would get the message? I don’t know, but my feeling is that it is worth a try.

19 Jan

Interested in taking a class? Check out this video to see some former SAFE students who started with no previous experience and went on to train in Shaolin Kempo Karate:

Upcoming SAFE classes at Villari’s Martial Arts (401 N Lake St; Madison, WI)–

Wednesdays Feb 2-Feb 23 5:30-7pm and

Saturdays Feb 26 & March 5 9am-12pm

6 hrs instruction/ $59. Current Villari’s members get 50% off. $10 off if you bring a friend!

Call (608) 251-7755 or e–mail murphy@villarismadison.com to register for the class.

18 Jan

Does this sound familiar to you?

“Oh I could never do that….”   (Note: this is one step away from, “Little old me?”)

I can’t believe how many women stop themselves from doing something because they think they can’t, or they think it’s not for them, or they think they are too weak/too uncoordinated/too out of shape/too skinny/too fat/too shy/too scared… It is in these moments that I just want to scream, “With the WHOLE WORLD telling us we can’t/shouldn’t for any number of reasons no matter what the challenge, be it taking a calculus class or trying martial arts or saying what we really mean– why, why, WHY?! would you tell that to yourSELF?!!”

I’m not angry at women, just to clarify. I’m angry at a system that teaches us to keep ourselves down. And I’m not disregarding the great leaps that women have made. I’m just sad that so many women have yet to realize their own personal power.

Example: Last summer my friends and I started a weekly soccer game at the park. I had never played soccer before and I was not very good at it, but that described about half the group and we were just playing to have fun. Pretty soon, the split became clear. The guys (even the shy ones!) would join with confidence, laughing at their own mistakes and compensating for lack of experience with can-do attitude. The women (even the confident ones!) got quieter and quieter and dropped off one by one until we finally had to cancel the game because the remaining regulars were a bunch of jerks who couldn’t stop saying stuff like, “Wow that girl can really run! I don’t know if I should be impressed with her or ashamed of myself!” and any time someone missed an opportunity “Man UP!” and when they ended up on the team with more women, “Hey, don’t you think we should even out the teams?” I spoke my mind but I had to leave the game because I was afraid I would start maiming people with my cleats if I stayed. (Which would be wrong, so very wrong…)

The point is, the way I saw it, we women defeated ourselves first. When someone spends the whole game looking embarrassed and apologizing, it’s easy for the other team to lose respect for that person. It’s still wrong, but I’m going for end results here and I really believe that if we had held our heads high and acted like we believed in ourselves, other people would have seen our potential too.


Please. Not for me but for you– the next time something sounds fun/interesting to you and you think you might like it, go ahead and try it! Even if you think it is way out of your league. Even if other people think you won’t succeed. AND keep in mind that ANYONE, of any gender, is likely to suck at something new when they first start out, so nix the negative self-talk. Trust me, I’m a martial arts instructor and I can tell you that the best anyone can do on day one is “Pretty good, for your first day!” In the movies we see a training montage, but in real life that stuff takes time. Usually more time than you think! When trying something new, you’ve GOT to cheer yourself on and celebrate small successes.

***A special note on CLASSES in physical activities:

Any facility with members (a gym, dance studio, martial arts studio, etc.) should have some sort of free trial class or week, or at least the ability to buy a small package to see if the place is the right fit for you.

If you go to a class and the instructor makes you feel bad about yourself, it’s not you. It’s them. I’m speaking as a professional. You are the customer and any QUALIFIED fitness instructor should make you feel welcome, encouraged and supported. As you develop skills, yes, instructors should challenge you, but no, they should never criticize, embarrass or condescend to you. Listen to your intuition. Does the instructor respect you and treat you with care and special consideration as a newcomer to the class/studio? If not, look for another place that treats you like they want your business.

Yes you can!!

The EYES have it.

17 Jan

I don’t like to pick favorites, but if I had to pick a favorite self defense tool for women I might choose eye contact.

One of my kickboxing instructors shared this totally empowering story with me this morning:

A Martial Artist Goes Abroad

This instructor shared with me that she finds she carries herself differently since learning self defense and martial arts. Most recently, she was visiting Turkey with some friends. As they got on board a train together, she noticed that a man who had been giving her a creepy vibe in the station boarded the same car. She started nudging her friend, moving them farther away from this potential creeper, only to find that he closed the distance with every move. (This, for any of you who may not yet realize, should always be a red flag.) Finally she told her friend they had to do something about this creeper. The friend had not noticed him but was willing to follow her suggestion: “We’re going to face him, and we’re going to look at him.” They did and, uncomfortable that the tables had been turned, the man exited at the next stop.


Here’s another story from a former student, let’s call her Emily…

During a check-in time before a women’s self defense class, I asked if anyone had any relevant experiences to share from the week. Emily, a fairly quiet woman of slight build and big eyes, raised her hand. “Last week after class,” she said, “I was riding home on the bus and playing a puzzle game on my Nintendo DSi. It was late, so the bus started clearing out. At one stop, a man got on and sat directly next to me, even though there were plenty of open seats. He turned to me and said, (insert creepy attitude here) ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ At first I didn’t know what to do but then I remembered that you said to look them in the eye, so I turned and I stared him in the eye– but then I didn’t know what to say so I just said (loudly) ‘I”m playing a puzzle game on my Nintendo DSi!’ And he seemed surprised and he said, ’Well I guess I’d better let you get to it,’ and he moved to another seat.”

These are some of my favorite kinds of self defense stories. We know that most of sexual assault is committed by someone the victim knows, and that “stranger danger” is often blown out of proportion. Still, I don’t know a single woman who hasn’t (repeatedly) had the experience of being “creeped on” by strangers and felt powerless to stop it. What I hope women will see from these stories is that simple choices like making eye contact, standing up straight and speaking in a clear voice can put the power immediately back in your hands.

If you have a story you’d like to share, please comment or e-mail me at atrevinomurphy@gmail.com.

Self defense weapons

8 Dec

When I teach self defense classes, women frequently ask me whether self defense weapons like pepperspray, keys etc. are a good idea. There are a lot of people out there who would say yes, mainly those trying to sell you something. Personally, I’m not a fan and I encourage you to think critically before putting your trust in weapons.

The main point is this: a weapon is only as effective as the person weilding it. Do you have training in using weapons? If not, you’re better off without it. In fact, of all the stories my mother and I have heard from women who have survived stranger attacks, NONE of them used weapons– but most of them broke their attackers’ bones!

The other reason I don’t like weapons, is because I believe they help to create a feeling of living in fear. In order for a weapon to be useful, it has to be ready in hand. Do I need to walk around carrying a reminder that I fear for my life at all times? Probably not.

Here are some specific weapons and things to consider:


You’ve probably heard of poking keys between your fingers to make a little claw? The idea is to punch or scratch at vulnerable spots on your opponent’s body (eyes, throat, groin…). Here are the problems with this plan:

1) If you are lacing keys between your fingers, there is a good chance that when you strike with them you will end up hurting your own hand. Not the point!

2) The only way to really hold the keys steady is if you hold one key in your hand like a tiny knife. A lot of self defense blogs recommend this. I dont really see why it’s worth the trouble, unless you happen to be holding your key this way preparing to unlock a door. If you’re going to scratch someone why not just use your fingers and nails?

If I were going to use keys as a weapon, I would just use the keys in my hand (held in a generic grab) and smack someone across the face with them. Other than that, I don’t see any advantage to using keys over your own hands and fingers.


This is one of those weapons that is way harder to use than you would think. It often comes in a case or pouch with a closure so in order to use it you would have to take it out of the pouch, make sure the spraying end is facing the right way, aim, and spray. Unless you have it in your hand and ready to go, it’s not going to help you.

I will say, if you were to use it effectively, this would definitely deter your opponent. There are some people out there who have trained to resist it, but the odds that one of those people would attack you are slim to none.


Are you an expert with this weapon? If not, not only would you be unlikely to use it effectively for self defense, but there is a chance that it could be taken away from you and used against you.

One of the master instructors in our system of martial arts put it well when he said, “There are two people in a knife fight– the bleeder and the gusher.” Don’t want to bleed? Don’t carry knives for self defense.

The weapons I do recommend:

1) Your voice.

Case after case shows that screaming works, negotiation works, assertive boundary setting works.

2) Your palms, fingers, nails.

I have heard many stories of untrained women breaking their attackers cheek bone with a committed palm strike to the face!

3) Your elbows and knees.

Women are likely to be grabbed and elbow/knee strikes are great for in close fighting.

4) Your feet (for stomping, not kicking).

Kicks are difficult, but anyone can stomp. Stomp through feet, shins, knees. Some women’s shoes can make these moves even more effective! (Seen the movie with Rachel McAdams anyone?)