This morning on my way to teach my first Women’s Self Defence Seminar at Phoenix MMA in Bournemouth, I was mugged and had my kit bag taken; you can’t make this up. I had noted a disturbance in The Force since I had rolled out of bad, as I suffered an epic wardrobe malfunction before rushing out the door ever so slightly behind schedule to meet my friend and team mate, Charlotte, who was joining me to assist at the seminar, but I dismissed my 6th sense as nonsense. Little did I know that this tremor was a harbinger of much greater ‘ball ache’ than I could have anticipated bright and early at 8AM on a Saturday morning.
What Went Down
As I purposefully strode the 10 minute route from my home to the Tube, truckin’ along to make good time, I noticed a young man behind me. I noticed too that he crossed the street when I did and seemed to be getting closer to me. He was young and wearing two hoodies pulled low down his face; unhappily, I assume that young ‘Hoodies’ are just teens, not criminals, and while I sort of thought he might be following me, London’s a busy place and many people walk that route to the Tube, so I didn’t take the little bit of wary instinct I had about him seriously. Was still considering whether or not he might be a threat or if I was imagining that he was following me/trying to get closer when an arm passed across my field of vision and someone was grabbing me from behind with their right forearm passing in front of my throat. Funny thing was, it was almost a respectful ‘grab’ as there was no grip with the other hand, the forearm wasn’t tight round my throat and it was almost cuddly. I was shocked and stunned and without thinking tucked my chin and put both my hands onto his forearm but was sort of paralysed by indecision as he began dragging me backwards as my brain started processing a number of threads of thought very rapidly:
- Seriously?! Can I, should I hip throw?! What the EFF! Immediately questioned that I was actually being mugged but had the grips on his arm and looked towards my left knee thinking this is when you throw, but I was in shock and I wasn’t immediately confident that I should be throwing people around – seemed like a joke. Total denial.
- Is this someone I know taking the piss? The grab wasn’t very tight and didn’t seem ‘real’, but I suppose I’m used to being lovingly smashed by hard-arse dudes on a regular basis, so I wondered if it was a friend from the neighbourhood taking the Mick. Still in denial.
- That dude *was* following me! Recognised that this was the boy who had been trailing me, and that he had actually been following me, not simply walking in the same direction.
- Hip throw! Too late. When the grab happened his weight was close to me and forward as his chest was on my back, but I had spent too much time in shock determining that this was *really* happening and he had dragged me backwards and compromised my balance and I was now leaning backwards.
- Shit, is he armed?! I tried to see if he had a weapon and saw his left hand on my shoulder, which was empty. He was not holding a weapon, but I could not be positive he was not carrying a weapon on his person.
- Don’t fall! Was getting dragged back and started to fall, so dropped to a seated position. He almost lost his grip round my throat at this stage, but remained behind me. I started turning towards him with my hands on my head to protect my face – don’t hurt the pretty! The threat of a weapon being produced is now very much my concern.
- What’s he saying? Became aware that he’s been saying something while this has been going on. Ah, it is give me the bag.
- Give him the bag and this ends. Realised that he wasn’t much of a physical threat – if no knife or other weapon came into play – and that he was only interested in my kit bag and was not immediately escalating to a more threatening physical or sexual assault. Little part of me sized up his scrawny, untrained 5 foot 6 ass and thought you can take this dude no problem, but the much more reasonable part of me vetoed that action and extended my left arm so he could easily remove the bag and we could end our acquaintance.
So, I gave him the bag, but I didn’t really want to lose my stuff and have to deal with the fallout of having a bag stolen and therefore miss teaching the seminar in Bournemouth. I gave chase. I jogged behind him, not with the intention of catching him, but hoping he’d drop the bag as I screamed ‘Please drop the bag’ at the top of my voice as I followed him. Thank you, members of the public, for enjoying the show in stunned inaction, no really, I got this, it’s fine. As he got towards the end of the street and began to round the corner, I sprinted to catch up and see which way he would go. He turned right into a square. I slowed down and crossed the street to stay on the edge of the square with easy escape routes as this square often has a large group of young men hanging about and I didn’t want to run into an ambush of a dozen 18 year old pricks, potentially with weapons. Couldn’t see the whelp that took my things, but really didn’t want to enter the square so gave up chase and jogged home, cancelled cards, phone and seminar and reported the robbery to the police.
The Moral of the Story
I am really happy that I walked away from this encounter totally unscathed, but seriously bummed to have had to deal with the aftermath and therefore miss running the seminar at Bournemouth – was so pumped for it! Yes, the robber was lucky enough to get away with my white Koral MKM, my Fenom purple belt, my fav crop top, my 2 year old iPhone 3G, my debit cards and the coppers in my wallet, my Oyster card, the kit bag itself and, worst of all, my most recent training journal with all my Ninja secrets, but big whoop. It is just property, and used property at that – wouldn’t a trip to the charity shop have been a less dramatic way to get your hands on someone else’s used stuff? At any rate, it was certainly not worth the risks associated with seeking to give the street urchin a hiding.
What do I hope to learn from this experience? Number one, I won’t be wearing headphones while walking about any longer. Coach’s admonitions to not wear them fell on deaf ears. He was 110% correct. Perhaps, if I had not had them in, I could have better detected him running up behind me and legged it before he got his arm around me. Number 2, people really do have the effrontery to mug you. I was in such deep denial for the first half of the encounter, which I guess couldn’t have lasted longer than 10 seconds, that I couldn’t take very effective action. For me, it is such a shock to meet someone so totally uncivilised and I hope to continue to assume the best in people while being a bit more prepared for the worst.
Addendum: I smell bacon
I freely admit that I can take a rather dim view of the police and ‘authoritay’ in general. Right here and now I gotta swallow my pride and give them props and love for the fantastic job they have done with my case. My local police were at my door within minutes of phoning in the report and they took me on a car ride through the area to see if we could spot the perpetrator while taking my statement. They called me later that day to follow up and to ask if I was okay and could add any further details. Then, this morning, another officer visited my home to see if I was free of trauma and might be able to add anything to my statement. He was very kind a reassuring and, as the officers on the day had noted, was very surprised by the timing of the attack as that time on a Saturday morning is not normal for our area. Further, he claimed that there had been no street robbery at all in our patch for 7 months, reinforcing the extraordinary circumstances. The police have also been great in making me feel confident that I did the right thing in terms of not resisting over property and following the perp after the encounter ended in order to supply them with more intelligence. They have given me some useful pointers too. Firstly, it is advisable to get a call to the police ASAP. Clearly I had had my phone taken, but if in the same position again I hope to have the presence of mind to ask one of the members of the public to call it in, immediately. My local area has crack units that are dedicated to responding to robbery calls and they would’ve been on the scene within minutes before the trail had gone cold. Secondly, to not feel that I might be ‘making a meal of it’ if I have any suspicion that I might be being followed, just call 999. Now, this is a little tricky and the officer was sensitive to the fact that I might feel a very low level threat from an anonymous dude many times in a day; it is extremely difficult to recognise when that is a bona fide warning instinct or not. Going to work on being at a slightly higher Def Con of awareness even when out and about in the Spring sunshine, while not being totally paranoid and anxiety-ridden. At any rate, have been hugely impressed by the sensitivity and professionalism of my local police and I am really grateful for their help and kindness.
14 May 2011 @ 12:42 pm
Props to you Meg for handling the situation maturely. Nothing simulates the real experience of a ‘street’ attack no matter how much training. You shoulda done this, shoulda done that…easy in the aftermath. Continue to walk out there proud and strong, nothing else you could have done.
14 May 2011 @ 2:16 pm
Thank you, Meerkatsu, really appreciate your comment. Tried to recall as frankly and accurately as possible what happened and I hope it is useful to helping someone else avoid a similar experience, but then again, sometimes things happen and we are only mortal, not omnipotent, so you gotta go with it when it goes down. Just so so happy there was no knife pulled!
14 May 2011 @ 1:08 pm
My favorite book is THE GIFT OF FEAR by Gavin De Becker. In it he talks about how modern women are taught to ignore their instincts, to convince themselves that this man is not going to harm them, that they’re overreacting, etc. He says that when women feel like they’re being followed that they tend to act more like a victim and don’t directly look at the person and walk more quickly. He recommends stopping, staring at the person and letting them pass you while directly watching them so that way you look more aggressive, you get a good solid look at them, and you protect yourself better. Since then it’s what I do when I feel nervous that someone may be following me. I turn around and stare at them until they pass.
I’m so terribly sorry that happened!!! Big internet hugs!!!!
14 May 2011 @ 2:22 pm
Julia, indeed, I walk with purpose and with my gaze up and if I had had a very strong sense that he intended to mess with me, I believe in this case I would have broken into a wee sprint to round the corner to the Tube where there would be many folk and Tube workers about; I wasn’t at all far from the corner when the encounter happened. I was, however, wrapped up in my head worrying about getting to Bournemouth in good time and etc and I suppose not at all at the top of my awareness game on a lovely early morning. Like you suggest, perhaps I’ve also learned not to listen to myself and while I certainly don’t want to live with fear and distrust in my heart, perhaps there is a middle ground. I will check out this book; thanks for the recommend.
Hugs gratefully received and I am all good! xox
14 May 2011 @ 3:05 pm
Meg! I am so glad you are safe! And so sorry you had to go though all of that. I would have been so scared. I think I would have been right there with you… not believing someone was actually mugging me.
Totally sucks that he got away with some of your things, but at least that is all he wanted, and most importantly I am glad you are safe. There is no replacing you! <3
14 May 2011 @ 3:11 pm
Aw, so sweet, Stephanie, thank you! Indeed, no bag of old junk is worth scuffling over. The whole denial aspect of the encounter has me most intrigued; want to know more! xox
14 May 2011 @ 7:50 pm
Glad you’re safe Meg. As you say, you can’t make this stuff up. As Meerkatsu said the adrenaline/emotion of such a situation can’t be prepared for and ultimately your background didn’t fail you and you handled it in a confident and rational manner.
14 May 2011 @ 10:07 pm
Thank you, Victor, that means a lot coming from you, my jits brother. x
14 May 2011 @ 9:17 pm
Meg, I’m glad that you are well. It will take time for you to process your encounter. It sounds like you handled the event well. Don’t beat yourself up over what you did or didn’t do. You’re safe and sound, that is what matters most. Oh, BTW, I ordered the white Fenom gi that you reviewed. Your review was spot on and I love my new gi. Thanks and HUGZIES, Jodi
14 May 2011 @ 10:09 pm
Jodi, thank you, and you are the one who is spot on about accepting that it went well to the extent that I am fully unharmed (and I get an upgrade on my obsolete phone – HAHA ;P). Really appreciate your thoughts and I am psyched that you love the Fenom. I have love for a lot of gi, but I have a special affection for that company. Thanks again x
15 May 2011 @ 5:14 am
…so glad to read through that and hear you came out the other side safe and sound. From a self-defense perspective you did EXACTLY the right thing once you realized he wanted your bag and handed it over.
Things are replaceable, your smiling face not so much.
15 May 2011 @ 12:15 pm
Thank you, Zen Mojo! Indeed, the police agree with you and reassured me that it was 100% the best course of action to hand it over without a fuss. It was pretty clear that my body wasn’t in immediate danger and I could get on the other side of the encounter quickly by giving up my bag. Always thought to myself that if I were mugged and my property was demanded I’d give it up, glad I did, but is does take a moment to realise what the eff is going on. Nothing can prepare you for that and I’m trying not to beat myself up over it 🙂
15 May 2011 @ 11:46 am
Glad your safe Meg, thats the main thing, the situation could have escalated so fast within seconds. Have you retraced your steps in the event, where your gym bag might have been dropped by the low life? My one humble tip on safety I keep my phone and wallet in my jeans pocket or jacket, seperate from my gym kit(bag). So in case I get rumbled at least they wont have taken everything.
15 May 2011 @ 12:18 pm
Hi Hanif! Thanks, I’m glad too, and I agree that there are too many unknowns to risk any sort of escalation if an easy way out is offered.
Just added a bit to the story as far as police involvement and, yes, we did retrace through the area to see if the bag was dropped, no such luck, but really am not at all bothered that my things are gone; I can get new and better things. Just feels awful remembering the event and feeling a little weird about walking about my neighbourhood and it is a bummer that I lost the grappling diary and belt as they have sentimental value, but hey ho, not worth fighting over.
That’s a good tip and I often carry stuff on my person, especially in the colder months when I wear a jacket; women’s clothing doesn’t always have pockets 🙂
15 May 2011 @ 6:02 pm
Goodness what a crazy encounter! I’m happy to hear that you are safe! I’m sure there are gonna be some ppl who will condemn you and say why didn’t u fight for ur bag or stuff but most ppl dot get that ending the situation in a calm manner is the idea of self defense. Honestly its easy to say like ‘oh she shld have blah blah’ but nothing will prepare u for the unexpected. Its kinda ironic that u were on ur way to teach a self defense seminar though! Well now you can share a real life experience in your self defense seminars 🙂
15 May 2011 @ 8:33 pm
Thank you for the vote of confidence, SL! Greatly appreciated and I am with you on your point of view. Thanks again for your supportive comment 🙂
16 May 2011 @ 3:40 am
It was so horrible for this to happen to you and I am so glad to hear you are alright.
I don’t know anyone else in the world with such an awesome attitude and the ability to turn a shitty experience into a positive lesson!
In regards to fighting your way out of this, I am sure you would have utilised some of your arse kicking skills had the situation become one where you feared that the attack was about physical harm or sexual assault….once you realised it was just about your bag, it doesn’t seem necessary to fight someone over a used gi and favourite sports bra (although it is a shame to think that that stuff is now in a bin somewhere and that is just a waste)…you never know how it could have escalated.
Please be re-assured in the knowledge that Karma will get this arsehole and rear-naked choke him on your behalf.
16 May 2011 @ 7:47 am
Hi Beth and thank you so much for your kind and supportive comment. Like SL says, you cannot train for this. I was in total shock/denial that someone had the audacity to behave in this way; ‘how dare you, sir!’ sort of feeling HAHA 😉 Totally unlike competing or training. Makes me so sad, too, that this boy felt that he could, should or even must do what he did. He needs love, guidance and perhaps even some BJJ and education to learn about something bigger than himself and that there is so much he can do beyond petty street theft. Moreover, he needs to understand that it is unequivocally unacceptable to behave so badly; hope he can be gotten to and set straight before he matures and escalates. At any rate, absolutely, as soon as I could comprehend that it was all about my bag of 2nd-hand stuff, I gave it up without resistance. I could feel from his body and his grab that he had nothing in terms of fighting ability, but I could not be sure that he wasn’t armed or backed up by a crew and what am I gonna do, break his arm?! I gotta live in this ‘hood and don’t really want to be looking over my shoulder for his mates every time I leave my house. Ugh. If I had felt to be in greater physical peril, then the stakes would’ve been different, but for a bag of things that I can replace with newer and shiner things (though yeah, shame about the waste), not worth it. All very unpleasant, and while I wish it hadn’t happened at all, I recognise that it was a rare occurrence and I am glad I kept as calm as I could. It is a little bit difficult to shake off and I do feel a little weird walking around; what it must be like for victims of very serious assaults I cannot imagine, my heart goes out to such people.
Women’s Self Defence seminar: Phoenix MMA 14 May 2011 | A BJJ Blog by Meg Smitley | Women in BJJ | BJJ Women | BJJ Gi Reviews
16 May 2011 @ 8:16 am
[…] last week’s unfortunate events resulted in last minute cancellation, the seminar has been rescheduled for this weekend – […]
16 May 2011 @ 1:18 pm
I echo what everyone else has said. So glad that you are safe!! Thank goodness all he wanted was the bag. Though, if it had come down to it, I have full confidence you would have been able to kick his butt had he tried for anything else. Hugs and kisses!!
16 May 2011 @ 1:36 pm
Thank you, Allie! I am feeling the love and respect from you guys and it is truly humbling. *big hugs*
16 May 2011 @ 4:18 pm
I came across this blog whilst surfing the net. I have read this whole post about being mugged and apart from the irony of being mugged on the way to a self defence seminar, I am confused generally about the situation. Firstly, if you train BJJ and are amazing enough to go teach other people about self defence, why were you vulnerable enough here to allow yourself to get mugged. You were walking down the street, with your music playing (lesson number one, dont do this as you cannot hear a mugger or attacker approaching). You were aware of a strange man (lesson number two, if you feel threatened, remove yourself from the situation), and he grabbed your bag (lesson number three, if you see a strange man, turn your music off and be alert). I hope you now realise that with all due respect, you are not best qualified to be teaching anyone self defence because you failed miserably here. It is not about fighting him, it is about the fact you allowed yourself to be a perfect victim for a mugger.
It is all well and good writing that ‘he didnt feel as if he had any fight in him’ but that is BS. The simple truth is, you were mugged because of your own stupidity. It was your fault. You could have removed yourself from this situation and avoided it. You didnt even read the warning signals – strange man!!! Jesus. I suggest you give up pretending you are a self defence expert and just go back to writing about fighting, it seems that this is what you do best.
16 May 2011 @ 8:32 pm
Thank you for your thoughts, K Gibbins, I appreciate you taking the time to read and share.
26 Jun 2011 @ 9:41 pm
Meg, your gracious reaction to a comment such as this demonstrates the very reason you were able to deal with this situation with the level head that you did.
You realised early on what kind of attack this was and did what you needed to in order to get out of the situation unscathed. If that isn’t self defense, I don’t know what is.
27 Jun 2011 @ 7:24 am
Thanks for you kind words, Steve, really appreciated 🙂
16 May 2011 @ 9:14 pm
You did exactly right. And your attitude is still full of love– that’s the best part. You weren’t hurt physically OR psychically, and I’m so relieved on both accounts.
But damn… can you imagine how much fun it will be for the next mugger (god forbid) when in an instant, he’s hiptossed to the concrete!????
16 May 2011 @ 10:54 pm
Hi Georgette! Thanks very much, I am trying but it is difficult to shake off the experience and to not second guess myself or to feel inadequate. It is difficult to explain, but as the episode started the bod knew what to do, but I stopped myself. I went into shock/denial and it just did seem real or feel right; started *thinking* about it and the brain was a bit slow on the uptake. I am working on forgiving myself and I hope an unvarnished account of a very minor street crime will be useful to others.
Self Defence for Women: round up of seminar at Phoenix MMA | A BJJ Blog by Meg Smitley | Women in BJJ | BJJ Women | BJJ Gi Reviews
24 May 2011 @ 6:34 pm
[…] Self Defence seminar at Phoenix MMA in Bournemouth. In spite of last minute rescheduling after the unfortunate events of the 14th, we had 13 women of all ages take time out on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, come down […]
Self defence for women: workshop at Shoreditch Sisters WI | A BJJ Blog by Meg Smitley | Women in BJJ | BJJ Women | BJJ Gi Reviews
30 Jun 2011 @ 10:48 am
[…] I have enjoyed the sense that I have some skills that could help if things got hairy. Having been jumped recently my attitude remains pretty much the same, but as my experience of street robbery lacked […]
Women in BJJ and Rape | MegJitsu
19 Jan 2013 @ 5:19 pm
[…] to justify blaming the the victim. This was highlighted to me most clearly when I sought to share a ‘real life’ experience of a simple purse-snatching on the street, which I am in no way equating to this assault or any violent crime, but using as an example of […]