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.