As a young female that works smack in the middle of downtown Austin I have had many uncomfortable encounters with men. The one encounter that I don’t think will ever leave my mind, happened right across the street from my building. I was just walking into work from 7th and San Jacinto like I always do. I decided to go towards Congress to avoid the more aggressive homeless people. It was a beautiful day I was humming on my walk, enjoying myself and the breeze. When I got to Congress I made random eye contact with a man coming towards me from across the street. He smiled, so I smiled back. When he got about a 2 feet away from me he threw a huge cup of water in my face and just kept walking.
At 1st I was in shock, thinking…what the fuck?! Did that just really happen? I turned to see where this asshole had gone and he just steadily walked past me and never even looked back. I had such a surge of anger and I wanted to chase after him but what could I even do if I reached him. He was at least a foot taller than me and probably a hundred pounds heavier. I had nothing on me that could cause him harm. Then I started thinking, ok…its just water right? Nothing burned or was sticky. I honestly didn’t know what to do. I still won’t walk on that side of the street even though I have not seen that guy since.
All in all, the outcome to this situation was ideal compared to what could have happened. He could have actually put his hands on me, thank goodness he didn’t and what he threw at me was just water. However, there are far too many situations that end up more violent than my water incident. So, when I heard about the Sheepdog Response class that Tim Kennedy was teaching about self-defense and situational awareness, I was definitely intrigued. Tim Kennedy is a current top ranked UFC Middleweight Fighter as well as a US Army Ranger qualified Special Forces Sniper. As I researched the course I learned that this was no ordinary self-defense class. This was a fangs out, kill or be killed type of course consisting of shooting guns, knife fighting, situational awareness, striking and grappling techniques. My boyfriend trains in jiu-jitsu and is also a huge Tim Kennedy fan so of course when I told him about this class he was all for it.
I hadn’t shot a gun since I was a teenager. Since my family is full of hunters I grew up around guns my whole life. My father drilled into me that guns were not toys and that they kill people, and because of that I had become a bit fearful of even touching a gun. I have also never even been in a mixed martial arts gym before and knew almost nothing about fighting. Needless to say I was going to be doing a lot of new things during this course and I was starting to get more and more anxious the closer it got.
The class took place in Austin, Texas during February 19th-21st. Since I am currently writing this article you know I survived. I can now say that my fears were for nothing. Tim was an amazing and stern instructor. Safety and fundamentals were his top priority with us. We did non-stop drills with our weapons so that the actions would become second nature. We practiced our stance, drawing our weapon, our grip, breathing, and trigger squeeze just to name a few. By the end of the weekend I was no longer afraid of my weapon. I know exactly how to use it, and use it properly. I also know what to do should I have a malfunction. The main phrase Tim recited to us over and over was “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” He really emphasized taking our time and make smooth clean movements.
Each morning started out at the gun range for about five hours where we would then break for lunch and meet back up at the Onnit Academy for our next 5 to 6 hours of grappling and fighting technique training. This was my favorite part of the course. This was so fun and interesting to me. How to manipulate the body and gain or retain control of whatever the weapon might be. I definitely got a little banged up. I am still a bit sore everywhere and my neck is stiff but what a great time.
There were five ladies in the class total. Most of us practiced with each other since we were of similar size. But one of the ladies made a great point. She spoke up asking how could we possibly do any of this in a real life situation where a man was attacking us. Tim’s response was, “You can always run. Depending on the situation you don’t always have to stay and fight.” This concern was the perfect segue into what Tim had planned next by paired us little ladies with the biggest men in the class. He said it was important that we get the feel for what an attack in the real world might be like. That was very interesting and a bit terrifying but Tim is right. You don’t always have to engage, running is sometimes your safest option. He made sure we understood that running is not about pride or being a coward but about our safety first and foremost.
We learned that knives are even more dangerous than guns by causing the most damage. And if someone ever pulls a knife on you, you better book it the other direction. We learned how to execute the kimura grip to retain control of our dummy knife or gun. This move was a bit difficult for me to get at first but with one on one instruction, Tim worked with each of us on proper grip, movement, and execution. You could potentially break your attackers arm with this move.
Blake Hayes, Tim’s partner; is an equally impressive instructor and human being in general. He is not only a lawyer with his own law firm but also a Gracie jiu-jitsu black belt, as well as NRA certified pistol instructor, licensed Oklahoma Self Defense Act instructor and co-owner of Sheepdog Response. On our last day Blake spent a good amount of time talking to us in depth about the legal aspects of all the new techniques we had learned. It is very important to know when you should engage and when you should alert the authorities. Seeing Blake and Tim practice the moves in front of us in a controlled environment, was really cool to see how these situations could play out in a real life situation.
Now that the course is over I am a bit sad. This weekend was such an amazing and eye opening experience. We met so many wonderful and talented people both in the class as well as those that helped Tim with instruction. I cannot wait to take the next level. After this weekend I feel more empowered and aware. I find myself paying a lot more attention to my surroundings, constantly scanning the area. I have gained a little bit of my confidence back since the crosswalk incident. I am planning to get some pepper spray as well as a pocket knife that isn’t too noticeable, so that I can keep it on me at all times. Especially with SXSW coming up next month with thousands of visitors, you can’t be too careful. I definitely want to start looking around at memberships to train in Jiu-Jitsu. I really enjoyed learning the small amount we covered during the course.
I have also learned where I need to question my life style choices as well as knowing where my weaknesses are. I have gained so much knowledge about the basics of firearms and an interest in jiu-jitsu. I really want to learn how to put someone to sleep. That way I hopefully will never have to use a deadly weapon.
The fact that I took this course along side the love of my life was wonderful. I really feel like this experience has strengthened our relationship in an interesting way. I now know how I can protect him instead of him worrying about and always trying to protect me. I understand now that when he doesn’t like me running alone around our neighborhood he isn’t trying to tell me what to do, but simply looking out for my safety. We can now work together to protect each other. And that my friends, is an amazing thing.
The Onnit Academy was a wonderful host, full of so many talented and welcoming people. I wish the excitement didn’t have to end, but I am glad I have some time to rest and reflect. My last word of advice for those of you reading this is, take the class. Always be self aware as well as aware of your surroundings, and when you get that feeling in your gut that something is not right, listen to it. Also train in a form of exercise; your body needs to be capable of being an asset, not a liability.
For more information about the Sheepdog Response Training Course please visit www.sheepdogresponse.com and like the Facebook page for the most up to date information.
Written and Images by Karla Reina