self-defense without the fight

Michelle Regan
January 14, 2019

Defending yourself is easier than you think.

“I’m not going to teach you to fight in the next four hours,” says Professor Steve McLaughlin at the start of his Kupale Women’s Assault Prevention course. “I’m going to show you how to escape from almost anything.”

For over 35 years, McLaughlin has been showing women how to overcome an attacker who’s intimidating and physically overpowering using almost no physical effort.

McLaughlin says that crime against women in Hawaii is distinctly different than on the Mainland. In Hawaii, the majority of attacks are by repeat offenders who approach distracted women from behind. Over 80 percent of these attackers are men who’ve met the women.

The best way to prevent an attack is also the simplest: intuition. “When you get a bad gut feeling about someone, you’re always right,” says McLaughlin. “Pay attention to that.”

If you’re attacked, what you need to know might surprise you. McLaughlin says that many people get injured when they fall during an assault. Knowing how to fall without spraining your wrists or breaking your tailbone is an essential first step.

As for what comes after, McLaughlin shared a few simple self-defense techniques with us in the video below.

McLaughlin’s encyclopedic knowledge of martial arts and self-defense are apparent within minutes, but he never forgets the needs and fears of the women in his class. His students range from keiki to kupuna, all of whom leave with a sense of empowerment. These are skills that anyone can learn and use.

“We’re not here to fight,” says McLaughlin. “We’re here to win.”


Visit Kupale Hawaii’s website to learn more and sign up for a class. Public classes are held every other month in Nuuanu. The next one will be held on February 17, 2019. McLaughlin offers discounts for mothers (or fathers) and daughters attending together.

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