Harlem Word: Gabrielle Rubin tells us about her company, Female Awareness, that teaches self-defense classes

Editor April 20th, 2010

Gabrielle Rubin was born and raised in New York City and has been practicing martial arts for about 23 years. She started taking martial arts classes because she was the skinny kid with a big mouth and one time she couldn't back it up. She remembers feeling afraid and never wanting to feel that way again, so she began taking martial arts classes. After years of martial arts, she founded the company, Female Awareness, which teaches self-defense classes to people all over NYC.

Q: How did your background in martial arts inspire you to start Female Awareness?

A: What you learn in martial arts class isn't necessarily going to be realistic on the streets. When you're sparring (organized fighting) with somebody in martial arts class you have a safe distance. When I took self-defense classes in the past, they've always started from the moment of the attack. The instructor will come behind you and wrap their arm around your neck and be like, "OK, how are you going to get out of this?"

For me, it's about avoiding getting yourself into that situation. Once a person is that close to you, it's too late. One of the main reasons why I started this class is to teach women how to see the signs that things might become violent and how to avoid them so it doesn't get physical. This is how my class is different from anything else that's out there.

I give people the tools to feel confident in an uneasy situation. I always empower women and whoever I'm teaching to be safe, be smart and to be strong. It's the greatest gift that I can give them.

Q: Can you tell us about your classes?

A: The class is designed as a one-time, two-hour class. There are usually no more than ten to fifteen people (women, men, children and transgendered-gay or straight) in each class. My class is broken down into two parts: the first hour gives information on how to see the signs that you're in a dangerous situation and how to avoid an attack; and the second hour is learning and practicing all physical techniques.

During the first hour, we talk a lot about how to avoid getting yourself into a physical situation. I share a lot of stories that have either happened to me or to my friends. The class offers a very comfortable setting to talk, so people share their own stories and information. We talk about body language. For instance, if someone's staring at you on the train and you look up twice, you are showing them you're afraid. Attackers don't look for a "type" of person, they look for an easy target. Your body language tells them if you are an easy target.

The second hour is all about simple physical techniques. I subscribe to the motto, "Keep it simple, stupid." I'm not trying to teach anybody how to beat someone else up; I just teach simple techniques on how to get away. I show the class different strikes, and then people get to practice them by hitting the pads. Once I demonstrate and explain how to get out of a grab, then I grab them tight to let them practice getting out of it.

As women, if someone puts their hands on us, the first thing we do is freak out and say to ourselves, "Oh my god, they're bigger, taller, and stronger than me." When we do that, we're defeated. So what I do in my class is show easy, simple ways to strike your attacker's face, body, or knee and stomp on their foot. Then I show you how to get out of different grabs.

I give you the tools to use, but it's up to you to practice. Every few months we do an hour-long physical refresher class that you can come to so you can test yourselves. The more you practice, the faster you can react.

I think that this is a class that everyone should take at least once. If nothing else, you walk away knowing some physical techniques, but I also guarantee you'll have a new perspective on everything and if you feel more confident, that's a great thing!

Each class costs $65. You can come to our studio at 151 West 26th Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues) or we can teach a private class for a minimum of six people where we come to you for the same price. The refresher course costs $20 for the hour and we test you on the techniques you learned, your reaction time, strikes and releasing from grabs. We offer the class about every 3 months.

Want more information? Check out the Female Awareness website or contact Gabrielle at (646) 717-0017 or Gabrielle@femaleawareness.com.

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