Ladies, it is time to chew bubblegum and to kick ass. And we are all out of bubblegum, kick, and ass! These are five self-defense books so bad that by the time you're done reading them, you'll be dead.
by Judith Fein, Ph.D.
The cover of this is a marker drawing of eyeballed shapes, because nothing says tough like amateur cubism. Is this the swirling hallucination your attacker sees after you ram your crutch into his groin or was there some kind of labeling mix up at the book publisher? Because if that's the case, then somewhere out there is a book of art by death row prisoners with a really confusing karate lady on the front:
Here's a fun experiment: ask one of your stupid friends what they do when they don't want people to sit next to them on a plane. They'll no doubt have some brilliant strategy like trying to look so crazy no one wants to sit next to them! Now imagine if you took that idiot's idea of cleverness and applied it to every aspect of human life. That's what this book is.
The Joy of Self Defense is paranoia disguised as common sense. It's a collection of wisdom from a woman who, after a day of not being mugged, writes down every god damn thing she did or didn't do as "street smarts." The author, Dr. Judith Fein, advises readers to never use an ATM. She advises you to keep your radio low so carjackers know you're not distracted. She says to dart your eyes around on the bus to let the rapists know that you know they're there. These are preventative measures that "work" right up to the point where they will never have any effect on what they're designed to prevent. For example, many carjackers can overcome a quiet or even off radio. There's probably a mugger out there writing a book that says, "If a lady on the bus is trying really hard to look assertive and aware, she keeps her cash in her sock."
Most self-defense books are about the illusion of safety and the empowerment of black and white photos of dong punches. But telling a woman how to hold her purse to make it 18% harder to steal doesn't make her feel 18% safer-- it reminds her that 100% of everyone wants to steal, then certainly rape, her purse. And self-defense experts, when you tell your readers to get a P.O. Box so your mailman won't know you're a girl, maybe -just maybe- you're more nuts than safe.
If you ask Judith what time it is, nice try, she'll pepper spray the person behind her to counter your two-man grift. If she wrote murder fiction, and I think this book counts, the butler would die of old age waiting for the heroine to look timid. Dr. Fein's idea of crime prevention is bleeding on her curtains so would-be home intruders think a maniac lives there. I think she rubs herself in cat food every morning to confuse wolves.
Letting someone go into the world with these fighting abilities as their self defense is like teaching an Indian exchange student how to say, "My vagina is in your sandwich," and releasing him into America. I've seen it done, and it's a disaster. Your only prayer with this garbage is that your attacker took enough karate when he was eight that he figures out what you're trying to do and starts laughing.
by Debbie Leung, 1991
The front cover is a barely readable mashup of fonts and randomly placed words that looks like it already lost a fight to Adobe Illustrator. Or maybe they were going for "I'm so shitty at graphic design that I must be awesome at punching." The title already seems like it might be more about preventing tampon irritation than muggings, and the back cover of the author snuggling with her cat doesn't help. If Phil Collins performed You'll Be in my Heart in sign language, the balls in his mouth would look tougher than this book cover.
From what I understand, when a woman learns karate, she's also taught that every person ever is a rapist. But as you might have guessed from a self-defense author who puts her kitty on the cover, Debbie Leung doesn't give a fuck. She isn't a paranoid nutbag keeping a world of sex offenders at bay with her assertiveness. She writes like she might have learned about life from something other than Batman. In fact, this book includes all kinds of real statistics about how unlikely you are to be shot, and even how unlikely you are to die if someone shoots you. By the time you finish reading it, you might get on the subway with a titty out just to add some unpredictability to your life.
Despite her realistic approach to hidden dangers, Debbie is not without her flights of fancy. Her go-to martial arts move is a bellow and a little backfist. It's the perfect combo to counter a husband that fell asleep on top of you, but won't do much against an attacker interested in killing you. Debbie must figure that you probably won't ever get attacked, so who cares? Backfist! Backfist!
There aren't a lot of moves in The Womanly art of Self-Care Intuition and Choice." If you're expecting to learn how to drive a spin kick into your mugger's pressure point, this is the wrong book. However, if you want to see some pictures of older ladies screaming at their gynecologist, let's get this party started!!!
by Willy Cahill, 1978
No one was expecting a huge amount of creativity from a guy who named his book Self-Defense for Women, but this isn't even trying. If this guy designed an instructional manual for an enema kit, his boss would tell him to go back and add a little pizazz.
Author Willy Cahill doesn't seem like he disrespects women, but he's obviously had enough of them in his Judo class to know they're not very tough. He says that women don't have the punching power to knock anyone out, which seems like a strange thing to bring up in your girl self-defense book. Because if that's true, what the fuck are we doing here, Willy? And maybe the reason women can't knock anyone out is because you teach them to punch like this:
Willy punches like a blind person searching through broken glass. Either he's adapting judo for penguins or he hates women so much that he wants them all to break their hands. Luckily, he knows several ways to kick a dick, and 90 pages of this 95 page book are devoted to that. Why 90 pages for one move? The only reason I can think of is so that when he's teaching class he can say, "Ladies, the human body has 13 weak spots, and they're all right here," right before he takes his dick out.
What's really special about Willy's karate book is the scenarios that he puts women in. He wrote it in the 70's, but you get the idea that he'd be surprised if you told him women were allowed to vote. Every hypothetical attack takes place at Willy's idea of where women go: a, the mall or b: the grocery store. And they probably only went there because there wasn't enough room to throw a sidekick in his kitchen.
There's a little bit of clever improvisation at the locations like when Willy teaches ladies how to kick a groin from an escalator or how to run it over with a shopping cart full of menstrual belts. And there is one non-shopping situation where the karate model is attacked while sexily sunbathing in the park, but I think that's only in the book so you have a page to turn to when you're caught masturbating to it.
It's so difficult to describe this book since it's more sloppy dick attacks than any mind can comprehend. If you took a child with three days of martial arts training and somehow convinced them that the only noun in the entire world was penis, this is what that poor monster would create. It's flashes of chaotic nonsense that a battered husband remembers during hypnotic regression therapy. Wait, I've got the perfect description: if a yellow belt fell into a sausage-making machine, this looks like the video footage of that being played backwards.