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.
by Lt. Jim Bullard, 1977
The eight photos on the cover show that no matter where you dames go, author Lt. Jim Bullard is there, watching. Coconut shoppers, lawn mowers, even lady scientists... they'll all be attacked. The cover and title obviously hint at something insane going on inside this book, but you have no fucking idea.
Policeman Jim Bullard teaches that the key to lady self-defense is to expect and appreciate getting attacked. In fact, the title of his first chapter is, "YOU'LL NEVER ENJOY BEING ATTACKED IF YOU DON'T CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE!" He's very lighthearted about the idea of you being assaulted. In fact, the title of his second chapter is, "THE PRINCIPLE OF THE WEAKEST POINT ADDS ZEST TO BEING ATTACKED!" Not that you need me to point it out, but Lt. Bullard is something of a lunatic.
Ladies, the benefit of having an actual crazy person writing your self-defense book is that he knows how they think. For example, a very normal-brained person will teach you how to kick a man in the dong when he mugs you in a parking lot. I know, ladies, did he just get back from robbing a cliche store? The only thing you'll bother to bring to that attack is an alarm clock. But what about if your dentist starts choking you? Fucking Bullard has a whole chapter on that! He shows you how to defend against anonymous hands darting out of men's room doors, how to escape from a homicidal tennis partner, and even what to do when a man with a bag on his head grabs your boobs at the bus stop. If you asked Lt. Bullard to give you advice that wasn't crazy, he'd write on a piece of paper, "CAN'T RIGHT NOW. MOUTH FULL OF HUMAN TOES."
Lt. Jim spends so much time fighting imaginary madmen in his brain that his wife thinks her pet names are Apache and Prison Rapist. Or at least she did before she mysteriously suffocated. Bullard probably goes through wives faster than Lou Ferigno goes through rabbits. I cannot stress enough how insane this man is. Take a look at an excerpt from the chapter, "APPLYING PRESSURE AGAINST JOINTS TO SURPRISE, BEWILDER AND GAIN THE ADMIRATION OF YOUR ATTACKER!"
So there you are seated in church (temple, synagogue, mosque) and the dirty old man seated beside you places his hand on your thigh. If you happen to have a ball point pen handy, you can drive it through the top of his hand; but be careful not to stake his hand to your leg!
As much as I'm fascinated by what goes on at Lt. Bullard's mosque, I'm more fascinated with the idea of driving a pen through a man's hand carefully. How do you do that? Practice on a steak? A cadaver? Let's think about this: How is that Lt. Bullard is capable of foreseeing all the potential danger of riveting a pervert's hand to your leg, but he never notices that the act itself is insane? He's thinking, "Okay, we're stabbing that hand-- that is god damn happening, so don't bother with a plan B. But we can't walk around all day with sex offender stuck to our artery... wait, I've got it! Be careful!"
One of my favorite safety precautions comes early in the book when Lt. Jim warns us that all of his awesome karate moves won't work if your family turns on you.
These movements will not work against loved ones, but seem more easily applied against strangers. The simple reason for this is that while husband, boyfriend, uncles, and even neighbors may know your defenses, strangers do not. So most importantly, do not tell your attacker what you are going to do.
The reason these savage moves won't work on your husband and uncle isn't because of an emotional attachment-- it's because your husband already knows you're going to open the fight with a ballpoint pen stab and he's trained in the counter for that. What the fucking what? Lt. Bullard is crazy in such a completely unique direction. It's as if he learned how the world worked by watching kung fu movies and then Gary Busey drove him into the wall of an abandoned motorcycle helmet factory.
This book has forgotten more about karate than you will ever forget about karate. Lt. Bullard's martial arts are clumsily reverse engineered from freak accidents. He'll suggest that you jab your car keys into someone's eye or push a pencil into their throat. There are some judo-like throws, but to be honest, Lt. Jim often gets so lost in his own fantasy attack that his instructions stop making sense. For example, if someone puts his arm around you while you're window shopping you "Bend your knee against the back of his knee to break his balance while throwing your arm into his chest. He will go down with a bang and probably remain there in a crumpled heap. Off you go into the store screaming at the top of your voice."
Lt. Jim, are you sure you didn't leave anything out? My attacker has barely hit the ground from a zero foot fall and you've already got me running my victory lap through a department store. Shouldn't I carefully tackle him through the untempered glass window? I'm sure there's a careful way for me to pull us in front of a bus. Plus, I'm new to being insane, shouldn't I check to make sure he's not fifty snakes in a hollowed out man?
by Py Bateman, 1978
Holy shit! In the top right... is that t-the coveted Fight Back! Fight Back! Seal of Approval!? No, don't look directly at it!
Literally every other book in this article advises against untrained girls throwing punches. Self-defense authors figure you're okay to fight off multiple knife-wielding attackers, however; you'll probably hurt yourself if you swing your fist into something. Not Py Bateman. Py Bateman's philosophy on female punching begins at your face and ends two wet feet behind your head. She throws kicks into your dong like they would hurt if they hit you somewhere else. One might criticize the effectiveness of traditional karate, but this is an actual martial arts book written as if the reader's vagina was not a disability.
Oh, the karate is good. Py Bateman, while I was looking through picture after picture of you turning penises into hot foot baths, I fell in love. Py Bateman, please accept this gift of comic:
Read Sean's rundown of "5 Fight Moves That Only Work in the Movies," which can only be found in the new Cracked.com book.