Reality Check: Cathy’s Perspective

Cathy stands a little over 5 feet tall. A mother of two in her early thirties, and dedicated martial artist with a background in Ninjutsu (With a little Krav Maga thrown in for good measure), she thought she had found the path to true and tested self-defence. Thankfully for Cathy, her reality check occurred not in some dark alley, but during a Senshido training class:


I’ll never forget the night I had my “reality check”:  It was a follow up class to a Senshido seminar and I had been looking forward to it all week. I love self-defense lessons and I take any chance I get to train. When I attended the class, I had three years of training in Ninja arts as well as in Israeli military fighting system. I always believed what my instructors told me: That I was a strong empowered woman with the training of a special ops soldier, an unstoppable, invincible fighter that would quickly crush any attacker regardless of size and strength using my lethal techniques.


As I was about to find out, unicorns don’t exist, and a bigger, heavier, stronger, aggressive, and more experienced bad guy was getting ready to kick my ego’s teeth in and give me a brutal wake-up call.


The class started with the usual warm up and some combative drills. Then came the scenarios. Since I thought I had done realistic scenarios before, I was confident the poor guy wouldnt last long once I got my hands on him. It started pretty straightforwardly: A poor uneducated and misguided mugger surprised me, pinned me against a wall and was requesting my car keys, threatening all kind of fun outcomes should I deny him this modern means of locomotion. The technique I was taught revolved around me using my best poor girly voice, urging him to take them from my pocket, and, as soon as he let go of me to get them, beating him senseless. This mugger however, didn’t play by the book: he shifted slightly and released one of my arms long enough to press his arm across my throat and told me to give him the keys myself.


Shit! This is not how this goes, hes supposed to get them, and I would use the opportunity to kick his ass and run like hell while hes writhing in agony on the ground, this is not what I was expecting.


What the hell do I do now? He is weary and he is putting more pressure on my throat. I can’t breathe. He is growing more impatient. This isn’t fun anymore.This guy is HURTING ME. He is getting angry and is screaming at me. Oh my God he may actually RAPE ME. I dunno what to do. I AM SCARED.

In hindsight, I realised that that was part of the drill, to elicit FEAR, PANIC, HOPELESSNESS so you can overcome all in a real situation and survive.


Mick O’Brien, Senshido Ireland had seen my cockiness during the seminar and his job is to make me realise that ego KILLS. Underestimating your opponent and overestimating your skill set means DEATH on the streets.


I don’t remember exactly what I did during the scenario, but I only had one conscious though: Get this fucker off me.  I scratched, I kicked, I bucked, I bit but this dude was going nowhere. I threw a few elbows (I think) and eventually after a few minutes (that felt like hours), I managed to latch onto his face and get my fingers in his eyes. THAT got him off me and ran breathless to the other end of the room straight into the arms of one of the female students for comfort.


When my trainer debriefed the scenario, I discovered that my ‘attacker’ was role playing an experienced rapist that had violated many women and was street-tough, so he was quite accustomed to women fighting back conventionally. What changed his mind? Attacking his eyes and throat, Senshido’s Primary Targets.


When asked  how I felt,  my initial thought was I feel like killing you for putting me through that you bastard (I am sorry Mick, but you made my shit list that night lol).  It was terrifying.  I was shaking and felt so vulnerable and exposed.  I hated that feeling.  I had gone into this with the attitude that I can handle this,and besides it is “just training, these guys wont hurt me.  To give my ‘attacker’credit, he didnt hurt me much physically (Bruises heal and toughen you up) but he traumatised me psychologically by shattering the false illusion I had built around my abilities. And that hurt more than any physical altercation.  At home that night, while relaying the story to my partner, it hit me: This whole thing was my own fault. I underestimated my opponent and took my skills for granted. 20150610_200718I didn’t count on my ‘attacker’ being experienced, a mistake I will never repeat. Although my ‘attacker’ assured me that I put up a good fight and he wouldn’t have been capable of enduring it had he not been wearing training Armour, that still didn’t make me feel any better.  I had not been prepared for a struggle from him, and assumed that I could fight my way out and be done with it within seconds of it starting.  I had never had a scenario so realistic and my brain could not cope.  It was forgotten that I was in a room full of people there for the same reason, as soon as he threw my previous scenario training out of whack, I was screwed.  I learned a few valuable lessons that night.  Never underestimate your opponent and never get cocky.

Cathy Kavanagh.


Since she attended Senshido’s Fundamentals of Personal Protection seminar, Cathy, like many like her, got hooked to Senshido and has attended many of our seminars and workshops. She currently trains with Senshido Ireland on a weekly basis.

Self Protection Ireland