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Can street smarts — knowing the devastating “eye strike” and the painful “groin pull” — translate into improving the confidence of young female lawyers? Yes, answers Rachel Silverman, 33, an associate in the marketing department of New York-based Epstein, Becker & Green. Silverman backed up her conviction by organizing a recent self-defense workshop that became a bonding session for women in need of a boost of assertiveness. “Women attorneys are confident and brave and strong in defending someone. They defend their clients to the bitter end, and they do it well,” said Silverman. “But when it comes to defending ourselves, sometimes we can’t or don’t — or somehow we don’t find our voice. Maybe because of social conditioning.” The beginning of a solution, according to Silverman and about 50 female colleagues and Epstein Becker clients, was to gather together in a banquet room of the Roosevelt Hotel. Not for some run-of-the-mill seminar, but for instruction by a duo from a New York consultancy called Prepare Inc. in how to outwit and overpower masculine assailants — anybody from a mugger to the office lech. In convincing her firm to sponsor such out-of-the-box instruction, Silverman said, “I wasn’t looking for just self-defense. I want these women to walk out feeling more confident and more empowered to diffuse uncomfortable situations, to stand up for themselves, to demand things they have a right to, like safety and respect.” To a woman, that was precisely the result of a workshop that focused on practicing neat assault techniques on John Riley, the lone male participant. Riley — unlike Dana Schwartz, his female co-instructor from Prepare — wore a gigantic helmet, shoulder pads and a bulging crotch protector to fend off jabs to his eyes and flying elbows and knees. Indeed, Schwartz offered the sort of tutelage to her Epstein Becker students that has been heard in casual banter among combative male litigators. As the women lined up to take their shots at Riley, she urged them on with, “The target is the testicles!” But there are defensive steps short of The Big Pain, Schwartz’s term for grabbing a fistful of the mugger’s crotch and yanking forcefully forward. For instance, there’s the eye strike. “It’s sneaky, it’s jabby, and he doesn’t see it coming,” said Schwartz, a former publishing executive and mugging victim. There is also the considerable power of screams and declarative commands — especially a hearty “No!” — and simply running away, she and Riley told the assembled. “Run away. Don’t be there. That’s the first rule,” said Riley, once he had surfaced from his helmet. “Actually, you should walk away with confidence. Running would trigger the chase instinct.” “Always use words first,” said Schwartz. “Clear, directive language. You’re not screaming, you’re not asking. You’re telling him what you want: stop, back off, let me pass.” If words fail, she said, a determined victim can pop a mugger in his peepers — or somewhere south of eye level. Should the latter target be required, said Schwartz, “You actually have way more time than you think [to make a hasty exit].” Because adrenaline speeds up everything, added Riley, a personal trainer and actor in addition to his work for Prepare Inc. “You actually have enough time to sit down and write a letter to the police.” Practice in the tactics of self-defense, which Schwartz and Riley admit are especially counterintuitive for women, has application to ordinary non-violent daily life, they say. Law firm life, for example, which is said to be rife with incidents of male attorneys causing stress to female colleagues with blunt acts of disrespect or unwelcome attentions. On the other hand, said Schwartz, “Women are not taught to be clear. When we make statements, we have this tendency to end everything with — a question? This can soften our message.” In the workplace, she said, “Realize that you have the right to set boundaries.” That is often the impetus behind signing up for the various classes offered by Prepare. According to the consulting firm’s Web site, “Ironically, most [students] do not identify a fear of crime as the reason they enroll. The majority tell us that they come to class for empowerment, confidence, and to learn to stand up for themselves in their daily encounters with people who cross their boundaries.” In other words, Silverman noted, exactly the qualities that clients seek in their lawyers. Her colleague at Epstein Becker, partner Joan A. Disler, 51, of the Newark, N.J., office, agreed. With reference to self-defense instruction, she said, “We want to keep moving this along.” Attorney and client attendees endorsed Disler’s intention for future workshops. Asked to evaluate the three-hour session, attorneys and clients said such things as: � “I learned to use my mouth and scream.” � “I’m not as afraid as I was yesterday.” � “I had no idea of the power behind the sound of saying ‘No!’” Moving right along as the luncheon period approached, Riley refitted his head with the gigantic helmet for his final round in the role of punching bag. A crew of Roosevelt Hotel waiters — all men — arrived at this point to set up the nearby tables. Seeing Schwartz coaching the women to lift “that killer knee” to Riley’s crotch, one of the waiters muttered, “Poor guy.” A bit dazed and red-faced as he finally pulled off his helmet, Riley had a parting word for the newly emboldened: “Remember, it’s not the size of the woman in the fight — it’s the size of the fight in the woman.”

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