Nicole Mirkin – Founding Director of Fight Back SA and Etienne Gerreira – Founder and Owner of True Krav Cape Town, joined Benito Vergotine in conversation on Wednesday 28 August.
Listen to the conversation here: Fight Back SA
1. What is Fight Back SA?
Fight Back SA is a trademarked, non-profit programme seeking to provide and teach young women, in under-privileged and crime-ridden areas how to defend themselves in any given situation of danger, through the means of a specifically tailored self defense programme based on the principles of Krav Maga.
2. What is the aim of Fight Back SA?
Our project hopes to teach young women how to defend, disarm and immobilize an attacker so that she may have the skills to take control of a potentially dangerous situation. Our goal is to provide South African women with the skills they need to defend themselves – with the ultimate dream of lowering our rape statistics, while hopefully preventing future cases of the physical assault of young women in SA.
3. How did this project come into being?
I work in a Research Department in Parliament, and my job consists of drafting statements, and organising oversights. One of the Portfolios I work on most is Crime, our police service and general community safety. In January, I was drafting something with regards to the national crime statistics and when I realised that South African women were registering an average of 109 rape cases a day for 2018, I realised simply working in parliament was not enough. I had to find another way of trying to change such statistics, with immediate impact. I came up with the concept of enabling women to Fight Back, and then contacted Etienne, who has been a guiding force and incredible partner in this initiative. He teaches the best self-defense classes in the Western Cape. So, I brought him the idea, the people, the brand – and he provided me with a programme for young women that will save their lives and/or prevent them from being raped. But he can tell you more about that.
4. What do you teach the girls in the classes? What kind of moves can young women expect to learn from a Fight Back workshop?
First and foremost, the programme teaches girls how to fight for their lives, not their possessions – we encourage anyone who is faced by a robber to give up their possessions – you don’t fight an armed person for a physical object, you take on that fight when he wants a physical transaction from you. Now when faced with that situation – we teach young women the skills and drills with regards to disarming a knife or gun attack, how to react in a situation of stress, shock and heightened levels of adrenaline. The programme also focuses on how a girl can get out of bear grips, given different degrees of restrained mobility of the upper body.
5. So, this is not your average, run-of-the-mill programme?
Absolutely not, it focuses on the reality of the combat situation a girl is going to find herself in, usually with someone older, more violent and far stronger than she is. We take this reality into consideration in this programme – because poking someone’s eye is not going to stop someone from pulling you into a van.
6. What about men? Do you offer something for men wishing to learn something similar?
Absolutely. Fight Back is focused exclusively on the issue of women being extremely vulnerable members of our society, particularly given the context of crime in SA today. But, True Krav offers classes in Cape Town CBD and both men and women are welcome to come and train with us weekly and on Saturday’s – we offer daily classes, a monthly membership fee and the first class is always on us.
7. Besides having developed the actual content of the classes for Fight Back SA, what is True Krav’s involvement in the project?
True Krav also provides training to the volunteer coaches of Fight Back SA. So, what we do is establish say a set date every week where the trainers come in and we take them through the latest we have to offer and keep them fit and full of knowledge so that they are able to give the very best workshops to girls in crime-ridden areas.
8. What about this SA Women Fight Back Group? Are you a part of that?
So that Facebook group was launched a couple of weeks ago, after Fight Back SA was trademarked. We do not form part of that group, but I have been in contact with them, and both Fight Back SA and True Krav Cape Town are listed as resources on that Facebook page, so that women seeking anything related to self defense can find our contact details and links there. We might collaborate on bigger things with them in future – these are exciting times for women in SA.
9. How can people get in touch with you?
We have profiles across all the major social media networks, such as Facebook, Linked In, Instagram and each one has links to our official website as well.
10. What is next for Fight Back SA?
Due to popular demand, we are trying to expand our classes to as many communities as we can, with requests streaming in from our online platforms. We would like to continue doing such, but being unfunded, need all the exposure we can get. We are not looking for funding – we do all we do voluntarily, but we do want to expand our impact, so we would love to ask everyone listening to please follow us on Instagram, to give us a like on Facebook and let us know if you are a woman or young girl in school who would like us to bring a workshop to your place of learning or to your community.
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