I Punch First

The night of the 22nd of May, I’d gone out with some friends in the evening, only had a couple drinks and got home early. I was in bed by 11pm. At just after 5 the next morning, I heard one of our cats jump down from my little son’s bed in his room right next to mine. My son happened to be in bed with me as Brian was away for the night.

Less than a minute later I heard footsteps in his room. Shoes on the wooden floor. FFS!! My teenage son was either sneaking in or trying to sneak someone out that he’d snuck in the night before. He’d never done anything like this before, but I was livid.

I got up and went to shout at him. I walked out of my room, turned right, looked into my little son’s room and there was a strange man standing there.

Shit.

Before I tell you what happened after that, I want to ask you “What would you do?”

Most women will have thought about what they might do if they were mugged or attacked on the street, but without any actual plan. Most women won’t have any self-defence training nor any fighting experience at all. Their plan might be “scream and hope that someone else saves me” which is, frankly, utterly useless as you won’t have time to wait for someone to help out. And what would you do if you discovered a strange man in your home when there mightn’t be anyone else there to save you?

I’d certainly never thought of that before. I had no plan. I did, however, have three years of boxing training.

As I’ve said before:

…having a bit of strength in my arms AND knowing how to throw a punch properly has made me feel less physically vulnerable than I did before. You know, vulnerable from being physically attacked by “men”.

I’m not saying I could beat a man in a fight, but I could definitely land a well executed punch to an attacker’s face and get the fuck out of there while he deals with the pain of a dislocated jaw. I know I could do that. And that is a great feeling.

About a year ago, I’d asked a friend of mine, who also does boxing training, if he’d ever hit anyone before. He told me he’d been in a few fights in his life mainly because when he was a kid his dad told him ‘if you’re ever in a situation with another person that looks like it could go bad, punch first’. So, several times in his life he’s punched first.

I thought it was actually really good advice.

The kind of boxing training I do is pad work. That means I wear boxing gloves and wraps and my trainer has pads on her hands which I punch according to the punch coordinations she calls out. A little bit like this:

In boxing there are basically four different types of punches- a jab, a cross, a hook and an uppercut. A jab is done with your leading, weaker hand. A cross is done with your rear, stronger hand. Both the hooks and the uppercuts can be done with either hand (real boxers will disagree!). I’ve been training 2-3 times a week for the past three years, half the time doing boxing, the other half doing strength training, so I’ve done about 200-ish hours of boxing, so about 50-ish hours on each different type of punch. Over that time my stance has improved, I’m lighter on my feet, I move quicker and I punch harder. A lot harder.

I do not, however, spar. I’ve never aimed a punch at a head or a face. I’ve never aimed a punch at a moving target. I’ve never been punched. Sparring is a big step up in boxing training as you are no longer being told what combinations to throw, so you’re on your own and also: someone else is trying to punch you. I’m not keen on that.

Before starting boxing training, like most every other woman on the planet, I was always a bit fearful on the street, always on high alert, scanning, looking for signs of danger, afraid of being physically threatened or assaulted by someone. As a woman, it is statistically more likely that I will be attacked by a man and it is statistically more likely that they will be bigger and/or stronger than me. Waiting to be attacked and then defending myself would mean I would be much more likely to be seriously injured or overpowered. Boxing training has given me the confidence to know that if I go in first and hard, I would at least be able to buy myself a bit of time. “Punch first” has been my mantra for the past year.

I’ve read a few things about self-defence over the years, so already had some idea of what to do. A lot of the advice is very different from what you may “feel” is right. 9 Myths About Self-Protection, is pretty good. Here’s a very quick run-down, my asides in italics:

Myth #1 You should reason with your attacker. (He’s a criminal ergo he’s unreasonable.)
Myth #2 If you’re attacked, scream for help. (You don’t have time to be saved.)
Myth #3 You need to cause pain. (No, you need to injure.)
Myth #4 Being fit can save your life. (All you need to do is injure them. Being fit may make that easier.)
Myth #5 You need technical self-defense skills. (It helps, but all you need to do is injure them.)
Myth #6 Women who survive are fearless. (You will be terrified, but you will operate with your fight or flight instinct. If you’re even a bit prepared you can react with confidence.)
Myth #7 Focus on blocking his attacks. (Focus on injuring them.)
Myth #8 Try to back away from your attacker. (He can run forward faster than you can move backwards.)
Myth #9 Hit as often and as quickly as possible. (Hit HARD, even once, and injure them.)

So back to my story…

I saw a strange man in my son’s bedroom. My first thought- “Is there anyone else with him?”- disappeared immediately. The one thing I know about self-defence (rather than boxing) is that you need to fight for your life. There’s no ‘being nice’. There’s no ‘maybe I can talk my way out of this’. There’s no ‘let’s just see what happens here’. You must approach it with a ‘kill or be killed’ attitude. I had no idea if that man was armed, if he would try and attack me, if he would try and rape me, if he would try and kill me. Life or death stuff. I wasn’t going to wait to find out.

I punched first.

punchfirst2

I immediately ran into the room, shouting (and not a ‘girly’ scream, but a deep, loud, roaring, dominant boom), got in close and right-hooked him to the face. It wasn’t a technically brilliant punch (my second and third knuckles were bruised). I didn’t punch to score points from judges. I didn’t punch and snap back ready to punch again to continue the fight until the end of the round. I threw everything into it like a heavy weight does- a big, full-bodied, ‘you’re going fucking down! my fist shoulder and whole body are going straight through your fucking head’ whallop. He made a “well, that really wasn’t very nice at all” sound, pushed past me, ran down the stairs with me chasing after him continuing to shout and out the front door of the house.

I phoned 999, gave them a description, they went straight to the local CCTVs, he was picked up, the cops came to my house and drove me past him, I IDed him, he was arrested, they found his finger prints in my house, he was charged, they put him on remand, he pleaded guilty and I just found out on Friday that he’s been sentenced to 8 months in prison.

The end.

Would I do it again? I’ve no idea. Probably. Remember, I punch first. :) Would I recommend you do it? Not really. Unless you’ve been trained even a bit, your punch isn’t going to have much of an effect which would open you up to being attacked. You really do need to know how to injure someone with a punch. I could have still been attacked – I had no idea if he knew how to fight or would try and punch back. Would I recommend you start taking self-defence training? Yes, yes, yes, yes. I didn’t start boxing training for that reason at all, but I would highly recommend it alongside a much more practical street self-defence course that teaches you awareness and how to handle various different situations.

Apparently, I was the talk of the police station for a few days after the burglary. The police officer who was dealing with my case said that he had never had another case where someone punched a burglar. All of the officers I spoke to asked “Are you the one who punched him?… Well done!” They said they wished more people were like me and had some kind of self-defence training in order to know how to handle themselves in these unusual situations.

Recently, the new Miss America suggested women take self-defence classes in order to defend themselves and “Twitter feminists” went crazy with accusations of “victim blaming”. Caroline Criado-Perez wrote an article in the New Statesman about how self-defence training wasn’t victim blaming and she got all kinds of crap from people saying it was, it was, it was victim blaming.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is common after a burglary even if you don’t confront the burglar. Deep feelings of violation, anger and trauma are common. The idea that you were helpless can worsen these feelings and make it difficult to come to a satisfactory resolution. One can develop trouble sleeping or even a fear of leaving the house.

Apart from a couple days immediately afterwards of quite powerful flashbacks where I was “re-living” over and over again the moment where I saw him and punched him, I’ve been fine. I have no trouble sleeping at all. When I spoke to Victim Support they said perhaps it was because I’d got all of my anger out when I punched him and there was none left to torment me. To me, that feels right. I was not a victim. If anything, I was the aggressor as I punched first, I punched hard and I punched strong. I am not weak, I am not vulnerable. But I only feel this because I have done boxing training.

Sociologist Jocelyn Hollander researches self-defence training and the prevention of violence against women. Her research into sexual assault has shown that:

women who complete a self-defense class are significantly less likely to be sexually assaulted in the following year than similar women with no self-defense training. Self-defense training has also been found to increase women’s confidence, shift their understanding of their own bodies, and change gender expectations and interactions.

Boxing training has very definitely given me confidence and a completely different understanding of my body and what this female body is capable of. Resistance to the idea of self-defence training is often based in deeply ingrained sexist ideas of what “a woman” is, should be and is capable of. We have been taught that we are passive, that we can’t ever be strong. The idea that women – feminists even!- continue to believe this saddens me. And I’m calling bullshit.

Women can be physically strong, women do not have to be passive, women do not have to be victims. I am strong, I can defend myself and, damn it, I punch first.

So I ask you again “What would you do?”

punchfirst3

Comments
68 Responses to “I Punch First”
  1. Cathy Brennan says:

    You’re a shero. I’d like to think I’d punch first.

  2. John says:

    That’s beyond brilliant.

    Your accounts of boxing training have fascinated me and this has answered many of the questions I had wanted to ask you when our paths next cross. Hope you never have to do it again, but delighted that you will be able to. I completely agree with your argument and think it’s applicable to men too. Thank you.

  3. TheRealThunderChild says:

    Hi. I really liked this. TBH, I don’t think anyone can predict how they’ll react in such a situation but if you’re going to fight back, having the right training is definitely a bonus, maybe even e life saving one.
    I was alone on my parent’s house, as an eight stone 21 year old rider, when I confronted an intruder. I think the physical confidence riding gave me, plus the sheer adrenaline rush when I confronted him, scared the bejeezus out of him and he just scarpered, with me in hot pursuit.
    Having since served in the Navy for twenty years, I know my physicality projects self confidence and my husband says I don’t concede space the way a woman would, typically.
    I have never been assaulted in potentially explosive situations, (though I was assaulted once, but was very drunk at time, by a friend..the old “acquaintance assault” scenario) and I’m sure this has been a factor.
    So it’s clear to me that any training which increases a woman’s confidence in herself, whether she actually utilises it or not, can often contribute to her ability to avoid victimisation, even if an air of confidence that makes potential threats avoid.

    Now, that said…I CAN see why such advice can bee seen as victim blaming. Because , like it or not, people will see a woman’s ignoring of said advice (never if a male ignores such advice… although almost never given)… as is her right, as giving any attacker licence to attack.
    We’ve all heard it .. “She knew that was a dark walk home, what did she expect, walking? ”
    “She was drunk, what did she expect?”
    “What the hell are these girls doing, wearing such high heels”*
    “What the hell was she wearing that for, what did think would happen?”
    Ad nauseum.

    All because we still focus on a victim’s actions and equate them with culpability, more so if we’ve been subject the constant wallpaper of well meaning “advice” meant, in reality, to curtail the activities of the woman guilty of “being female without due care and attention”.
    Hence any sensible discussion of women’s self defence is conflated into blaming women who don’t take such measures.

    Never mind that men aren’t policed this way.
    Never mind that women shouldn’t need EVER to take self protection measures in the way men are never expected to.
    Never mind that the only culpability in ANY attack, ever, lies with the assailant.

    Failing to recognise THAT, is what lies at the root of victim blaming. Period.

  4. TheRealThunderChild says:

    Oh, and the “high heels” remark, was courtesy of that so called feminist polemicist, Caitlin Moran. How we did sigh.

    And I don’t blame myself for the date rape. This man was my friend, a man who I trusted. Betraying the trust of a friend, a shipmate, is plain evil . And not my responsibility.

  5. Yazzle says:

    Hi Gia – wow. Thank God you are ok!!!! xxx

  6. benetta says:

    Brilliant.

    My cat also once let me know that there was an intruder in the house – they left when they heard me walk across the floor above talking to the cat (except they will have assumed it was another person). So let’s hear it for guard cats.

    As for the post traumatic shock stuff, I’d say that a big reason for your not having any lasting effects from this was that you were in control of the situation. PTSD happens (according to my researched understanding) most commonly when someone is intensely threatened and has no control, so that they fear for their life and are unable to affect the outcome. You took charge and drove the intruder away. Good on ya.

  7. Yazzle says:

    PS Please don’t be offended by my use of the word God! :-) Haha. Could just as easily have said thank Goddess, thank – er – heavens, thank … something totally non-religious! :-) Thank your lucky stars! Or just thanks to fist and your teacher and you being on your wits that you are ok! :-) xoxo

  8. Rachel Green says:

    You rock. I’ll link to this. I don’t box, but I train Gracie jiu-jitsu, and now I’m no longer afraid to walk in the street on my own. All women should learn self defence.

  9. I have shard this on my website and pages I write in. everyone should read this..

  10. Sea says:

    Your reality has inspired me to empower my young daughter…..and for that matter, her two older brothers too.
    I’m so sorry you had this experience.
    What you share in your blogs is priceless.
    Thank you

  11. firewomon says:

    Amazing stuff. I reckon I’d punch first too, but I very much doubt the effectiveness of this due to the fact that I *haven’t* had any boxing training. You’ve inspired me to do so. Well done Gia – and glad you and yours all ok x

  12. Rob says:

    Brilliant. Too many people think that self defence skills are somehow barbaric or the product of a bygone age. Violence is something that can be forced upon you whether you’re ready to defend yourself or not.

  13. Have been waiting for this write up and now that is has arrived, I’m just pleased you’re okay.

    Good words.

  14. Steve says:

    Gia,
    This was an interesting read, but left with serious concerns over its content. The ‘myths’ you have listed frustrated. Here’s why (my responses in capitals) :-
    Myth #1 You should reason with your attacker. (He’s a criminal ergo he’s unreasonable.)
    ON THE CONTRARY, MOST CRIMINALS ARE HUMAN BEINGS (ALBEIT SCUM OF THE EARTH), AND HAVE THE CAPACITY TO REASON. THERE ARE CASES, WHERE IT IS FAR BETTER TO REASON THAN TO TAKE A CHANCE PHYSICALLY CONFRONTING YOUR INTRUDER. IF THERE HAD BEEN MORE THAN ONE, YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN IN A LOT OF TROUBLE. ON THE FLIPSIDE, I AGREE THAT SOMETIMES WHEN BACKED INTO A CORNER YOU HAVE NO OPTION BUT TO JUST GO FOR IT

    Myth #2 If you’re attacked, scream for help. (You don’t have time to be saved.)
    THE FEAR OF KNOWING THAT PEOPLE CAN HEAR YOU SCREAMING MEANS THAT MOST INTRUDERS WILL RUN. SOME WILL ATTACK, BUT IF THEY ARE CLOSER TO AN EXIT THAN THEY ARE TO YOU, THEY WILL TRY TO ESCAPE

    Myth #3 You need to cause pain. (No, you need to injure.)
    I DONT GET THIS. PAIN STOPS MOST ATTACKERS IN THEIR TRACKS. IF SOMETHING HURTS WHEN YOU DO IT, YOU STOP DOING IT VERY QUICKLY. ITS EXTREMELY HARD TO INJURE SOMEONE, UNLESS YOU HAVE SKILL

    Myth #4 Being fit can save your life. (All you need to do is injure them. Being fit may make that easier.)
    AGAIN, IF YOU ARE STOPPED BY A MUGGER AND YOU CAN OUTRUN THEM, THEN YOU WILL WIN ON FITNESS. IF THEY ARE A GOOD STREETFIGHTER, THEN YOU WILL WIN ON STAMINA

    Myth #5 You need technical self-defense skills. (It helps, but all you need to do is injure them.)
    IT IS VERY HARD TO INJURE SOMEONE WITHOUT EFFECTIVE TECHNIQUE. YOU CAN LASH OUT, BUT SO CAN YOUR ATTACKER

    Myth #6 Women who survive are fearless. (You will be terrified, but you will operate with your fight or flight instinct. If you’re even a bit prepared you can react with confidence.)
    THIS WAS NOT ANSWERED PROPERLY. ANYONE SURVIVING AN ATTACK WILL BE SCARED FOR A LONG TIME AFTER, EVEN IF YOU WON THE DAY

    Myth #7 Focus on blocking his attacks. (Focus on injuring them.)
    TRUE YOU SHOULDNT FOCUS, BUT YOU SHOULD DEFEND AS WELL AS ATTACK. IF THEY HAVE A KNIFE, YOU HAVE TO MAKE SURE YOU DEAL WITH THAT DANGER AS WELL AS MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A GREAT OFFENSE

    Myth #8 Try to back away from your attacker. (He can run forward faster than you can move backwards.)
    SOMETIMES BACKING OFF IS GOOD. IT GIVES YOU MORE ROOM TO MANOUVRE. IF YOU ARE FACING A MASSIVE OPPONENT, YOU EITHER CLOSE THE GAP, OR GIVE YOURSELF ENOUGH ROOM TO AVOID THEIR BIG ATTACKS

    Myth #9 Hit as often and as quickly as possible. (Hit HARD, even once, and injure them.)
    DEPENDS ON WHAT YOUR OPPONENT IS DOING. A PERSON WHO CANT HIT HARD CAN STILL CAUSE PROBLEMS FOR THEIR ATTACKER. MOST PEOPLE CANT HIT HARD WITHOUT SOME INTENSIVE MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING (A LOT OF PEOPLE OVERESTIMATE HOW HARD THEY CAN HIT)

    Dont get me wrong, it sounds like you did extremely well under scary situations, but ultimately people should train in real martial arts and not ‘self defence’ classes, which are often a collection of techniques that dont work unless your opponent is being compliant

    I would encourage women to take up a proper martial art that actually works, as opposed to boxercise classes or the suchlike

    From Gia: I agree “boxercise” is not going to help! Read the article on Self-Defence Myths I was referencing here

  15. Stop Blaming Women (@StopBlaminWomen) says:

    Whenever men attack women, women are going to be blamed for it. *No matter what women do or don’t do,* we are going to be blamed for it. So fuck yes, let’s fight back.

  16. Erin says:

    Oh yech, I’m sorry you went through that, but what a response! Well done. I am glad you and yours weren’t hurt.

    I trained with a kung-fu club for a few years, and we did spar with fellow students with light gloves. This was with people I knew and trained with, people I trusted, and we didn’t hit each other hard. We used to volunteer at big tournaments to do time-keeping and score-keeping, and one of our best guys fought in a proper match. He came down after and said we all knew nothing about getting hit by real people. So you can spar and still not really know the real deal I think! I felt so strong when i was at the peak of my training, and I was not nearly as afraid walking home at night.

    I think one of the best things kung fu taught me was the reaction distance line – how close to you someone has to be to make contact. It’s further back than you think. Our sifu took the time to teach us a bit of street fighting and self-defence stuff, and he always said committing to a proper eye gouge will give you time to get away, because it is insanely painful and blinds your attacker. You have to get pretty close though, but I suppose if he’s already in close, might as well. Thinking about this makes me want to rejoin my old club…

  17. bruce hood says:

    Holy Crap….. Just picked this up. WTF terrifying. I think TheRealThunderChild is right that no one can predict exactly how they will respond in such a situation but that is why the military drill individuals not to think but to react. I hate to say it, but do be wary of a profound delayed emotional reaction – it is a common psychological response. PTSD is a real phenomenon even when individuals have been so successful in dealing with the situation which you did so admirably. Always here

  18. marsha says:

    Having been awakened by a man with a balaclava on his head holding a large butcher knife..standing in the doorway to my room at 0100… I gave a exorcist scream and chased him out…the first thing I wanted to find out the next day was…how the hell did he get in? I was always very careful about checking my locks before retiring. It seems that he scaled like spider man along a 2 cm wide window ledge over a high point and sliced through the screen at a point where I had left the window unlocked. This happened 25 years ago. I still live alone and I feel safe in my bed but I always do a round before bed just as an ounce of prevention. I’m glad you are young and strong..I don’t think boxing would me any good as I am almost 70.

  19. Marianne says:

    Glad you are all ok, good to hear – I’ve been thinking of taking up something similar, and it’s good to know there are no-spar options; sparring was the bit of karate I hated. I miss feeling strong. I’ll remember this.

  20. Paulina Morton says:

    You rock welldone Gia, I do not what I will do if somebody break into my house and thank very much for the boxing lesson.
    I am glad you and your kids are ok
    take care
    Paulina

  21. Tanya says:

    That’s great… but in Finland (where I live in) Gia would get some sort of an sentence too, especially because she hit first. I would not recommend anyone to do that in this country, althoug my morals say punching an intruder is justified.

  22. Julie Cox says:

    I’ve always been inspired by your posts/twitter feeds but never felt like replying more than now- firstly, well done! I’ve trained in kickboxing for years, nothing makes me feel more feminine than being strong and confident but dealing with combat out of a dojo is something else. Before I read your post, I had just seen this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs
    #LikeAGirl

    It saddens me that most young girls see doing something like a girl as an insult- I hope they read your blog. x

  23. Briggsy says:

    I would emphasise the advice to land one very good punch and give them space to run away. If a potential attacker is in your house, the law allows you to use a little more force than strictly strictly necessary to drive them out. Follow-up blows may be seemed to be an assault.
    I applaud your actions, protecting yourself and your child from an intruder in your home and I approve wholeheartedly of people entering into self-defence, boxing or martial arts for both the defence and the discipline that these can impart. However, I would like to make sure you are not scaremongering (unintentionally, of course) based on your own insecurities, making women more nervous than they really ought to be. I will explain why.
    You said that, as a woman, you are more likely to be assaulted and this is not the case. The linked report by the Office of National Statistics confirms previous studies that most unprovoked assaults on the street actually happen to young men, not women. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_298904.pdf
    I am a woman in my late forties that has studied and taught martial arts for many years but I have spoken to friends that haven’t and none of them have ever felt afraid or vulnerable walking down the street. Admittedly, I am from suburban Cheshire and I don’t know where you people live but I have travelled wildly and I have difficulty believing that anywhere in the UK is quite that dangerous.
    I was also given some excellent advice from a New Yorker when a friend and I were considering visiting a famous night club in a somewhat dubious area of the city. It has stuck with me and I believe it is the best advice for avoiding having to throw that first punch: walk like an exclamation mark, not a question mark (both in the physical, straight-backed strut v nervous hunch and, obviously, in the metaphoric sense), if you look like you can handle yourself, would-be attackers are likely to think twice.

    From Gia: I said “As a woman I am statistically more likely to be attacked by a man” as opposed to a woman who would be a more equal physical match. Also, I have been sexually assaulted several times in public. My wariness was based on experience.

  24. Hi Gia, well I always thought you were a fox, but super fox! Good on you and an interesting, thoughtful article, and who knows? Having grown up with four big brothers I tend to come out of my corner fighting, and my husband showed me years ago how to make a fist if I ever need to punch anyone ( thumb OUT!!!) That probably says it all about me……. What has happened to young women today who seem to think it is cool to be sex objects? Own your sexuality ladies and make your own decisions…..onwards and upwards sisters x

  25. John says:

    Horrified at the idea that people call self-defence advice “victim blaming”. When I think back to times I’ve felt physically threatened, what made me feel even a little bit safe, wet blanket that I am, is recalling the few paltry bits and pieces of fighting experience I’ve picked up in my life, and thinking “What could I do if he did X?”. It’s just not realistic to go through life relying on everyone else in the world to never attack you – and as was mentioned in the article, having even a vague sense that you’re able to defend yourself if something goes wrong must have a big effect on confidence and paranoia. Calling self defence victim blaming is pure crab bucket mentality – keep everyone else in the world a potential victim so as not to hurt the feelings of those who weren’t able to defend themselves.

  26. Alison Lowndes says:

    Really impressed – Kudos – but as an afterthought and especially since Brian
    has now shared this story I would consider moving while your visitor is under lock and key. Unless this was a one off “no idea you were a celebrity” thing this guy now has less than 8 months to remember how you bitch-slapped him and put him there. Hate crimes are entirely different, especially with reference to the valuable message you’re giving in this blog. Maybe it’s a confidence thing whether you care or not but I’m not the only one who doesn’t want to read about you suffering more because of such a puny sentence. Perhaps speak with his defence to ascertain if he would meet with you and Brian. He’s far less likely to try anything then when he gets out. Just thinking out loud.

  27. Ariane says:

    HI Gia, so glad to hear you’re okay… That’s amazing, I feel quite proud. I’m going off to uni in three months time, and I’ve been desperate to find a good self defence class. Unfortunately, living in the middle of nowhere, they don’t seem to be a thing. I did once try boxing but being very anemic I fainted after the first session. I’m getting better now, so I’m going to give it another go having read this. Again, so glad you’re alright, and I hope the kids are as well. Best of luck, and thank you so much for sharing xx

    From Gia: Boxing is the TOUGHEST exercise I’ve ever done. The first few months are horrendously difficult. You need to eat beforehand and rehydrate regularly during! Try it again!

  28. This is something women largely don’t think about – but should. I was attacked as a teenager, and I have lived my life as a very wary, largely frightened, woman. I salute you. If it ever happened again, I like to think that my rage would know no bounds. I WOULD INJURE…

  29. Steve Jenkin says:

    It’s worth noting that the law in the UK is totally on your side in these situations – http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/s_to_u/self_defence/. You’re allow to Punch First and you’re not expected to act calmly or rationally in these situations, or retreat even if you could do so safely.

    Also, Boxing Legend Jack Dempsey, in his book, recommends aiming to land the punch with the knuckle of the ring finger. He’d have given you full marks for that bruise :)

    From Gia: Really?! It was OK technically?! AWESOME! *beams*

  30. Pam Thorley says:

    Great that you were able and confident enough, to make that first move.
    (Over here he’d probably charge you with assault)

    and to Yazzle – Don’t ever apologise for thanking God. Too many people nowadays are turning from him and not acknowledging his part in all our lives. We need him now more than ever before with the increase of moslems trying to take over the world with their barbaric cult.

  31. Effie says:

    So much respect – inspired to take up self defense

  32. brendan says:

    Gia,

    Excellent work.

    I’m glad you took the training first, but so much of what you said reflects good training.

    Train hard, fight easy. You pretty much had the plan in your head as soon as the circumstances were in front of your face and without any doubts, you went for it.

    Excellent. Cops seem to have been on top of the job, too, well done them. (I’m retired of the bill.)

    I wish this hadn’t happened to you, but I’m really glad the way it worked out and very proud of the way you did your part.

    brendan

  33. Michaela C says:

    Wow. Great work. My default setting is fight not flight, but I have no fighting training. Thinking maybe I should! Thank you for sharing your experience – and for punching first.

  34. Lisa Stell says:

    Impressed. Made notes of everything and cast them to memory. x

  35. Greg says:

    Well done Gia. That’s amazing. The training helps but it’s your force of will and presence of mind that allows you to put it into action.

    As a 6’4″ 15 and a half stone man with a decade of boxing and thai boxing experience, I do not punch first, but I think your advice for women is brilliant, particularly the stuff about injuring your opponent. When you’re sparring, getting hit with one hard punch is a lot worse than twenty pitter patter punches. Hard punches and damage make you want to give up and go home.

    From Gia: I agree. “Punch first” is a VERY different thing if it’s man on man. Though if you’re confronting someone in your house, you can use force without waiting to be attacked (in the UK).

  36. Stephanie says:

    I am so glad that things turned out okay for you, though I don’t think 8 months in prison was near long enough. What was he there for? To steal your property, or your child, or to rape and murder you? If the second or the third, he should be kept off the street a lot longer, if not permanently. I didn’t worry so much about such things until I became disabled in a wreck 12 years ago. Before then, I had the strength to fight back and injure in some way, even if I had not had self-defense training in 20+ years. Now, I worry that letting someone that close to me will cause me grave danger, so I have unfortunately decided to purchase a gun when I move from my friends’ house to a place of my own. I do know how to use one, though it has been 20 years for that as well (military training in my much younger days). However, in today’s world, it seems necessary for me to have some type of protection, to avoid becoming just another statistic, and I find that sad, as I am one to look for the good in people before I look for the bad. But that is reality. Again, I am glad that you and your family have survived this incident.

  37. Vince says:

    Pretty good article, however I feel you should add in a link to what the CPS classes as ‘Reasonable Force’ – http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/prosecution/householders.html. So you punching the intruder who was in your house is clearly a case of ‘Reasonable Force’ – it is perfectly reasonable to expect that an uninvited person in your house, late at night, is intent on committing a crime. However, if you were to come across a stranger in your garden, then punching them first would not be classed as ‘Reasonable Force’ UNLESS you could prove that you were in imminent danger.

  38. Well done you. I’m a 6’0″ reasonably fit male, but I’d still be terrified. Hopefully I’d hold it together enough to punch first also.

  39. Dave Deacon says:

    I am very pleased you had the nouse and training to be effective. Sadly, many women and men lack the training to be so effective. They might have to ‘negotiate’ as an only possible way out. How do you think then they should act?

    I think your situation of being a public figure makes you a target for such nutters. The Net is nasty in that way – you are revealed to them, sort of. They have access to you – like here – which before Netty would not have been so. It’s a scary world.

    I think before the Cosmos journey we should explain ourselves to ourselves. We’re freaky!

  40. Olly says:

    Thanks for sharing this Gia. I really liked your article and have shared it on my Facebook page (where others are already picking up on it).

    I teach Tony Blauer’s PDR/SPEAR system in the UK and in my opinion your actions run close to what I teach in my sessions. It’s 95% about surprise, attitude and ferocity – without them nothing will work in any case (how many people own guns and fail to use them due to fear/doubt/intimidation?).

    I hope everything continues well. And don’t worry about those who nit-pick. It’s easier to be a critic than to be the one acting in the moment.

  41. Jenny says:

    Gia does this still apply if they are armed with a weapon? I’m not sure i’d be confident enough to attack someone holding a knife or something like that!

  42. Daniel says:

    wonderful Gia, and well done. I am passing this on to my two daughters.

  43. Adrienne says:

    Thank you for sharing this story. Our kids are the same age, and my husband also travels a lot for work (albeit a bit different field). I’ve thought many times about what I would do if someone broke into my house, but having some training to rely on can make all the difference. I’ll be signing up. (PS: Well done!)

  44. Gillian Cranston says:

    Go @giagia! One day we’ll be referring to Professor Brian Cox as “that guy who’s Gia’s husband” ;-)

  45. Papa Nuts says:

    Very well done! This is areal lesson for armchair liberals and dreary appeasers. ‘Ooo- burglars have feelings too…’ No they fucking don’t – they’ve made their choice. You made yours. The ancient laws of liberty and justice are on your side.
    You threaten my family – you’re going down.
    The punch first thing marks the difference between a radical and a liberal. It’s also about reason, intelligence and confidence.

  46. andyo says:

    Great story, and congratulations.

    But regarding the “feminists” bit, do you have another source than Twitchy, like more mainstream actually feminist websites? Twitchy is Michelle Malkin’s website. As far as I can tell you’re not in the US, so you may not realize exactly who she is. She’s got her own RationalWiki entry, which says a lot. Also, I can’t just trust tweets from Fox News people without any source or links, or cherry-picked tweets from random “feminists”. And also, the #tcot hashtag means “top conservatives on Twitter”, which in the US it means far right-wingers (or liberals mocking them).

  47. Jules says:

    A few years ago when I lived with my older brother we were broken into in the middle of the night. I woke up & heard him downstairs. Despite the fact that a few years earlier I’d done a bit of kick-boxing, all I did was grab my mobile and run into my brother’s room to wake him up. He then called the police & we waited for them to arrive. I was terrified. I didn’t want to confront the burglar and didn’t want my brother to confront him either. It might’ve been different if he’d come upstairs but we’ll never know.

    At least now if I’m ever actually confronted by a burglar I’ll know to punch first. :)

    From Gia: choosing NOT to confront someone is self-defence, too, you know! I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t think ‘Oh is that a burglar?’ I was assuming it was my son. I had no choice in the matter. Had I thought it was a burglar, I’m not entirely sure I would have got up to confront him… I don’t know. The whole thing was surreal…

  48. Diana MacPherson says:

    Good on you! I would be afraid of thinking too long and missing my opportunity.

  49. Laura says:

    Wow thank you so much for sharing your story! It is great to hear stories of strong women who can not only defend themselves but who are willing to encourage other women to learn real world self-defense! I having been involved in the martial arts world since i was 7 years old and it truly is the underlying foundation of my whole life. I live my life to promote martial arts to everyone, and i have just moved to the states after a bit of a hiatus ( from competing after winning the World Title to promote it even more. I love your motto ‘I punch first’! Really great advice. Never hesitate, if you feel threatened always act and commit! Your hook sounds awesome! Keep it up! :)

  50. Ashley Thomas says:

    Brilliant! You are truly inspiring, Gia. An absolute shero! Xo

  51. Di says:

    I have to say firstly well done for punching him, i would do anything to protect my children and with anything, it instinct. I would quite happy face the consequences later.
    My son has PTSD and watching him trying to cope is a killer to watch and feeling helpless But he is getting help now so in time he will begin to heal.
    Im really pleased you and your children were ok a revamp on security is very much needed x

  52. Matt Moran says:

    It’s only victim-blaming if it’s presented as a panacea that will magically make all women invulnerable. It won’t because the majority of attacks come completely unexpectedly & usually from men the victim knows, maybe a friend of a friend, & often when the victim has been put at a disadvantage which no amount of training will help against – such as a spiked drink. While the main thrust of any anti-violence campaign needs to be on getting the perpetrators to stop perpetrating, and on other men who may know or witness the beginnings of violent attitudes towards women in their fellow men to take a stand & say “Look, mate, that’s NOT OK, you need to take a long hard look at yourself.” – and for those in positions of authority to start out from a position of believing in the credibility of victims who make accusations of physical, mental or sexual violence – that said, it does everyone good to have some self defence training.
    Now, you mention that you don’t spar. Can I recommend that you try Krav Maga and/or Brazilian jiujitsu? I’ve done some KM myself, and I can report that they try to recreate the physical & mental stress of being in a fight in ways you can handle as you practise every week – recreating situations like a bar fight in a darkened room lit by strobes & with loud music playing, putting you up against multiple assailants, while teaching you ringcraft and “dirty” fighting techniques that will have an attacker in hospital in very short order. It’s not a sport as such – it’s a military combatives regime used by cops & soldiers all over the world, including the FBI. BJJ on the other hand is great for grappling & groundwork. I did some Shorinji Kan JiuJitsu in uni, but BJJ has way more groundwork & sparring emphasis. Shorinji Kan’s great for a stand-up fight if you want to break your opponents’ joints but in a 1 on 1 situation where your attacker has you grounded, BJJ, accept no substitute.

  53. Jo says:

    Congratulations on having the courage to fight. Having your kids in the house is an inspiration to get the intruder out any way you can! And for those of us without formal training remember if it comes down to it while male attackers have knees, nuts (testicles) and eyes you have a target that will bring him down long enough to escape or raise an alarm.

  54. Nikki says:

    Yes to guard cats and creaky floorboards – the same happened to me – thought it was next doors cat sneaking in to steal our cats food – creaky floorboard always gives it away! , but it was a strange bloke in my house – The instant emotion was to protect my child and shock that he was stealing her stuff ( video gaming equipment ) he was half way down our stairs and without thinking I made a grab for him and said ‘ get off our stuff ‘ as I grabbed he lost his footing and fell down the stairs HAHAHAHAH! Bashed his shoulder on the bannister – he looked like right twerp! anyway he still got away with our stuff but the police did pick someone up – still waiting to find out if it was that bloke they pulled in.. but basically, if you are a woman on your own in the house,whether you have boxing training or not, your natural instinct to protect your child probably makes you stronger and braver than anyone else at that time – Afyterwards though I was shaking and thought about what COULD have happened if her had been a bit of a more violent character :/ I guess we were lucky he only took a second hand Wii and a few games, and nothing worse happened.

    From Gia: So sorry that happened to you, but well done! It’s interesting to find out that in a fight or flight situation your response is FIGHT, isn’t it? :)

  55. Jay says:

    Hi :)
    It’s fantastic you can take care of yourself like this
    As an assistant martial arts self-defense instructor, I’d like to congratulate you on taking the initiative in this trying situation.
    People mentioning you not connecting with the front two knuckles – it’s understandable not to score a direct blow under pressing situations, and as long as it did it’s job without harming yourself, it is reasonable.
    In your particular situation, I believe that the correct thing to do was strike first, since it was an intruder into your home.
    However, i believe that a ‘punch first’ mentality is not the reasonable way to approach most possible incidents such as these. It is true that you should not ‘reason’ with any criminals, but (forgive me here i am not familiar with UK laws), i believe that being the instigator of a direct violent engagement in most situations (again, excluding a home intrusion), is not easily defended in court, nor is it always the answer. For example, on the streets or in a public place, unless directly threatened with explicit violence (eg. flashing a weapon, saying “im going to F#@% you up”, etc), the first thing that any person, especially for those without any background in self defense should do, is loudly state that they do not wish to fight. As much as a ‘punch first’ attitude may seem effective, it is important to remember that unless you have an extensive background in self defense with actual experience, the criminal who fights on a weekly basis will have the upper hand. So rather than urging the public to instigate a fight, i urge people to consider what is more important – the loss of their phones/wallets etc, or serious injury/death.
    If the other party is determined on instigating violence, a hands up “i dont wish to fight” position , while bracing yourself in a good stance, is surprisingly effective. There are a myriad of techniques to disarm, and protect yourself from anything that might come at you.
    It is only after this direct and explicit threat, that i believe it is appropriate to act with due force.
    And again, it is STRONGLY advised to those without any self-defense training to NOT PLAY THE HERO in these situations!

    tldr; Unless you know how to fight, it is not worth risking your life attempting to “punch first” , unless under extreme circumstances such as a home invasion or under the direct and explicit threat of violence.

    Sincerely, an assistant martial arts and self defense instructor.

    From Gia: Totally agree. I taught my older son that if he was ever mugged to give his stuff up without a fight. And when he was mugged a few years ago, he handed it all over calmly and got away without being injured (the kids who mugged him were caught, charged and found guilty). I would do the same. Stuff is stuff and not worth it.

  56. Daisy Debs says:

    ….. you see……. there’s this little thing …. called ” INSTINCT ” …… good isn’t it ! : )

  57. Tania Johnston says:

    My granda has thought me to punch between the eyes when i was 3. Although i don’t really agree with that kinda upbringing, don’t forget it was 60′s and the world was a different place! Spent most of my life as a pacifist however, got attacked several times, once by a girl…throw the first punch? I could not stop! i am a big woman(5’9″), ride 900cc bike and in general get on with everuone…some people tho don’t get the message and attack. So, what do you do? I never went for any self=defence classes, but since i have decided to dig eyes if attacked, because you never know is it a burglar, pedofile, murderer, rapist…how can you tell that the attacker won’t kill you? So, you go for it!
    I’m also blessed with a furious temper upon seeing injustice…attempt to damage my person in any way IS injustice so i usually go mad and employ moves i have seen in American movies…no training, no practice, but that time when i did it, worked wonders! And as what the law says about it, i don’t give a toss. I always figured that i better go to prison for battery that allow my attacker to kill me…Fear is the real silent killer…btw I was born in Balkans, so please don’t judge me too harshly, but i don’t just care for my own defence, have defended elderly and children too when i saw them attacked…awful, because the only thing on my mind is love…

  58. jose says:

    You made the Evening Standard!

    As a tall guy I have no natural predators, but even so I can relate to the feeling of vulnerability for not knowing what to do if something happens. I would have been paralyzed in your situation. You’ve inspired me to finally do something about it!

  59. Henry says:

    Good for you, Gia. Your advice is spot on, especially for women. Men think about what they will do when threatened all the time, and it’s a good bet your burglar had some idea of the damage he was planning to do to you, maybe only if you walked in on him, or maybe just for fun regardless.

  60. Belinda Gomez says:

    You’re a rock star. Well done. And well done in writing about it, too.
    And if a woman got a sentence for hitting an intruder–move to another country.

  61. Toni Rendall Francis says:

    I SUFFERED A HOME INVASION 10 YEARS AGO THE MORNING AFTER MY LATE PARTNER HAD SUDDENLY DIED FROM A HEART ATTACK . He had been dead for less than 24hours. I can still vividly recall the faces and attitudes of those four people, I was alone at the time and trying to organize the funeral. Since he had died at a mate’s house and not in hospital there was a coroner’s report, police report and the like to address. Those people didn’t physically harm me but stole our valued possessions, even went through my handbag and stole my keys. Fortunately our son, other relos and neighbours soon arrived and they fled. You were so brave but I had four interlopers and was in a state if shock. I still have flashes but the shock of Anthony’s death and the home invasion have sort of melded. Good to hear your story – well done. Reminded me of George Harrison’s wife attacking a burglar with a knife.!
    PS. My family and I have tickets to see Brian in OZ in October – really looking forward to it. Take care, and again good on you for your defence training. Toni

    From Gia: Toni, I’m so sorry that happened. What a horrendous experience. You must have felt very helpless. If there had been more than one person in my house, I’m not sure what I would have done. But choosing not to confront or engage with someone is also self-defence and a very valid choice to make, too.

  62. Jen says:

    A similar scenario happened to me about 10 years ago. I came home and a burglar was in my house. I didn’t hit him, but I would have done if he hadn’t ran off when I ran at him. He was also picked up 30 minutes later trying to use my husbands card at a local shop.

    I reported our cards stolen before I even called the police. It really was a fight or flight situation and I’ve found out many times since that my natural reaction is to fight. I Thai boxed as a teenager so maybe I’ve been conditioned too.

    I’ve told many women since this story but they mostly think I’m crazy, even though i acted on instinct. They pretty much always say they would have to move if this happened to them, which seems extreme. Most burglaries are not personal. I too slept fine after and since. ;)

  63. Hi Gia,

    Just wanted to say how damn terrifying your ordeal must have been, yet how proud you must feel. I think in all cases like this its a case of fight or flight mode and survival of the fittest approach must ensue, especially when you have not just yourself but your son to consider, you react and thankfully you had the skills to react in a more effective way than the average ‘Joe’ who hasn’t taken up similar training.

    I think if you have taught us readers anything, its to take up such training. As a way, not only to protect ourselves, but the feeling you carry knowing you have the skills in your ‘box of tricks’ and this can only serve to enhance your feelings of been and all round ‘kick-ass’ chick ;-) Well done you xx

  64. =8)-DX says:

    I think the victim-blaming aspect of the self-defence advice is present depending on context. When talking about rape and gendered violence in general:

    – Implying that only women can do something to change society is victim blaming.
    – Men telling women how they are expected to behave, ignoring the problems of male aggression is mansplaining victim blaming.
    – Removing agency from violent men (rapists are “monsters”, “crazy evil people”, “boys will be boys”) essentially excuses that behaviour.
    – Emphasizing prevention methods (which may or may not have been available to a given victim) is no help after the fact – the aggressor was to blame, not the victim.

    So I’d say yeah – self-defence as a protection for women is pretty obvious, it works and has a lot of positive things associated with it.
    Recommending self-defence as the default reaction to rape and gendered violence after the fact is however victim-blaming.

    Maybe I’m wrong though. I’m a mand who’d probably go down to that punch. My general philosophy is I’m not much good in a fight, so I de-escalate and avoid violence wherever possible. I let people hit me. If someone beat me up and my friend then said I aught to have take self-defence, I think I’d feel they were blaming me =S.

  65. Gingerbaker says:

    First, kudos – seriously! – and a great article.

    But…..are you a little disappointed you didn’t drop the guy? I mean, you have been training for years, were in an adrenaline rage, had the element of surprise, and hit him as hard as you could. And all you got was a “well, that really wasn’t very nice at all” sound.

    Do you have plans to do less pad work and more heavy bag to work on how to land harder?

    Honestly? No. I’m not disappointed. I described the sound he made facetiously because it’s actually one I don’t want to hear again. There are some things about the whole thing that I just want to push out of my mind and the sound he made was one of them. :)

  66. Greg Chivers says:

    @Gingerbaker. Seriously?

    Dropping an aware, moving, grown man with one punch is hard, even for a trained fighter. There is no reason for us to think this guy was just standing still, sticking his chin out. I really can’t understand the thinking behind your comment.

  67. Donna says:

    Use what you have :) It is your home and no one should be there without your consent, so he got what he deserved. I would not have punched – I have a rubbish punch – but my house is a messy place. I would have the advantage of knowing the trip hazards and where the heaviest objects were… and how many steps to the badly-lit stairs…