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Model Mugging

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Model Mugging
Country of originUnited States United States

Model Mugging is an American form of self-defense training that uses padded instructors, known as "Model Muggers", to simulate assaults. It was founded by Matt Thomas,[1] and developed by Danielle Smith, Julio Toribio, Sheryl Doran and Mark Morris. Its inspiration was the 1971 rape and beating that happened to a Taekwondo black belt.[2] Model Mugging attempts to turn the adrenaline reaction to an active response rather than a fear response through simulated attacks and group talk sessions.

Techniques and training[edit]

Model mugging training involves students role-playing and sometimes fighting through a variety of assault scenarios.[3] Students are taught physical defenses, methods of avoiding or defusing potential assaults, verbal defenses, and decision-making under the pressure of such situations.[4]

During the simulated assaults, heavily padded instructors, often referred to as muggers,[5][6] accost, grab, or directly attack a student, who may respond (if they believe a physical response is appropriate for the situation) with full-force attacks to the padded instructor. The emotionally charged nature of the scenarios combined with the full-force nature of the fighting tend to create an adrenalized state[3] similar to that of someone facing a real assault. The adrenalized nature of the training is intended to teach the student how to think clearly and respond in adrenalized situations.[7]


Model Mugging received significant publicity beginning in the late 1970s and 1980s. The first major public recognition was described in 1978 within Human Behavior Magazine,[8] and The Chronicle of Higher Education.[9]

Popularity of the Model Mugging program expanded rapidly after an article was published in Black Belt magazine[10] describing the innovative training system. Many other publications and supporters began providing positive press coverage,[11][12][13][14][15][16][17] and especially in People magazine.[18] The program was widely publicized in many other popular magazines and media such as Life magazine,[19] Glamour magazine[20] and others.[21][22][23]

By 1990, some female instructors stated that women were traumatized by the course or sexually assaulted by Model Mugging male instructors.[24] After several incidents of private lessons that Thomas gave to female instructors of the Model Mugging program in his home led to allegations that he had acted inappropriately, the national board of Model Mugging instituted new rules prohibiting the practice.[24] Women who had made the allegations broke from the Model Mugging program being taught at Stanford and formed their own self-defense organizations.[24]

In 1990, psychologist Albert Bandura used Model Mugging for a psychology study where he and Elizabeth Ozer tested the hypotheses that "perceived coping and cognitive control self-efficacy govern the effects of personal empowerment over physical threats". The women participated in a mastery modeling self-defense program in which they sought to learn the physical skills to defend themselves successfully against unarmed sexual assailants.[25]


  1. ^ McCaughey, Martha (1997). "Getting Mean". Real knockouts: the physical feminism of women's self-defense. NYU Press. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-8147-5577-8. Retrieved 9 September 2010. model mugging.
  2. ^ Shannon Jackson (Autumn 1993). "Representing Rape: Model Mugging's Discursive and Embodied Performances". TDR. 37 (3): 110–141. doi:10.2307/1146312. JSTOR 1146312.
  3. ^ a b Hartman, Carol (2001-04-12). "Conquering fear". Sacramento News & Review. Retrieved 9 September 2010.
  4. ^ Catherine Gockley (November–December 1992). "Hear me roar: "Model Mugging" self-defense courses teach women to fight back under attack and win". American Fitness. Archived from the original on 2008-10-08. Retrieved 2008-10-25.
  5. ^ Keeva, Steve. "Fight For Your Life!" (PDF). New Woman.
  6. ^ Tierney, John (Jan 4, 1993). "Model Mugger Earns His Pay". The News-Journal. New York Times News Service. p. 8. Retrieved 9 September 2010.
  7. ^ Allison Ryan. "Take That! Model Mugging 101". Scripps Magazine.[dead link]
  8. ^ Foote, Carol (December 1978). "Getting Tough About Rape" (PDF). Human Behavior. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  9. ^ Staff Writer (May 30, 1978). "Ideas" (PDF). The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  10. ^ Tesoro, Mary (May 1986). "Rape You Prevent May Be Your Own!" (PDF). Black Belt. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  11. ^ Barasch, Douglas (Spring 1986). "Street Smarts" (PDF). Women's Health Adviser. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  12. ^ Staff Writer (Spring 1986). "Removing the Nightmare from the Night" (PDF). Health for Life. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  13. ^ Ryll, Debra (1987). "Fighting Back" (PDF). New Times. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  14. ^ Naughton, Betty (Spring 1987). "Freeze or Fight? Choosing Not to Be a Victim" (PDF). Uptrend. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  15. ^ Cummins, Cynthia (December 1987). "Fight, Not Flight" (PDF). Women's Sports & Fitness. p. 20. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  16. ^ Drawbridge, Jennifer (September 1988). "Foil-A-Mugger School" (PDF). Self. pp. 188–1889, 206–208. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  17. ^ King, Pamela (December 1978). "Women to Their Own Defense" (PDF). Psychology Today. pp. 70–71, 143. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  18. ^ Freeman, Patricia (July 18, 1988). "Kicking and Screaming Women" (PDF). People. pp. 62–65. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  19. ^ "Fighting Back" (PDF). Life. November 1993. p. 106. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  20. ^ Kuster, Elizabeth (July 1991). "Conquering Street Fear: A Self-Defense Course Worked For Me" (PDF). Glamour. pp. 174–175, 190–191. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  21. ^ McFarling, Usha Lee (October 1993). "Walking Without Fear" (PDF). Walking Magazine. pp. 54–58. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  22. ^ Christina (July 1992). "I Am Woman Hear Me Roar" (PDF). Sassy. pp. 60–66, 87. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  23. ^ Kinosian, Janet (April 1995). "How Self-Defense Training Changed My Life" (PDF). Fitness. p. 131. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  24. ^ a b c Peri, Camille (September 1990). "Below the Belt". Mother Jones. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  25. ^ Ozar, Elizabth M.; Albert Bandura (1990). "Mechanisms Governing Empowerment Effects: A Self-Efficacy Analysis" (PDF). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 58 (3): 472–486. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.58.3.472. PMID 2324938. Retrieved 23 July 2015.

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