Earlier this week, Tech Insider released a video demonstrating how to escape from a choke hold. The advice given was shockingly bad.
A self-defense expert reveals how to get out of a choke hold — the No. 1 way a violent attacker will grab you pic.twitter.com/J9jakQV94F
— Tech Insider (@techinsider) November 29, 2017
Naturally, the MMA and BJJ communities didn’t take kindly to this advice.
Martial arts has a long history of being plagued with charlatans. Until the popularization of mixed martial arts and the rise of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the martial arts landscape was riddled with McDojos teaching ineffective techniques. Some thrive even today. Perhaps that is why the martial arts community is becoming increasingly vigilant against people selling incorrect technique.
So of course, the online reaction across was pretty scathing.
I love that the Tech Insider video demonstrating a "self defense expert" showing us various ways to be murdered from a rear naked choke is still online. It looked like a Portlandia skit.
— Wolfbible (@WolfBible) November 30, 2017
I looked into Gabrielle Rubin and her class, Female Awareness Self Defense. She teaches class every weekend (for $80 per class) in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. They are two-hour classes teaching women how to become more aware of their surroundings. The class also promises to teaches 23 strikes “from head to toe”. Gabrielle herself has studied martial arts for 22 years, in three styles, Goju-ryu, Kenpo, and Jujitsu.
I reached out to Gabrielle Rubin to see her response to the near universal criticism of her video.
Throughout our emails, Gabrielle expressed a real regret about the video. Or perhaps regret about the negative attention the video received. She wrote, “I just want to get back to teaching women how to be smarter and safer on the streets of New York. My goal is not to interfere with those teaching MMA and Brazilian jujitsu. Nor do I ever profess that this is all they [the students] would need to do.” She continually downplayed the physical part of her class. “I teach a one time 2 hour situational awareness class that is more about how to avoid an attack altogether. How not to be a target, how to see the signs, using your voice, etc. My one time 2 hour class is more about avoiding a physical situation altogether.”
Gabrielle was adamant that she refers women looking for more martial arts instruction to “studios and dojos”. She wrote, “I then show some basic moves women can do so they do at least something. I refer women to formal training after my initial class. (Krav Maga seems to be where most go).”
My general impression was that she was embarrassed by the whole thing. “I’m simply trying to show them how to be more confident and empowered through being aware.” She continued, “All I can say is that I hope all the noise quiets down soon and people can get back to their lives. I understand where they’re coming from, but that was most certainly not my intent to simplify an attack… Believe me, in the future, I will for sure refer any people wanting to do video content to the MMA/BJJ world!” She expressed a desire to have the video go away. “I have asked Business Insider to take the video down.”
Throughout these emails, I have to admit I became sympathetic toward her. An internet outing can be brutal. And the MMA community can be a harsh and unforgiving people, especially online. But the truth is the technique she is advocating is not only incorrect, it is dangerous. In many of her videos (some of which she sells for $1.99-$7.99), she advocates for the escalation of violence and seems to hint that the moves she teaches will end an altercation entirely.
This is just unconscionable. While I’m sure that women taking her classes leave feeling empowered, they are not leaving equipped with the correct knowledge to defend themselves. But they could be leaving with an inflated sense of their abilities and incorrect technique to use in dangerous situations. This becomes concerning when major media outlets like NBC’s The Today Show and online influencers like Refrinery29 are showcasing these techniques as legitimate.
For those curious, the boys at Gracie Bradenton whipped up a really great breakdown on how to escape from a rear choke. Note how they stress that you must drill technique against an actively struggling opponent.