By Mark Hand
Mickey Z.’s Self-Defense for Radicals is more than a metaphor for resisting the oppression of governments and corporations. It’s literally a manual for helping you defend yourself when attacked by a mugger, political adversary, bully or anyone intending to commit physical violence against you.
Whether you should use the advice offered by Mickey depends on the situation, of course. If you’re walking down a city street and you’re confronted by a mugger armed with a gun, you may want to think twice about attempting to fend off the attacker by biting him or head-butting him — two self-defense techniques described by Mickey in the book.
However, let’s say you’re walking down the same city street and you’re grabbed from behind, but there’s no hint the attacker is armed. If you’re able to free your arms, why not follow Mickey’s advice and “deliver a sharp elbow to power’s jutting jaw.” Or try to use your elbows as a weapon by aiming them at your attacker’s eyes or groin. Just to be safe, Mickey suggests that if your first elbow lands cleanly, follow it up with several more strikes against your attacker.
Mickey is a martial artist, kickboxer and personal trainer. His decades of training in the martial arts — and his focus on combining a calm mind with a keen understanding of the body and the physics of action — have served as the foundation for his views on violence and how it should be avoided in most cases. However, as Mickey writes:
“Learning how to fight and/or defend yourself is not the same as promoting belligerent, anti-social behavior. We live in an exceedingly violent society. … While talk of non-violence is understandable and the struggle for peace has never been more essential, let’s face it: the odds are, that sooner or later you’re going to end up in a confrontation that may escalate into physical violence. So, why not be prepared?”
Mickey’s years of experience as a martial artist and personal trainer qualify him to write about self-defense. But he also says you shouldn’t worry about qualifications when wondering how to fight back. “You don’t need credentials to kick an oppressor’s ass,” he says.
Self-Defense for Radicals, published by PM Press, contains fewer than 40 pages. But as Derrick Jensen says in a blurb on the back cover: “This small book packs a powerful punch.” And Richard Cole’s cartoons, scattered throughout the book, provide a potent complement to Mickey’s self-defense instructions.
Following in the tradition of his other “list” books — The Seven Deadly Spins and 50 American Revolutions You’re Not Supposed to Know — Mickey’s Self-Defense for Radicals serves as an easy-to-use alphabetical manual for protecting yourself. The book’s target audience is women. In the “S” chapter, Mickey offers some statistics on the level of violence against women in the United States, much of which is committed not by a stranger, but by a husband or a boyfriend. For example, 232,960 women in the United States were raped or sexually assaulted in 2006. That’s more than 600 women every day. Also, 14% of all American women acknowledge having been violently abused by a husband or boyfriend.
Mickey also quotes Martha McCaughey, author of Real Knockouts, who explains that women who take self-defense instruction are offered a critique of the ways in which gender is constructed in a culture of male privilege that rests on the abuse of women. McCaughey continues:
“What is usually taken for granted as a fact of nature — that a woman simply cannot physically challenge a man — is revealed as a social script which privileges men at the expense of women. … Self-defense offers the possibility of a critical consciousness of gender’s influence on what we see as male and female bodies.”
While the book is tailored as a self-defense guide for women, most of the tips and lessons also can help men fend off an attacker. Eye gouges and groin punches can be just as effective when used by a man.
You may wonder why the book is titled Self-Defense for RADICALS. It’s because Mickey’s goal is to instill confidence in the minds of those people — feminists, environmentalists, activists for animal rights, human rights, civil rights and all rebels and dissidents — who are “putting their asses on the line” for fundamental change in our society. In defining “radical,” Mickey gets an assist from Angela Davis, who he quotes early in the book: “Radical simply means grasping things at the root.”
Along with his instructional guidance, Mickey’s message is motivational. In a world where oppressors have been operating scot-free for so long, Mickey offers an uncomplicated rallying cry: “It’s time to not be nice.”