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Perhaps the only pleasant thing about being knocked unconscious is seeing the pretty stars you see on your way to the floor.
Pretty for sure, but Tina Buck, the 50-something founder of Guardian Angel Protection, a local, fledgling security firm aimed at empowering women, isn't really interested in providing fetching scenery for the attackers who prey on her clients.
"We help victims manage their fear," says Buck, who retired from the Virginia Commonwealth University campus police force in May after a 25-year career in law enforcement.
The svelte, 5-foot-nothing woman who knocked me out using Buck's anyone-can-do-it techniques certainly seemed to have her fear fairly well managed. "Sam" is a local medical professional whose ex-husband still hasn't gotten over their contentious divorce more than a year ago. She'll gain confidence, conceivably, from knocking out a reporter from Style.
"I'm ready to talk about what happened to me because I'm not going to be a victim anymore," says Sam, who despite her newfound confidence remains anonymous here at Buck's insistence.
She and her husband separated in September 2005. By October, things had gone from bad to unmanageable. In addition to suffering the occasional vandalism to her house and car, she says, her job security was also being threatened by her ex-husband's constant bogus calls of complaint against her to hospital administrators.
"Every time something happened, it was in the middle of the night and there were no witnesses, and I would file a police report and that was the end of it. And it would happen again," she says. "You just feel hopeless. I'm not saying the police weren't doing their job, but when this happens over and over and over again, you just feel that you're a victim, and that your life is not your own, and you have nobody to turn to.
"I was very frustrated and afraid."
Enter Buck, who happened to know Sam through VCU.
Cases like Sam's are proof that there's both a societal and a market need for her services, Buck says. When she left professional law enforcement, Buck saw an opportunity to continue her work and started Guardian Angel in August. Her area of expertise in law enforcement had long been aiding female victims of domestic violence and stalking. And over time, she says, "I got really, really good at coming up with safety strategies [for women]. I got my most satisfaction from working with domestic-violence victims."
Teaching domestic-violence victims to knock out reporters hardly is all Buck provides through her company, though self-defense certainly is an important component.
The handful of clients Buck has helped so far came to her amid the real-life turmoil of living in constant fear. Each was being stalked by an ex-boyfriend or former spouse.
First among strategies Buck employs to rebuild these victims' confidence is providing a threat assessment of the woman's home, workplace and commuter route.
"What does she know about his behavior?" Buck says. "I take all the information — what he's doing, what type of stalking — then we make recommendations."
Among possible solutions, motion detectors and video cameras installed in the home, in the car or even on the individual to help create the sort of evidence that women often lack in the sorts of he-said/she-said legal fights typical of domestic-violence cases.
"I see a lot of victims that are doing the right thing," Buck says, but often it's not enough without picture proof. "The way that the justice system is set up, it just seems that all of the protection is for the defendants. With these kinds of cases, the victim is solely responsible for building the case, and we empower them. … You've got to document everything, you've go to start calling the police every time, you've got to start going to court, you've got to be willing to prosecute."
Also among possible recommendations she makes to her clients: firearms training, simple personal-defense training and occasionally, if stalking is severe, referral to an outside private investigator who can stalk the stalker.
Some recommendations Buck provides involve her business partners, Joel Kirby McClanahan and Gene Harris. Both men served at various times with Buck in law enforcement, and each brings his own area of skill. McClanahan has expertise in martial arts and weapons, and Harris does video-surveillance installation.
Sam's knockout karate chop is a move adapted by McClanahan from his martial-arts training to make it simple for diminutive women, and doable for the handicapped and elderly.
The maneuver uses relatively gentle strikes to two pressure points — places where nerves cross in the body — to do its work, says McClanahan, who also teaches Buck's clients awareness techniques and how to follow their intuition to avoid ever needing to knock out an attacker.
But when needed, the blow he teaches "sends a small scream to the brain that your blood pressure is 180 over 180, and your system shuts down — you go unconscious," McClanahan says. "After about three minutes, your system will realize 'I'm still alive,' and you'll come to."
But three minutes is plenty of time for the lucky woman who uses the technique to get the heck out of Dodge and call the police.
"We use what's called a stun-and-run technique," he says, defining a big difference between what he teaches and what many other self-defense classes try to teach women. "Any martial art that teaches a small female to try to exchange and fight with a large opponent has set her up for disaster. Size makes the difference."
And the training certainly has made all the difference for Sam.
"I'm not going to be afraid anymore — and I was," she says, proving she's got no reason to be by taking out her aggressions on me.
It's a simple one-two shot: A quick whack with the bony edge of her forearm to the fleshy part of mine that uses its own momentum to bounce from there to a spot on my neck just below the ear.
Ker-pow! Like bad special effects recalling the old Batman TV show with Adam West, the stars fly around the room.
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