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Fight Back: Arm Yourself with Mental and Physical Self-Defense    by Dominick DiVito order for
Fight Back
by Dominick DiVito
Order:  USA  Can
Center Street, 2005 (2005)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Having practiced self-defense techniques in martial arts classes over the last several years, I was curious to read Dominick DiVito's Fight Back. The book has two main sections - on Mental Self-Defense and Physical Self-Defense. It comes with a DVD that shows one full scenario of a predator stalking a young mother, highlights red flags she missed, and shows how she could have better protected herself (a full DVD is available with additional scenarios and self-defense techniques). Fast Facts - such as statistics that show that fighting back does typically help the victim - are interspersed through the text.

In book and DVD, Dominick DiVito emphasizes today's risk to women of attack without warning. He repeatedly mentions that women must give themselves 'permission to fight back', something often in conflict with their personalities and upbringing. He encourages trusting gut feelings - intuition typically being one of women's strengths - in different situations. DiVito discusses myths, like a belief that a gun is sufficient, stating that attacks come without warning and women's only resources are 'your mind and your body.' He encourages paying attention to surroundings (location matters!) and provides safety tips for different contexts and for spotting potential attackers. He gives four rules on: permission to fight back; belief in your ability to do so; control of fear; and funneling the panic reaction into an effective response.

Under Physical Self-Defense, DiVito explains when this is and is not appropriate, and discusses alternatives (when they are available) like walking away from a situation. He offers tools for striking back - the use of surprise; seizing an opportunity when the time is right; and specific body points to hit and how to do so (he tells us the groin is overrated as a target). He advises 'take what you see', and provides photos of strikes and points to hit. DiVito recommends practice (very important), visualization, and use of items carried, like keys. Specific assault scenarios show effective responses in different situations, including a group attack and attacks with weapons. He concludes, 'It's your life ... and it's up to you to make a conscious choice to save it.'

I highly recommend Fight Back to anyone at all concerned about physical safety. Advice on mental self-defense and on dangerous scenarios is excellent, and the video (a picture is worth a thousand words) makes clear that danger can come out of nowhere, and how important it is to be prepared. But, while specific self-defense techniques shown are effective, I don't think they can be learned from a book or even through regular practice with a friend. To be done right the first time, they must be in muscle memory. Buy and read the book, by all means, but also sign up with a reputable training school, and practice techniques until they become automatic responses, reflected in confident body language. That's the best way to stay safe.

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