Past Articles Presented in Writers' Corner

We have previously published articles that were well received and have established this archive for those of you who didn't see them the first time around.

Last fall Lethal Force Institute taught its LFI-I class to a women's only class. Galia Berry and others involved with that class were featured in a recent Women & Guns article.

This is another article about that class. Although it was for women only, anyone will find it interesting. Hats off to Galia for providing us with her impressions of that class.


by Galia Berry

What motivates a woman to carry a loaded gun? Fourteen women from all over the U.S. were asked why they enrolled in Lethal Force Institute's LFI-I, taught by Massad Ayoob, instructor, shooting champion, policeman, author and expert witness extraordinaire. The women had gathered for a forty-hour training program in the legal, moral, ethical and practical parameters of the use of lethal force and deadly weapons by private citizens in self defense. Kate Alexander's Tugs'N'Thugs program provided the women with an additional ten hours of anti-assault street defense techniques.

The answers given to that question on the first day of the five-day class were as different as the women themselves, which included an artist, a mayor, an attorney, a homemaker and a livestock farmer. All of the women in the class had permits to carry a concealed weapon. Several of the women had some experience with firearms. For others, this was the first time they had ever handled a gun.

"Actually," said one middle-aged woman, "I'm here only because my husband has been pressuring me to carry a gun for my own safety. I have to admit, I am afraid of it and all that it represents. I recognize the need to protect myself in today's crime-ridden world, yet I find the reality of it all extremely scary."

"I agree intellectually (about self defense) but deep down feel incompetent," said a woman approaching her sixty-sixth birthday. "As angry as I can get, as much as I can do - - will it be enough? I have the fear of the old."

"Until now, target shooting was a hobby I enjoyed with my husband," said a doctor who collects firearms. "Then I started having babies, and it seemed my whole perspective changed. My protective instinct just took over."

"Now that I have my permit, I find myself reluctant to carry my gun. It's not that I couldn't use it if I had to - - but I am afraid of the repercussions of a judicial system that has gone haywire."

"My father has been into guns ever since I can remember," said a recent college graduate. "Personally, I don't know what all the excitement is about, but he's afraid of his precious little girl going out into the big, bad world and insisted I carry a gun with me. He signed me up for the course so that I can use it competently and safely."

"I'm here because I want the best, and Massad Ayoob's LFI course is the best there is. I want it because I'm important, I deserve it, and I want what's best for me," said another. (no identity crisis problems here!)

Massad Ayoob encouraged the women to get to know one another during class breaks and to socialize after class hours. The women bantered politely to one another but stuck to safe topics such as the weather or where they were from.

Meanwhile, the intense and grueling pace of LFI-I gained momentum. Through the use of videos, psychodrama, lectures and practical shooting, the course literally bombarded the students, frantically taking notes, with information.

LFI-I is not only about learning to shoot a gun safely, but also, responsibly. When is the use of deadly force justified? What components must be evident before pulling the trigger? Does one shoot to kill, or to wound? (Neither - - one shoots to stop.) What are the advantages and disadvantages women have over men in practical and legal issues of self defense with a handgun? Philosophical issues soon gave way to pragmatism. How should one react to responding officers if one has used a handgun in self-defense? What physical and psychological symptoms can one expect as a result of post-shooting trauma? At what part of the assailant's body should one aim the gun? What type of ammunition should one use? Which guns best fit a woman's smaller hand size? What are suggested ways to carry a concealed weapon comfortably? (Holsters designed for a man's body shape rarely fit women properly.) How does one keep a gun safely in a house with small children? How does one go to the bathroom in a public restroom while carrying a concealed weapon? (Carefully!)

This is only a small sampling of some of the issues covered. There was barely time to eat lunch (usually a sandwich nibbled from one hand, while the other hand furiously scribbled notes). The end of the day was reserved for Kate Alexander's Tugs'N'Thugs program of self defense for women.

After teaching the women some basic aggressive physical techniques of assault resistance, Kate brought in her "thugs." These men were truly scary looking.

They wore denim overalls over their heavily padded bodies, and wore protective headgear which included threatening-looking facial masks. In the first exercise, women were told to stand on a mat, and the two "thugs" would approach her from behind in an attempt to assault her. The "victim" was to use her newfound techniques of resistance to thwart the "thugs'" evil intentions. Interestingly, the identities of these masked thugs were not made known to the class. The anonymity and depersonalization was essential, Kate said, to maintain objectivity.

If one saw a face, and knew that in real life these were good guys just playing a role, one might not get as optimally involved in the drills. Kate purposely did not want to take the edge off. "I want to desensitize you, not humanize them," she stated. Also, there was the small chance that the "thug" might resemble a loved one at home, making it difficult to carry out a counterassault with conviction.

The high level of tension, fear, and loathing in the room was clearly tangible. Several women became visibly upset; a few were reduced to tears. In the discussion that followed the exercise, the women were invited to share their feelings. A palpable change overcame these fourteen women, who previously had been polite strangers. About half the women in the room revealed that they had been victims of rape and/or wife battering. Kate Alexander chided them. They were not victims, she said, but survivors.

"There is a fine line between aggression and defense. I'm a survivor and I still have to learn control."

"The problem is that the mask has a face," said a woman who had been raped thirty-one years ago. "When I faced (the thugs), it was as though Evil was in the room. I hyperventilated. But towards the end, I came to the conclusion that I can do something and don't have to be a victim."

"It brought something back that I thought was settled in the past," said another. "I came to the present, couldn't deal with it, so I went back to the past, took control, and beat the bastard up!"

"Even yesterday, knowing (the thugs) were going to be here, I got flashbacks and got emotional," said a woman who had been assaulted more than a decade ago. "The first time they "attacked" was scary; the second time was a bit better. I knew that if I could get myself pissed, I could take care of myself."

"I hate it," said a successful professional. "I don't know why I'm doing this to myself. But every day I put myself in situations where this (self-defense class) makes sense."

Said one survivor of a rape, "Every time we did the exercise, I hated it. Every time I meet someone who went through what I did, I go through (the experience of the rape) again. But it also makes me more determined not to have anyone else go through it. And by learning these techniques, I can help change the ending."

"I've taught martial arts to women for years," said a high-ranking martial artist taking the class, "and usually women are really inhibited about verbalizing and yelling aggressively. How on earth did you get fourteen women to ki'ai (the controlled power release scream used in martial arts) on the very first try?"

The women parted that night with hugs, tears, and feelings of growing empowerment. The next day, Kate Alexander arrived early to describe the electric moments of the previous evening.

"Mas," she said to Ayoob, "you simply wouldn't have believed it. The whole session was just simply amazing. Women were able to release skeletons that had haunted them for years. The polite but aloof ladies you said goodbye to yesterday afternoon are not going to be the same ladies that you see this morning. They really bonded! Why don't you ask them how it went?" Kate urged enthusiastically.

Indeed, the women of Day Three of LFI-I were different. They sat closer together, shared cookies and jokes. Massad Ayoob began the class promptly at nine.

"So, ladies, I understand from Kate Alexander that last night's Tugs'N'Thugs session was extremely productive. Would any of you like to share your thoughts?"


"Uh, hmm, I see. So tell me, how did you like it?" he nudged.

Finally a woman spoke up. "Okay," she said simply.

"Okay?" Mas Ayoob asked cautiously, having heard such an enthusiastic recounting from Kate Alexander.

"Yeah, it was nice," said another woman rather curtly.

"Sorry, Mas," a woman spoke up from the back. "It's not that we don't want to tell you about it, but you know - - it's a gal thing!"

With that, the entire female audience broke into raucous laughter, leaving Mas Ayoob to (as he jokingly put it) "get in touch with his feminine side."

The moment was shortlived, however, as Ayoob the Tyrant continued to bombard the women's brains with more facts, case histories, and range time.

Safety was the number-one priority on the range. Once indoctrinated as to safety techniques, and under the very watchful eyes and personal attention of the (female) range officers, the women learned to shoot their personal firearms under varying adverse conditions: shooting one-handed with both weak and strong hands; shooting from crouched, kneeling, and semi-kneeling positions; shooting using three different shooting techniques (Isocoles, Weaver, and Chapman stances); shooting from a distance of two to fifteen yards; and shooting and reloading three magazines under various time constraints, within a certain range of accuracy.

Though the women were of disparate shooting experience and skill, every single woman managed to qualify on her very first try on her shooting competency test, which measures safety, speed, and accuracy using the newly-learned skills listed above.

Day Four brought a renewal of tense emotion as the Thugs came back, this time to the shooting range, where the ladies took individual turns behind the shooting line. The thugs stood behind the shooter who was wearing electronic hearing protection and therefore able to pick up even the softest sounds. Goading each woman with obscenities and horrific suggestions of rape, murder and mayhem, it was up to the ladies to fire at a paper silhouette target in front of her only at the moment when legally appropriate to do so. Many of the women were fairly traumatized by this exercise until their adrenalin was fully activated. Then, amazingly, these women showed just how well they could handle a gun - - and themselves - - under adverse conditions. One woman, who had been only a fair shooter until now, shot bullseyes with repetitive shots that were so rapid it sounded like fully automatic gunfire.

The sixty-five year old class "senior" who had earlier admitted to having "the fear of the old" became not only a proficient shooter, but so verbally aggressive and assertive during this exercise that she got a standing ovation by the entire class upon completion. This was one tough lady; one would think twice before messing with her!

Just as Kate Alexander empowered the women with increased self esteem and physical prowess, Massad Ayoob handled the class with aplomb. Alternately stern, dramatic and sensitive one moment, funny and poignant the next, he was able to demand the utmost from his students, all the while enriching them with his wisdom, expertise, and years of life experience. The class was an overwhelming success, and as the women exchanged addresses on their fifth and final day of class, several vowed to meet again, at LFI-II.

As one woman wrote in her class evaluation, "Lethal Force Institute, LFI, is something of a misnomer. 'LFI' should stand for "Life Force Initiative!"

Lethal Force Institute, under the direction of Massad Ayoob, gives self-defense training courses throughout the country several times a year. Applicants must undergo a rigorous screening process.

If you have any questions regarding this article, you can contact the author.

Copyright © 1995-2007 - Galia Berry, All Rights Reserved, Reprinted with permission

For more information, contact:

Lethal Force Institte
P.O. Box 122
Concord, NH 03301

Kate Alexander

Galia's Interview

The following is a dialog between Galia Berry and Andy Langlois about the LFI-1 for Women class and Tugs 'N Thugs.


Galia Berry

Last autumn, fourteen women participated in Kate Alexander's self defense program for women, Tugs 'N Thugs, in conjunction with Lethal Force Institute's LFI-1 For Women Only, given by Massad Ayoob (see Women &Guns, March '96). Approximately half of the women participating were survivors of sexual assault and/or wife battering.

Needless to say, it was a very traumatic experience for these women to have to face the likes of two very scary looking, intimidating thugs and attempt to fight them off. The thugs' identities were not made known to the participants until the final day of class, when, in a touching gesture, the very same thugs who had forced women to relive horrific events in their past, reverted to the sensitive, kind, and caring men that they are in "real" life.

Stripped of their masks and protective clothing, the two men, Jimmy Krueger and Andy Langlois, presented each woman with a long-stemmed rose and a well-received hug along with a few shared smiles and tears.

I decided I had to know more about what motivates a "thug" to take part in this physically and emotionally demanding program. So I asked the meanest, nastiest, most intimidating Thug that only a mother could love, Andy Langlois, to share his side of the story.

GB: How did you first become a Thug?

Andy: I attended one of Kate's classes a few years ago, mostly to observe, to see how Kate teaches (really dynamic!), and to learn a few things about women and self-defense. I was so impressed and excited about all of it, I wound up actually participating in the class! The techniques, although designed for women, made so much sense, were so easy to use, and were so well presented that I knew I just had to be a part of this. I spoke with Kate about getting involved possibly as an adjunct instructor, and soon became a "Thug"!

GB: How much does all that protective padding weigh? It must get awfully hot in there!

Andy: Probably about 40 - 50 lbs., possibly more. Most of the padding is special for our use. We have modified existing pads and helmets to take the impact of a full power hit with little damage to the Thug or the student. It gets very hot. We need to take breaks often and drink lots of fluids. I drank about a half gallon of water or more for each night of Tugs 'N Thugs/LFI-I For Women.

GB: Just how well does the padding protect you? You were getting pretty well pounded by the women, especially in some pretty (ahem) sensitive areas of your body.

Andy: If the padding is on perfectly (you learn quickly to make sure!), I feel no pain. I do get some pressure in my lower parts, but non painful. Kate can knee me in the groin and pick me up a foot or so off the ground, and back 3 - 6 feet. . . no pain at all!

GB: Sometimes the scene seemed surreal. A few of the women, who had never had any kind of martial arts training, and who were a fraction of your size and weight, were able to knock you down, or, if they were on the ground, really deliver some blows. You weren't "faking" your vulnerability so they should feel a sense of accomplishment and success? Do you feel these women were really hitting back in an effective manner?

Andy: We do not fake anything. . . we start at half power to give the students a "feel" of the situation. We do change scenarios to keep students on their toes. When I fall, I am hit hard enough to do so. Kate's techniques are designed to get the most from each student during an attack. Many of the women hit us very softly at first. After a few hours of training they usually start getting more aggressive and using the real power they have (inside and out!). Of course we Thugs increase too!

GB: Some of the exercises forced women to relive the terror of their assaults all over again. I'm thinking in particular of a woman who had been raped thirty years earlier and thought she had put it behind her. Suddenly, she was reliving the moment again in her mind and became very upset, crying and shaking and fearful. How do you handle putting women through that kind of experience? What kind of emotions go through your own mind when you get such an emotional reaction? Guilt? Shame?

Andy: Well, as you witnessed, there were a few emotional times for a couple of ladies in the course. It really hit home when one of them broke up and started shaking and crying. . . I really wanted to go over and console her. But that would have ruined the whole idea of being unknown to everyone. And I guess our job was to make women deal with whatever fears they have on assault/crime/past experiences with crime. I did get pretty emotional myself in one particular exercise.

GB: Which exercise was that?

Andy: The live-fire exercise.

GB: Ah, yes, the "garbage mouths." That really was scary! Why don't you describe the exercise?

Andy: Well. . . Garbage Mouth is the section of Tugs 'N Thugs when we go to the range with the students. We thugs are on each side of a student; she is pointing her gun downrange in the "low ready" position (hard guard) towards a silhouette target. We proceed to swear, make crude, sexually-explicit remarks, vile comments, and sometime during this exercise one of us blurts out a lethal threat. At the point the student hears this threat, she should respond accordingly and fire. The purpose is twofold: we harden the student to vulgarities, and train them to discern a lethal threat from a non-lethal comment.

(Note: all the students fired on the target right on cue: Verbal Lethal Threat . . . bang! bang!)

I did get a bit emotional during the live fire/swearing exercise. Kate can tell it better, but I guess I got really wide-eyed and scared when a student got VERY upset on the range. I guess what I or Jim said really got to her. . .I was not ready for the reaction I got from her; it floored me emotionally.

GB: I have to confess, I have never heard language that vile in such concentrated doses, ever! Where on earth did a nice guy like you learn to talk like that?

Andy: Well, I do not like it; neither does Jimmy. But it is a part of the training, and we would be doing an injustice to you, the student, if we did not do this part. I try to think of the nastiest things I have ever heard, the must vulgar sayings, the vilest comments, words that street scum would use, vocabulary that low-lifes spew. I felt like my mouth needed washing out after I did the Garbage Mouth.

GB: Can you balance the fact that you cause these women so much angst with the knowledge that you are in reality strengthening the women?

Andy: Yes, in the long run I can balance the two out. The week really took its toll on me. I was truly exhausted from the experience. Between the thug suit and the emotions, I was "whupped". I could not get to sleep till midnight most nights from the adrenalin (and Kate and Jim keeping me awake! They were pumped, too.)

GB: Was this the most intense and bonded group of women that you've worked with? How did this group of women differ from any others you've worked with?

Andy: This was my first "group." I did Kate's Tugs 'N Thugs course as a student/observer last year, and did a small course this summer (two people). I had never "performed" for a group before. I have never seen a better bonded group ever - - male, female, males and females mixed - - this one had the Right Stuff. In fact, I really think a few of the women should make it back to LFI (or other places) as a reunion sometime. They did a lot of work at LFI, mentally, physically, and emotionally; you need to share it. It would be nice to hear about the experience a year from now: whether they retained it all, what really stuck out in their minds, what is more appropriate at a future date than now, etc.

GB: Well, to some extent this has happened. As an alumnus of that class, I am still in contact with over half the class; we frequently exchange notes or cards or chat on email. But a reunion certainly does sound like a good idea! Oh, and by the way, Andy - - you definitely look better without your mask!

Andy: I hope you use your knowledge well and wisely. Firearms are only a part of the defense picture; your mindset and attitude will be as important in your quest for personal safety and confidence. Be safe, be aware. . . use all of the skills you have well, practice with your pistol, think about Mas' and Kate's words. If you are affected as I was with LFI and Tugs 'N Thugs, your life has been changed. . . for the better.

One last thing: I would like to thank Kate Alexander for the chance to work with her in this self defense program. I would like to thank Jimmy Krueger even more; without his thorough and patient training to use the thug suit and the applicable techniques, I would never have had the chance to enjoy this course as I did (Jimmy is the "Main Thug;" I am his "Assistant Thug.") I'm pleased that I had this chance to speak with a participant of the class after the fact. It helped clarify and define a few issues I had with being a Thug.

Copyright © 1996 - Galia Berry, All Rights Reserved, Reprinted with permission

For more information, contact:

Lethal Force Institute
P.O. Box 122
Concord, NH 03301

Kate Alexander

Devoid Safety Conversions

by Massad Ayoob

Rick Devoid's Tarnhelm Supply has taken the lead in providing maximum "proprietary nature to the user" in handguns for police officers, security professionals, and law-abiding private citizens. Rick is now the sole installer of the excellent Magna-Trigger conversion on the S&W K-frame or larger revolver, allowing it to be fired only by someone wearing the proprietary magnetic ring.

"Fluffy, the pet revolver" -- my only gun that I ever gave a nickname, because it only spoke on its owner's command -- got me through raising two kids in a time when death threats were not uncommon in my life and I felt a need for a loaded handgun immediately accessible to protect those two toddlers. I carried it on patrol for some time, and still use it on "special occasions."

Rick has also taken over Frank Murabito's excellent manual safety conversion of revolvers. I have one on a Smith Model 13 .357 set up for southpaw, and another on a Ruger Security Six set up for right hand, and they both work superbly, especially since they also have the excellent Tarnhelm action hones and double action only conversions. He can put the Murabito safety on Colt revolvers, too. [Editor's note: the Colt conversion should be available later this year.]

Tarnhelm enters a third dimension with "SmartLock," the Magna-Trigger concept applied to the full size Beretta semiautomatic. The only bad news so far is that it works only with the ring on the right hand, so Rick and I both suggest that southpaws look for another system in a primary gun, and that righties carry a backup weapon accessible to their left hand. Needless to say, I've already sent Rick a Beretta (Model 92D double action only slickslide) for this conversion.

Do you like the superb stroke and perfect trigger reach of S&W's DAO autos? Me too. Do you appreciate the manual safety on the standard model Smith autoloaders? Me too. Do you resent the fact that S&W offers one but not the other on the slickslide DAO guns? Me too..but Devoid can simply install a dedicated (ambidextrous, if you like) manual safety on your DAO Smith & Wesson. I plan on sending him my 3953 for just this alteration.

Rick stands behind his work, sells only proven concepts, and turns the guns around quickly while charging a fair price. It's no wonder he has become the leader in producing fine combat handguns that "only speak for their owners." -Massad Ayoob, 7/10/96

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