Last summer, I met Jim Pilkington while visiting the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in Denver. I observed Jim, an Assistive Technology Specialist, as he gave his client tips on using her computer and cell phone without sight. The facility has a full kitchen where she could practice safe cooking techniques. But the class where Jim could really sense a client’s renewal of control and self-esteem was in the 1Touch™ Self-Defense class he taught. A bit emotional, like a proud parent, he recounted the story about Margie . . .

She was one of the first group of students to receive the 1Touch training, and had been studying the system for about seven months. She was very enthusiastic, and often helped the newer participants practice their techniques. In 2012, Margie was travelling on the city bus, her laptop computer and other items in a rolling bag sitting at her feet.

Margie has Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), with a very small field of usable vision, but she noticed a man sitting across the aisle from her. He seemed to be paying rather too much attention to Margie and her computer bag. Because of his apparent interest, Margie kept an eye on him. Because she was wearing dark glasses and carrying a white cane, she probably appeared to be an easy target for theft.

As the bus pulled up to a stop, the man grabbed Margie’s bag and headed for the door. When she felt her bag being carried away, she caught his wrist and used an arm lock technique to force him to the floor. She then yelled to the bus driver to alert the police.

The bus driver hit the panic button, which summons the police, and Margie kept the Perpetrator pinned to the floor while another passenger held the man’s legs.

Within a few minutes two police cars had arrived and the man was taken away, charged with attempted theft. All the time he was on the floor, Margie reports that he was yelling and threatening her, but she kept her cool and controlled the situation without any injury to herself or the bad guy.

Later, Margie was informed by the police that the perpetrator had multiple previous arrests for theft and assault.

Margie is in her early 50’s, is under 5 feet tall, and weighs less than 100 pounds. I mention this to emphasize that size and strength need not be decisive factors when using the 1Touch™ techniques properly.

1Touch™ Self-Defense was specifically adapted to be taught and learned by those with visual challenges, as described in the 2012 article, 1Touch™: New Self-Defense Program Trains Blind Instructors.

Like Margie – since giving up my car keys, I find myself navigating through interesting places and situations. My daughter knows all too well the route of unlit streets we walk just to go to the movies while others park their cars in the lighted parking lot mere the door. I always wondered what both of us would do if ever confronted by an unsavory character like Margie did.

This feeling of unease, at best, is one obstacle I’d like to overcome in 2015. My quest to find 1Touch™ Self-Defense training led me to Miranda Brown, U.S. Secretary for the 1Touch™ Project. She received certification to teach and now conducts 8-week classes that meet once a week in her hometown in Iowa. Iowa is too far from here so she suggested I attend an upcoming 2.5 day intense 1Touch™ Self-Defense instructor certification training coming up March 13-15th in Secaucus, New Jersey. That way, I could not only learn it myself, but teach it to my daughter, and perhaps all her friends too!

“What’s cool about the 1Touch™ system is that it is so adaptable”, Miranda said. But when a student with cerebral palsy and no feeling on one side signed up for her class, she wasn’t sure what to do. Miranda called Steve Nichols, founder of the 1Touch™ Project who walked her through some adaptations over the phone, and it worked! Miranda has also heard success stories from other trainers who had students in wheelchairs, were both deaf and blind, or were challenged in other ways. An 85 year old woman who was blind was pretty tickled when she skillfully brought her instructor to the ground. Miranda, blind herself, further commented, “I never saw myself being a teacher, but I love this.”

The 1Touch™ Project website, where you can find upcoming events, instructors, and training opportunities, is currently being updated. But until then, you can contact Miranda Brown to inquire about trainers in your area or becoming certified in 1Touch™ Self-Defense. They have a goal of providing a dozen certification courses in the U.S. in 2015. Check out the 1Touch™ Self-Defense Facebook page for the latest announcements.

by Maurie Hill