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Circle of Trust offers practical approach to self-defense

Isabella Thatcher (left) acts as the “attacker” of Martha Thatcher, as Circle of Trust instructor Ted Silverberg (far right) and Teresa Malone observe during an Aug. 1 self-defense seminar at Malibu Fitness. Photos by Barbara Burke/22nd Century Media
Circle of Trust instructor and Malibu resident Ted Silverberg leads a self-defense class Aug. 1 at Malibu Fitness.
Ted Silverberg (right) acts out a self-defense scenario with Chris Ogle during the Aug. 1 seminar in Malibu.
Circle of Trust seminar attendees (left to right) Kim Sichta, Chris Ogle, Jill Hainkel, Isabella Thatcher, Martha Thatcher, Maria Newman, Maria Himelfarb, instructor Ted Silverberg and Teresa Malone gather for a photo.
Barbara Burke, Freelance Reporter
9:00 am PDT August 9, 2017

As the old adage says, forewarned is forearmed.  

Malibu resident and self-defense expert Ted Silverberg taught life-saving, common sense techniques at an Aug. 1 Circle of Trust seminar, held at Malibu Fitness. 

Rather than teach attendees how to box or use sophisticated martial arts techniques, Silverberg focused on practical tactics and strategies that could help an individual escape an attacker.

“Many of these attacks are crimes of opportunity,” Silverberg said. “Always ask for someone to escort you to your car if you are in a situation where it is dark outside, such as a bar or other establishment.” 

Silverberg led attendees through a series of role play scenarios, pointing out how a vulnerable person can attempt to escape, even in enclosed areas such as an elevator.

“If someone grabs you from behind, spin around, whipping your arms wildly, using your hands to try to hit the attacker and scratch his eyes,” he instructed. “If you can get away and run, keep going; leave your purse and everything else if necessary. Run and do not look back.” 

The prospect of being in vulnerable situations, such as being pinned facedown on the floor with an attacker having a hold of your hair, terrifies everyone. However, Silverberg emphasized that one has to be lucid, even though a victim’s natural inclination is to freeze in a panic-stricken state.

“You cannot go into shock,” he noted. “Try to throw your head back to put an attacker off balance. Try to get to your side if he has you pinned, using any strategy you can think of. Try to get him to release you or let the pressure up even momentarily. 

“Tell him you will participate in the act he is contemplating if that allows you some room to move. Overall, your best chance is to free his grasp on your hands and arms if you angle your grip toward his thumbs, as that gives you the best chance of twisting away and getting your arms free.”

Attendees had many questions. 

Silverberg gave clear, useful answers.

“What about carrying pepper spray?” one participant asked.

Silverberg noted that pepper spray or mace that is attached to a key chain, while better than nothing, has a very limited range.  

“Get wasp and hornet spray because it is stronger and can be sprayed at between 12 and 18 inches away from an attacker,” he advised.

Silverberg also recommended carrying a Maglite flashlight in one’s purse.

“It is bright, but it is also made of metal so you can use it to fight off an attacker,” he said. 

Other tactics involved a tool that many carry on the daily: their cellphone.

The phone can come in handy in a situation where one is alone on a dark street or in a parking lot, he said. Silverberg recommended having the phone out and talking loudly into it on a speaker so that an attacker is aware they can be filmed. 

“In my many interviews with FBI detectives and other officials, they have emphasized that a victim should not follow an attacker’s instructions,” Silverberg said. “If an assaulter says to get into a car, refuse to do so. Fight strongly and defy him.”

Silverberg also emphasized the need to be cautious when a stranger approaches, using an example of someone approaching a person at an ATM and asking for directions or to use a cellphone. 

“If someone approaches you in a situation like that, the risk is that it is a two-man operation and another attacker is lurking in the shadows,” Silverberg said. “Don’t hesitate to tell the inquiring person to find someone else to help them. Always, always go with your intuition.”

Silverberg, the father of two daughters, began teaching self-defense after he saw “The Hunting Ground,” the Emmy award-winning documentary portraying campus assaults.   

“I literally feared for my daughter’s lives,” he said. “The statistics are terrifying.” 

Attendees were very impressed with the class, finding the practical solutions useful and the discussion of how to avoid getting into compromising situations eye-opening.

“I think this class is good because it provides us with simple and straightforward strategies to fight against an attacker,” attendee Kim Sichta said. “If we are attacked, we don’t have a lot of time to think, and the key things he taught us are things we can use.”

Maria Newman, a Malibu composer and violinist, attended the seminar with two of her daughters, and said she found it to be incredibly useful.

“This has been one of the most inspiring events in my life as a mother,” she said. “I have two kids in college and three younger ones at home. As musicians, we work at night and that is when people are most vulnerable. The class has given us useful tips.”

For more information, contact Silverberg at (310) 457-9829 or