The Origins of LIVE


Dennis Mahoney

I’ve been studying violence since the age of twelve when I began to play organized football. In these early years it seemed to me that bigger, stronger and meaner were the keys to success. I learned well and became good enough to earn a full scholarship to college playing division one football.

While I was in college I began studying martial arts. It was an interesting new way to look at violence. I found though that my size and strength were still an advantage and I often won sparring matches with people who were much more advanced in rank than I was.

But at the same time I worked as a bouncer at a number of different clubs and bars. It was here that I began to doubt the invincibility of bigger, stronger and meaner amongst the bottles, pool cues, knives and guns that often showed up in the middle of a bar room brawl. Even the martial art I was practicing at the time combined with my size and strength did not guarantee I would go unharmed and this made me question what I was studying.

So I searched from school to school, style to style looking for a martial arts system that worked despite size or strength. Then in 1988, almost accidentally, I met my current teacher, a man with a constant benevolent smile on his face. 

I’ve always been the type that wants proof something works, so when we trained I came at him with everything I had. He effortlessly escaped and defended against my every attack. His movement was graceful and relaxed. He was almost gentle as he threw me around the room. I had found what I was looking for.

As time passed in my training, the need to use size and strength was replaced with simple, natural movements that used gravity and balance against the person. Later as I began to work with my own training group, it became quite clear to me that women learned this system much quicker than men. The concept of not fighting an opponent’s strength and utilizing natural body movements in order to escape seemed to appeal to them much more. 

It was from this personal discovery and exposure to the many stories and statistics of violence against women that I decided I would attempt to present this information in a woman’s program.

I created a seminar that focused on women’s natural abilities to escape from their attacker, not fight them. It used principles that were simple and effective but I wasn’t satisfied with the results from my first attempts. No matter how gentle I moved while demonstrating, showing that I wasn’t using strength but instead natural body movements, women still doubted whether or not they could do the same.

More importantly there seemed to be a communication gap between the women and me. I was unaware of the extent of the fear that women live with everyday. I did not fully understand the restrictive effect it has on their life and how paralyzing it can be for some. For this to be successful, I needed to find a way to bridge that gap. So I did the most unlikely thing for a man but the smartest thing I could have. I asked a woman.

Theresa Murphy

My introduction to the martial arts started during college. I began to study the traditional martial arts, not for self-defense purposes but as an interesting and exciting alternative for keeping in shape.

It was fun. In the beginning I enjoyed the fact that there was always something new to learn but because of some personal experiences with violence I never completely believed the techniques would really work. As the years passed and I obtained a black belt in my art I still had doubts about how effective it would be against a large, angry man intent on attacking me.

I started looking around to see what other martial arts offered. I wanted something fuller, something more than just physical exercise. But nothing I saw was very different, not enough to make me leave what I was doing.

Then I found Dennis and his training group through the recommendation of a friend. What they were doing was different than anything else I’d seen. They seemed to be doing no work at all, they would just step to the side here, move a hand there, and the attacker would end up in a pile on the ground. 

The first night I took class with them Dennis was showing how to escape when someone grabs the front of your coat. It looked simple; he just moved to the side and somehow his attacker flew to the ground. I was trying to duplicate what he was doing but I was having trouble. My training partner was a very strong man and I couldn’t get away from his hold and take him down.

My partner told me to stop fighting him and move into the open space next to him. The results were unexpected and amazing. I felt nothing. I just stepped into the space and my training partner vaulted  over backward to the ground. I couldn’t believe how simple and effortless it was. It’s impossible to completely explain what an incredible, freeing feeling it was. I joined the group.

Three months later Dennis was running a women’s seminar and asked his students to help. I asked if I could tag along to watch and help even though I knew very little of this art or Dennis’s approach to the seminar. I did this for two reasons, first I was curious how and what he would teach women and second I thought it might be useful for the women there to see a woman in the training group. Even if I were the least experienced it would give them someone to identify with.

The day after the seminar Dennis called me to get my comments and feedback on what had been taught. I was surprised, because before when I had helped any of my other instructors with a self defense seminar they never asked for my feedback. 

He explained that he had been working on this idea for a women’s seminar for over five years but he needed a woman’s input on what was important to women, their concerns, their fears and how best to convey the information to them. Dennis said that he also thought that it would be more believable and attainable for women if there were a woman demonstrating and teaching.

I agreed with him and told him that was one of the reasons I attended. He then asked me if I would be interested in working with him. I accepted because I am one of the statistics. I know the fear, the darkness and the separation that go with being attacked and I don’t want my daughters or anyone else’s daughters to ever go through that.

Stop playing by men’s rules, let go of fear and discover your natural ability to evade and escape violence:

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