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Tuff Girls train, learn how not to be victims

By Richard Yeakley
Nov. 3, 2012 at 10 p.m.

"Stop! Stop! Leave me alone! Stop! Stop!"

The shouts aren't those of a victim of crime. They are the shouts of a woman training to never be one.

Michelle Lugo is a Tuff Girl - a group of women who train Tuesday and Thursday nights at Longview Martial Arts in grappling, striking and self defense techniques.

The program is designed for women of all ages. No interest in traditional martial arts like Taekwondo or Jiu Jitsu, which are also offered at Longview Martial Arts, is needed to participate.

"It can be frightening to be alone, especially at night," Lugo said. "Do you watch the news, people these days are willing to kill you for a couple of dollars."

Lugo just began training with the Tuff Girls - which started in December 2010 after management of the facility decided it was important to offer women an opportunity to train for real life self-defense.

Tracy Works, the program coordinator, is a 4th degree Taekwondo blackbelt and has studied martial arts for 15 years.

She began her training after going to a one-day seminar on women's self defense - the predecessor of the Tuff Girl program.

"What this program does is that it builds women's confidence," Works said. "If a woman has her head up, is alert to her environment and is confident in herself, she is already a more difficult target."

But, Works is also shaping her women to be ready to defend themselves at a moment's notice.

Classroom practice works on chokes, punches, wrestling and endurance.

In a special session last week, Works had all the lights turned off and male martial art students "attack" the women in the darkness - forcing them to respond by instinct and training to defend themselves.

Trish Porter has attended Tuff Girls for the year and eight months the program has been established.

Porter said she reserves the 6:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.

"I may not always be in a good mood when I come, or want to come. But once I do, I leave feeling great," Porter said.

When her instructor asked her to head up Tuff Girls, Works jumped at the opportunity.

Shortly after starting martial arts as a highschooler, Works training kicked in during a class trip when she noticed she and her hotel roommates were being followed by a man not in their party.

Works said she realized the young girls should not go to their room and managed to avoid the man until a class sponsor took action and forced the would be predator to leave.

Frances Barrios, 16, is in much the same stage of life as Works was when she went to her first self defense seminar.

Barrios has attended Tuff Girls since April. Her younger sister is also a Tuff Girl.

"I do feel more confident that I could defend myself if the need arose," Barrios said.



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