Model Mugging

MODEL MUGGING Self-Defense is a system designed for crime prevention, self-defense, personal safety, and empowerment that aims to better prepare women (and men) for real-life attack situations. Since 1971 Model Mugging Self-defense is based on continuous research in science and developmental program evolution. Research synthesized the elements of police records, interviewing survivors and criminals, martial arts and military sciences, physiology and psychology, crime prevention, criminal profiling, and more have been intertwined into the most complete and comprehensive, “street” practical, self-defense program available.

Model Mugging Self-Defense is the original adrenal stress training course. Model Mugging training involves students role-playing and being able to actually fight full force in a variety of assault scenarios. Students are taught physical defenses, methods of avoiding or defusing potential assaults, verbal defenses, and decision-making under the pressure in threatening situations common to women. During the simulated assaults, heavily padded instructors, often referred to as muggers, role model assailant behaviors allowing students to respond with appropriate full-force counterattacks while being coached by a female co-instructor who role models proper technique and spirit.

The emotionally charged nature of the scenarios is combined with full-force fighting that tends to create an adrenalized state similar to someone facing a real assault. The adrenalized nature of the training is intended to teach the student respond naturally and more effectively when in adrenalized situations.

Students learn how to protect themselves from a single unarmed assailant (basic self-defense course), armed assailants, and multiple assailants. When taught by certified instructors, Model Mugging Self-defense is the most advanced and safest self-defense program available for women, both physically and emotionally.

Brief History

Matt Thomas founded Model Mugging in 1971. After a Karate classmate was brutally raped in Southern California. He immediately realized the martial arts and self-defense were very different. While finishing his education at Stanford he researched over 2700 (later over 3000) assaults against women and interviewed sexual predators. During his first class at Harvard he developed the padded assailant in 1972 and applied it with adrenaline stress training specialized for the needs of women. Overall he was knocked out over 20 times and sustained over 40 other injuries designing the protective body armor of the padded assailant. Today it is rare that a certified Model Mugging instructor is injured while wearing the protective equipment.

The padded assailant concept is the most copied aspect of Model Mugging by many self-defense groups and martial art styles. However, the padded assailant concept was developed after extensive research and program design that Matt Thomas defined as Martial Science.

Matt Thomas double majored in biology and psychology and earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in 4 years. He studied the most efficient ways to teach and synergized many of principles of his professors. He applied Albert Bandura’s Role Model Mastery of how to overcome fear of snakes and flying; Dan Millman’s Peaceful Warrior humane coaching style of teaching with joy and laughter; Colin Pittenridge’s Animal Communication; Karl Pribram’s Neurophysiology of Learning; Ernst Hilgard’s State Conditioned learning; Phillip Zimbardo’s Cognitive Dissonance; Klaus Bensch’s rigorous applications of the Scientific Method, Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey and later at Harvard Medical School, David Shapiro’s Biofeedback in learning. In addition to others and holding black belts in multiple martial arts styles.

Later David Brown and Jeff Adams made improvements to the body armor increasing safety but had dropped the 1/3 mental, 1/3 emotional and 1/3 physical training classes. Danielle Evans (now Danielle Smith) refocused class time also to psychological growth and change as a means of breaking the “victim cycle” of abuse. Along with Julio Toribio, they conducted instructor training that eventually built the Model Mugging program up to 39 chapters; Sheryl Doran improved marketing development; Mary Tesoro was instrumental in writing about Model Mugging; and Mark Morris made additions to the equipment and instruction processes.

From 1985 through 1988 a lead instructor (name omitted) within the Model Mugging organization subversively sought to control Model Mugging and in the process he ultimately decimated the organization. When his intent was confronted, he left Model Mugging and found an alley with a few other individuals.

In 1989, they adopted the name “Impact”. Impact groups then attempted to take credit for developing the Role Model Mastery program known as Model Mugging. However, the first published article on Model Mugging was in Human Behavior Magazine (1978) before these groups existed. After failing at attempts to control the Impact chapters, most groups remained independent in a variety of names.

On the positive side, years later, the subversive instructor did apologize to Matt Thomas and he described how some of students that he trained and mentored later betrayed him, which is what he had done to his instructor-mentor, Matt.


Model Mugging continues to improve the dynamics of martial science. Model Mugging has updated and applied contemporary research and crime analysis into the training curriculum while continuing to follow the core elements of Matt Thomas teaching methodologies.

Full contact or full force self-defense in simulated scenarios is much more than putting on some pads and having students hit someone wearing protective body armor or a protective suit. Martial Science is a methodology of instruction and learning that has evolved from a myriad of academic and martial disciplines which have been synergized into the most advance and effective full impact self-defense program available. Students learn how to protect themselves from a single unarmed assailant (basic self-defense course), armed assailants, and multiple assailants.

When taught by certified instructors, Model Mugging Self-defense is the most advanced and safest self-defense program available both physically and emotionally for new students.Model Mugging is the original application of martial science and revolutionized self-defense training through the use of a padded assailant allowing for full force self-defense training. Applying the principles of martial science is the most effective method of self-defense. Martial science first requires the determination of what is relevant, then analyzing the potential options, and third applying proper training. Then self-defense and fighting, especially for women, becomes very simple, effective, and creatively artistic. These are the Five Principles of Self-Defense.

Model Mugging is much more than just learning how to fight back. The emotional growth and increased self-confidence women receive is incredible and described by Elizabeth Ozer and Albert Bandura in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (1990) about improving participating students’ self-efficacy.

Lives are turned around in less than 20 hours of intense martial science instruction, while combining Eastern and Western training methods. Model Mugging can reduce the chance of assault by 95%. In the decades of teaching the System, Model Mugging instructors have noticed that as a woman’s confidence increase, she can simultaneously identify and avoid situations in the first place that might normally involve physical conflict. Most graduates step right out of the victim pool and subtly maneuver as hard targets. Women with higher self-confidence and self-esteem are more aware of coercive strategies and con techniques as well as situations common to physical assaults. Women who are prepared in the 5 steps to self-defense know how to recognize and then effectively respond to potentially dangerous situations can more safely enjoy a happier and more fulfilling life. The Paradox of self-defense demonstrates the more prepared you are to defend yourself, the less likely you will ever have to.

Since 1971, tens of thousands of women worldwide have already taken this course and report it was the best course they ever took!!!

Additionally, hundreds of thousands of women have also been trained in partiality under the reality based training and the full dynamics of Matt Thomas’ role model mastery program – Model Mugging Self Defense. ~ by Mark Vinci – President – Model Mugging Self-Defense.