By Maria A Petit
March 12, 2013

It was a great day as I had started my teaching schedule after a very long holiday hiatus. I had taught English back-to-back to three sisters ages 11, 13 and 15 in Alto de Pinheiros and then jetted across town to Vila Olimpia for a new student I had picked up for 1.5 hours of Business English. Teaching English has been one of the most rewarding gigs I have taken on and I’ve been fortunate to have a roster of some pretty motivated, interesting and engaging students.

I was walking home from the metro station around 9:30PM listening to ‘Fresh Air’ NPR (National Public Radio) a podcast featuring an interview with Wes Anderson with headphones on just one street from my final destination. When out of nowhere and completely by surprise a plump (like one-too-many-pão de queijos) guy jumped out in front of me with his motorcycle helmet on and grabbed my hands, one of which had my smart device. His assault instantly triggered my Flight-or-Fight Response and I went straight into fight mode, surprising even myself.

An angry bird resurrected from within and a very loud GROWL was released at the top of my lungs accompanied by an attempt to free my arms and in the process punching the guy with all my might leaving me with a very bruised knuckle. Everything happened very quickly but what I do know is that my explosive reaction to his assault freaked the guy out because the next thing I knew, he was running away from me.

After he let me go and proceeded to run away I turned towards him standing in the middle of the street shouting at the top of my lungs Mother F*cker!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” all the while watching him hop on his friend’s motorcycle whom had been on standby while the scene unraveled. All I could think about, as adrenaline flowed through my veins, was “what an amateur!” Clearly just an opportunist who thought a 5’4;” girl would be an easy target. I can almost read his clumsy thoughts “Oh, I’ll just walk over in my helmet and she’ll be so frightened that she’ll just hand over all her belongings.” A Mother F*cker indeed.

But what he didn’t know is that I am a member of the Nam Yang Pugilistic Association. I dedicated six years of my life attending 3 hour Tiger Crane Kung Fu classes in London’s China Town rarely ever missing a class, spent summers at the Isle of Wight for Kung Fu camp, and on a few occasions flew in from Dubai after I had moved away from London for weekend master classes to perfect my weapon routines, made numerous visits to Master Tan Soh Tin in the Geylang district of Singapore, and even attended the Nam Yang Mountain Training Camp in Pai, Thailand. The art of Kung Fu was my religion and part of the art was to master your mind and body in stressful situations. Training in hard and soft chi gong, Shuang Yang Pei Ho/ Sun and Frost White Crane Art, Tiger-Crane Kung Fu, traditional Shaolin weapons training starting with the staff, tan tow and then weapon of choice, in my case the butterfly knives, and breathing and meditation techniques. The principles of the art can be applied to any day-to-day scenario and during this time in my life it was the only thing that kept me grounded and sane in the stressful corporate world. Later, I would end up applying these same principles to Polo.

However, the next day the dire reality of the situation sank in. My reaction while successful in this incident would have been naãve had the attacker had a gun or a knife. I was indeed very lucky. And while we trained for the worst case scenario at Nam Yang Pugilistic Association, we also learned that the best defense besides not being in a “situation” was to get yourself out of it as soon as possible. In other words, a quick kick to the nuts and make a run for it.

One thing is clear though; headphones and smart devices are best off when walking anywhere in São Paulo. Stay alert and aware of your surroundings because it’s a jungle out there!

Maria is a Venezuelan-born American living in São Paulo, Brazil. She has a BA in Finance, Multinational Business and Spanish from Florida State University. She initiated her career at Motorola Inc. as their Europe, Middle East and Africa MDb Commercial Director, leaving in 2009. This was followed by an 18 month sabbatical during which she Co-Founded São Paulo, Brazil – Take 7 Carnaval 5 minutes in heaven
São Paulo, Brazil – Take 3 CPF “eee”
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