By Pat McGonigle
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - It's not your ordinary self-defense course when an instructor teaches students how to fight off a mugger using a cell phone.
But Joe Mayberry isn't your ordinary instructor. Mayberry is a St. Louis police detective, a former U.S. Marine, a one-time state department employee, and a master of several martial arts. At his self-defense studio, the St. Louis Combat Institute, Mayberry finds there's a new appetite in St. Louis for one of the world's oldest self-defense techniques.
It's called "Systema" and it has its roots in Russia, dating back to the 10th century.
"After the Soviet Union fell, the wall came down, a lot of the people that trained and used Systema, all the way back to Stalin's body guards, where our system came from, started emigrating out of Russia," says Mayberry.
Mayberry and his wife Jennifer teach Israeli martial art Krav Maga, kickboxing, and Systema. Many of his students are fascinated with Systema because it applies ancient self-defense concepts for the 21st century.
"It's the kind of stuff special agents and spies use," Mayberry says with a smile, only he's not joking.
In a recent class, Mayberry demonstrated how to use a cell phone to ward off a potential mugger.
"Anything with any amount of heft and a hard edge can do damage, on the right pressure points," he says
Here's one specific technique Mayberry demonstrated:
If an attacker grabs you by your jacket, you can inflict intense pain on the mugger by doing the following: ram the edge of your cell phone into the backside of the mugger's hand, and apply hard pressure between the bones on the back of his hand. Try it (carefully!) with a friend to see how it works.
You can also click on the video player window on this page to see Mayberry demonstrate other moves with an ordinary umbrella and the zipper on a hoodie.
Mayberry's wife, Jennifer, says more and more women are signing up for classes.
"As a woman, we can learn how to protect ourselves just the same as men. It's an important skill to have and it's simple. It's not too hard to learn and it's something we, as women, should know," Mayberry said.
Students at the St. Louis Combat Institute span several generations.
Lamar Rieves is a recent retiree who also enjoys the emphasis on being aware of your surroundings that is stressed in Systema.
"It's a quick way to learn self-defense. It also keeps your awareness up; teaches you to be aware, notice your surroundings," says Rieves. "That's one of the key things about self defense, be aware of your surroundings."
Mayberry says being aware of your surroundings and staying alert is one of the best ways to prevent getting attacked. It sounds like advice we've all heard before, but with the dramatic increase in people staring at their phone or walking around wearing earbuds, it is advice worth repeating.
"Everybody is emotionally and physically in a bubble. They're looking at their phone, constantly on their phone, they have earbuds in, they're basically shutting out the world and what's around them," Mayberry says. "Bad guys look for this. They immediately think, 'I can get right up on this person and they won't even know it until my hands are on them.'"