Don’t let Thugs and Thieves Ruin your Overseas Holiday

So that sets the scene for what happened next.

We had our money and spent a small fortune on a local soccer match. If you use a spray first close your eyes and hold your breath. Kancho Eddie Cave taught me many tricks and cunning ways to defend myself but at the scene of the crime they seemed to vanish out of my mind. Jim was issuing profanities with the voice of Dune. Imprint the images in your mind. Jim guessed the score correctly and we collected all the bets. It is important for the mind as well as the body in being ready for the unexpected. Go to self-defence classes but study your notes and techniques. We admitted that we had attracted those thieves by somehow emitting a silent fear-based signal. Most places have them these days. Do not wear a lot of expensive jewellery – that attracts thieves. After a scanty breakfast we were ready to take on the city. At traffic intersections where we live in Cape Town you see signs that show: “Smash and grab – crime hotspot.” My Tai Chi Guru made a point of teaching us to keep the mind calm and clear and it had worked so far. This is a sensation that I was familiar with. That paid for one of our tickets: $ 40. But the receptionist was not at the front desk of the hotel to place our valuables in their safe. It is all very well to attend self-defence classes and think you will be able to ward off an attack. Such a high and powerful kick? In tai chi we do a very elegant high kick in the 24 step form. Added to this was the dread moment to face was he hurt badly? They then pointed to my bag that I now held in front of me. It is rated as one of the top 5 of the soccer stadiums in the world and had already hosted a Fifa wold cup in 1950. Self protection is about a mindset but this time we fell into the trap of mentally attracting disaster. No experienced tourist would choose to wander around the streets with passports, valuables and all their travel cash obviously not.

We took a stroll around the lake area after that. I find it good to visualise imaginary scenarios and train yourself over and over again with just a few good techniques. I remembered a picture from a book on self-defence for women written by Sanette Smit, also a black belt. Here you see me as the girl from Ipanema, posing with sand sculptures in a flimsy skirt and sandals. For me this was my best weapon and I was grateful for all the hours that I trained against a punch bag. Out came the knives, very close. No, you little shits! Jim shouted and suddenly two knives were pointed at his throat. We are Capetonians and are familiar with beautiful beaches but this one beats anything we have back home. With the bags slung over our shoulders, we set off to take Rio by storm. I had trained with some of the best karate instructors and was used to the smell of conflict. So are olives, cheese, wine and of course, plenty of fruit in season.

We were fit and

well-trained. It felt creepy although there was no reason to be suspicious of anything. We never wear expensive jewellery or even carry cash around. We attended a local soccer match for the sheer experience of being there and enjoying a soccer match in grand style. At one of the self-service restaurants we visited I counted over 60 tempting meat-free dishes on offer. They reached towards us again, leaning over to try to rip off Jims bag. The bedroom wardrobe did not have a safe; let alone two doors that closed properly so we decided to walk out on the streets with all our valuables tucked into our day packs. Both of us were in a state of shock but unhurt and we still had all our belongings – our resources for 3 weeks of travel.

down went my husband. This girl was half a century old at the time but fortunately no stranger to martial arts including Karate, Kickboxing and Tai Chi. I felt a shudder as we crossed the road. Well, obviously the two bags that contained all we had – neatly packed with travellers cheques, cash, passports and travel vouchers to get us around South America. As we walked up the street that faced the apartment blocks I felt my personal space being violated. In this case, Jim held my one arm and seemed to have miraculously powered me up – or was it by this statue of Jesus Christ?

Jim then joined in the fray and soon both of them retreated and were cowering behind their bicycle, using it to ward off our fierce kicks and pushes. I gave a kick to his chest and he fell back.

Brazilian food is colourful, nutritious and delicious

We learnt a big lesson that day, in 2003. Thank heavens the bowels behaved or were already empty!

Maintain the mindset of a martial artist

My husband and I are intrepid travellers and had set aside a few weeks to visit South America and its major attractions, starting in Rio de Janeiro and moving on to Peru and the Amazon. Jim got up and grabbed my hand. Save the gadgets and camera flaunting for protected group events. Don’t flash cellphones and i-pads around in public unless there are a lot of people around you doing the same thing. We joined a tour for the occasion and in the bus we placed our bets to see who would be able to guess the final score.

The soccer score won us some extra cash!

The big mistake – being scared from the beginning because of our valuables

We checked into one of the little cheap hotels the guidebook had recommended. I was still in my flimsy beach attire. We took the usual touristy snapshots of each other. He turned round and glared at the two men asking them what they wanted. Then there was another section that was like a walk-in butchery where you could have any cut of meat, cooked in front of you. Men don’t expect a fierce reaction that is backed up with nasty surprises. Most important is to keep yourself strong and fit. It was a quiet afternoon and we walked around the park and sat on the stone benches for a break. Now I know what it means to wet yourself. It is not difficult for women to find something heavy to carry in a handbag! Hang onto it and use it as I did to shield off the knives and then to thrust at them. The plates of food were weighed at the till and nobody bugged you at the table with a tatty little menu. The picture that saved the day was of an African woman in a train being robbed. There were a number of locals hanging around, obviously also enjoying the outing or was there mischief hanging in the air? We were still fully in control of our backpacks and took out the cameras for yet another shot of Rio – this time looking up from the lake at the high-rise apartments that formed the upmarket beachfront residential area. It had a seating capacity of 200 000, a sight to behold. Jim went after them but they were already out of sight. We spent the morning climbing the famous peaks and shaking hands with the statue of Christ that overlooks the beautiful bay. The Portuguese influence on Brazilian eating habits is evident because freshly harvested vegetables are on offer in generous quantities. They grabbed the front of his jacket, pulled him up again and flung him down onto the pavement. In this case they first tried to knock out the opposition and got more than they bargained for.

With a thud, thump, rip and thwack Jim was shoved against a wall. No – no! They pleaded and took off down the street. It was a pleasant day of hopping on busses and strolling around. It felt like a slow motion movie as I gave one of the dudes a powerful kick slap bang in the middle of his chest. We felt a mixture of triumph and trauma as we swigged down the local sevessa (beer) which tasted exceptionally good. He began shouting torrents of abuse at them. We are pleased we actually sat in two of those seats, 11 years ahead of the latest 2014 tournament. He still had his backpack on. I noticed two young men following us. Yes, kitchen knives – sharp kitchen knives in my face. This adventure took place in 2003 and although a lot has changed tourists are not always as safe as they think they are on the streets. Now they were really angry. Then suddenly time stood still. I whipped off the bag from my shoulders and carried it in front of me. You can’t go to Rio and not go to Marakana, even if you find the popcorn (huge kernels) more exciting than the match. During the 2014 Fifa world cup we became familiar with these scenes.

After a picnic lunch and the obligatory coconut drinks we had a glorious swim at the famous Ipanema beach. It is stunning. We have heard too many stories about tourists in our country even being robbed of their NIKE sneakers! Opportunistic thieves are everywhere and will go for the softest looking target, usually the female. As South Africans, we know better than to carry valuables around or walk in quiet shady urban areas. But regular practice and fitness training is essential. So is strength building, especially for women. Regular training at the gym and especially the dojo is essential, I was told. It sent him reeling backwards and he fell on his ass. The bag became my shield as I swished it across their hands and plunged it into the face of the closest thug.

remember the basics of tourist safety before you head off to Rio!

Always check in your valuables or use the hotel safe in your room. We had something to protect, we feared losing it because it would mean the end of a holiday that we had just begun. Back home on our local beach, the loner chatting on a phone is an obvious target. If you are going to lonely places take along some form of mace spray or anything to ward them off. He eyed them up and down and like a connoisseur remarked that they were only kitchen knives.

Setting the scene for the grand mugging

Vasco were playing their opponents, Fluminense. Then you can go out with a calm mind.

Out came the knives,

Thieves Mugged my husband in Rio but I Fought Back with knives in my face

We packed up our belongings and walked back towards the beach front. Use head butts, elbows and unexpected kicks to the shins. The streets were lined with generous shady trees.

But Jim is very confrontational. It was used to demonstrate using the handbag as a weapon, instead of handing it over. I spoke quietly to my husband in Afrikaans, telling him to do the same.

We staggered into a caf and sat down for some liquid refreshment. Under extreme stress the bladder jettisons its load. It is the element of surprise that counts.

Now for some fun in Rio – let’s visit the Marakana stadium

Back in 2003 Marakana was bigger than it is now. I ran my hands over my skirt. We arrived in Rio way before the Fifa world cup in 2014. The one was pushing his bicycle and they were closing in. Visions of our forthcoming trip to Machu Picchu, Iguazu Falls and the Amazon shot past my eyes in a blur. In South Africa tourists are ripped off on a regular basis and street crime is rife. After the blast, run like hell. Use the element of surprise and fight dirty! Aim at the eyes, is what Kancho told me and especially if you have long fingernails. For us, this is an ingrained habit. Fake pearls are fine, you are on holiday and there is no need to flaunt your wealth. Take two watches, your favourite one and a cheap alternative to use when you go to the beach You do not always need your most expensive camera for a casual day outing, especially if you are going out on your own. We heard police sirens in the distance. Of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Rio is a vegetarians delight. We carried a fear vibe but were well prepared with combat techniques

For a few moments time stood still. They were right behind us very close to our bags and I could feel the hairs at the back of my neck beginning to twinge. My husband is Dutch, so it meant a lot to him to have his home team leave Brazil with the third prize.

I pulled the bag back and they lurched forward as I gave a few lethal kicks to their private parts. Imagine what it would cost the average local family to even see one of the matches live? Thank goodness for TV coverage.

The hotel manager was nowhere to be found and neither was anybody else who looked vaguely trustworthy. It was sopping wet – a small price to pay for such a victory. One does not expect very much from a basic hotel, other than it should be free of cockroaches and have clean sheets. One need not become the Incredible Hulk to develop a powerful kick. I would stand on one leg and kick at it repeatedly with high and low power kicks. You only need one or two – I discovered! The most important thing to remember is if you feel uneasy, then don’t go out. It is performed gently and slowly after opening out both arms. If , like we did, you feel you are taking a risk then first take precautions. No wonder the local Brazilians are so cut up about the huge cost of hosting the world cup. They began to cower like two naughty little schoolboys who had been caught masturbating

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