WEAPONS OF FITNESS: The Women's Ultimate Guide to Fitness, Self-Defense, and Empowerment, by Avital Zeisler. Avery, 226 pp., $20.

 

You might have seen self-defense expert Avital Zeisler, a former ballerina, on "Today" or other shows, talking about her philosophy -- and demonstrating her impressive skills. It's hard to imagine that, like many other women, she'd been a victim of date rape in college.

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She reacted to this trauma in part by taking self-defense classes, including the Israeli method of Krav Maga. Then she began to develop her own techniques, which she calls the Soteria Method, after the Greek goddess of safety. "Many people cling to the misconception that a woman needs to be some type of military robot to be strong and capable of defending herself," she writes. "You will learn this is not true."

She teaches a "survival mindset" -- how to recognize aggression that ". . . needs to be dealt with in a decisive manner." And techniques to get past the "freeze" that happens when being confronted by violence.

THE SCOOP Most of the book consists of clear photos of Zeisler, often shown with an "attacker," in positions of defense and offense. She even shows how to use "improvised weapons," such as a chair or umbrella. You're not necessarily trying to hurt, but to ". . . disrupt the attacker's thought process."

THE BOTTOM LINE Practicing these moves could be a start. But it's probably best to take an actual class from an expert. Zeisler teaches workshops in Manhattan.