Empowered to Defend


Chris Romulo (left), Sarah Romulo (center), Katie Long (center right), with class participants.

Attention muggers: you DON’T want to mess with me! I learned self defense from Chris Romulo, champion Muay Thai fighter and all around badass dude!

Chris and Sarah Romulo, owners of CROM, partnered with Katie Long, creator of the beautiful boutique shop THE SWELLIFE, to offer a self defense workshop. The idea came about after a  discussion on safety at book club, one of the many gatherings hosted at the shop.* Recognizing the community interest, Katie, a long-time member of CROM, reached out about organizing the class. Chris and Sarah were 100% on board.

With over 35 years of experience as a professional martial artist and as a Certified Personal

Defense Readiness Coach, Chris has the expertise to teach us what we all should be prepared for; defending ourselves and protecting our loved ones in the case of an emergency.

Over 25 attendees were seated, waiting for the workshop to begin. Out of nowhere, Chris ran in from a back door and simulated an attack on Sarah, who was on her smartphone. We were all startled and caught off guard, which is exactly what Chris Romulo wanted to demonstrate. “What we want you to take away from this class is awareness. You must be present, this is key.  With technology today, we all find ourselves distracted in our surroundings. Personal defense starts in your mind.” he began.

I learned so much I couldn’t possibly explain it all here but what I found particularly important is as follows.

There are two strategies in personal defense you can assert to defuse a potential physical confrontation. The first: be mentally present. If you have an emotional or physical response to an individual or situation — that “fight or flight” adrenaline feeling — remove yourself. Whether that means changing subway cars or crossing over to the other side of the street. Why take a chance?

The next defense tactic we learned was verbal diffusion. If a person starts speaking to you and it feels inappropriate, verbally defuse the interaction. “Look, I’m not interested”, or “My husband (or brother) will be here in a minute and he won’t like you speaking to me like this”. Make eye contact and walk away but never turn your back, Chris taught us. Being on the offense verbally shows the attacker you’re confident and clear-headed. And eye contact makes it personal which is a big deterrent.

If these pre-measures don’t work and you’re attacked, you need to defend yourself physically. “Fight like a cat! Scratch, scream, ambush!” Chris instructed. Use the hard parts of your body – the heel of your palm, your elbow and your knee. Strike the perpetrator down the middle of the body, which is the most sensitive area. Palm to the nose, pulling down scratching your attacker’s eyes with your nails. Use your knee, aiming for the groin. Move quickly backwards, clearing the area before sprinting away.


Yes, Chris put it bluntly. An assailant wants one or all three of these things – your belongings, your body or your life. Chris and Sarah stressed, if you’re getting mugged, give them your bag, your phone or your sneakers. Possessions are replaceable; your life is not.


Learn how to strengthen your mind and body at CROM. There’s a wide range of classes for adults and kids such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Muay Thai Kickboxing, not to mention CrossFit and SHRED. Find more info at crompc.com, on IG: @cromphysicalculture, or call 718.945.1700. CROM Physical Culture – 217 Beach 92nd Street, Rockaway Beach, NY, 11693

* Learn about the cool creative events hosted at THE SWELLIFE by following @the_swellife on instagram! THE SWELLIFE fashion boutique is located at  91-08 Rockaway Beach Blvd., Rockaway Beach, NY 11693.