It was 1974 and Debbie Gardner, founder of Survive Institute, was in the Police Academy and on her way to becoming a Police Officer. Gardner accepted it was a dangerous job and historically not open to women. She felt the responsibility to prove her effectiveness as a Cadet so Gardner studied hard and trained even harder.
“I became hyper vigilant in physical training [and began] studying martial arts on my own in addition to the self-pressured standard of perfect grades in the academy,” she recalls. “I succeeded in those goals of extra training and high grades – and felt comfortable that I was prepared at an accelerated pace.”
That training however didn’t end up being nearly as helpful as she expected. While leaving a Mt. Adams restaurant, Gardner felt a gun being pressed against her stomach. She was being attacked. “I failed miserably [I was] completely out of control,” says Gardner. “The failure was devastating. I felt training was a betrayal because I was willing to do, learn, and practice, really [doing] anything it takes to make it.”
Gardner was reeling from the failure of properly disarming her attacker and considering resigning from the Police Academy. Little did she know this experience would be the catalyst for creating Survive Institute.
During this period, Mike Gardner, a like-minded student in Debbie’s cohort, believed the self-defense tactics they were learning didn’t hold up in real world situations. Mike had begun to construct a different type of training and invited Debbie to be part of it. This lead to friendship, marriage, and successful careers in local law enforcement.
In the mid-seventies Debbie became the first woman in the United States to be assigned patrol duty, alone. She retired from the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department as Deputy Sheriff. Mike’s a 28-year veteran Sergeant of the Cincinnati Police Division (CPD), serving as CPD’s legal liaison, expert witness for use of force issues, and academy instructor.
Debbie founded Survive Institute in 1981 and “empowers people with calm, concise, explicit self-defense that works,” she says.
Debbie says what makes Survive Institute different from other self-defense programs is the focus on mental preparation and practical tactics. “Real self-defense is a process where one owns mental power [and understands] how your body works in state of alarm,” she explains. “Verbal power is understanding the theater of crime and accept the script saying and doing things outside of your daily comfort zone. Physical power is the one state that works performed legally and dutifully rooted in the love of your family because your philosophy is I’m going home.”
Debbie points out that popular advice for women to remain safe can also prevent them from living life to the fullest. Living in fear serves to create a network of self-imposed barriers. Survive Institute teaches client to understand fear and make it productive. “Take reasonable risks to have your life dreams fulfilled,” she says.
The Survive Insinuate has taken Debbie and Mike around the world as they conduct realistic crime survival workshops for corporations, conventions, and colleges. The next workshop will be at St. Albert Parish, May 19 from 6:00-8:00pm.
Participants of Survive Institute’s training learn:
1. How to break through freezing during fear.
2. The role of blood, positive thoughts, and adrenaline in crisis situations
3. Enhanced eye contact, tear control, voice control and the power of language in an effort to display a theatrical view that you are stronger than you are.
4. A simple explanation of self-defense law one best place to strike and why.
5. How to deal with complications when attacked with a weapon (guns, knives, etc), adding more choice for physical survival.
Gardner says “we get consistent feedback and it is the fuel of our mission. My favorite thing to hear is not only when our teachings helped prevent an attack or save a life but also hearing about people’s choice to calm their fears and live in peace.”