The text message that changed my day…
By Michelle Fighting Back
I had a little surprise text message last week from the lovely Tony Somers. I have got to know Tony and his working partner Paul Regan through mutual friends and from training over the last couple of years. They have always been very supportive and friendly guys. I was so pleased when together they opened the Self Empowerment Academy, within Coventry. Both Tony and Paul have years of experience, training and knowledge in helping others and changing people’s lives. So as you can imagine I was so excited when I read Tony’s text…
Tony and Paul run workshops, 1:1 sessions and help people to look deep within themselves to find the answers they are looking for in life. Tony explained in his text message that they had started doing weekly talks with a key speaker and were wondering if I would be interested in doing a talk at the Academy. I didn’t even process the information, as I immediately started to type my reply to his message…as far as I was concerned it was a big fat yes from me! I became so excited and felt truly honoured to be asked to do it. I couldn’t wait to pop down to the Academy to talk it through further and arrange a date for my talk.
The very next day I arranged to meet up with Tony. While we were talking through the details of my talk, Paul popped into the office. They both explained the process that they go through when they work with someone and the kind of work that they do. Gradually the conversation became quite deep, thought provoking and meaningful to me. We discussed the way I am as a person, what pushes my buttons, what pleases me, what infuriates me, what can at times make me a ‘people pleaser’ and other aspects of my personality. Then we delved deeper into the reasons why I am like this. Tony and Paul both asked me questions and made me question myself to find the answers, suddenly everything seemed clear. Some of my key personality traits which had been rooted within me from childhood, were now highlighted. I now had some idea as to why i think, act, feel the way I do. We had only scratched the surface and could have delved even deeper. It was a fascinating discussion and it really opened my eyes to my personality on a much deeper level.
We all try to be better people and improve our lives, but I guess sometimes we don’t always delve deep enough into why we are the way we are, why we behave the way we do. There are lots of activities and distractions that can improve our way of life, that make us feel happier, but the deep rooted issues can still be dormant under the surface and reappear at any time. The self-doubt, anger, frustration, guilt, feeling unworthy, lack of confidence, hurt, suffering in silence, hate and the list goes on… we all have periods in our lives where we feel good and everything is going well for us. Then when something happens all the deep insecurities and I guess, mainly negative traits start to reappear again…ready to cause upset, damage and destruction. Nobody’s perfect as they say, but it’s not until we start to delve deeper and recognise the issues than we can truly become happier to our core.
I found the discussion that Tony, Paul and I had very thought provoking and it was good to see things from a different point of view. I guess I’m not going to change my personality overnight, but at least I have an idea of where to start…
My FREE Motivational talk will be at The Self Empowerment Academy 26th March 7-8pm. See you there!
(at their new address) 35 Vine street, Hillfields, Coventry, CV1 5NH
My Motivation…If found please return – by Michelle Fighting Back
Posted on The Self Defence Expert.com Website January 24, 2013
This is another guest article from the brilliant motivational speaker and martial artists Michelle, who can found at http://michellefightingback.co.uk/, I suggest you check out her work and book her for some motivational speaking at your gyms, schools or dojos. Trust me she is brilliant! I am certain we can all relate to this article. Don’t forget to comment below and share your motivation issues and how you over came them.
Have you ever found yourself saying the dreaded words ‘I’ve lost my motivation?’
For the past 3 years training has been a huge part of my life. I used to train anywhere between 4-7 days a week without fail. I studied a wide range of arts which included Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Kali, Boxing, Panantuken etc. Anyone that knows me will know that I rarely missed a training session, regardless if I’d been invited to a party, attended a funeral, it didn’t matter where I was invited to I would nearly always train first. Then my life changed.
Gradually my training schedule changed and during 2012 I bought my first ever house, which brought with it a lot of hard work. I have put everything into transforming my new house into a home. I’ve never been happier, but it has left me with no motivation for the thing I used to feel so passionate and dedicated to. However, I have managed to go for a few runs and done some lamp post sprints, but my fitness level is really poor now. I have gained a stone in weight. My diet isn’t as good as it once was and my water intake is at an all time low. There have been occasions when I could have gone training, but I just couldn’t motivate myself and was left wondering…’Why has my motivation gone?’ and ’Will it ever come back?’
I did go to the Boxing Technique class a couple of months ago, as I thought ‘Right this is it!…I’m back training!’ It felt strange to be back at Boxing after such a long absence. I had really missed my friends and exercising. Unfortunately it didn’t give me the buzz that it once had. I walked out of the Boxing gym feeling that training had lost its sparkle and I wondered if it would ever return. Something had changed inside of me. Its left me wondering where has that passion, energy and excitement gone? I want to train again, but I also want to enjoy my training like I once did. I’m not moaning and I don’t look for sympathy from anyone. I know I’m the only person that can make the changes in my life.
It’s a new year so hopefully I will find my motivation once again.
Happy New Year to you all I hope you have a happy, smiley and motivated year ahead.
Michelle Fighting Back
You have just hit the nail on the head
I’ve just got home from Geoff Thompson’s Masterclass, which runs for 6 months at a time. Geoff started the session with, as always, a motivational and inspiring talk. Once again I left the building feeling totally inspired. Geoff always makes me see things clearly and he seems to say what I need to hear, just at the moment I need to hear it. Today’s talk was about how we should serve others, which means to help people, to give to others selflessly and to inspire them. When we serve someone we shouldn’t expect anything back in return and that the good we have passed on would return back to us in some form. Most people would call this Karma. What you give out, will come back to you. The talk made me reflect over the last few years of my life, my own personality and what changes I needed to make…
We all try to improve ourselves and strive to be a better person, but it is not always easy. I am the first to put my hand up and say I have struggled during the past few years with serving others. I always try to serve others, but over the years there have been occasions where I felt I’d been let down by others, disappointed, misjudged and at times I felt that I’d been taken advantage of. I will be honest, I have felt like this towards family, friends and also at work. Many people would probably relate to this feeling. I am quite a sensitive person and sometimes I worry too much about how others view me. Most people would probably shrug their shoulders and say not to worry about it. I have always been quite a chilled out person, but over the last couple of years I have noticed a difference in my stress levels and the affect it has had on my body. I found myself getting frustrated, upset, emotional, felt down and I even felt ill at times, with stomach cramps and feeling sick to my stomach from worry or stress, all due to situations or issues that have occurred over the years.
My beautiful Nan passed away last year. She was one of the most selfless human beings I have ever met. She would serve people on a daily basis, regardless of how they treated her. She once fed and clothed a man, after she found him stealing clothes from her washing line. My Nan never had a lot of money and really struggled, but she knew the man needed help. How many of us would do that? I strive to be half the person she was. My mum also takes after her mother; it is how we have both been brought up, to help others and be there for them, to put others needs ahead of our own. In this day and age many are consumed with greed or power. They find it unbelievable that someone would do something for them, without expecting anything in return. If we were all selfless and helped others more often, the world would be a happier place. By serving others we can hold our head up high, knowing we had done the right thing. It’s usually the small gestures , which can make a big difference to someone.
With everything in life there needs to be a balance. There are people in this world that I have come across who will steal from you, lie, cheat, threaten and the list goes on… I have been in situations in the past where I have unknowingly served people like this, befriended them, helped them, supported them, to then later find out their real character. Over the years I have found myself saying things like ‘I can’t believe she has put me in this situation, after everything I did for her’, ‘Everything he ever told me was a lie…but I trusted him’ I had served these friends and I had expectations of how they should treat me, that is where my problem lies…Don’t have expectations of others. I know some people would take revenge, or lash out, but that’s not in my nature, I would prefer to be the bigger person and hold my head up high. We need to serve people, but obviously there is a boundary, a time when we should walk away from them. If someone is taking advantage of you, causing you harm or hurt, then you need to walk away. People say I’m too soft, but for me it’s about helping people, being a nice person and feeling happy in the knowledge that I’ve served someone. After listening to Geoff today, I felt that he had hit the nail on the head, I realised that I should continue serving people, without expectations. I may find it hard to find the right balance, to know when to walk away and who to serve, but at least I’m giving it a go…
You can never be judged for having a big heart
Just over 2 years ago I made an exciting decision…I was going to move out of my parents home for the first time in my life. I was so excited. I was leaving loving parents that couldn’t do enough for me and a beautiful home. ..
I loved living at my parents, but part of me was desperate to be more independent. Almost instantly after I was raped at knifepoint my parents became very over protective, as you can imagine. I totally understood why they were so protective, as I had very nearly been taken from them. I was still their little girl. I don’t want people to have the impression that I lived in a prison, locked away from mankind, or that their over protectiveness affected me on a daily basis, as it didn’t. My parents just worried a lot more than most parents. Over the years we had disagreements, arguments and tears over my determined attitude. My attacker was not going to stop me doing anything in life. I was adamant that I would live the same kind of life that my friends had. It wasn’t easy on either me or my parents over the years. I wanted to do the usual teenage things like going to the pub, nightclubs, holidays with friends etc…and I certainly did do the usual teenage things. All my parents wanted was to try to keep me safe and protect me, as they knew from experience exactly what can happen. My parents didn’t want to stop me from doing anything in life, but the fear was so strong that I guess at times it must have been crippling for them. I don’t have children so I can only guess what they must have gone through and how it left them feeling. No one should have to live with fear on a daily basis. It was a no win situation. I was not going to stop living my life and enjoying myself, otherwise it would mean I’d let my attacker win and my parents were not going to stop worrying about me. My stubbornness paid off in the end and I have had a fantastic life so far, with many adventures. Over the years my parents became less over protective and didn’t worry quite so much. This meant that I achieved what I set out to do. I had the control over my attacker, he didn’t ruin my life. I have travelled the world, met some amazing people along the way and for the last 22 years I have lived life to the full.
As hard as it was for my parents when I moved out, they were so proud of me for doing it. They have always been so supportive of me. Being an only child they really missed me when I left and they found it hard to adjust. I half expected them to be popping over to my new home quite a lot, but between them they made the decision that they would let go of the reigns and give me the independence that I wanted. I didn’t realise this at the time and found myself wondering why they hadn’t popped over or why they hadn’t rang me. It was very strange at first and took a while to get used to. However, I am so pleased that they did as I thrived off my independence and for the first time in 22 years I felt that I could do what I wanted, when I wanted and that felt amazing!
I guess what I am trying to say is that sometimes we need to let go, for us to be able to live. Whether it is in relation to our children, family or partner, we sometimes need to make difficult decisions to be able to move forward in life. We need to keep moving forwards, we need to accept the things that we have no control over and be brave. I have a fantastic relationship with both my parents and see them on a regular basis. I have so much respect for them and what they have done for me and continue to do for me. By ‘letting go’ our relationship has grown stronger and I have grown into an independent happy woman. Sometimes we need to put others needs before our own, but on the other hand some people spend a lifetime doing things for others and they need to put themselves first for a change. If something is holding you back in life ask yourself…Should I let go?
The Good the Bad and the Ugly
I started 2011 feeling extremely excited, energised and looked forward to a life changing year ahead. Little did I realise how life changing it would be. I had a lot to look forward to.
A story about when I was raped was being made into a film called ‘Counting backwards’ and when completed would be entered into film festivals around the world. The film will hopefully change lives, inspire people and help so many. Geoff Thompson who had written the story, kept me up to date with the progress. I would later have emails from the film Director, Sean De Sparengo on how the film was shaping up and I visited the film set/cast/crew and had an amazing day.
I was buzzing with excitement and life couldn’t be better! I really felt that it was going to be one of the best years of my life so far! Then within the blink of an eye that all changed. My world fell apart. My Nan became ill and died unexpectedly. I have never felt pain like it. It physically hurt me, my chest actually hurt. I constantly felt sick and I just couldn’t accept she had gone. I absolutely adored her, spent a lot of time with her and loved her bones. She was my life. How could I live a life without her in it? With the help and support of my friends, family (especially my cousin) and my training I was able to get back to some kind of normality. I knew life would never be the same without her, but I also knew that she was shouting down from heaven telling me ‘For the love of God I’m fine, stop worrying!’ and that I should live my life to the full and be happy.
Over the next few months I continued with my training, which really helped me to focus. I had messages of great support when I lost my Nan, especially from my instructors Mick Tully, Al Peasland, Glenn Smith and Louise Peasland. I also had some amazing support from the people I trained with. Very often it is the people around you that help to glue you back together, with their text messages of comfort, phone calls and big hugs. Without my friends and family I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I started Geoff Thompson’s Master class, which helped me make sense of a lot of things that were happening in my life at the time and I met some inspiring people. I graded twice in Boxing Technique and continued training, until about 3 months ago when I had a silly accident and damaged my Peroneal Tendon, after falling over on my ankle.
Later in the year I worked hard putting together the resources, information and content for My Motivational Talk, which I did at The Hilton Hotel. I stood up in front of around 35-40 people and spoke about how I dealt with my attack and the affects it had on my life, in the hope that someone would be helped in some way. I wanted people to see that you can live a happy life after going through something traumatic and I hoped to inspire people. To be honest I found the event extremely stressful, hard work and very time consuming. I did have people trying to stop me from doing the talk, but I continued on as I knew in my heart that I was doing the right thing. I had a month or more where I had one issue after another,
literally every week there seemed to be a problem. I started to get bogged down by it all and wondered if I had the energy to carry on with Michelle Fighting Back and the talk. I could have easily just walked away from everything, but that just isn’t me. I knew it would definitely be worth all of the stress and hard work. I work full time and was exhausted staying up late each night and also had to miss training sessions. The talk was a great success. From the feedback I’d had from everyone, I had done what I’d set out to do. Alongside the talk I also had a website set up ‘MichelleFightingBack.co.uk’ created by Richard Barnes. I felt that everything was coming together and that I had achieved so much with the help of others. Lots of people helped me get to that stage, they bent over backwards to help me, gave me great advice and they also worked late into the night working on my resources/photography etc..(Mainly Louis Thompson, Mike Ashworth and Martin Williams)
Since starting up Michelle Fighting Back I have had some amazing, inspiring and at times quite heart breaking emails from people, sharing their own stories. Some have been total strangers and others have been people that I have known for years. The messages I have received have been honest and I guess quite painful for them to write. I have answered each message honestly and have told each person how I have dealt with issues in my life. I would never tell someone how to live their life or how they should deal with something, as we all have our own paths to walk, each going in a different direction. Where possible I have recommended experts in Counselling, Martial Arts Instructors and other organisations that would benefit others greatly. I am just glad they felt they could share their experiences with me and benefit from what I was doing.
One of the things I have been reminded of this year more than any other year, is how important our friends and family are. We all have issues, sad news and difficult situations to deal with, but these are the people that are always there for us no matter what, through the Good, the Bad and the Ugly times. Sometimes the bad things can happen when we are at our most happiest. We can’t pick and choose when the Good, the Bad and Ugly things happen in our lives. We just have to be there for each other and support each other. We never know what someone is feeling inside or what someone is really going through, so I think that if we all made more of an effort to… smile at someone, send a nice uplifting text message, give someone a nice compliment, take your partner out for a nice meal or even just say the words ‘Thank you’ or ‘I love you’ to a friend or a loved one. It can really make the difference to a person, it could make their day or even their year…so what are you waiting for?
I am happy to say that 2012 has started off really well, I’m happy, I’m looking forward to the year ahead and my ankle is getting better!
So on that note I would like to wish you an amazing, healthy and happy 2012!
Big Hugs to you and huge smiles coming your way
My exciting day on the film set of ‘Counting Backwards’
The day had finally arrived. Filming for ‘Counting Backwards’ had started on Thursday 1st September 2011. I was so excited. My cousin and I met Sharon Thompson at the train station. The three of us were collected by her husband, the BAFTA winning writer of the script Geoff Thompson, and the film runner in a minibus and driven to the film set. After a few minutes I noticed the minibus seat was wet, by the time I got out of the minibus I had a big wet patch on the back of my trousers! I couldn’t believe I was turning up at probably the biggest, most exciting event of my life so far, with a huge wet patch on the back of my trousers! I was about to meet the Director, Producers, the actresses and all of the crew, looking as though I’d had a ‘little accident’. Geoff kept saying he was going to mention the fact that I had wet myself in the minibus on his next podcast.
Geoff explained what scenes were to be filmed during the day and described how emotional the scenes were the day before. All of the film crew had been crying and found the scenes really hard-hitting. Hetti Bywater had some very powerful scenes, in which she blew everyone away with her acting and the crew were left emotional wrecks after watching her performances. She suffered from headaches after the filming, due to the intensity of the scenes. I mentally prepared myself after hearing this and was glad I had already put a packet of tissues in my bag just in case. Yesterday’s film shoot had included scenes with Jo McInnes, Ronnie Fox and Hetti Bywater. Today’s cast were Kathryn Prescott and Wendy Albiston, as different scenes were being shot.
We drove down a quiet street and you could instantly tell where the filming was taking place, due to the huge trucks parked up. The set consisted of two big houses within a quiet street, which were directly opposite each other. The large drive ways and gardens of the properties had become villages of filming equipment, toilets, and catering services.
By this point I was still really excited, but became a little nervous too. I was about to meet really important people, who were changing my life in so many ways. I had heard about them through Geoff, but had never met them, apart from one of the producers, Jon Sloan. The people that I was about to meet knew all about me. The first person I was introduced to made me giggle; she was a lovely lady who was standing in the drive way recreating the newspaper reports which were to be used in the film. She also showed us her artwork, which was to be used in the film. Every last detail had been covered in the making of the film and some of it was on display in the front garden. Walking into the house we were greeted by the rest of the crew. Everyone shook my hand or hugged me with big smiles on their faces and made me feel at ease once again. After the introductions we soon got onto the subject of the little wet patch on my trousers, and fortunately at that point someone suggested getting a cup of tea, so we left the crew to finish setting up for the scene.
For most of the morning the crew were setting up the scene, getting the equipment in place and finally, when everything was ready, we were called back to watch the rehearsals. Even though it was a very big house there was not much room to stand due to the equipment and all of the crew needed for the scene. I was very lucky as the director Sean De Sperango kindly fetched a stool for me to sit on, from where I had an amazing view of the actress Kathryn Prescott who was ready to start directly in front of me.
I quietly sat listening to Sean explain to Kathryn what he wanted from the scene and how she should have the angle of her hands, body and face. Within a few seconds Kathryn was ready to rehearse the scene. Everyone in the room seemed to suddenly hold their breath as we heard the words, ‘Everyone quiet please…action!’ My body was frozen to the chair, as I was so worried that if I moved even slightly my bracelets might make a noise or that the chair would squeak! It was at that point that I remembered how much my stomach had been grumbling with hunger when we were outside, just moments before. The cameraman and the sound engineer were the only two people in the room that dared to move, and that’s only because they had to. The crew in the front and back gardens were also told through a headset that they had to be silent due to filming. I watched Kathryn rehearse her scene, whilst praying to God that my stomach wouldn’t suddenly burst into life and sound like thunder! Everyone in the room soon became emotional and transfixed on Kathryn’s performance. One moment she was smiling and asking how the director would like the scene to be, the next moment she was acting, looking confused, traumatised and heartbroken. She seemed to gasp with emotional pain, she looked so distraught as if her whole world had been turned upside down….suddenly the scene ended and she was back to herself again, smiling. I have seen endless TV shows and films where a character has played a fantastic and moving scene, but I had never seen anything quite like Kathryn’s performance. Sitting directly in front of her, watching her suddenly burst into character and leave everyone in the room stunned by her performance, was truly magical. When she had finished there were beaming smiles on everyone’s faces, once they had wiped away the tears that is, and it was at this point you could hear everyone begin to breathe once again. I looked up at Kathryn and said, ‘That was amazing!’ Sean then decided to film from a different angle, which meant everyone had to move to the other side of the room, so this seemed like a good point to get some lunch.
We walked across the road to the neighbour’s drive way for our lunch. The catering company had brought big containers with hot food, cakes and other goodies. Geoff, Sharon, the two producers, Eddie and Jon, my cousin and I helped ourselves to food and drink. It soon became obvious that I had the biggest plate of food. Obviously I didn’t want to ruin any scenes with my stomach grumbling, so I filled my plate up. I was eating so much just for the sake of the film and not because I’m greedy! A member of the crew walked over to us to say we could have our lunch and then suddenly realised we were already half way through our lunch and that we were discussing whether to have chocolate cake or carrot cake for pudding. He then informed the rest of the crew, through his headset that lunch was ready. I had the urge to grab the director Sean’s plate and pile it with food as he barely had anything to eat and was working flat out every day. The sun was blazing down on us while sat talking and telling funny stories to each other. Geoff had made me a cup of tea when we first arrived on set, now Jon the producer offered to make me a cup. It was a beautiful cup of tea, so I thought I would let Jon know that his tea was better than Geoff’s, not that I would want to offend either of them, as one had written my story and the other is producing it! The rest of the afternoon was spent on the drive way chatting or wandering over to the set to see the progress that had been made. Once the scenes were set up again we were called back over to the set. This time we watched Wendy and Kathryn act together.
The photographer came over to show us the photos that he had taken of the previous day’s filming. The photos were of the scenes, behind the scenes and of the actors. I joked with the photographer that he was probably jealous of my own camera, my Fuji FinePix, which I had brought with me to the film set. The quality of his pictures was fantastic, as you would expect. The pictures were also of the actors who weren’t present on today’s filming, Ronnie Fox, Jo McInnes, Hetti Bywater and a few others.
We also managed to have a chat with Kathryn and Wendy, talking about the scenes that they were in and that my cousin and I had travelled down to the set just for the day. I felt quite sorry for Wendy as we had watched her having her make up done when we first arrived on set, but she wasn’t needed for filming until late afternoon. She had patiently waited around all day long. I guess that is part of being an actress. Whereas Kathryn seemed to act and rehearse throughout the day, well when she wasn’t waiting for the scene to be set up.
Throughout the day we popped back and forth to the film set across the road. We watched the filming on one of the TV monitors, which was located in the front garden. We also popped into the house from time to time, trying not to knock over any equipment or get in anyone’s way. We sat for a while in the back garden, where one of the crew members who worked on the wardrobe started to chat to me. She told me about the previous day’s filming, especially about how Hetti Bywater had reduced everyone in the room to tears with her amazingly emotional performance. You could see her look a little bit worried about her choice of words to me, as if she didn’t want to upset me or offend me. She said something that came as a bit of a surprise to me; she said ‘You’re so brave coming here today.’ A few members of the crew said the same to me during the day. It didn’t occur to me that coming to the set would be a hard or upsetting task as I was so excited. I think the crew had the impression that I would easily get upset and find it hard to watch the scenes. I quickly explained that I am a very positive person; I’ve dealt with my attack and accepted it a long time ago and I was just thrilled to be part of something that had the potential to help so many people and change their lives. It was one of the most surreal days of my life so far.
By late afternoon we had decided to settle in the back garden. One of the crew members brought a big basket full of sandwiches and two plates of cake. I was still full from lunch. A few times a member of the crew would pop out to grab something to eat, take a couple of mouthfuls then be called back on to the set, leaving their sandwich behind. The crew all worked flat out throughout the whole day, every day. The front and back garden had huge spot lights, which you would expect to see on a film set. When we first arrived on set we actually thought the light shining into the house was natural sunlight, only to find that it was the huge filming light. We made jokes about the huge light in a Peter Kay style saying ‘Can someone turn the big light off?’ and ‘Who needs a sunbed when you have this kind of light?’ The photographer also informed us that it cost £2 per hour to have the ‘Big light’ on.
The filming seemed to start very early each day and then carry on until around 2am. At around 7pm Geoff and Sharon needed to head back to their home in London. My cousin and I thought it would be best to head back with them. We all said our goodbyes; I thanked everyone and said I looked forward to seeing them again at the film screening. We got some last few photos and were then driven to the station. They rest of the journey home was spent talking about the day’s events with my cousin. The adrenalin from the exciting day had worn off by then and was being replaced by tiredness. We met some life changing, talented, amazing people, who were kindly working on ‘Counting Backwards’ knowing that it was not about the money, as they did it all for free. Each member of the crew from the Director down to the runner, was offering their talents and they would be helping so many people as a result. I will let you all know when and where the film is being screened.
Big Hugs Michelle x
“Rape trauma has made me fight to help other people”
By Lucy Thomson
Nov 3 2011
A COVENTRY woman who was violently raped at knifepoint as a teenager is to speak about her traumatic ordeal in a bid to help others. Michelle*, now 35, was just 14 when she was dragged into bushes as she took a shortcut home alone from a friend’s house. “The fear and adrenalin was unlike anything I’d ever felt before,” Michelle told the Times. “It was paralysing, I couldn’t speak and I was shaking uncontrollably. I was begging him ‘please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me’ – I really did think he was going to do it.” After a terrifying 20-minute attack, the man left her and she walked back to her friend’s house to call the police. The man was later jailed. Michelle said: “I was told his crimes were escalating and that eventually he would have killed someone so I’m actually very lucky to be alive. Other women thanked me for doing what I did. “A police officer told me he had raped other women and it had completely destroyed them but I refused to ever be a victim. “I just thought ‘I can’t let him win’ – I’ve got to fight back. “It’s not who I am, it’s just another experience in my life.” She launched the ‘Michelle Fighting Back’ website earlier this year and will hold her first public talk in Coventry later this month. “I never really knew what I wanted to do with my life but then a friend of mine asked me to do a talk at a self-defence class about knife awareness and personal safety. “The response I got was incredible. In some ways it makes me wonder if this happened to me for a reason – to help others. “That thought is what has pushed me through it and kept me positive.” A short film is also being made by local director Geoff Thompson based on Michelle’s story and how it affected relationships with the people around her.
She said: “I didn’t expect my experience to have the ripple effect that it did. It was really hard because all I wanted to do was be a teenager but obviously as much as I wanted life to stay the same, things were different.”
Michelle says she learnt the hard way and is determined to help stop others going through the same ordeal. “My advice is to be selfish about your own safety. Be aware of your environment at all times and don’t take dark isolated paths – spend that little bit more on a taxi or accept that lift from a friend. “In a way I want my attacker to know that what he did hasn’t affected my life. “I have gone months before without thinking about it and it’s not going to stop me doing anything. In fact I’ve now got more drive to push myself and be positive.” Michelle’s talk takes place on Friday, November 11, at the Hilton Coventry Hotel, Paradise Way, Walsgrave, from 7pm until 9pm. Tickets cost £20.
* Surname withheld.
Coventry woman brutally raped at knifepoint at 14 speaks of ordeal
By Cara Simpson Oct 27 2011
A WOMAN who was brutally raped at knifepoint when she was 14 has spoken publicly about her ordeal for the first time. Michelle, aged 32, of Coventry, hopes the story of her fight to live a normal life will inspire others. It was 20 years ago that she became the youngest victim of a serial rapist who attacked four women and teenage girls . He stalked Michelle and dragged her into bushes not far from her home as she walked alone from a friend’s house. She thought she was going to die as he held her up at knifepoint, and said she still feels lucky to be alive. “I was paralysed with fear,” she said. “I was trembling and I could barely speak. “I was begging him ‘please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me’. I really did think he was going to do it and the thought was running through my head ‘this is it’. After about 20 minutes, he left her sobbing and she walked back to her friend’s house where she called the police. Amazingly she caught her attacker after recognising him and her bravery led to him being jailed for 15 years. Officers were in no doubt that he would have continued to rape other women were it not for her bravery. And despite what happened to her, Michelle has gone on to live a normal life and has vowed never to be a victim. She now holds down a full-time job and sees life as an adventure, taking opportunities to travel abroad and indulging in her passion of martial arts and Boxing.
Michelle says she has put the incident behind her and is more confident than ever. She said: “A police officer told me I was lucky to be alive, that he had raped other women and it had completely destroyed them. “They were powerful words and from that moment I told myself I wasn’t going to let that happen to me, I wasn’t going to let him destroy me, let him beat me, that not for one second was I going to let what he did to me affect my life.” The rapist’s reign of terror ended when Michelle courageously came face to face with her attacker by chance. He failed to recognise her and she raised the alarm. The man was arrested. She said: “Seeing him brought back the fear, I felt paralysed again but I knew I had to tell the police. “I left and felt relief. It brought peace of mind for me and his other victims.” Inspired by her survival of the horrific experience and the fact she saved others the trauma, she launched the website Michelle Fighting Back earlier this year. She will hold her first public talk in Coventry next month.
A short film made by a local director and Bafta winner Geoff Thompson is also being made of her story. She said: “In one way I’d like my attacker to know that what he did hasn’t affected my life, that I’ve gone on to do some amazing things and had fantastic experiences and there are days when I don’t even think about what happened. “I don’t feel anything about it, I just feel numb. I’m not a victim. I’m fighting back and I want to show others that they can move forward from traumatic experiences like I have.” Her talk takes place on Friday, November 11, at the Hilton Coventry Hotel, Paradise Way, Walsgrave, from 7-9pm. Entry is £20.
By Mike Ashworth | October 20, 2011
Today I’m focussing on someone much closer to home.
At the age of 14 Michelle was raped at knifepoint. However, she was determined to not be seen as a “victim”, instead she has grabbed life by the scruff of the neck and said “come on, i’ve got things to do”.
I’ve met and trained with Michelle on a number of occassions and until I’d heard about the forthcoming film, I had absolutely no idea of what had happened to her at such a young age.
I feel that many of us, perhaps myself included, stereotype people who’ve had such events happen to them. Perhaps influenced by how much of the media portrays them, helpless, timid, lacking in confidence and self esteem, men haters etc.
I can tell you now that Michelle is taking any and all of these preconceptions that people may have of “victims” of rape and turning them on their head.
She is not prepared to let that event be the defining moment of her life.
Here is a video of Michelle talking about her life at one of Geoff Thompson’s Masterclasses in Coventry.
I’ve written about Geoff previously, an amazing guy, who has also turned his life around. Abused when he was young, bullied, menial job in a factory, to becoming a BAFTA award winning writer, teacher and world renowned martial artist.
Film based on her life
“Counting Backwards” is a short film based on Michelle’s story. It is heartbreaking, beautiful and ultimately triumphant.
It describes how a young girl, her family and best friend struggle to deal with an awful and tragic event and follows the inevitable echoes that continue to ripple through the next generation.
This is a film about bravery, love and friendship between friends and family.
Geoff Thompson has created a powerful, shocking and deeply moving script which is being directed by Sean de Sparango, mutli award winning director including a Cannes Lion for his Anti-gun crime campaign.
Lucy Speed (Natalie Price in Eastenders, The Bill) plays Michelle in later life.
This is actress Kathryn Prescott (Emily Fitch in Skins) she plays the part of Kelly (Michelle’s daughter) in the film.
Here is a photo of Michelle with Kathryn Prescott
Her Motivational Talk
Michelle will be taking about her life and experiences on the 11th November at the Hilton Hotel in Coventry.
How Martial Arts could save your life
We hear the story of Michelle, who recovered from the ordeal of being raped at knife-point in her early teens to rebuild her life through martial arts.
By Fergus Ryan
The rise in popularity of Mixed Martial Arts has polarised opinions on combat sports and their place in society. The easy, much peddled argument is that it’s too brutal for general consumption and those that engage are satisfying a primal blood lust. These views, though, are given from a position of ignorance. For every ten competitors in combat sports there are hundreds of people who train just for fitness, to build self confidence or, more importantly, for self defence.
Though not foremost in people’s minds, self defence may be needed now more than ever. In the 32 years since the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre was established calls to the national 24 hour helpline has increased from 76 in 1979 to 14,289 in 2009. The easiest form of self defence might be to stay inside, shut off from danger behind closed doors.
I caught up with Michelle, who comes from the UK but has family ties in Belfast, Cork and Dublin. For the last 20 years or so Michelle has been living life as completely and positively as she can. In the last number of years Michelle began training in a wide range of martial arts for all the benefits listed above.
Michelle had been a typical teenager: everything was about her friends and she had only a passing interest in sport. Her life changed forever when she was 14, one night on the way back from a friend’s house. Taking the usual route home down a secluded path Michelle was raped at knifepoint.
“There isn’t a guide book available at the local library that tells you how to react, how to behave or how to deal with the after effects if you have been attacked or raped,” she says.
“One minute you’re in a nice routine – going out with your friends, going to school, and worrying if the local shop had stocked up on your favourite chocolate bars … and the next minute your life changes forever.”
While dealing with one of the worst things that could happen to a young girl, it was a family member who reached out and introduced Michelle to an activity that would help rebuild her life. “After being raped my uncle asked me if I would attend a local martial arts class. I said I would give it a go and he took me to the class.
“I was very nervous and to this day I still get a little nervous when I train somewhere new. I was surprised as I really loved Martial Arts and now have my uncle to thank for that. It really gave me a lot of confidence, it’s a great way to release stress and you feel energised due to the exercise. I have made some fantastic friends through the Martial Arts world and training.”
She trained in Wado Ryu Karate amongst other martial arts for about six years before the club closed and Michelle stepped away for a while. “One day I messaged an old friend of mine who I used to train with, Mick Tully. He had started up his own Martial Arts club ‘Complete Self Protection’ alongside Al Peasland and he asked if I’d like to pop down and train with them. I went along and have never looked back.” Tully, who originally hails from Dublin, moved to Coventry as a child. He now runs Complete Self Protection programmes in Coventry and Milton Keynes.
The programme at ‘Complete Self Protection’ acknowledges that there is no one martial art that has every solution for all situations. For Michelle and many other students this mixed martial arts training is about personal development. “Since I have started training again it has totally changed my life entirely. With ‘Complete Self Protection’ I now practice Boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, Real Combat System, Jeet Kune Do, Kali and Knife Work, Panatukan, Grappling/Wrestling. Also about six to eight months ago I started Boxing Technique at Redcorner Boxing Academy. I used to only train 1-2 hours a week and I now train anywhere from 5-8 hours a week at least. I just love training and learning new skills.”
With more experience than most at a relatively young age, Michelle is unequivocal on the benefits of training in combat sports and martial arts. “I think everyone should try Martial Arts/ Self Defence at least once, as it could save or change your life. The most important factor is being more aware of your environment and the people around you, knowing what to look out for and being selfish about your own safety.”
However, Michelle explains there are some things that you can never learn in the class. Sometimes flight can and should overpower the urge to fight. “Rule number one is to run, screaming, as fast as you can if you feel you are in danger; don’t hang around to see if your technique works on the street. It’s only if you can’t get away that you should attack.
“You don’t know how you will react physically when faced with an attacker. Unfortunately for me, my body reacted negatively to the fear and adrenalin, which meant I couldn’t speak properly, I was shaking uncontrollably, my brain told me to run but my body was frozen and paralysed with fear.
“You could know every technique known to man, but when faced with a life and death situation it doesn’t necessarily mean your body will allow you to react in the way you want it to. There is no saying my body would have reacted any different if I had any martial arts training. We are all different and react in different situations.
“I would still recommend that it is better to equip yourself with some training and knowledge, as it could save your life. My instructor often offers a women’s self defence workshop, which is a one off session where the women learn key life saving skills. It’s a shame it’s not taught in all schools as part of the curriculum.”
In addition to the fitness, added confidence and potential life saving skills Michelle has acquired, she is immensely proud of her training to date. This is just one of her achievements after an event that could have caused her life to spiral downward. “Some of my greatest personal achievements include that I have progressed in my Martial Arts, have made my family proud, I have started doing motivational talks (www.michellefightingback.co.uk) to help others, and that the story of my attack is being made into a film by Geoff Thompson, which will hopefully help people who have been through similar situations.”
Sometimes, the last word on a serious crime is that the perpetrator has been prosecuted and jailed. In this instance we’d like to give Michelle the last word, which may inspire you to join a martial arts club or may help somebody who has had a common experience.
“Being raped at knife point is just another thing that has happened in my life. It’s just one of my experiences. It hasn’t stopped me from doing anything or made me a negative person; if anything it’s had the opposite effect. It has helped me to challenge myself, to strive for better in life and made me appreciate what is important in life.
“I really don’t like the term ‘victim’. I’ve never been a ‘victim’ and refuse point blank to become one. As far as I’m concerned the word victim suggests a person has been beaten, that the attacker has won. I decided my attacker could only win if I allowed him to destroy me, if I gave him that power and if I allowed him to defeat me. I believe we all have an inner strength that helps us to deal with tough situations throughout our lives. Never let anyone take control over your life and don’t give anyone the satisfaction of knowing that they have ruined your life. Fight back… I did!”
Raped at knifepoint when she was 14, Michelle is the subject of Counting Backwards, the forthcoming film from BAFTA winner and Oscar longlisted writer Geoff Thompson. She is a motivational speaker and martial artist, and a great role model for anyone who wants to make more of their life.
Stu: Hi Michelle, thanks for taking the time to have a chat. The whole point of your website is to inspire and promote better living, in spite of fear or trauma, so I’m going to get right on with it:
As ridiculous as it to attach clichés to people, it probably is tempting for some to think of people who have been raped as Walking Wounded, or Victims. Your life seems to utterly refute that sort of thinking – has that been a deliberate strategy?
attacker the satisfaction of mentally beating me in any way.
mentally, and to become the strong, positive person that I am today. I’m not saying I wouldn’t get stressed if my car was to break down, but in regards to being raped, and it affecting my life, I am 100% determined that it will not ruin my life, or affect my life in any negative way.
The churning in my stomach continued up until I met up with Geoff the following night. We sat talking for a few hours, and I left him feeling calm and totally at peace with myself. It was really good to talk it all through with him, especially as he had some understanding of how I felt. We talked over the details, facts and memories, and I also gave Geoff eight pages of notes with more details on, which I’d written with my mum.
Stu: The martial arts are a big part in your life, as for many of us – how significant has that been to your personal development, do you think? For the benefit of those who might be a bit nervous about trying an art on for size, but want to learn more, would you give a little bit of your MA history?
Starting to train again has changed my life entirely. I now practice the following styles: Boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, Real Combat System, JKD, Kali and Knife Work, Panatukan and Grappling/Wrestling. I used to train 1-2 hours a week but I now train anything from 5-8 hours a week.
Books that inspire me? There have been so many! I love to read books, so I will just pick out a few.