There’s a guy coming at me with a gun in his hands. I grab, twist, pull him closer.

“Harder!” he bellows. “Like you mean it.” And his voice shoots through me like a shot of adrenalin and my knee comes up and connects at full force.

Into his groin.

The guy drops to the mats.

“Sorry,” I squeak, the replica gun falling to my feet.

Anna, my partner, cracks up. “Shouldn’t yell at a girl who’s about to knee you.”

Wonga wanders over. “You OK, man?”

“No problem,” Guy says, from the floor. “This is why I wear a box.”

Wonga looks me right in the eye. “You cool?”

“Sorry. I know we’re not supposed to follow all the way through, but when Guy shouted–”

“Hey,” Guy says from the floor, “no apologising. I should know better than to raise my voice when I’m in a woman’s face. Especially when teaching self-defence.”

Wonga and Anna nod.

Guy rolls back onto his feet, smooth and easy, grinning. “Keep this up, and I’m going to recruit you.”

I let out a chuckle, like I think he’s hilarious. But no ways am I joining the police force. In the past four weeks I’ve come to love the dojo. Here, there are rules. Follow them, you get by fine. And if things get too heavy, you just tap-out, and it all stops. No kidding. There you are, with people swinging at you, trying to throw you down, smash your face and twist you into a pretzel and tap-tap – they’re off you in a flash. Over. As if you electrocuted them.

But out on the street there is no tap-out, even if you’re the police with the gun. Bad guys got guns, too. And knives. Police have to deal with it all. No, no, no.

As it is, I still haven’t managed to do the any of the knife drills, where you learn to take it away, disarm them. Call me crazy, but the gun seems easier. Less real. Not that it actually is real, but neither are the knives. Weighted rubber replicas, fake, fake, fake. But the knives aren’t fake enough.

Anna pokes my arm. “One more time before we hit the showers?”

“Sure,” I say, and Anna scoops up the gun, looking like a fierce Tinkerbell.

“OK,” she says. “I’m the bad guy. Hands up, or I’ll shoot!”

I’m sucked into the moment, thinking about nothing else but the drill, the gun. I’ve got my hands up, saying, “Don’t shoot, please don’t shoot,” whimpering like I’m scared and trembling. Shuffle-shuffle, oh so meek and mild, playing for time, working myself close before I spring, grab wrist, twist, lock, knee up as I bring her face down – double time – then I’m dancing away, gun in my possession.

Light as a butterfly, sting like a bee. Oh yeah, I’m getting this.


Tell us: Why do you think that even fake knives are ‘too real’ for Justine?