Montreal Gazette


Vet­eran of­fi­cer Ge­orge Manoli spends his off-hours teach­ing women like Cyn­thia Donato the rudi­ments of self-de­fence to ward off would-be sex­ual preda­tors. Bill Brownstein has de­tails.

- BILL BROWNSTEIN bbrown­stein@post­ Twit­ bill­brown­stein Sexism · Discrimination · Human Rights · Society · Martial Arts · Sports · Montreal · T. Rex · Ahuntsic-Cartierville · Beaconsfield

He looks like a fright­en­ing cross be­tween Mr. Potato Head and RoboCop, cov­ered in pro­tec­tive gear from his Sty­ro­foam-cov­ered head through to his hockey-padded groin, knees and even toes. And even at that, Ge­orge Manoli, un­der 40 pounds of this garb, has still sus­tained a few in­juries.

Manoli, the vet­eran Mon­treal po­lice of­fi­cer un­der­neath the pad­ding, is spend­ing his offhours, as he usu­ally does, teach­ing some women the rudi­ments of self-de­fence to ward off wouldbe sex­ual preda­tors. Al­though he has an ar­ray of black belts in var­i­ous mar­tial arts, Manoli is essen­tially in­struct­ing women not on the in­tri­ca­cies of kung fu or karate, but rather on, yes, down-and-dirty street fight­ing.

“If women are about to be sex­u­ally or oth­er­wise as­saulted, they have very lit­tle time to re­act and they sure as hell won’t re­mem­ber the finer points of some mar­tial arts to keep their at­tacker at bay and get away,” says Manoli, in the midst of teach­ing his meth­ods to a trio of young women in his StLéonard garage.

In­stead, he urges these women, as well as oth­ers he in­structs through­out the city, to scream, kick, scratch and gouge their at­tacker in their most vul­ner­a­ble ar­eas — their eyes, noses and groins. But Manoli does more than just talk; he also plays the role of the preda­tor, al­beit a far more well-padded one, and has the women strike at him dur­ing his hands-on at­tack sim­u­la­tions.

Which they do. With a vengeance. Hence some of the bumps and bruises he has sus­tained. Ac­cord­ing to the many tes­ti­mo­ni­als he has re­ceived from stu­dents hav­ing dealt with at­tacks, Manoli’s meth­ods have worked.

Noémie, 22, one of the stu­dents tak­ing his course for the first time, is petite. For­ever smil­ing, this soft­ware en­gi­neer may look like a mark to some Ne­an­derthal, de­spite the fact she has had pre­vi­ous mar­tial arts train­ing. But when charged by Manoli in a sim­u­lated at­tack, she lets loose with a se­ries of blood-cur­dling screams, pow­er­ful kicks to his mid-sec­tion and a flurry of nasty punches to his eyes and nose.

“Even with all the pad­ding I’m wear­ing, I felt that,” Manoli notes. “She would put the fear in any would-be at­tacker, which is pre­cisely the point.”

Manoli can lose up to five pounds, sweat­ing pro­fusely un­der his gear, in a three-hour ses­sion.

“That’s not such a bad thing, since my wife, a pas­try chef, can have me put it right back on,” quips Manoli, the fa­ther of three sons — one of whom is also a city cop.

Not sur­pris­ingly, Manoli has been em­braced by women’s groups around the city. He of­fers his cour­ses at schools, CEGEPs, mar­tial-arts fa­cil­i­ties, church and sy­n­a­gogue base­ments and his own home.

“Busi­ness is good, but that’s not nec­es­sar­ily a good thing,” he says. “That means an aw­ful lot of women are feel­ing vul­ner­a­ble. Un­for­tu­nately, my off-duty time is lim­ited, so I’m un­able to meet the de­mand. This has all been by word of mouth. I don’t so­licit at all. The goal is sim­ply to em­power women, young and old.

“I was called by women in­volved in the #MeToo move­ment and asked if I no­ticed an in­crease in de­mand for self­de­fence. I told them that I had dou­bled and tripled the num­ber of cour­ses I do in re­cent years. The rea­son is likely be­cause it’s a hands-on course.”

A phys-ed teacher in a pre­vi­ous life, Manoli has been a Mon­treal cop for the past 29 years. He works in crime preven­tion at Ahuntsic-Cartiervil­le’s Sta­tion 27, deal­ing with so­cial work­ers and men­tal-health pro­fes­sion­als on ev­ery­thing from young of­fend­ers to con­ju­gal as­sault to se­niors abuse.

Manoli, who has a sixth-de­gree

black belt in karate and a black belt in judo and is work­ing to­ward an­other black belt in Brazil­ian ju-jitsu, has been teach­ing self-de­fence since he was 16. Apart from his other teach­ing as­sign­ments, he also runs the Bea­cons­field Karate & Grap­pling Club.

He put to­gether the self­de­fence pro­gram he is cur­rently teach­ing about 35 years ago.

“When I started the pro­gram, I looked at what oth­ers were teach­ing and thought it was so crazy, even dan­ger­ous, try­ing to teach women to put at­tack­ers in an arm lock or sit on them un­til the po­lice ar­rive. I can teach peo­ple a mar­tial-arts trick, but three min­utes later when they walk out the door, they’ll for­get ev­ery­thing.

“Peo­ple will re­mem­ber what has been tat­tooed into them. If you want to learn how to de­fend your­self, well, I’m sorry to say but some­body has got to at­tack you. So by be­ing at­tacked, you de­velop this never-say-die at­ti­tude. And as I tell my stu­dents, it makes no dif­fer­ence what I do to you — it’s what you’re go­ing to do to me.”

So the fo­cus of coun­ter­at­tack for his stu­dents is on two ar­eas: eyes/nose and groin.

“They can put their thumbs in at­tack­ers’ eyes, bite their noses. What­ever. It doesn’t mat­ter. The im­por­tant thing is to go with what­ever your per­son­al­ity or size al­lows you to. You have to bring out your in­ner T-Rex. It’s as sim­ple as that. Some may de­mo­nize this, but it is a nat­u­ral sur­vival in­stinct. Preda­tors have to un­der­stand that no means no, or that they will have to pay a price oth­er­wise.”

One of the bet­ter tes­ti­mo­ni­als Manoli has re­ceived comes from his own niece, who warded off two at­tack­ers at a métro sta­tion us­ing her un­cle’s strat­egy: “Un­cle Ge­orge, thank you for be­ing the bas­tard you were when you gave me the course,” she said.

“I’m su­per-tough, but if it pre­vents at­tacks, so be it,” Manoli says. “Best that I’m tough here, be­cause (the) eas­ier it will be out there.”

Prices for Ge­orge Manoli’s self­de­fence classes vary. For more in­for­ma­tion, go to or call 438-392-4683.

 ?? DAVE SIDAWAY ?? Mon­treal po­lice of­fi­cer Ge­orge Manoli spends his off hours teach­ing the rudi­ments of self-de­fence to women. Above, Manoli puts three stu­dents, Sara Melina Anoie, left, Noemie Del Duca and Cyn­thia Donato, through the pro­gram he cre­ated about 35 years ago at his home in Saint-Leonard.
DAVE SIDAWAY Mon­treal po­lice of­fi­cer Ge­orge Manoli spends his off hours teach­ing the rudi­ments of self-de­fence to women. Above, Manoli puts three stu­dents, Sara Melina Anoie, left, Noemie Del Duca and Cyn­thia Donato, through the pro­gram he cre­ated about 35 years ago at his home in Saint-Leonard.
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