Colorado’s High Speed Female C.O.B.R.A. Instructors.

Colorado’s  High Speed Female Instructors.

The women instructors of C.O.B.R.A.

by Randall Brown


C.O.B.R.A. Instructor Elizabeth McLaughlin Conducting Striking Drills With R.O.T.C. Recruits.


As a martial arts school owner I have seen many self-defense systems come and go and personally had little to no faith in any of them.  I believed, as many others do, that only through six months to a year or more of training could a student be realistically prepared for a violent assault in competition or on the street.  Then one day, as I sat drinking my morning cup of coffee, I heard about a senseless and horrific act of violence and was prompted there and then to take a long look at my dojo and what I should offer as a self-defense curriculum.  I have forty-plus years of martial arts training and my school has produced many MMA and grappling champions, but my research was extensive and I learned that violent crime is a different animal than what we face in competition and requires a completely different skill set.  Something other than the standard kick, punch and grapple methodology was needed.  Something that went directly to the core of the horrific situations history has shown that crime inflicts upon the innocent.  I wanted more knowledge; I wanted proven methods created from the actual statistics garnered from the survivors of these violent crimes.  My search was extensive and futile until I found Chris Sutton and the C.O.B.R.A.™ self-defense method.  It met all of my criteria and even surpassed them.

One of the most impressive things about C.O.B.R.A.™ has to be the women instructors. Imagine that you are a 115 pound woman and you’re about to demonstrate to a 210 pound man the merits of a self-defense technique.  He grabs your wrist, screams, “come with me”, and proceeds to drag you towards a car.  This is one of the most common attacks a woman faces.  You get into a good base, grab your trapped hand with your free hand and cleanly break the man’s grasp, but it isn’t over yet.  Now the man grabs you in a rear bear hug, pinning your arms to your side, and attempts to carry you to the car.  What do you do?  Unfortunately, some women will face a similar situation at least once in their life, but this is something the women instructors of C.O.B.R.A. face on a regular basis.

female dojo4

Escape Techniques Are a Critical Part Of C.O.B.R.A. Training.


Take C.O.B.R.A. instructor Elizabeth McLaughlin.  She received her undergraduate degree in Art and Psychology and began training at The Dojo a little over a year after moving to Colorado.  Soon after that, she was introduced to the C.O.B.R.A. program.  She had never taken a self-defense class before and it seemed like a good introduction to training in the martial arts.  What she discovered from taking the course was that there is a great deal more to not being a victim than being able to physically defend oneself.  

The combination of physical, emotional, and psychological components involved in this training is the key to what makes it functional.  Once she understood that the goal of C.O.B.R.A. is to provide students with a well-rounded realistic approach to self-defense, she was convinced of its value.  “I am a novice to the martial art world.  I teach yoga and I’m a runner.  I’m an average sized woman whose preference would be to avoid conflict.

But I have experienced enough victimization in my life to know the difference that being prepared can make.  I value my life enough to want to know how to protect it if necessary.  It took me a while to come to that understanding, but now that I have it I intend to use it to help others.” As a female instructor, she was curious about the way that men would feel training with her, but so far she has not encountered anything but respect and genuine interest from students of both genders.  “We have had quite a few male students sign their wives, daughters, and even female co-workers up to take C.O.B.R.A.  after training with us.  I think this speaks volumes about the value they see in the training, and our instructors.  It is an honor to be entrusted to help them protect their loved ones.”

Then there is C.O.B.R.A. instructor Annie McLaughlin. She is a black belt at The Dojo with 8 consecutive years of martial arts training and was the 2010 absolute world champion queen of Pancrase submission wrestling.  She also teaches Sarasya Tone Fitness at The Dojo.  She moved to Colorado on a high jump scholarship with CSU and fell in love with the natural beauty, training, and the amazing community she has to learn from there.  She decided to become a C.O.B.R.A. instructor after taking the 10 week program and seeing what a great system it is.  “It very succinctly covers a broad range of statistically common attacks and teaches students simple, effective movements to deal with the attack.  The value of the verbalization is huge, as well as the format of the scenario training.  This isn't just another hokey self-defense program.  These are real world skills that could be the difference between being a victim or not.

C.O.B.R.A. Instructor Annie McLaughlin Training a Group at Colorado State University.

C.O.B.R.A. Instructor Annie McLaughlin Training a Group at Colorado State University.


Women's self-defense is particularly important to her, and she feels C.O.B.R.A.  offers training that really works.” She finds different challenges in teaching men and women.  Annie discovered that women often are more timid in asserting themselves physically and verbally and have been taught that socially acceptable behaviors do not include yelling, being physically assertive, or "being mean" for any reason.

Unlearning some of these expectations can be difficult, but quite empowering when overcome.  When they do break through those artificial boundaries, watch out!  Getting men to engage in repetition of techniques can be a challenge.  Typically more confident in their physical ability, once a technique is learned, focus tends to wane.  Keeping intensity and engagement, so that they come closer to committing movements to muscle memory, is a challenge.  Her experiences with cobra students have been that they are usually sincere about what they are there to learn and have done their research about self-defense programs.  They typically come in with a willingness to learn and an earnestness about their training.  It is important to our instructors that students feel safe, welcome, and have fun while they are at The Dojo.  To that end, our courses tend to foster camaraderie and mutual respect of all members of the class.  If necessary, she will demonstrate her proficiency at handling violent force in such a way that establishes her credibility and fosters respect.

 Annie McLaughlin Seen Here Demonstrating a Head lock  Escapes With Students.

Annie McLaughlin Seen Here Demonstrating Head lock Escapes With Students.


We have nine C.O.B.R.A. instructors at our school at this time and three are women.  The students regularly compliment us on their professionalism, knowledge and physical ability.  Student Danielle Biggs feels that it is "very inspirational to work with bad ass, beautiful women”. Darrin Sharp says, "The women C.O.B.R.A. instructors have an impressive level of experience and knowledge." Michael Lichtenbach says that "they are knowledgeable and not only can they teach the theory of a self-defense move, but can prove it in practice”. Bree Espinoza says that "the women C.O.B.R.A.  instructors make the first few classes more comfortable for women" and "they break things down from a women's perspective”. Be it the male C.O.B.R.A. instructors or students of the classes, everyone agrees that the women of C.O.B.R.A. are an asset on every level.





For Training Information at the Colorado C.O.B.R.A. Center: