I wish I could say I was always a self confident, black boot wearing, boxing glove carrying, badass woman, but the truth is, that is far from the truth.
I was extremely shy growing up. I was always afraid and did not feel safe in the world. I remember in my early twenties having reoccurring nightmares about men breaking into my house at night and doing awful things to me. I would wake up terrified, my breath shallow, not able to go back to sleep. I even called the police once, because I swore someone was downstairs in our three story DC group home. There was no one there.
In addition, I was a bleeding heart, who constantly put everyone else’s needs before my own in the name of compassion. It would be correct in saying, I suffered from the “need to be needed.” If someone asked me what I wanted to do, my response would often be, “I don’t care, whatever you want.” I unconsciously did not think my opinion was important enough to validate making decisions. The “little girl” in me was tender, highly sensitive, and wept for the world. These are beautiful qualities that I hope to always nurture. My vulnerability and gentleness created a bridge connecting to other peoples pain, but I was swallowed by my own suffering of how to set boundaries and traverse, a very real, harsh, not always nice world.
Fast forward to today. I am still often afraid, but I have a strong desire to move towards my fear, especially when it’s visceral. I know this is good medicine and will transform me, like no other experience in life can do. I have confidence and assurance that my perceived fears will not destroy me and if they do, I have the tools, skills and support to stand up, brush myself off, trust that I am enough, and keep placing one foot in front of the other.
I have had lots of support over the years, through mentors, therapy, meditation, yoga, self inquiry programs, sitting with dying people, but one of the most powerful and tangible tools has been Self Defense Training.
I have been training in Krav Maga for the past 5 years. As an almost thirty eight year old woman, I am physically stronger and more capable than I have ever been. I am aware that the world is full of violence. Statistically women are primarily victims of sexual violence, usually by people they know. I am also very aware that strength plays a factor in all physical confrontations, hence why we have weight classes in sport competetion. I do not believe in fear mongering and understand that there will always be unknowns, especially with variables such as size, multiple attackers, weapons, unfamiliar terrain, the list goes on.
That said, through my training, I have developed an audacity and relentless spirit, that would put up a fight, scream like a maniac, surprise attack, anything that it took to survive. In self defense, particularly women’s self defense, we have conversations around the questions, “What you are wiling to fight for? What you are willing to die for?” There is no right or wrong answer. Every woman has to make that decision for herself and you may never know what you’re willing to do until you are in the fire. But you can still train for it, you can acquire skills, strength and knowledge, to lessen the chances of being attacked. You can be an example and trailblazer not just for yourself but for all women and young women to come. It’s not just about the physical, in all areas of our lives women can be powerful, use a strong and assertive voice, walk with confidence, treat ourselves and other women with dignity as human beings, not as objects.
This is the power and transformative process of training in Self Defense.
Five heartfelt reasons why every women should train in self defense.
1. Find your voice. Learn to set boundaries.
Setting boundaries has not come naturally for me. I like to connect. When I worked in hospice, there were numerous times that I enmeshed myself with the person that was dying. I tried to take on other people’s pain as my own, and it nearly killed me. I was physically sick in the hospital on multiple occasions and an emotional rollercoaster. Through Self Defense and combat sport training, I have developed a stronger sense of my physical self. I speak as if I have something to say without regard for people pleasing and I take care of my own needs.
2. Develop greater physical strength, fortitude and confidence.
I am in better physical shape than I’ve ever been in my life and I was a collegiate soccer player. Krav Maga requires high intensity work. Your training demands you give everything you’ve got, because your life or someone else’s could literally depend on it. A primary outcome of this intensity is being in amazing shape. Krav Maga is accessible for all fitness levels, ages and body types, because you are required to give one hundred and ten percent which will be different for everyone. When you are strong physically in your body, it will naturally translate to every other area of your life.
3. Live everyday with a little less fear.
Fear is so precarious. I’m terrified of driving across extremely tall, narrow bridges, especially over water. More than terrified, my body shuts down. I thought it would be a great idea to face my fear by driving over the Bay Bridge. I had my power music on and as I saw the outline of the bridge my anxiety was palpable. I was going to conquer this fear. Not sure if this was my finest moment, as I created a traffic jam and wanted to close my eyes and die. That said, I do not train regularly in driving over bridges. If there was a program that could train me to overcome this visceral fear, I would think about enrolling myself.
There are so many fears that Self Defense training has brought to the surface for me. Fear of hurting someone else or causing them physical harm. Fear of my own violence. Fear of death. Fear of being on display. Training in Self Defense offers practical tools on a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual level to overcome our daily fears and live a more powerful, liberating life.
4. Become the “one” you’ve been waiting for.
You have two choices. You can choose to be “trained or untrained.” If you are training in Self Defense, you will naturally exude more confidence and awareness when walking down the street. In the wild, predatory animals seek out the most vulnerable, injured, or weak one of the pack. You do not have to be the fastest, strongest, fittest, you just need to not be the weakest. Through training in Self Defense, you not only empower yourself, you also can become an ambassador for the “weaker” of the pack. And remember, there will most definitely be a time in your life when you are the weaker one, and you will need help. Don’t wait for prince charming or someone else to come save you. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” You can be the one you have always been waiting for in life, in death and every moment in between. We always have the power of our own choice and actions.
5. For all other women and generations of women to come.
If women would like to stop being treated as objects, we need to work together to create a new reality and paradigm shift. By training in Women’s Self Defense, we are training an alternate physical, mental, and emotional modality beyond what we were socialized into as women in our culture. Sometimes in Self Defense, we are considered barbaric, we are considered vicious and beastly, we are considered, non-feminine and definitely not “nice”. As women and human beings, we need to exercise all sides of ourselves to be whole and healthy people. To create a society that allows for every human being, men, women and children, to express all sides of themselves, so that we can all progress and evolve as a united human race.
I am deeply grateful that my partner of 5 years is not just an amazing human being, but also a Krav Maga Black Belt and champion of women. It’s important that along our individual journeys, we find companions and connections that can support us, challenge us, nurture us, and offer space to be who we were born to be. I’m not plugging to date a Martial Artist, what I am encouraging is finding a community, partners, people who can help you see how strong you really are, holding a mirror to show YOU are the one you’ve always been waiting for.
Interested in Women’s Self Defense? You can sign up online for her 3-week series at Yoga Heights, begininng Sunday, September 24th 1:00 – 2:30pm (through October 8th).