Women’s Blog #4 – Half the Battle
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it” – Helen Keller
A big incentive for my dad when I joined karate was my personal safety. At 8, I thought nothing of that. I just wanted my giant gi pants to fit and wanted to be allowed to kick stuff. When I began college at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle’s quiet Queen Anne neighborhood, I didn’t think about my personal safety greatly. But women’s safety was a recurring conversation on my all-women’s dorm floor. There were emails that circulated and meetings that were held and tidbits passed along. My grandfather would send me pepper spray in every other box that my grandmother sent. Due to me being incredibly clumsy, I always handed them off to the most concerned dorm mate. I was more afraid of accidentally spraying myself in a frantic flurry to pull my pen out of my pocket after an all-nighter trying to finish my final paper than I was of an attacker.
However, I began to realize that while the reality of violence against women is an international problem, it is the fear of violence that is universally paralyzing (this is regardless of gender). I realized that taking karate was a gift not because I had learned how to defend myself but because learning to defend myself gave me a confidence to not live in fear. I realized that half the battle of being female wasn’t staying safe, it was refusing to live constantly looking over my shoulder. In Gavin de Becker’s book “Gift of Fear”, he states it this way, “Since fear is so central to our experience, understanding when it is a gift–and when it is a curse–is well worth the effort.” Gavin de Becker takes the time in this book to breakdown the predictable factors of violence and encourage people to trust their instinct. Thankfully, I haven’t ever had to defend myself with what I have learned in the martial arts. Nevertheless, that fact leaves me mindful that I can’t tell someone who has experienced violence on how to defend themselves when it counts the most. What I do know, is that denying the reality that bad things happen to good people is naive.
Without delving too deeply into a self defense seminar, there are three things I would ask all readers to consider. First, trust your instinct. If you don’t feel safe, believe yourself and get yourself to somewhere that you do. The idea that you shouldn’t wear certain clothes or shouldn’t go certain places is one-sided. It allows the perpetrator a justification for their actions. Additionally, strangers attacking strangers isn’t what fills the data for violence against women. Domestic violence and dating violence does. This means that it is somebody that the victim knows who commits the crime. When your gut says “Stop, get away” listen to it. There have been plenty of times I’ve crossed the street just because I wasn’t comfortable with the person walking towards me. Second, whatever you do, do it confidently. Make eye contact, keep your back straight, look alert, act like you know exactly what you are doing and where you are going. Violence is often a power play. Don’t be the victim they expect. And if you do find yourself needing to fight back, don’t back down. It doesn’t matter what you throw, just don’t stop fighting until you can get away. Finally, get help. This is multi-layered. You need to remember that there are people who want to help you. Whether that’s a guy in class that just won’t leave you alone or you’re actually engaged in a violent situation, there are safe places and safe people that you can get ahold of. Public service employees (police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, etc.), teachers/professors, friends, family–there’s a long list who are available. Whether that’s confiding and admitting someone gives you the creeps or you are running for help, don’t feel alone. Getting help can also take the form of being loud when the moment counts in order to intimidate or deter your attacker and to alert other people to what’s going on. Krav Maga is big on the idea of “Get home safely”, doesn’t matter how. That’s all that matters, you feel safe and are safe.
Fear isn’t crippling unless you allow it to be. Choosing to walk tall and live your life is essential. While you can predict via your intuition whether or not someone has violent intentions, you can’t predict when or where the next crime will occur. For me, martial arts is a tool that has given me the strength to enjoy life in spite of the many things in this world that could dishearten me. Your tool may be very different. Regardless of what it is, live your life courageously and live it in the confidence that you aren’t someone’s victim and never have to be. You control how you respond to every situation that you encounter. Seize that opportunity and be the victor in your battles.
If you are interested in reading Gavin de Becker’s book, here is a link to Amazon.com 🙂