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Making women safer is a topic near and dear to my heart. I do not claim to have any answers, except that change is inevitable. We will all die. Nothing is certain, and the only thing we ever really know is right in front of us. (even that is questionable.) As the founder of Fit to Fight, Ryan Hoover, says, “It Depends.”
What do we mean when we throw around this trending term of “Self Defense”?
The legal definition states: “the use of reasonable force to protect oneself or members of the family from bodily harm from the attack of an aggressor, if the defender has reason to believe he/she/they is/are in danger.”
When discussing “Self Defense,” we are engaging in a conversation of probability, a game of statistics, a terrain of constantly shifting variables.
Sounds similar to the ebb and flow of everyday life.
We live in a world steeped in an ideology of control and safety, but are we really in control?
Are we sure there’s no hidden Wizard of Oz voice, similar to the drone of social media, bright lights of advertising, convoluted politics, unquestioned social structures, or ancient neural pathways that still run from the saber tooth tiger?
The debates about “real” Self Defense are endless. Everyone has a strong opinion, the best resources, techniques, theories, and practical applications.
Sorting through all the information, can become overwhelming and kinda like a dick slinging contest to see whose is bigger.
I don’t have a dick, and am not interested in “out videoing someone else” to prove my technique is better than yours, or that my self worth is intact. Why would I waste my time and energy focused on what someone else is doing and take away precious moments in my day to take action and move forward?
As a female Black Belt instructor, I can attest my own worst enemy is me. So instead of trolling the internet or looking outside myself for all the “wrong” shit out there, how about I stare long and hard in the mirror and do my daily "Self Defense" training.
By starting with the one thing I have power over, myself, I can free up time and energy to write, speak, create, have conversations, teach, learn, and do the work of making myself and others safer.
As a fighter, teacher and student of this field, I value the physical work. I think it is absolutely necessary to train in whatever modality your body will allow. We do not all need to be competitive athletes, but it is vital to train with live energy. How do you respond under intense stress?
We spend a lot of time discussing the most effective physical ways to defend ourselves but who are the experts putting out videos on how to defend ourselves from our everyday selves?
Will a proper choke defense save me from that voice that says, “You’re not good enough?” Will the the most effective mount escape keep me from putting shit in my mouth? Will the hours of wrestling heal the lifetime of fear and shame?
Let me be clear, as a collegiate soccer player and competitive fighter, I highly value the visceral, psychological, mental and emotional awareness that can be a product of physical training. In order to perform a technique in a limbic state, one must drill that technique at nauseum.
But why be so focused on a future attack, if I am an asshole? If I’m harming myself with lack of awareness and conscious decision making skills on a day to day basis?
Over the years my inner attackers have taken on various voices. “You suck. You’ll never be good enough. She’s prettier than you. You’re fat and ugly. You will always be alone. You’re not smart enough. You are not safe in the world. You are too fragile. You are weak. It’s just the way it is. You are crazy. You are too emotional. You will never win. You are irresponsible.”
How do we overcome these ancient predators?
What is the one thing I always have control over? My response to what is happening to me. I change what I can and I accept what I cannot change. Not with a “poor me” mentality, but a “this is how it fucking is now, and I was born to rise.”
We need more Self Defense instructors debating, discussing, teaching and practicing emotional and mental toughness.
This isn’t a grit your teeth, “no pain no gain” mentality. We are reconstructing the hardware of our evolving brains.
What if the answer is, there is no answer?
We crave certainty, control, safety, it’s a normal human drive toward survival. We are wired to be “right.” We need the tribe to accept us, so the saber tooth tiger will not eat us.
But life doesn’t work that way. Self Defense doesn’t work that way. There are no absolutes. Everything is always changing. “It depends.”
I think it is vital as a community of teachers, leaders and students to ask the questions. Hold each other accountable. Be honest enough to say, “I don’t know.” Fight for something, and be free to adapt. Be willing to stand alone and with others. Embrace paradox. Do the daily work of training ourselves and others both internally and externally.
We the people are the movement, let’s get moving.