On Saturday, Stacy, my mother and I attended a Womens’ Self Defense class over at Standford University. We had the benefit of being able to practice out hitting and kicking on real live “bullies” (members of a martial arts class) who were mostly padded.
What I learned:
Self Defense if a good thing. We should all know more.
My mother is a badass.
It was a little odd seeing a big guy grab her, one arm around the neck, and then to see her fight back. At one point I had the thought “Hey! Don’t hurt my mom!” because even though it was staged, there is an instinct to protect the people we love.
At one point she told them to not hold back… the “bully” was supposed to knock her onto the ground and pin her and then she would fight free using the techniques we had gone over in class. He came at her and she jumped away and squirmed and hit and for a minute it looked like he wasn’t going to be able to knock her over… Then, she taunted him.
He pulled out some fancy moves and the next thing you know FLIP she was spinning through the air and landing on her back WHAM on the floor.
She did manage to fight free, to the roaring applause of us spectators.
But perhaps the most interesting thing we did was the “escape from being pined” moves. The “victim” lies on her back with arms above her head and the “attacker” straddles her waist and holds her wrists.
What they told us was that from this position the attacker can’t really do anything and will have to let go with one hand in order to make his move… giving you the chance to hit and squirm and eventually rotate and kick and escape.
A few things about this:
First off, it is mighty intimate to be laying on the floor with a guy straddling your waist. The “attackers” and spotters were very in tune with this, they asked multiple times “Are you okay?” before they started and made sure we knew that they would stop at any time if we needed them to.
But, it is still mighty intimate to have a guy sitting on you in that way. I was lucky (?) enough to run this encounter with a few of the “bullies” and what kept striking me was the intensity. As I lay there waiting for one of my hands to be freed so that I could start my frantic fight free, I had nothing to do but wait.. and look straight into the eyes of my “attacker.”
Eye contact. One of the most intimate things on the planet in my opinion. I have a hard time with eye contact… with friends, with family, with co-workers… I tend to want to look somewhere else, to do something while talking, to escape in some distraction. Some of my most intimate conversations have happened in the semi privacy of a car while driving because you can avoid eye contact. You can keep from being that vulnerable.
But in this case, I was holding eye contact while being pinned down. The pressure on my waist, the force on my wrists. It was difficult to not freak out.
The thing is, most rapes are not stranger rapes, the attacker is someone the victim knows. A “friends”, a boyfriend, a family member, a co-worker, someone you met once, someone you had a class with last year… someone who wouldn’t expect.
And that is a terrifying thought.
I wish my sisters had been able to be there on Saturday. I can’t say I really learned anything super new, but getting to practice in a semi-real life environment was empowering. Being able to hit and kick and yell and feel that instant when the grip loosened and I was free, that was exhilarating.
Oh, and getting to see my mom go all kung fu on her attacker: priceless.
(Special Thanks to Detroitous who not only invited me to the event but let me beat up on him and his buddies.)