Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Starting SOMEwhere

For a few years now, I've thought about becoming certified to teach women's self-defense. Actually, I've obsessed about it for the better part of the last three years and ended up taking every self-defense seminar and workshop I could just to see just what the actual teaching of one would entail. Mostly, I liked what I saw - except for one thing: the obligatory beating of a man in a padded suit that stemmed from the predication that "stranger danger" - in the form of an evil-doer jumping out from behind the bushes or sneak attacking from behind - is the biggest threat the average Jane faces.

But it isn't. The reality is that the majority of women who are attacked are attacked by people that they know. Here are a few statistics pulled from the National Domestic Violence Hotline website that drives the point home better than I ever could:
*On the average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day.

* One in five female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.

* One in three teens report knowing a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, slapped, choked or physically hurt by a partner.

*As many as 324,000 women each year experience intimate partner violence during their pregnancy.

*Seventy-four percent of all murder-suicides involved an intimate partner (spouse, common-law spouse, ex-spouse, or boyfriend/girlfriend). Of these, 96 percent were females killed by their intimate partners.
The martial artist-me reasonably believes that if I was assaulted, I'd be able to do whatever I needed to physically to get away. But punching a STRANGER in the nose has got to be different than punching someone that I know - and who knows me. And none of the WSD workshops I went to ever addressed that.

So next weekend, I'm putting together one that does :-). A short (two-hour) workshop that mostly emphasizes awareness, avoidance and de-escalation with a little bit of very basic physical techniques, the curriculum is based on the National Women's Martial Arts Foundation's Self Defense Empowerment Model, which is eventually where I will seek certification. Unlike R.A.D., Fight Like a Girl and S.A.F.E. systems, dealing with acquaintance violence is a huge part of the program. I'm really excited and really nervous about it as well.

I'll let you know how it turns out :-)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Out of Sorts

Ever have one of those classes? Y'know - where nothing goes quite right and you just can't flow for squat?

My last few classes have been just like that. Training sessions like those are the most draining and frustrating things on the planet to me.

Part of the problem is that I'm going through some emotional non karate-related stuff, including the pending high school graduation of my son (tomorrow) and the stress associated with getting everything together for his walk down the aisle to flip his tassel. Another part of it is that my sensei is also going through some emotional non karate-related stuff, including relationship and relocation issues. Sure, shoes, attitudes and personal "laundry" should get left at the dojo door, but suffice to say that - to me, at least - the vibe in the training hall is off a bit, which is starting to make training there something I'm not quite as excited about as I used to be. And I'm not quite sure what to do with that.

So, to get back a little of the fervor before I start to dread going completely, I've been thinking about taking a small break. I'll still be training - both on my own and at perhaps a little in Jujitsu (got an invite several months ago from a local sensei who has visited our class on several occasions) - just not at my school. Who knows - maybe a month or so of training in a different environment will be good for me. Time will tell.

This will really be my first non-injury karate pause since I started almost six-and-a-half years ago. The only other time I stayed away from the dojo for longer than a class or two was for a six-week recoup from reconstruction surgery, and I swear, I thought I was going to tear my hair out without karate - but I survived by watching kata videos and visiting the dojo a few times. This will be a little different, but just as necessary, I think.

Ever taken a break from training? How did you spend your time away from the mat? How easy or difficult was it to return?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How Much is TOO Much?

Is it ever too early to introduce a brand-new martial artist to hard physical contact? I'm not talking about a punch to the arm or a light kick to the gut, but powerful techniques from folks who've not only been training longer and are more experienced but who are bigger, faster and stronger?

There's a bit of a debate going on over at the Women's Forum of Martial Talk.com about a young woman who has only been training for four months feeling intimidated by how advanced the guys in her training hall are - and how hard they hit. Now, I'm most definitely of the "It's karate, not knitting so expect there to be contact" school of thought, but I still can't get behind the "tough it out, it make you a better martial artist!" refrains in some of the replies.

But really, something about the idea that she's asking for advice on how to get over feeling intimidated by her training partners seems strange to me.

Her original question:
I'm a small 24 y.o. woman, not very strong. I feel it's important to learn to defend myself so I started martial arts. I've been going for four months now but I still feel really intimidated in the class full of men. Some of them are nice but some are quite advanced and are in my opinion quite hostile - and they hit hard. I like my teacher but I am a slow learner it seems, and this may be annoying for the advanced students. Any advice from instructors/other women about feeling initimidated?

If you read through the thread, you'll see that most of the advice she's gotten to date has centered around her speaking up to her training partners and asking them to temper their hits/kicks/blocks and even speaking to her instructor if the "I'm gonna blast you across the room" techniques don't cease - and I agree - but really, should she HAVE to tell more advanced students not to kick her in the face? Shouldn't the idea that folks who have just started on the path not being quite ready for full-power techniques be a given?

I remember being punched in the face THREE TIMES by a fourth dan during a basic jab drill when I was only a seventh kyu. I'd been training for less than a year and had no idea what to do. I know NOW that he should have had the most control/been the safest person in the room, but as a newbie, I wasn't quite sure if getting hit in the nose that much was drill protocol - I just know it made me feel really uncomfortable, whether it was the norm or not.

But who knows what "normal" is when they decide to step on the mat for the first time? After they've been training for a few months? Whether there to learn self-defense, to sweat a bit or simply for the challenge of learning something new, the environment that is martial arts training is a pretty unique one. The rules of what is appropriate and what isn't aren't posted on the wall but rather learned as we go - and usually, they are learned by watching and working with more advanced training partners.

It should come down to the student deciding what is appropriate contact-wise for her/him - regardless of her/his level/rank, but is that what really happens? Like I said in my reply, I think everyone should totally be able to say if/when the contact is too much. I don't think it is ever OK for others - be they fellow students or instructors - to determine what is and isn't "too hard or too much" for anyone else. Insisting that they "tough out" whatever is dished out in order to learn is the fastest way to chase a person right out of the training hall, IMHO.

The reality is that most women have probably never been hit until they kick off their shoes and step onto the mat - and if they have, it probably wasn't by a guy who out-weighs her by 50 lbs or so in an environment that is supposed to be about learning and fun to some extent. I don't really see how facing dudes with absolutely no control or a dimmer switch teaches anyone how to be a better martial artist - just how to "take" a punch. But what does that have to do with becoming a good martial artist? To me, that demonstrates only how easily we bruise and bleed in a "oh look! I almost ruptured my spleen today!" sort of way. That is not quite all the karate I study is about.

There are reasons we wear pads while training - primarily so we don't hurt the person on the receiving end of a kick/punch/block too much. Sure, punch like you mean it, but to me, there is a big difference between a solid technique with intent and one that is meant to blast the uke out of the ring just for ha-ha's. Let the contact be appropriate for the learner's level, that's all I'm sayin'...

OK - rant over. Thanks for indulging me :-)