Sunday, November 14, 2010

What's Your Story? Please Share!

Do you have a story to share? I've noticed some outstanding self-defense stories in the news lately.

One was this 12 year old girl who heard a noise downstairs, went to investigate, and came face to face with a hooded intruder. Not only does she kick him in the crotch, after he runs she draws a sketch to make it easier for police to find the guy.  Read the story at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1299920/Home-girl-foils-burglar-groin-kick-draws-police-picture-him.html.

Then there's the 13 year old girl who fought off a guy with a knife! Read her story at http://www.thegrio.com/news/13-year-old-girl-fights-off-knife-wielding-attacker.php.

And a third happened here in Seattle, when a woman jogging in Seward Park fought off an assailant. Read her story at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2013154472_attack14m.html. This woman was reported to have said to her assailant, "not me, not here, not now." Many students in my recent classes read about this attack, and took this woman's mantra to heart.

"Not me, not here, not now." The power of the story.

Over twenty years ago women were dismayed to see virtually no self-defense success stories in the news. They reached out to the community -- posters, ad in papers and on campuses, word of mouth -- and were rewarded with an overwhelming abundance of first-hand reports of successful self-defense.  The results became Her Wits About Her: Self-Defense Success Stories by Women, edited by Denise Caignon and Gail Groves, and is a classic in self-defense studies.

An article in the current issue of the academic journal Violence Against Women explores the power of the successful self-defense story. Author Jill Cermele notes these critical benefits of telling women's self-defense stories.
  • First, they are real examples of real women successfully defending themselves. When more of us know what other women have done successfully, we are more inclined to use resistance.
  • Second, by telling successful resistance as an event that happened, rather than a non-event, we recognize that women have positively acted and DONE SOMETHING POWERFUL.
[from Telling Our Stories: The Importance of Women's Narratives of Resistance, by Jill Cermele.  Violence Against Women, 16(10): 1162-72, 2010, http://vaw.sagepub.com/content/16/10/1162.

Please share! I've begun posting stories I find, or that others have found, on my Facebook page. If you come across any stories, please email them to me or post to my FB page. I can assure you that other self-defense instructors will re-share them. The more the word gets out, the safer we and our communities will become.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Self Defense Essentials I Learned from My Cat, Lesson #1

"Awareness" is a key component of self-defense, yet as a practice it is ill-defined. For many of my students, the line between color-coded anxiety and recognition of real risks is blurry at best. This is exacerbated by our media environment (where violence sells anxiety, and anxiety sells airtime, and airtime sells . . . ).

Examples from my feline friends proffer useful guidance.

Know where you are vulnerable.

For example, I often shlep lots of stuff to my car. Hey, I teach self-defense classes, so I'm hauling kicking shields and handouts and mats and other bulky, unwieldy stuff. This is a vulnerable point for 2 reasons. One, my arms are usually full. Second, and more importantly, my mind is already occupied with how the heck I'm going to fit all this junk in my car (I can always drop stuff to free my hands, but it is takes more effort to drop stuff out of my head when surprised).

Sokol, ever watchful, at repose.
Enter Sokol, my cat.  

Sokol (also known as "stealth kitty") was brought into our home as a 14 month old feral. While she's adapted well to life as an indoor kitty, even after 7 years she hasn't lost her feral edge. She does not like being picked up or even petted (until she solicits attention). Lap cat? No way. Ever at rest, she's also alert to any and all new sounds. If I enter the room, she'll keep an eye on me until she's convinced that I'm not about to try to (gasp!) pick her up. If I'm in the room she wants to nap in, she'll keep an eye on me as she settles in.

The key here is awareness at key points. Going back to loading my car, I know I have to leave Point A (my house, or the building where the class is held) and approach my car. I make it a point as I am leaving the building to scan the area. I'm looking for anyone who is paying attention to my activities. I get to my car. Before I unlock my car and open the trunk, I again scan the area.  And if it takes more than a second or so to rearrange my baggage, I pause to scan again. And, if necessary, again.

I have to say I've yet to encounter a scary person. However, I have encountered the first spring blooms on the wild roses, the emergence of the fall crocuses, and a hummingbird almost within arms' reach. These little happenstances round out life, and are constant reminders on why you want to stay safe. To be able to enjoy daily special moments, sans the trauma of a distressing surprise.