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I always wanted to take a self-defense class, but did the classic thing where you actually never do anything to make it happen.
Either I didn't think I had enough money (even though I had no idea what it might cost), or I had an unreliable schedule so how could I commit to a class? But mostly I just didn't take the time to find one.
When I moved to Virginia three years ago I had a few months before I was starting my new job and, as luck would have it, the sheriff department was having their bi-yearly class right then. It was a six-night commitment and completely free!
The first night was only information. We were about fifteen women and teenagers (it was a very popular mother-daughter-even grandmother thing) sitting in school benches listening to their presentation. It was very informative, and covered things like:
The next five nights, spread out over two weeks since people do have jobs and lives, were spent learning the three defense positions, defense techniques, and how to use your voice. You have no idea how intimidating you can sound until you have spent a few nights shouting "NO!!!" at the top of your lungs!
We spent a lot of times doing drills, since repetition is the key to learning. The difference between day 2 and day 4 was astonishing -- we went from soft-voiced, timid creatures to fierce warriors.
We learned how to get out of choke holds; how to get away from someone with an arm over your shoulders; how to get out of bear hugs; how to handle ourselves in hand-to-hand combat; what to do when someone is reaching out to grab you; and weak points to aim for (apart from the obvious one you're thinking of).
Photo by Ahmed Rizkhaan
We also spent one of the nights learning how to use a kubaton. This is such a handy little weapon that, if anyone asks, is a key chain. ;-) We actually used the keys as part of our defense! I have three keys on mine that I don't even know what they go to, just to "add more value" if you get my drift. Most tutorials seem to focus on the kubaton itself though; this is a great video explaining basic self-defense using one! I don't think all self-defense classes include this training, this one was just very comprehensive, so this is definitely worth getting on your own!
Some have a blunt end and some ends in a point, which can also be used for breaking through a car window. Just remember that you can NOT bring one on an airplane -- make sure it's in your checked-in luggage with some keys attached. I feel so much safer holding it when I'm walking through dark parking lots or streets at night, knowing that I'm ready to defend myself should I need to!
Photo by Ashim D'Silva
The last night was the best and scariest of all; simulations.
Two of the biggest cops donned themselves in head-to-toe protection gear to pose as predators in three different simulations:
This was honestly terrifying. We were wearing protection gear as well as boxing gloves, and we were told to use full force. That meant punching, kicking, kneeing -- doing everything as hard as we could. I'm pretty proud that I kneed one of them so hard in the crotch that he felt it, even through all his padding! Watch out, guys!
Whenever we got in a hit that would incapacitate someone, they bowed down with their arms up to the sides to show that we had a few seconds to try to get away, until they recomposed themselves.
The thing is that you get so into it, and it feels absolutely real. It is such a big difference from when you practice a set of moves -- now you do them all jumbled and random, whatever is matching to their movements. Then suddenly it's over and you barely know what happened. I honestly blocked it all out! Luckily they filmed it all, so after everyone was done they showed it on the wall with a projector. And you know what?
We were so bad-ass.
The older women who had really struggled finding their voice and actually kicking with force were yelling "GET OFF OF ME!!!" in angry, fueled voices and punched and kicked with gusto. My favorite was a seventy-year-old grandmother, who looked so frail, but kicked such ass during her turn.
It is amazing to see what you can do under pressure, and the self-confidence you gain is unparalleled. I actually went back for the autumn class to do it all again and practice. What can I say, it's great anger management, haha.
Photo by Timothy Eberly
We were actually sworn to secrecy about the moves we learned, not even allowed to show husbands or brothers, because you never know who might be your attacker. I know it sounds crazy paranoid, because your loved ones would never hurt you.
But the truth is that husbands can turn into ex-husbands, and the friend you proudly showed what you learned can get really drunk and do things he would never normally do. The truth is, we can never be truly sure. And the element of surprise can be your best ally.
They were very upfront with the fact that it is likely that you will get hurt during a real encounter. In fact, one woman actually had to go to the hospital when she tore her ACL during the final simulation. But bear in mind that this training can be the difference between you going home with a twisted knee and you going home in a body bag. It is scary, scary as hell, but it is true.
In conclusion, take a self-defense class. Having the assurance that you can defend and protect yourself makes you approach situations differently, and sometimes all you need is that self-confidence to show someone that is contemplating hurting you that you are not to be messed with. Predators don't expect women to stand up for themselves and offer resistance, so make sure that you can. It can save your life.
Photo by Tanja Heffner
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