When I arrived at Bellevue College last Saturday, I felt something amiss. The staff, usually calm and friendly, seemed just a tad frazzled as we exchanged greetings. I went to set up my room for the five-week self-defense course I’d be teaching that afternoon, then returned to the front for my roster. As passed the front desk manager, he said, “We really could’ve used you this morning! We had one woman stab another in class. It was an anger management class.”
That’s generally not what I’d expect in a continuing education facility known more for high tech than high crime. Goes to show you never can tell for sure what can happen even in safe spaces. And why the first rule of self defense is to be aware and open to possibilities.
Read the story here.
I was not a musician. I can’t carry a tune in a paper bag. I’ve never learned to read music or play an instrument. I’ve only enjoyed music as a fan and listener. A consumer.
I donated self-defense classes to a girls’ summer camp this July. This was not just any summer camp, this was Girls Rock! Camp, where in one week girls ages 8 – 16 learn to play an instrument, form a band, write a song, practice, and play to a raving audience. They also learn about the herstory of women in rock music, media and female body image, electronic music, DJing, zine making, song-writing . . . and self-defense.
AWESOME!!! I was thrilled to work with these girls, as well as also a tad envious. Where was this camp when I was that age?
Then one of the organizers just happened to mention Ladies Rock! Camp. My ears perked up. “Oh, there’s another event?” Yes, a long weekend where women (ages 19+) learn to play an instrument, form a band, write a song, practice, and play to a raving audience. No experience necessary.
I signed up. I didn’t think twice, and that was alright.
I picked drums as my instrument. As a self-defense and karate instructor I already know how to hit things, so I figured this would be a natural extension. Playing drums was still a stretch and a challenge, and it was one of the most outstanding weekends I’ve ever had. I learned a lot, and found there’s common points between learning to play rock music and self-defense.
First, both are DIY. Do It Yourself, really. Sure if you want adulation and admiration from throngs of adoring fans you’ll have to practice a lot and get super-good, and that’s just the beginning. But if you just want to hang and jam with your friends, you don’t need the chops of Ringo Starr. Similarly, for self-defense you don’t need the chops of Jackie Chan, you just need awareness, some evasion strategies, and a few basic moves which will get you out of 99.5% of the badness you’re likely to encounter.
Second, both happen in the moment. Practiced musicians often create impromptu lyrics and melody lines. They improvise. And if you should find yourself in a threatening situation you too will have to improvise. You have to be continuously paying attention and adjusting your tactics. And it will help that you’ve taken a self-defense class and have the basic skills.
Third, you get out what you put in. That means participation, really getting into it. Few things fall flatter than music played without feeling. In learning self-defense, you train like it’s for real. So, if it ever does get real, you are ready.
Finally — and if you’ve been reading this e-newsletter for a while, you could probably guess this one — both are LOUD. Rock musicians, even “soft” ones, WANT to be heard! They DO have something to say! And guess what: so do you!
Okay, so maybe Ringo Starr needn’t worry about me. And maybe you don’t want to put in the time and work to learn how to become a ninja assassin. But, with a little help from your friends, you too can discover your inner rock star self-defender.
Fall self-defense classes are now open for enrollment. Visit http://www.StrategicLiving.org/schedule101.htm for more information and registration on the 5 week Self-Defense 101 courses, http://www.StrategicLiving.org/schedule3hour.htm for one-day seminars, or http://www.StrategicLiving.org/scheduleWW.htm for the November weekend workshop.
Author Ellen Snortland has often been in the media advocating for making personal safety and self defense a required class in high schools. Her article One Too Many in the Pasadena Weekly as well as her spotlight on National Public Radio points to the murder of Chelsea King as yet another reason too many to teach kids how to defend themselves.
Yet there’s a great reluctance to widely add self defense skills to young people’s toolboxes. More emphasis and resources are given over to services once they’ve become victims, or to enacting laws intended to prosecute and punish offenders (but which sometimes result in unwanted consequences, but that’s another post). Both these approaches are critical, but that third leg of prevention is keeping real safety from becoming a reality.
We are the only creatures on this planet that actively strives to dis-empower large segments of our population by not only not teaching basic personal safety, but often by lying about its efficacy. Once upon a time (about 3 decades ago) conventional wisdom held that women should not fight back lest they get hurt worse. Studies now show that’s not true at all, and in fact over 75% of women who even begin to resist assault chase off their assailant.
Unfortunately, most women don’t know that. And that is truly a crime.