“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Not just for Spiderman.  This idea has been expressed by Voltaire, Winston Churchill, and both Presidents Roosevelt.  Some people even cite the New Testament verse Luke 12:48 as an early expression of this concept.

Trevor Noah is a comedian, and and astute commentator.  In this video he steps away from comedy.  He provides a thoughtful and heartfelt analysis of today’s protest actions spurred by the recent and raw murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.  I’m not going to recap him here, his presentation is far more eloquent and precise than mine.  Just watch the video. Embedded for your convenience.

I very much appreciate how Noah discusses the “social contract” as key to any civil society.  As you probably remember from your high school history, the idea of a social contract was central to British and French Enlightenment philosophers, who were themselves highly influential in the thoughts and writings of our American founding fathers (think Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Paine).  All these were signers of our Declaration of Independence, which boldly asserted that all men are created equal.

And we are still stumbling through that most basic idea.  It needs to be amplified.  By you.  Today.

using your voiceYour voice is your most effective safety tool.  Yet it’s the tool most folk, especially women and girls, are reluctant to use.  “Do I have to say anything?” is a too-common question in class.  The answer is no, you don’t HAVE to do or say anything you don’t want to, and there are some cases where saying nothing may be your best choice.  That being said, there are reasons why using your voice is an essential tool.

  1. BREATHING.  Show of hands, who thinks breathing isn’t that important?  Yeah, that’s what I figured.  If you are using your voice you are breathing.  Breathing is critical to life, and critical to managing your reactions in challenging situations.  Which brings me to the next reason . . .
  2. FREEZING.  Inability to respond.  Using your voice can break that freeze.  The assailant is, in fact, often hoping you will freeze.  Which brings us to . . .
  3. STARTLING the assailant.  Assailants, like any predator, are looking for easier prey.  Targets who will be afraid, unsure, easily intimidated.  Using your voice, especially LOUDLY, by itself has a good chance of chasing off the assailant as that’s not what they expected.  Which can . . .
  4. ATTRACT ATTENTION.  Maybe any people around will look.  Perhaps some will whip out their phones to capture video.  If you’re super lucky, someone might try to intervene.  Most assailants don’t want to risk attention.  But maybe nobody is around . . . you may want to . . .
  5. INCREASE YOUR ADRENALINE.  Adrenaline, at the right level, can increase your physical effectiveness should you need to actually fight your assailant.  It can increase your speed and strength.  It can make time feel like its going slooooowwww.   (Note:  too much adrenaline, on the other hand, can begin shutting down your responses and effectiveness.)  And, finally, using your voice can . . .
  6. ENGAGE YOUR CORE.  Which brings in more muscle groups, connects parts of your body to work together like a power drive train, and increases your physical effectiveness.

There is a world of difference between an intellectual knowledge of your voice’s importance, and actually using it.  As in your ability to not only recognize but to state your needs, your preferences, and your boundaries. That’s why we practice using our voices in our self-defense classes.

Do you sometimes find yourself in situations (social, work, family) where you kinda go along because it’s just not a big deal?  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that — a crucial life skill is navigating and prioritizing choices.  But also recognize that we are often socialized to feel uncomfortable standing up for ourselves.  If you default that that, do you find yourself constantly left unsatisfied?  Do you feel more like a spectator rather than player in your own life?

Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy, and fulfilling 2014!

Another little ditty to herald in the new year.  Again, written, performed and recorded by Kinny “Special” K.  Post-production by moi.

Remember, to be your most fulfilled and awesome self, you will need to occasionally set some boundaries.  Most of the time, the other person will not have realized they crossed the line and will apologize.  They mean well, they like and value you, and did not mean to offend you.

However, on rare occasion you will encounter someone who does mean harm.  And for those special occasions, you will be ready to enforce your boundaries.

Happy New Year!

PS – is one of your resolutions to finally take that self-defense class you’ve always wanted to sign up for?  Now is a good year.

Your voice is your most critical self-defense tool.

In this news story, a woman out walking was assaulted. Her screams attracted the attention of another woman, who came to her aid. They were then able to fight off the attacker, who ran. According to this report, the woman was not seriously hurt but was shaken and upset.

And that illustrates Reason #2 (of 6) of why your voice is important: because it can attract attention. Attention can mean help. Help can thwart an attack. Thwarting an attack can mean less pain and a shorter recovery time from trauma.

Attracting attention sometimes also results in the attacker getting caught. And attackers don’t want to be caught. What do you want?

As I wrote 4 days ago, there are no “rules of engagement” in self-defenseThese are tools you can use to keep safe, and they work. Most of the time. Your mileage will vary depending on the situation and your skill level. And this is the most important tool of all.

Use your voice. Use it early and often.

This is your single most critical weapon. Assault is a battle of power and control. When you use your voice, you command power. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve seen this before. If you’ve taken a Strategic Living self defense class you know the importance of your voice and practiced using it.

Yell direct commands at the assailant. Words like “no” and “stop” and “back off” and “let go” give the message that you are taking your power and using it.
 
Afterwards, find supportive people to tell. This can include family and friends, crisis clinic hotline or sexual assault advocates, and law enforcement. Your choice, your voice.