Learning to get healthy and fit is one thing, but why add self-defense? Why is it important for me to know how to defend myself? It’s a good question actually.
When I was at university I thought that it would be good to learn self-defense ‘just in case’. There were many more unpredictable variables at that time. I was in a new setting, meeting new people, and I was also at that age when I really didn’t know too much about the world. Although I thought about self-defense classes, I never went to any. I thought the pepper spray in my purse would be enough. Plus, I tried to be smart. I didn’t walk alone at night. I stayed in well-lit areas. I was aware of my surroundings.
Luckily nothing happened to me while I was at university, but I wasn’t as lucky when I was a teenager. Not having the physical or emotional skills to cope with an assault, I kept it to myself, but even though I was silent, the memory never faded. This is why, in my 30’s, I finally decided to take self-defense classes. No matter how ‘strong’ I was trying and working to be, I knew that unless I faced my deepest, darkest demons, I would not be able to unleash my full strength … nor would I be able to be genuinely at peace with myself and happy.
There are many types of self-defense classes and martial arts out there and I did try several, but I found the most effective one to be jiu-jitsu. While I loved boxing and training Muay Thai and I could not deny the impact of a punch, the truth was that I was unlikely to want to engage in a fist fight with my ‘attacker’. Chances are he will be bigger and stronger than me. In that case, do I really think that my punches and kicks will be enough for me to stop his attack and provide an opportunity for me to escape? I have no doubt that there are some very strong, skilled women out there who are confident in their striking abilities. After years of dedicated training, it might be a possibility, but what about learning something that is effective and immediately applicable? Plus, what would happen if the attacker pinned me to the ground? Would I be able to escape?
It is the answers to these questions that led me to jiu-jitsu. This specific martial art is based on timing and leverage and has been designed for those who are smaller and weaker to defend themselves against attackers who are bigger and stronger. Moreover, it focuses on what happens if the fight ends up on the ground – which in most cases, it does.
Learning jiu-jitsu has changed my life. Aside from the physical progress I have made in terms of learning techniques, the self-confidence I have gained from knowing that I can physically defend myself is priceless. Knowing that I can escape a choke hold or break free if someone is trying to grab me – whether it is by the hair, the throat, or from behind – is incredibly empowering.
It is that empowerment that led me to complete the Instructor Certification Program in Torrance, California under Ryron and Rener Gracie, the grandsons of Helio Gracie, who founded jiu-jitsu in the United States. Their particular program, Women Empowered, is incredible as it focuses on defense techniques against the 15 most common attacks against women. Learning it and teaching it has been exhilarating.
As much as I love the curriculum and teaching the techniques to women, what I love most is seeing how much taller and more confident the women leave after each training session. That confidence is apparent in every aspect of their life – from the way they carry themselves when they walk to the way they assert themselves when they talk.
They come to realize that even though they are learning how to physically defend themselves, they are also learning how to establish and protect their boundaries, how to use their voice, and how to stay calm in chaotic, scary situations. As they work through the program, they begin to realize that no matter what the situation, no matter how bad the situation, there is always a plan of attack.
Simply knowing that there are options can feel liberating, and knowing that you have the ability to defend yourself is truly empowering.