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by Teja Van WicklenWomen’s self defense is old and tired. It can’t take care of itself, let alone anyone else. The issues? A lack of new ideas, a blind spot in society, a disconnect between teacher and student.
Two thousand years ago issues like women’s empowerment, self-actualization and freedom of movement weren’t high on the agenda. That doesn’t explain why we are still stuck. Modern self defense derives mainly from ancient arts meant for protection while wearing armor, or one-to-one combat between two fighters of similar strength, not a street-hardened criminal against a new, sleep deprived mom with an infant in her arms taking an early morning walk. Many of us still think self defense is something we do to get in shape. Or, perhaps that if the police did their job, we wouldn’t need it at all. The overwhelming majority of instructors are men in excellent physical shape, while the people most in need of self defense training are women, the elderly or injured, parents, and sedentary folk who work late hours. This is a crucial point-of-view issue. When people feel misunderstood it leads to high drop out rates. Most instructors agree about what self-defense is supposed to be, but when it comes to implementation there is very little consensus. They’ll tell you self-defense is 90% mental and 10% physical, but that’s not what you get when you take the class. I’d like to see the term change altogether. Self defense is first and foremost a legal term meant to define the difference between someone engaging in violence and someone fighting for her life. We need a new term since “self” leaves out children and other dependents and “defense” implies reacting rather than acting.
The New Self Defense could be a grand tool of autonomy. If girls learned it from their parents, or early on in school, it could mean a drastic decrease in date rape, rape and domestic abuse – all epidemic the world over. If we thought of self defense as a series of mental and physical tools that directly addressed the realities of crime today, things might change for the better. I see a class where, through roll play, women, mothers and daughters learn the simple tells and tricks of emotionally unstable people and hardened criminals, so they can identify the behavior before it becomes their problem. Students would learn that a man who insists on helping and won’t give in is disregarding their authority and that any self-respecting person responds to the word “no”. They would know the many ploys a criminal might use to begin a conversation, get you to share a ride, or borrow your cell so he can call himself and capture your number for a rainy day. A young girl letting loose her first weeks in college would know that no matter how good-looking a man is he may still be a predator and that although he says he knows her friend he may just be a good listener. She would know how to fight like a pit bull using every object in reach as a weapon should anyone ever pull a knife on her and try to coerce her into a car. She’d know the statistics are loud and clear that once she’s in that car she’s going to a place of his choosing and there’s very likely no coming back.
Unfortunately those who really need self defense training aren’t getting it. Women only look for answers once they’ve been attacked and need to regain a sense of autonomy as part of the healing process. Or they go to a kickboxing class for exercise and a quick infusion of empowerment. For the record, kickboxing isn’t self defense. Kicking in the air is nothing at all like kicking a man who’s fighting back. I’ve been using the term Protective Offense for the last five years – that is, offense for the purpose of self defense. Think “offense” as is chess or football – being aware of patterns, thinking a few moves ahead.
Because that is what we should all be doing.
What steps have you taken for protective offense in this challenging world?
We learned first aid and fire drills, but NOBODY prepared us for the fact that a reported 1 in 4 women will be the victim of a physical or sexual assault! So, anxiously, we are now offering a new Women’s Self- Defense, or rather protective offense class! Whether our course or another way, please commit today to take steps to arm yourself with the knowledge and power you need to protect yourself.
Also, check out Teja’s call in the WISH Summit, where she speaks passionately more on this subject!
Teja Van Wicklenis a 27-year veteran martial artist, a personal trainer, edged weapons instructor, Emergency Medical Technician and mother, whose specialties are solving problems, facing fears, acquiring knowledge and skills, safe training techniques, and turning mistakes into positive outcomes. In 2009 Teja set out to dispel common myths about women’s self defense and bring it into the 21st Century. She formulated the idea for her company,Devi Protective Offense and it’s main program,Mommy & Me Self Defense, while pregnant and on bed rest. The idea evolved as Teja grew in to motherhood and began asking herself questions like, “how would you fend off an attacker with the baby in a sling and only three hours of sleep?”