Things I learned from a self-defense class, Part 1

The armless rubber dummy I punched to hell and back today. His name is Bob, he’s actually a really nice guy.

Today I found myself in a T-shirt, exercise pants, and sneakers—clothes I have not worn for months/years/eons? The longest part of getting dressed today involved trying to find the rarely-worn exercise pants I had stashed away somewhere in my room. (It was in my “clothes I rarely wear but may need sometimes” drawer, which I had forgotten that I had, thus negating the purpose of having that drawer in the first place.)

The reason for abandoning my usual quasi-hipster, too-lazy-to-be-a-style-blogger wardrobe today was that I was taking a self-defense class, geared towards high school girls who want to protect themselves at college, so count me as being late to the party. It’s a two-day workshop, so who knows? Tomorrow I may learn more to warrant a Part 2 to this post. Stay tuned, maybe! (Who are we kidding, this is me! Every time I promise a blog post soon, I end up having an accidental months-long hiatus. Don’t expect a Part 2, but do be pleasantly surprised if there is one.)

This post isn’t to tell you how to defend yourself if you’re attacked—take a class yourself, you lazy blog-reader you! Rather, it’s a list of little ramble-headed musings I had during four hours of kicking, striking, and all-around pain creating.

1. It is totally, awesomely possible to teach about the psychology of violence without resorting to stupid sexist victim-blaming. In case you haven’t noticed, I am really frustrated by the damaging, stupid idea that kidnappings, rapes, and murders occur because some girl somewhere wore a short skirt and it made some poor well-meaning guy rape her, so it’s tooootally her fault. I was worried that this would be one of those things where a guy puffed up with male privilege and condescension lectures on the crime-triggering nature of nice clothes and pretty girls and just wants to tell us that if we don’t ever want to get raped we should just wear burlap sacks, but it very amazingly wasn’t! In teaching us about criminal motivation, Mr. Cool Instructor referenced the same study I threw at that one asshole that one time and told us that the number one thing that attackers look for is vulnerability. Victim-shaming was a wonderfully irrelevant non-fact. A+ and a pro-equality fistbump, guys.

2. Dude! Great posture is the best thing in the world. One of the first things we were made to do was stand up straight as if our shoulder blades were against a wall, and hoooly cow, you will not believe what a difference a slightly straightened spine makes.

3. Once you get to the how-tos of punching and kicking, this self-defense business is a fantastic way to release any primal pent-up rage. That horrible racist/sexist/homophobic person you wish you didn’t know? Someone who used to push you around? Some idiot who left a terrible Youtube comment once? Your own frustration with society and your own self-fulfillment? Just punch a rubber dummy or beat up an instructor wearing heavy padding until he’s in a fetal position on the ground. Rage, gone. Enjoy your new zen outlook on life.

4. Self-defense oddly teaches you things that martial arts don’t necessarily. I did capoeira for four years, so I’m not a martial arts expert by all means, but we learned all our fancy kicks and strikes with the intention of not actually hurting our opponents. In a self-defense class, you just zoom in on all the painful things you can do to a person.

5. High school girls can be really immature. I say this both as a former high school girl and as someone who watched a group of them giggle as the instructor straddled a “victim” on the ground, giggle as they half-heartedly threw some slaps, and exclaim things like “this is so amusing!”

6. The human body is an amazing thing. We are built with so many natural defenses, yet at the same time we’re covered in kill switches that you can easily go for if you know how. In the same vein, it is amazing how many ways there are to seriously hurt someone without using excessive force. Knowledge is power. Very painful power. Remember that, kids. Ow.

7. Even in a safe, monitored environment, where you’re getting “punched” by foam blocks and “choked” by a partner who weighs about a hundred pounds, it is incredible how many injuries you can rack up. I walked away today with an alarmingly hurt wrist, a bruised elbow and knees, a stubbed toe, and oddly sore shoulders. Oh, and take a look at this gratuitous close-up of my leg.

You know it’s time to think about your life choices when you’re posting bruise photos of your leg to a public blog. Hello clients, parents, and famous musicians! Don’t you love my hair follicles?

8. I want to explain something to all the guys of the world. We were told very firmly that even if it may seem rude, you should totally, aggressively tell strange guys who approach you to back off, even if they haven’t actually done anything. I realize that this encourages utterly—how shall I put it delicately?—bitchy behavior, so men of the world? I’m sorry if some woman you’re just trying to talk to gets totally aggressive and raises her voice and tells you to go away, but we’d rather be “bitchy” than raped or killed. (And while you’re at it, read “Shroedinger’s Rapist. You’re welcome.)

9. Small, skinny girls can be surprisingly aggressive. That is all.

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2 Comments

  1. Sounds pretty cool. It actually sounds very very similar to the self defense class I would help teach, so I’m glad you enjoyed it. One side note is that modern day Capoeira is a bit different from most styles of martial arts in that it’s very very difficult to teach in a controlled manner because it’s so momentum based. Because of this, you spend such a massive amount of time learning about the fundamentals of the style and about control, that you don’t actually put a lot of emphasis on application for a long while. Most other martial arts styles tend to put emphasis on application of techniques fairly early on, with a few exceptions. So I wouldn’t say most marital arts don’t focus on actual fighting quite as much as Capoeira.

    It’s definitely true though that no good martial arts school will teach a student application before they have the maturity to use it only when necessary. It’s actually done in a “wax on, wax off” style where you’re teaching them the techniques…they just don’t realize the application yet. =]

    Glad you enjoyed it though. Hope you never have to use it!

  2. That’s a really good point about capoeira, Ravi. I don’t have a lot of exposure to other martial arts so my understanding of them is kind of limited.

    I hope I never have to use this either!

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