When I was young my mother would take to beating me when she was angry. Bruises were part of my life, and my body still bears the pain of her violent behavior. I was scared of her — she was bigger, stronger, and unpredictable. She wasn’t very affectionate so there are no positive memories of motherly touches. One time she whipped me with the buckle end of a belt and cut my face. I lied about it to everyone but one friend. Social Services were called in and my mother was questioned. She blamed me for making her beat me that day because I had lied to her about something. Social Services just gave her a warning, and I bore the brunt of her anger for years afterwards.
These days I also acquire bruises, but now I’m in control of how and when it happens. You see I am a martial artist, and minor injuries come with the territory. Recently I attended a seminar and we were practicing getting out of a headlock. When it was my turn to attack my training partner, I somehow popped a blood vessel by my thumb joint, probably from squeezing against bone. Taking aggression from another, falling down, blocking punches, kicks, and other kinds of attacks earns me some soreness and bruises. We like to call them training trophies, because we earned our battle wounds through proper technique and form.
I was disempowered, dispirited, and disheartened by the abuse my mother poured out. The bruises she gave me are a part of my story, but they don’t represent strength and resolve. My current bruises do.
It’s kind of rare for me to encounter a woman who feels capable of defending herself, at least women who don’t train in some kind of self-defense. So far, the story I hear is that her dad or her brother/uncle/grandfather/mother taught her what to do if she was attacked. Someone taught this woman to value herself and not take abuse from anyone. These women agree that women’s self-defense starts when they realize their value, especially if they were abused or traumatized. They are okay with acting violent and aggressive in the moment if need be, then go back to the lovely creature they are in everyday life.
But learning self-defense isn’t really about becoming violent or aggressive. Rather, it’s about remaining calm in the face of danger and making choices to defend and get away. The human body is wired with the fight, flight, or freeze response. We train ourselves to respond appropriately to an attack to reduce harm. This means getting on the mats and training the brain the what and how of responding to a threat, which earns us the occasional soreness or bruise.
The question is, what bruise would you rather have:
Training bruises? Or bruises from abuse, rape or other forms of violence?
There are no guarantees in life. Violence can happen anytime with anyone. Being prepared and confident is the key to reducing bodily harm. Training in Women’s Self Defense is a step in the right direction. We aren’t asking you to become a violent person — we are asking you to value yourself enough to defend what’s yours.