I stood in the entryway to the dojo with the other women, waiting to enter the darkened room. I had trouble breathing. I fought with panic, and tears began stinging in my eyes. I wanted to pretend I couldn’t do it, that I was suddenly sick, that I needed to go to the bathroom — but there was no time. It was soon my turn to walk in there, where two guys waited to attack me.
I took a deep breath and walked in.
I’ll never forget that day. We were nearing the end of a day-long Women’s Self-Defense seminar, and Steph threw a terrifying curve-ball at us. We were going to put into practice all the techniques we learned in a specially designed pressure test. Pressure test = code for sudden terror-inducing exercise to see how much training stuck that day. If you can get past fight, flight or freeze, that is. I cycled through both flight and freeze before I was able to tell myself three words. These three words became my theme, my mantra for every Ninpo class and every Women’s Self-Defense class…
Give yourself over.
Almost every time I walk into Women’s Self-Defense class, I’m dealing emotionally with whatever the day served me — usually a cocktail of fear, disappointment, maybe some grief or mental or physical pain, often a racing mind that just doesn’t want to calm down. Sometimes I don’t want to face whatever will be served up in class — but what can I say? I kind of have to be there. So unless I’m contagious or injured I show up and start preparing. I decide to set aside everything that doesn’t have to do with class for the next hour or so.
And I give myself over.
We finish setting up and as we stand holding hands to pray over the place and the people coming, I start breathing deeply. Class is about to start and it’s time to set aside whatever the day delivered because I’m exactly where I need to be. And who knows what new thing I may learn because I stopped and fully arrived here in class physically and, finally, mentally?
It’s not easy most times, honestly. The junk I’ve carried with me often comes right through the door and onto the mats and is pinging in my mind, “Notice me, notice ME!” I often imagine scooping all those thoughts out and putting them in a Maybe Later basket. Then my mind is clear and ready to learn. It’s always worth it.
So I give myself over.
Oh, and that pressure test? Steph told me I could choose one item to take in there with me, so I chose a purse. I gulped, walked into the darkened room, and took on the bad guys as they came. I didn’t stop to think about what to do, just whatever came to mind and didn’t give fear a chance to grab me. I immersed in the experience and came back grinning. Exhilarated and amazed. It was the first time I really gave myself over and I’ve been doing it ever since.