I’m a firm believer that in most cases anybody can learn to do anything given enough time, space, and creativity in both learning and teaching. When I encounter women who say “Oh, I could never do THAT,” what they are really saying is “I don’t have enough belief or confidence in myself to even try.” Getting people over that hump is my greatest task as teacher. I’ve seen the fear in the eyes of my partners as I’ve taken them through learning to grapple, hit each other (in sparring), taking throws, experiencing pain in techniques, and the falling techniques. I had to inspire belief in their own minds and hearts. I had to gain their trust and show them the way.
Helping someone overcome fear so they can perform the task before them is huge. It takes small, incremental steps of desensitization to help someone over that hump sometimes. Sometimes it requires pushing them in the deep end of the pool and let them figure it out. In the case of my sister, she needed the slower method and a lot of convincing. We started out with just figuring out how to get up and down off the floor. Then we moved to sitting on her knees and backside repeating the falling motion over and over. She needed to overcome that fear next. This went part went on for some months.
In self-defense circles, the words “situational awareness” and “zanshin” are frequently used. Both of these terms mean basically the same thing, although the transliteration of this word in Japanese, zanshin (残心), is “remaining mind.” Situational awareness means what it sounds like: being aware of your situation. This can apply to many things in life but when it comes to self-defense, situational awareness begins once you are outside of the relative safety of your home, work, or vehicle.
Going to classes some weeks later I realized I opened, not a Pandora’s Box but a Treasure Trove: I awakened a long-squashed confidence. I dusted off some self-esteem, I really believed I was worth defending. I was — and am — valuable. Not for what I can contribute to this world, but just because I’m alive. I pulled a brassy bit of boldness out next, realizing for the first time in forever I’m not an underdog. My voice matters. A cluster of pearls glows gently, heart humility — I can listen and truly honor the person in front of me, for we are equals here. Ah, and the fine fabric of a teachable heart and mind. There’s so much to learn, so much I want to know!