Sunday, November 25, 2007

Self-Defense for Survivors

Angela posted a question/comment to my post below, and I think it's on a really important here goes. Should survivors of violence learn self-defense? I get this question all the time, and I imagine many more just THINK the question and never ask it. (Since so many people are out there who have gone through horrible abuse/assault and NEVER tell anyone.) Here's the deal: as a survivor, you need to do whatever necessary to feel safe, strong and whole again. For some people it's therapy, or journaling or giggling (in Angela's case)...but whatever that thing is, do it...and do a lot of it!

For some survivors, the idea begins to creep into their mind of getting their power back. Some want to learn what they could have done differently to prevent or avoid the situation, which is fine...but just know going into any self-defense class that whatever happened is NOT your fault and NOT your responsibility to remedy the sick mind process that goes into these crimes. If you are in therapy, I highly recommend talking to your therapist about taking a self-defense class before you do it. Explore the idea that you'll likely be physically put in a situation that may seem very real, and very scary. You may have flashbacks. You may feel terror. Know that self-defense is not therapy, but it can be therapeutic to learn to become your own best protector.

I had a gal take the Girls Fight Back 12 hour, full-contact course when I owned a women's self-defense studio back in Hoboken, NJ. She had been robbed at gunpoint the previous year, and was psychologically traumatized. She and her therapist came to the conclusion that self-defense may provide her with options, so that when she re-played the event in her head...this time she could be kicking his ass! So after careful consideration, she took the class. On my consent form that all students must sign, it asks if you have survived a violent situation. She fully disclosed her situation to me, which was crucial. It helped me guide her through the course on a more mindful level of what she was emotionally and psychologically going through. At the end, this girl went through "Fight Night"...a full contact fight against a padded attacker. And you know what? She rocked like Spock, and floored the padded attacker. I have never seen a more glowing, vibrant, re-energized face than hers after she was finished with him. We videotape all these fights, so that students can see how dangerous they really can be...and she thought she was watching her stunt double...but it was just a more Charlie's Angel's version of herself.

In summary, my advice is to take a self-defense class...but only when you're ready. And when you do, give full disclosure to your teacher. Know that self-defense is just one tiny part of the healing process, not the whole enchilada. Furthermore, find a class and an instructor you are comfortable with. Your intuition will immediately tell you if you feel good about it...listen to that voice! And check out to find a class near you. You have to sign in, but it's totally free. All the classes are listed by state, so you can find one easily. I will blog more in the future about other fight-related questions...but hope this helps for now.