My friend and colleague, Kelly Wilson, shares how the current political climate has prompted her to build her self-defense skills.
Building my self-defense skills was not a priority to me until Donald Trump was elected president. A survivor of childhood sexual abuse and related trauma, my pattern was to choose the “Flight” part of the Fight or Flight response.
I decided that from now on, I wanted to choose when to run, and when to stay and fight.
The combination of Trump normalizing rape culture even more and millions of women marching around the world lit a fire deep in my gut. I wanted to feel strong. I wanted to be in control. I wanted to know that I had options should I find myself in danger. Because now I would be in the Resistance.
I signed up for my first self defense class for women in late January. Even though it was an hour-long introduction to self defense, my life and outlook were fundamentally changed. Here are five important self defense lessons I learned that continue to help me conquer life.
Be a Problem
Women are taught to be quiet. To smile. To be nice. In self-defense, these skills don’t work well. Being a “nice, quiet woman” means that you are an easy mark.
One of the first statements my self-defense instructor made was, “Be a problem.” Nobody wants to try and take down a woman who knows how to handle herself. In life, being a problem could simply mean showing confidence and asking for what you need from others. Or drawing boundaries so that you can take care of yourself. Saying that one magic word – “No” – as a complete sentence, and meaning it.
These new behaviors might be a problem for other people. You know what? Their problems are not your problems.
Draw Attention to Yourself
Women especially are taught to “be polite.” Having good manners means to avoid calling attention to yourself or showing assertiveness or strength. We should be quiet and wait to be recognized.
Self-defense teaches us that in order to stay safe, we need to draw attention to ourselves. Make ourselves bigger. Make eye contact with everyone. Be loud. It seems counter-intuitive, but refusing to shrink keeps us safer.
Decide If You Will Fight
One of the advantages of taking self-defense is feeling more in control of yourself in uncertain surroundings. This includes whether or not to fight or to run. Some people take self-defense classes because they want to be able to incapacitate someone if attacked or in danger. Others take classes because they want to know how to get out of dangerous situations safely.
Both reasons are good. During my class, the instructor encouraged us to take some time and decide on our primary reasons for learning these skills. Do you want to be able to run? Great. Do you want to be able to fight? Great.
Safety is the ultimate goal.
Run Away If You Can
When I first began going to counseling, I discovered that I thought I was weak when choosing “Flight” instead of “Fight” when I was abused. I was ashamed of it, as if running was wrong or weak. It took me a long time to accept that running is not weak, it’s a way to protect myself.
It wasn’t until self-defense class that I fully realized this truth. Our instructor was a big, burly guy with meaty fists and a crew cut. He said, “Always run if you can. You don’t have to stay and fight, even if you decided that you wanted to. Run to people, because most people are good.”
Something about this big guy telling stories of how he ran from danger cemented it for me. Running is good. Running is strength.
Most People are Good
Building self-defense skills is like going over the emergency card before an airplane takes off. There’s a good chance that you won’t need to use the information at all. And just like – logically – most planes don’t crash, when it comes right down to it, most people are good.
Most people are not scoping us out and deciding if we’re easy marks. As we make eye contact and say hello to others as a protection, we begin to realize that most people do not mean us harm.
The irony is that building self-defense skills can help us see more humanity than we would if we were shrinking and afraid. That is where we can find our strength – in each other.
Kelly Wilson is an author and comedian who entertains and inspires with stories of humor, healing, and hope. She is the author of Live Cheap and Free, Don’t Punch People in the Junk, and Kelly Wilson’s The Art of Seduction: Nine Easy Ways to Get Sex From Your Mate. Her latest book, Caskets From Costco, has been chosen as a finalist in the 18th annual Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards, the 10th annual National Indie Excellence Book Awards, and the 2016 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest. Kelly Wilson currently writes for a living and lives with her Magically Delicious husband, junk-punching children, dog, cat, and stereotypical minivan in Portland, Oregon. Read more about her at www.wilsonwrites.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.