Safe for Life – Totally freaking awesome.

So this weekend I did the Safe for Life women’s self defence course, which is run by Protect. I’ve been wanting to do a self defence course for a few years now, so lucky me that it fell right into my lap through Taekwon Do.

I kind of made it my mission to recruit as many friends as possible to come along – I’m a firm believer that all women should know how to defend themselves if the worst happens. Becks, Jeri, and her friend Michelle were all super keen to come along and join me.

So why was I so keen to do this course? I mean, I’ve been doing Taekwon Do for at least six whole months now, right? Surely if I got attacked I could just break out the karate moves and do a flying side kick to the attackers head – right?*

And I’ve totally been doing Kickboxing for AGES. I could knee a guy in the balls in my sleep! Right?** And, come on, I’m a reasonably smart woman, I know if I’m in a dangerous situation I should just knee the guy in the balls and run away.***

*Actually I don’t even know how to do a flying side kick, and even if I did, I probably wouldn’t be able to land it on an attackers head.

**Also? Most attackers aren’t exactly going to stand still and let me get a good run up before I knee him in the balls. and I’ve never actually kneed an actual person before.

***Also? What if it was just a crazy drunk guy harassing me for money at the bus shelter? You can’t exactly kick a guy in the nads for being drunk and slightly threatening – or can you?

In a real life situation I had no idea if I’d be able to correctly read a situation, or whether I’d be able to actually defend myself – although I suspected the answer would have been no.

As for me personally? Living in a big city without a car? It’s kind of dangerous. I do a lot of waiting in bus stops at night, and walking home on my own at night. When I can, I avoid it, but unfortunately I can’t spend my whole life locked up safe in my own home.

So. The course itself? Was amazing. We started out by hearing the statistics – and guys those are some scary bloody statistics. For instance 1 out of every 3 New Zealand women will be sexually assaulted in her life time. A women is raped or sexually assaulted at least every two hours here in New Zealand – and a good chunk of these rapes and assaults go unreported.

It’s pretty damn horrifying. And the worst bit? So many women live in a state of complete denial. Of course it’s not going to be YOU that gets assaulted! With stats like that what are the chances it would be you? It’s too minuscule to even worry about isn’t it? One in three – That’s like… nothing. Right?

Except… what if you thought of three women that you know and love to pieces. Go on, picture them. Think of all the things you love to pieces about them. Make a list of their names.

Out of those three, one of them will go – or already has gone – through one of the most terrifying experiences a woman can face.

Doesn’t that make you angry? Does it make you feel sick? If you could, would you drag all three of those friends along to a self defence course that could potentially save her life? Exactly.

So the stats: They are scary.

I’m not going to tell you about all the stuff I learnt on this course. I want you to go learn it for yourself. I will tell you a few of the things that surprised me the most though.

  • Learning that, actually, kicking a guy in the balls: Not quite as easy as I first thought! What if you’re grabbed from behind? We were taught to keep three main targets in mind, the eyes, the throat, and the groin.
  • Along that same vein, punching someone’s face? It’s really not a good idea if you want your knuckles to survive. We were taught to do palm strikes, and lots of clawing. We’re girls, we’ve got a bit of a natural asset in our long sharp fingernails – why not use them?
  • Discounting ‘No’ is actually a pretty big thing. I had never really thought of it, but how many times have you said no to someone (like a friend) and had them go on and ignore the fact that you’ve said no, and try to change your mind. Even when it’s a friend what they’re doing there is discounting the fact that you’ve said no, and seeking to influence and control you in some way. Now imagine that it’s someone you don’t know, trying to convince you to let them buy you a drink. You say no and they continue to try changing your mind – alarm bells should be ringing.
  • Also: I’d make a pretty terrible mugger:

Shannon: “Um, Excuse me. Can I have your handbag?”

Becks: “No”

Shannon: “Um. Give it to me?… Bitch?”

Becks: Laughs her arse off and walks away – still carrying the imaginary handbag.

Yeah. I sucked – although Jeri was worse, she started her mugging with a cherry “Hi!”

We did LOTS of practical stuff. We were grabbed by guys wearing scary masks (the masks were to protect their faces from being clawed off) and then we had to fight him off us. At the beginning of the class I would have said that I couldn’t have got away from a taller, stronger guy – and there were women there smaller than me.

Each and every one of us managed to get free, and the guys took one heck of a beating by the end of the day. It had a lot to do with what us women believed – If we were pretty sure we could get away, then we were sure as hell going to give one heck of a good go at getting free. It worked – and I can tell you for a fact they didn’t make it easy for us.

Some of the situations were scary. I was out of my comfort zone a few times. There was bad language, and at times there was force. At times it was as close to the real world as it could safely be. And it was absolutely ESSENTIAL that the course was taught that way – how else are you really going to know what you’ll be facing in a bad situation?

In saying that though, the course itself – not scary. The people teaching it were absolutely lovely, the girls taking it had a lot of fun – it sounds weird, I know, but yeah it was fun. I laughed a lot. All of the participation stuff was entirely voluntary, and everyone was encouraged to set their own limits at their own comfort level.

All in all it was one hell of a valuable experience. At the end of it you feel empowered, and all fizzed up like a bottle of coke that someones shaken too hard.

I went home and talked for two hours straight to Louise about latching onto a guys face, and about how it only takes 3kg’s on pressure to pull an ear off, and about how to get a rapist off the top of you. Then I made her watch a demonstration on how to do major damage to a rapists you-know-what.  Also: I got a free tee shirt because I am awesome, so I had to do show and tell.

Then I got a massive headache (from all the adrenaline) and crashed for a bit on the sofa. Louise was kind enough to listen and watch while I fizzed myself out.

So. Self defence. If you are a woman and you have not done a self defence course, why the hell not? If you have not dragged a big group of your favorite women to a self defence course, again, why the hell not?

Self defence courses should be easy peasy to find, so be proactive, and actually go out and take a look. If you’re in New Zealand then I’d recommend you contact the awesome people at Protect.

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