The day after Trump was elected (a media-millennium ago), a dozen women and I formed a local chapter of the Feminist Fight Club.  On the first day of class, a few ladies from the roller derby league, two chain-smoking nurses, a Rape Crisis volunteer and a bad-ass tattoo artist stood around in loose-fitting clothes and asked, “What just happened to America?”  Ice Cube was right, our country was reverting back to AmeriKKKa.  Roe v. Wade would soon be overturned.  There was a palpable sentiment that women would soon be grabbed, harassed and sexually assaulted in broad daylight without legal repercussions (as if things could get any worse.  According to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 99% of rapists will go free https://www.rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-system). We promised each other not to go quietly into the night.  We promised to fight back!

We met once a week for an hour or two in the dojo where I’ve taught karate/gungfu for over 25 years, essentially a safe-space to punch & kick & scream.  We even received an encouraging letter from Jessica Bennett, author of Feminist Fight Club (https://www.feministfightclub.com/), because her intention in writing the book is for women and allies to come together and kick some junk.  But that's just my interpretation. 

At first, I hesitated to be the sole, male voice of authority.  As the only guy in the room, I refused to view these girls as helpless and needing my help.  These were grown-ass women that didn’t need to be rescued, but rather wanted to learn how to defend themselves.  I only presented knowledge through awareness and movement, and immediately adapted the information to their concerns.  For example, if the counter wrist grab didn’t work for them because of their size or bicep strength, I didn’t force the technique.  We’d do it a different way that worked for the group.  They helped me discover an effective way to deal with a situation, and then we repeated until it became muscle memory.  I like to think it of as, “getting my mind out of the way.”  Wu-wei or non-action, or action without effort, and that takes a lot of time and practice.

The best part occurred during water breaks and right after class.  We’d talk about Rape Culture, victim blaming, toxic work environments and personal trauma.  Sometimes I’d offer my own recollections but often I’d wander off so the group could talk among themselves and I never invited myself to coffee after class.  The physicality of an intense self-defense class allows for an emotional release, and they needed to purge without my presence.  Maybe because I was the instructor, maybe because I’m a man, who knows?  But I probably learned more in those classes than the students did.  And maybe that's how teaching should be.   

Turns out physical action is only a small portion of self-defense.  We explored the Four A’s: 
(from http://www.seesallykickass.com/)   

Attitude – the mindset you have and the image you project. 
Do you present yourself as ALERT & ready   or   weak & distracted?

Awareness – using all your senses to SCAN. 
Do you know what's going on around you?  

Avoidance – ways to reduce risk.  PREVENTION is the key. 

Action – using your VOICE and body to fight back & get away.

Our local FFC group is currently taking a break, but I’d love to get back to work soon.  Lately, I’ve taught a few classes for a Girl Scouts troop and I’m trying to get involved with the YWCA.  Also, I’d like to make up some posters with a motto, and although it’s a little aggressive, it certainly displays the right attitude because you can’t let the muthafuckas keep you down:   

“Mess with us, we’ll throw you down. 
Run from us, we’ll chase you down. 
Fight, and we’ll beat you down!”

 

 *Upcoming blog:  "The 9 myths of Women’s Self-defense" and what we discovered in class to be either a) ineffective or b) total bullshit.