Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Not Your Ordinary Karate Story

When I was a child, I was taken from my mother and placed with my grandparents after a short stint in foster care while they worked out the details with the court.  I don’t know if it was state mandated or what, but I remember one day a nice lady came to the house and played some games with me, then went and talked with my grandparents.  Years later I found a letter that made me remember that day.  She was an IQ tester.  The report said that I had an above average IQ but that my social skills were lacking, most likely because of my family situation, and that they should endeavor to help me increase my social skills by encouraging my interaction with other children.  A logical suggestion, but children aren't always the kindest teachers of social skills.  I was always awkward in elementary school but managed to have a few close friends and was generally happy.  My troubles started in seventh grade.  Due to a pituitary condition I was born with, I was very scrawny and nerdy and was quickly a target for the bullies.  Interestingly enough, this was about the time I started training in TaeKwonDo.  I learned to do push ups and kick and yell “yes sir!” and “no sir!” but my brain wasn’t developed enough yet to translate any of this to my real life problems.  As I trained in TaeKwonDo, even earning a black belt, I was mercilessly berated and physically abused by kids at school.  The psychological abuse was worse for me than the physical abuse.  Kids I was supposed to do projects with would say cruel things to me and sabotage my work, and the teachers never seemed to catch on.  Looking back now, I find it hard to believe that a teacher can be that obtuse, but it wasn’t just one.  There were a host of adults who through their lack of knowledge or incompetence allowed the bullies to operate and even blamed me much of the time.  There were red flags all over the place, my grades, my behavior, but no one seemed to put two and two together.  

Why am I telling you this story?  Not to say “poor me,” but to dispel the myth that a black belt magically gives you super powers or that training alone makes you tough or teaches you to defend yourself.  Don't get me wrong, I encourage everyone to train, but you must train for the right reasons and work with the right people.  That finally happened for me when I got to college and I met a Kung Fu instructor who changed my life.  I trained with him, helped build his school, and met a host of incredible people along the way.  I truly believe it was in that period that I transformed from a wimpy kid with a black belt to a woman who could stand up for herself.  I trained harder during that time than I ever have, before or after, and that training still serves me to this day.  Since then, I have tried other styles on and off mostly because of a knee injury.  My motto is "you can take the girl out of the martial arts but you can't take the martial arts out of the girl," and that is the attitude that has kept me going even when injuries prevented me from training.  I tell my students that not being able to train was the hardest training I ever did.  It forced me to find other ways to grow and look critically at my body to see what I really can do and adapt my self defense strategy around my own strengths and weaknesses. And that is why I believe that self defense is for everyone, regardless of your physical capabilities.  Self defense is mostly in the mind, and you can build a strategy for any body type.  

So where does that leave me now?  I am currently training in Krav Maga with another excellent instructor and planning a trip in August to take an escape and evasion class, which I am greatly looking forward to.  In the meantime, I will keep posting about relevant topics in self defense and general preparedness.  I hope it helps you in your own journey.

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