This is particularly important when we consider the trauma response to sexual assault. An assault triggers the fight, flight or freeze response. I know I talk a lot about fighting, as a martial arts instructor, but the reality is that in that moment of intense stress, many victims freeze. Just because someone does not fight back does not mean that they gave consent. It also does not mean they deserved to be assaulted or were responsible for the attack in any way. Yet, in the few rape cases that go to trial, the most common defense is to assert that the encounter was consensual. This defense often focuses on what the victim did not do (ex. fight back, say no clearly or loudly or believably enough, etc.). Unfortunately, what they did do (in terms of non-verbal communication) would be hard to recreate in court. This new research is just one more piece of evidence supporting the fact that victims should be believed and that creepers know exactly what they are doing.
I am LOVING season 11 of The Biggest Loser. Ok, maybe as a martial artist I’m a little biased. This season more than ever they are moving to a martial arts based training program. The 2 new trainers are a Golden Gloves boxer (Cara) and a kickboxer/mixed martial artist (Brett). More than that, this season has a wonderful group of very compassionate contestants and totally fierce women! If anyone watched season 10, you would have seen that one woman (Ada- they called her “The Terminator”) had to rep for all the females. I love Ada but man that season was so frustrating to watch. Really obnoxious gender dynamics in the group.
Anyway season 11 is awesome, you must check it out. Prepare to be inspired.
I love this show because it is all about physical empowerment. You watch mostly sedentary people with serious health problems transform into full-fledged athletes. Ever heard of a thing called mind-body connection? By week 7 or 8, you see all of them, one by one, blossom into completely different people. They become confident, assertive, expressive and most importantly they stop questioning whether or not they can accomplish any task set before them. No matter how difficult the task, they approach it with a can do attitude.
A downside of the show is that, because it is a competition, not everyone can continue. On the other hand, because they have to fight to stay there, they are forced to find the fighters inside of them.
Martial arts based training programs, aside from being a fun and engaging way to exercise, really help people to get to that point. Particularly for women, martial arts is such a healthy way to find the fight you need to succeed in life. As women we have a lot to fight against:
- Unhealthy body image we learn from the media
- Lack of representation/recognition in history, politics, sports, etc.
- The idea that we are “the weaker sex”
- The impulse to put everyone else first
- The learned habit to constantly apologize for what we think, feel or say
- The fact that female-dominated professions are undervalued and underpaid
- Creepers at every turn…
Yet, I often see women in my self defense classes who seem physically pained at the thought of hitting someone! The thought of it. Seriously. And I have to wonder to myself, “Would you be that pained at the thought of taking a hit?” The answer is usually no.
I’ve heard people say that, generally speaking, men take out stress externally and women take it out internally. Of course there are exceptions (I, for example, want to punch people in the face when I am stressed), but in general I have seen that to be true. Women seem to feel that we don’t deserve things. Even basic things, like feeling safe and comfortable and happy and good about our bodies. I’ve said this before but just for good measure: You deserve to feel safe, happy and confident! I’m not saying you should go around punching people in the face, but I am saying you should not take crap from other people. You are strong and intelligent and anyone who makes you feel otherwise is a worthless jerk, so forget them.
Check out this video of Jillian Michaels teaching Biggest Loser contestant Marcy not to be a punching bag. Love her or hate her, Jillian is hard core. I’m going to go on the record and say I’m a fan. If you watch the full episode, you’ll see another great scene with the new trainer Cara boxing Kaylee, a contestant who didn’t know she was a fighter until she got in the ring. Great stuff!
You don’t have to do martial arts to be a fighter in your heart, but if you’re having a hard time finding the fight in you it’s a great place to start. If you’re in Madison, WI and you mention this blog post by March 31, 2011 I will give you a FREE 30 minute private lesson to help you get started at my studio: Villari’s Martial Arts. Call 251-7755.
If you’re not in the area but interested in starting training, here’s some tips on how to find the right place for you:
- Martial arts studios should offer a free class or week, or at least a reduced rate drop-in class before you sign on to any sort of contract. I recommend trying classes at more than one place before you make your decision.
- Listen to your instincts. Martial arts training involves a lot of trust, so look for instructors that make you feel safe, welcome and supported.
- Self defense vs. competition is one of the biggest differences between schools. My school is a self defense based school, focusing on personal development. If you like competition and find it motivating, that might be a good fit for you, but personally I don’t see the value of full contact sport fighting. There are ways to compete, like light-contact sparring, that won’t leave you with a broken nose.
- Do you see a variety of people in class? When the student body is diverse in terms of gender, race, ability, body type, etc. that is usually a good sign.
- Are there female instructors or high ranks? You can’t always hope for this, because it is a male-dominated profession, but it is a good sign for you when women are in leadership positions in any setting. That being said, I know many wonderful male martial arts instructors who believe strongly in female empowerment and equality.
Ok, now go forth and fight back! Let this song be your soundtrack: