I so easily relate to new, bright, prospective students who come to me seeking a kickboxing workout, discuss their fitness goals in detail, but say things like “I don’t need self-defense”. I remember having the same mindset!
The possibility of needing to defend myself seemed distant, irrelevant and unlikely. I didn’t speak to strangers, and I didn’t look people in the eye who I didn’t know. I excused myself from situations where I felt uneasy, and I avoided men and women who I knew were bullies. I later learned that’s not the way I wanted to live my life, but the point is that I should have always felt safe… and I usually did.
Even in my early days of martial arts training it was far-fetched to imagine myself in a self-defense situation, and even laughable to imagine myself then having the skill and wherewithal to know what to do! I couldn’t fathom being attacked, so of course I didn’t feel an impending need to learn the life skill of protecting myself.
Simply put, I was fortunate enough at the time I began my martial arts journey that I didn’t understand what it would ever feel like to have to defend myself. I loved kickboxing and grappling classes, and although I did feel stronger and more empowered, I was really only showing up to class for the workout. I didn’t see how rapidly my skills were developing or how much I was truly learning.
One day, about a year after I’d been training in mixed martial arts, and quite to my surprise, a trusted male confidant grabbed me forcefully in the heat of an argument. I had been dating this person and felt otherwise safe in his presence, so I was shocked that our fight had rapidly turned physical.
Because I had so consistently practiced how to get out of common holds and grabs in my self-defense classes, I didn’t have to think about what I needed to do. Out of instinct, I twisted my body in a way that loosened his grasp, and I countered his force with a strike that shocked him enough to let go of me. It provided me enough time to get past him and out the door.
I felt a sense of disbelief after I made it home, and again in the days — and weeks — following. I couldn’t believe how quickly the situation unfolded and that I had experienced a test of my abilities. Although shaken over it for some time thereafter, I felt proud for taking care of myself and executing what I knew, even just after a year of training.
I always take a moment to encourage new students who believe they “don’t need self defense” to dig a bit more into understanding what martial arts will really bring to their lives. Spoiler alert: you’ll always get more than what you bargained for!