One of the most rewarding things I do with my time when I’m not tethered to my computer is volunteering through my church as a leader for a group of girls. There are about 30 girls ranging from age 12-18 and we meet Wednesday nights. Generally the girls are in charge of deciding what they want to do and carrying it out although the leaders are there for a reason (No, I don’t think we can earn enough money from a car wash to finance a trip to Disney World). And last night that reason was to get kicked and punched. That’s right, I spent an hour and a half last night hiding behind a foam pad playing Spike to their Buffy (not that any of them are even old enough to remember that show, much less have a discussion about the mixed messages that love affair gave teenage girls everywhere). And I loved every second of it.
The girls invited a local police officer – a deceptively petite woman who gleefully confessed to throwing grown men – to teach them about personal safety and self defense. In an era where young models are often portrayed in advertisements that border on child porn and grown models are shown as glamorized victims of violence, it feels increasingly important to teach our girls to take care of themselves.
“Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury for women aged 18-44 in the United States.”
At first the girls were timid. The officer instructed them to punch at “50%” but I’d estimate their noodle-armed throws at closer to 10%. “Come on, really hit me!” I called out. They giggled. They blushed. They stared off into space. It was a petite figure skater who finally took me up on it, surprising me with a punch that knocked the pad backwards into my chin. She grinned proudly. Next up were a few soccer players who impressed me with well-aimed kicks to my (foam-covered) leg. They were just getting warmed up.
After a sweaty half hour where everyone got in at least a few good shots, the cop showed us several new skills, my particular favorite being how to strangle someone with their own shirt – specifically taught to women and girls since you don’t need large hands or long arms to do it. She also told us very candidly about being assaulted by a man when she was playing designated driver to a group of friends. He was a friend-of-a-friend and happened to be the last person she dropped off. When she got to his home, he pinned her in the front seat of her car, holding her down by her hair. She stopped him from further assaulting her by managing to reach her pepper spray on her key chain. The site of it aimed at him was enough to chase him off.
It was good for the girls to hear about her mistakes (driving home a drunk man whom she didn’t really know, alone) and about her success (talk about being level-headed in a crisis!). It was also good for me to hear a woman talk so openly about her experience with assault. I do it but it rattles me every. single. time. I manage to control myself while telling my story but afterwards I shake so hard that I fear I’ll break apart. Even still.
But the best part of the night was that I got to get in on the Crouching Tiger action too! Seeing as I whine to Turbo Jennie on a regular basis (truly she is patient) that while I have a deep, undying love for the punching and kicking, it would be really awesome to actually land one of those babies someplace other than in the air. Since no one in my Turbo classes has volunteered to step up, this was a dream come true. Another adult and I took turns holding the pads for each other while we forgot for a moment that we were minivan-driving (okay, CR-V driving in my case) soccer moms and for a brief minute just got to be powerful. I hit that foam pad hard. Which is the closest I’ve ever gotten to punching an actual person. I have to admit it felt good.
So now I must know: have any of you ever punched a human being? Did you like it? If not, are you at least with me about the Spike-and-Buffy weirdness??