I totally did this!! So clearly I was born with some good survival instincts! Although I think my 6-year-old self would be oddly disappointed to know that I’ve yet to encounter a situation that required my stellar lava-jumping skills.
Krav Maga is here. After years of me searching for it, it has finally found me. You’d think I’d be elated at this serendipitous turn of events – I once literally tried to call Israel looking for a certified local instructor – and yet I’ve already missed the first two classes. Now that it’s real, I don’t know if I can do it.
For those of you as confused as everyone listening to the Presidential debate tonight (was it not hilarious when even the moderator got sucked into the “you-said-this-no-I-didn’t” argument over the President’s Rose Garden speech?), Krav Maga is the official self-defense program of the Israeli Defense Forces, widely considered to be the most brutal and lethal program of its kind. Unlike many other disciplines, Krav Maga encourages aggression and brutality when provoked. These guys (and gals) don’t mess around. You fight with them, you fight for your life. The program is described as being relatively simple to learn and quick to gain proficiency in. It focuses on fighting in “realistic” scenarios including ground fighting, weapons, gang attacks and (I’m just assuming) unruly presidential candidates. (Not that I’m advocating lethal force for pulling statistics out of thin air but maybe a good shoe-scuffing would be appropriate?)
Sometimes silence is definitely not the best option!
It started with trying to take someone else’s words – words that had been used against me – and make them my own. Project Unbreakable* is for survivors of abuse and the premise is that you take the power, the secrecy, the lies, the fear and the validity out of your abuser’s words by showing them to the light. Victims write what their abusers said on cards and then hold it up and are photographed with them, showing how words that once terrorized are now as meaningless as a piece of paper. While I think the theory is a good one – and it does seem that much good has come of the site – something about the execution bothered me. So many of the victims held the paper obscuring their face, their abuser’s words still obliterating the most human part of themselves.
“In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups. The police who investigate the crime and the District Attorneys who prosecute the offenders.” And Batman. There’s always room for Batman. DUN-DUN!
Blood spatters. Rape kits. Horrific crimes balanced out by the most humane cops I’ve ever not met. (I’ve actually had dreams where I’m talking to Olivia Benson/Mariska Hargitay.) Plots twisted so far beyond reality that “ripped from the headlines” is more a threat than a promise. There’s a lot to recommend Law & Order: SVU, really.
And yet: “Why are you watching that?!” my husband asked me about ten times. “You know that show gives you nightmares.” He’s right. In fact, I’ve told him not to let me watch it. I didn’t answer him: “I already have the nightmares. Now I want the company.” So here I sit watching reruns back to back. It’s why I couldn’t write a (decent) post tonight – not because I have nothing to say but because I have too much – all caught up in how worse it could have been. And wasn’t. But was bad enough. It was, right?
Hitting a woman is not cool and hasn’t been socially acceptable in quite a few decades (see: Chris Brown/Rihanna scandal) but ever since Scarlett slapped Rhett Butler, girls slapping men has been made out to be not only okay but even ladylike, appropriate and, yes, cool. (Okay, let’s be honest: Scarlett slapped just about everybody in that movie from Ashley to Rhett a couple of times and even poor Prissy “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies, Miss Scarlett!!!”) Why is it acceptable for a woman to hit a man when the reverse is widely considered abhorrent?
The Slap as Art
This past week on So You Think You Can Dance, sandwiched between an emotional routine based solely around a light bulb and a fierce Paso Doble was a racy little number that played up all the popular male-female stereotypes. It would have been one more Burlesque For Family Time quickly forgotten in a sea of hair flips and leather vests except that it started with a slap. And not just a stage slap but a real, honest-to-goodness, face smack.
Video probably NSFW depending on how your boss feels about Janis Joplin.
Context is everything. What is perfectly acceptable in one venue can be humiliating in another. Kanye learned that when he “Imma let you finish”-ed Taylor Swift at the music awards. Dorothy learned that when she melted one witch and was saved by another. My 5-year-old learned that when he dropped trou in the middle of a playland and peed on a plastic tree (true story – my husband and I just walked away shaking our heads with everyone else and muttering “Where is his mother?!” Parents of the year, that’s us.) And the Gym Buddies and I learned that today as we took part in a mini Jiu-Jitsiu experiment. (Yes, this month we are officially doing a dance Experiment but someone offered to give us a lesson for free and we are never ones to turn down free.) I love the martial arts – kickboxing and karate have been two of the best workouts I’ve ever tried – so what could go wrong? When people ask me in interviews for my book what’s the number 1 thing I’ve learned from my Experiments, I usually answer “That there are 2,001 ways to publicly humiliate myself.” Today we accomplished at least half of those.
I spent my Saturday night getting my aggression on: gouging people in the eyes, yelling “I’ll rip your larynx out!” and watching my best girlfriends get cornered by a bunch of threatening men. Makes your screening of Tron, The Legacy seems pretty lame now, huh? No, we weren’t road-testing The Great Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Experiment. (Although now that I type that I have a hankering to try cage fighting. Hmm.) Gym Buddies, Megan, Allison, Michelle, Jeni, Meghan, Becca and I were getting tutored in the art of pain by Megan’s husband, Sensei Don (of Karate Experiment fame, for those of you that have read my book or have been around this site for 3+ years) during a Women’s Self Defense seminar.
I’d gone to see her to talk about medicine for my post-partum depression, not a court case six years cold and yet in the process of taking my case history of psychiatric medication she stepped on that land mine. Immediately I felt that familiar cold, dead feeling well up inside me, squeezing my heart. No, no and double heck to the no. She looked as if I’d slapped her when I answered, “Actually that may be the thing in my life I am the least proud of.”
I’ve run into this before. It’s a singular experience, this courtroom drama that happens nightly on TV and so rarely in real life that I am often the first person they have met who has experienced it, and so I understand their curiosity. People assume many things about this process: that it provides victims with a feeling of power, of a wrong righted, of safety, of peace, of closure. I can tell you that, at least for me, it was none of these things. Which is why my psychiatrist probably looked so shocked when I added, “I don’t know that I could ever recommend to anyone else to do it.”
I used you. I’ll admit it. I started this blog as a way to talk about all the health and fitness research that I geek out over so much in real life, thereby giving my long-suffering friends and family a break. But as I got writing, I discovered that for me blogging is so much more than just words. It’s free therapy! And in my mind, one can never have too much therapy.
It all started when I first delved into the reasons that I got into exercise. Sure it was to lose some baby weight but the timing was no coincidence. When I was just a few weeks pregnant with my second son, I found out an ex-boyfriend of mine from college (referred to on this site as simply G. or occasionally as Very Bad Boyfriend – not because I’m afraid of being sued or that he’ll find me again but because saying his name still turns my stomach.) had been arrested for sexually assaulting a girl in my old college town. After five years of nightmares, I realized for the first time that what had happened between us wasn’t just between us after all. I decided to go to the police.