by Ullana Twahn
Women rarely ask themselves whether they should know how to self-defend. They may think about it from time to time when something ghastly is reported on the nightly news or in the newspapers` headlines, or when something happens to someone they know, but they don`t always act on this impulse to learn how to self-defend for themselves; time passes, and because it`s in most women`s nature not to go looking for a fight, they begin to assume once again that a fight won`t come to them. And for those that do act? What`s offered to them, what do they hear about, read about, see advertised, especially for them. 'Self defence courses for women'.
Not for men and women mind, just for women. You might well ask yourself - Why are self defence courses promoted just for women. Well the answer seems to be pretty obvious according to the promotional material I`ve looked at; it`s a female fear campaign used to attract women to a quick fix. The fear of being sexually abused, physically scarred or debeautified if you like, beaten up, broken up, belittled - by - one would assume, some man. So the men become tabboo in these courses - necessary only (in some courses the women I train with have done) to leap out of the bushes at the 'fully trained' - having done her 8 hours of classes - female 'master' (one advertisement claims), so that she can scream hysterically, kick, punch, or push to the ground the "fully outfitted male attacker", be told she`s done well by the knowledgeable male accomplice, and thus graduate with full honours. The quick fix approach to life; meet violence with violence, teach women a few nasty little tricks in the hope that they won`t backfire, and women will be - what was the saying, "as safe as houses".
Women do occasionally get physically attacked, but so do men, so do the elderly, so do the young. The theory that you have to get tougher, and be meaner and more violent than an attacker, not only does not appeal to the vast majority of women - and quite a number of men - but is an animalistic theory that degrades any defender to the level of an attacker. I believe being able to self defend is a necessary part of everyday living for everybody. People should not have to live in fear, but people should not have to violate themselves to feel safe. We need to ask ourselves - Isn`t there a better way than meeting violence with more violence? Do I have to violate myself to protect myself, my loved ones, my belongings, my beliefs. Let alone ask the obvious question - If violence against me is to be handled with more violence by me, just how am I going to escalate my level of counter-violence sufficiently if I`m a small feather weight type person, and my attacker, or probable attackers, are one or more larger heavy weights. And anyway, aren`t there more forms of violence than the physical attack. Shouldn`t my self-defence help me balance my life, and enable me to handle all forms of attack?
Certainly, physical violence does come into play in peoples lives, but most often, for most of us, attacks are of a much more commonplace nature. Being over-stressed by work commitments for instance; whether it`s from being overloaded with deadlines and high pressure time demands, or the inability to unwind and get our heads into a different space at the end of our working day, or the boredom and frustration of being out of work, or in the wrong job. People are different. And we respond differently under stresses. But we would all agree, that what we each need is a mechanism to recharge our batteries, make us fitter for life out there on 'the edge' of things, and teach us self defence strategies for all the areas, or arenas of our lives. A defence system that doesn`t defile us. A self defence system which has those 'edges' of ours, and others around us, under some form of control.
I train Aikido (Iwama-Ryu) at the Field Aikido Centre. We train a strong, dynamically powerful traditional Japanese martial art which is purely defensive in it`s application. It relies upon having an attacking energy or force to respond to, and it gives that attacking force back to the person or thing it stems from. It is a pure self defence mechanism which provides strengths and strategies to handle not only strong physical attacks, but everyday life. I am a middle aged woman. I am a mother, a daughter, a sister, a worker. And like the other women who train here, I am a warrior.
The Field Aikido Centre trains the women and men who practice here regularly to respond with self defence techniques and strategies against a huge variety of physical attacks; body restraints, punches, strikes. And it doesn`t de-humanise anybody. Under Sensei Michael Field`s systematised teaching direction we learn the only way to truly self defend is to behave defensively. We learn how to defend against attack by using the attackers energy to execute a throw, or a lock and pin, not to offend against ourselves and others by getting caught up in power struggles. Women get to keep their femaleness, men their maleness, children their childhood. Nobody is looking for the quick fix, because each of us acknowledges that we need the long term durability of a system which teaches real skill and growth, and has the ethically sound foundation of pure defence should we ever have to physically self-defend. And the women who train here understand just how necessary it is to train with the women, and the men who train here, and to train strongly. Because if they are ever physically attacked out their in the world, each one of them needs to know they`ve already handled someone of that size and proportion before. They need that, to know they can do it again.
Regular training at the Field Aikido Centre teaches us to synchronise with the energy of an attack and turn it away from us; physically, spiritually, mentally, so that neither the attacker nor the attack can cling to us. Our Aikido subtly heightens our awareness to the activities around us, and any potential for attacks or conflict. It teaches us movement strategies and technical sequences which enable and re-enable us to think and act 'outside the box'. When an attack comes we are no longer there, we are activating a defence sequence which will stop or deter any further attacks. When conflict arises we look at it from a different perspective, we are no longer there, we are already unifying the conflicting energies for a mutually better outcome. It is easy to see how thinking 'outside the box', and calmly seeing conflict for what it is, would be helpful in our everyday interaction with people, machines, ideas; it is easy to see how Aikido can benefit us. But what training Aikido at the Field Aikido Centre mostly teaches is that benefits come from work; the persistence of practice, practice, practice, until we get it right.
The ability to self defend will not magically appear, you have to work at it. You have to grow with it. An eight week course, offering you a one hour class, once a week, woman against whatever, will not help you mature as a person, nor will it enable you to self defend. Violence is within society, and within ourselves. We need to discourage it`s growth, not see it as an answer. Or worse, the answer.
From my experience the training I do is an answer for women, men, and children looking to self-defend. At the Field Aikido Centre I get to train with men and women of variant weights, heights, strengths and abilities. I`ve been able to grow and develop through being nurtured, taught and cared for with long term solutions in mind. In pure self defence terms, I have the ability to turn aside conflict by looking at 'the whole' from variant angles and not getting myself caught in its` power. People who persist in training at the Centre develop the martial ability to bodily throw an attacker into something, onto something, or at a second or third attacker. They have the ability to control an attacker away from them via the use of wrist-elbow-shoulder locks, simple arm extension, body-hip movement, and they have the option to pin an attacker to the ground via one of the many shoulder pins should that be an applicable response.
Commitment to regular training at the Field Aikido Centre provides men and women alike with a durable, long-lasting defence system. A system of learning which allows women and men to train and grow together, learning from each others strengths and weaknesses; promoting wholistic development in all. Quick fix, short-term women`s self-defence courses are to my way of thinking outrageous. Women need to develop skills which will safe-guard them, let them heal if they`ve been hurt, and provide them with the confidence to take on life at its` edges. Training at the Field Aikido Centre is a solution; the best solution, I believe for anyone who truly wishes to self-defend.