A few months ago, after leaving the studio where I record my podcast, Girl Boner® Radio, I stood at a crosswalk awaiting my turn to cross a busy street.
“Hey, babe… Did anyone ever tell you you’re hot?”
The voice sounded from behind me, and kept going. It was the guy I’d passed moments before, and I could still feel his creepy vibes. Dammit, I thought, wishing I’d better observed his appearance. While it’s been years since I first read Gavin De Becker’s The Gift of Fear, I’ve formed the habit of looking at anyone who seemed to be watching or following me. How else could I describe the person to the police if, God forbid, I need to?
But I was tired and basking in post-show glow, and didn’t have it in me to turn around. I just wanted to get to my car, on the road to bypass traffic and home. During what seemed like the longest pedestrian light ever, the man continued to comment on my appearance, adding explicit details about my butt, my legs, my hair. Sensing that turning to face him at that point would only encourage him, I ignored him until, finally, I could cross the street.
Within minutes my mind had moved on. My mood had shifted some, sure, but I wasn’t fixating or troubled. Nor was the experience even close to the first thing I’d tell a friend that night.
When I eventually shared (“Oh, I forgot to tell you…”) he seemed more bothered by the ordeal than I was. What troubled me was the fact that I hadn’t made myself proactively aware of the harasser sooner. The actual thing, though? It’s…common. An everyday thing. Not only for me, but for women in general. That doesn’t make it right, of course, but it did make it less surprising or memorable. That in itself is a problem.
That day I decided to sign up for the IMPACT self-defense class mentioned in The Gift of Fear, which I had wanted to take for years. Having recently completed it, I can’t articulate enough how empowering and important such training is.
There’s so much I could say about IMPACT and its mighty takeaways, but my favorite benefits are probably these:
- I felt more confident immediately, even after the first class, and have felt less fearful when alone or in public since. Only in taking the class did I realize just how much basal level anxiety I’d felt on a fairly consistent basis. (I wish I were unique here.)
- We learned to deal with the worst case scenarios, knowing that it’s better to be over prepared than under.
- One exercise focused on consent and declining “friendly” unwanted touch. Every human should learn this.
- Seeing other women learn and grow inspired me hugely. In sharing it, you can’t help but forge a special bond.
- On one of the days I was having a tough time emotionally, and still managed to learn and participate, much thanks to the supportive staff and classmates. Crying isn’t a sign of weakness, and we can still defense ourselves when under duress.
- People who take a self-defense class are significantly less likely to be attacked, according to recent research. I completely see why this is the case! Awareness and confidence are powerful.
Here’s a short clip, featuring one of my fights. It may be a bit intense for some folks, though my mom watched it and loved it (“I’m so glad you can do that!” ;)).
Have you taken a self-defense class? Have any questions about this one? Talk to me, if you’d like!
i took a self-defense class not too long ago, and it was interesting in that I learned a lot…
but the instructor told me I was actually a little too intense, which made me feel ashamed.
I was going all out; after all, I thought that’s what we were supposed to do.
As women, we really aren’t given permission to fight, to say no to those ‘friendly unwanted touches.’ The man I’m currently dating is totally encouraging me to be more assertive in this area, and I appreciate his willingness to even make me AWARE of the fact that men often make flirty comments and even touch me. Until he did, I wasn’t even aware of it. At all. That ends now.
August McLaughlin says
Ugh, I’m so sorry your instructor wasn’t more encouraging! So glad to hear you’re seeing someone who does support you and your right to not feel bothered, invaded or objectified. I sense a lot of strength in your comment – and LOVE it. Cheering you on so hard. xo
Aurora Jean Alexander says
You’re right August, many more women should be able to defend themselves, even if it’s for stopping the guy for a couple minutes to run to safety.
With me it’s a bit different. I’m practicing Martial Arts since I’m 6 years old. I find pleasure in the workout, enjoy the time I can spend with my friends and fighters.
Now: did I ever have to defend myself? Yes, unfortunately I did. It is very different from practice. At my level a fighter reacts more instinctively than step-by-step. Did I enjoy having to fight and hurt a man?
No. This isn’t about “just beating up someone”. It can be life saving. We shouldn’t forget: a life is a life is a life… and someone else’s life is worth as much as mine. I fought to stop, never to kill. If a guy just talks… I do the same as you: ignore him. Only a physical attack makes me defending myself physically. And I never attacked someone. I defended myself.
August McLaughlin says
I love that you practice Martial Arts, AJ! So awesome. And you’re so right about self-defense not being about attacking, but saving or helping yourself. One thing we found as a class was that it’s easy to apologize or feel bad when hitting, kicking, etc., even when working with a trained pro who can’t be hurt (due to the protective gear). Sorry you’ve had to defend yourself, but so glad you did!
KM Huber says
“The actual thing, though? It’s…common. An everyday thing. Not only for me, but for women in general. That doesn’t make it right, of course, but it did make it less surprising or memorable. That in itself is a problem.” Thank you for identifying the problem: something so common that it is all but accepted because it happens all the time. Again, it’s not accepted, just too well experienced, so to speak. This is such critical information for all women of all ages. Thank you, August.
August McLaughlin says
So glad it struck you! Awareness really is so key.
Rayne Parvis says
I want to take this class! Thanks for inspiring me and it’son my to-do list. XO
August McLaughlin says
Yay! If you do, I wanna come to your graduation.
Kassandra Lamb says
I took an IMPACT self-defense class over 20 years ago. It was an awesome experience–incredibly empowering. And even after all these years, I think the moves are still ingrained enough that I could do a credible job of defending myself. The element of surprise would be huge, of course. No assailant would expect this chubby old lady to be able to kick the crap out of them.
Kassandra Lamb says
P.S. They have them for men too, teaching them how to be a defender rather than an aggressor. My brother took it and got so much out of it.
August McLaughlin says
So glad you were able to benefit from IMPACT, too! Indeed, I love that they offer classes for men, partners, etc., and for all ages. We can all learn to protect ourselves and others, and to prevent some attacks altogether, which is so important.
Daryl Smith says
This is an older post, but I thought I’d respond on this one. I took karate when I was in high school, and I thought it was pretty good for not only teaching me self-defense and how to fight, but for the self confidence that comes with such skills. I am not particularly a fan of Impact though and classes like it.
I had my wife take a self-defense class recently which was RAD (Rape Awareness Defense). This is a woman self-defense class taught by various police departments around the country, often taught on college campuses but available to women of all ages. This leads me to my first criticism of Impact and that is the price. The RAD woman’s basic class, which is 13 hours, costs only $20. Impact charges anywhere from $350 to $450, depending on the location, and you can retake it for free as much as you want, including the simulations, which are similar to what you are doing in the clip.
So Impact and similar programs like Model Mugging are very expensive compared to RAD, with I think objectively less qualified instructors. RAD classes are taught only by trained law enforcement officers, officers who regularly engage in various levels of physical engagement in the course of their duties. Impact and similar classes are nearly always taught by a feminist woman who most likely have never actually engaged in real physical combat against an attacker out to do them great bodily harm, with feminist men in the suits who similarly may have no real-world fighting experience. It should be fairly simple to see whom should be better prepared to advise on the art of real-world combat.
This leads me to my second critique of Impact. I have looked at many of their video’s and websites. My opinion is the techniques they teach, eye-strikes and groin pulls, punches, knees, and kicks to the head are very good, but they do quite a disservice to their students by greatly overestimating the ability of a female to knock out a determined man.
I don’t wish to write a long exposition on this, but men aren’t likely to be knocked unconscious with even several blows to the head from a woman, and they certainly aren’t going to sit or lay there and let themselves be kicked, like the turkey in this video did. Their most likely going to hit back, which the Impact attackers, who really to me seem more like walking punching bags, never do.
Also, men are not likely to be incapacitated by blows to the groin. These are very overrated. If you are doubtful of this, if you poke around enough on the web, you can find video’s showing the kind of blows and abuse men can take too the groin without going down. If a man is full of adrenaline, he may barely notice a hard blow to the groin. He will later, but how will that help you in the confrontation?
I think I read Impact teaches it takes 15 pounds of pressure to break a knee, implying it’s easy to break them, and everyone knees our equally strong. This is complete BS. First, would you really believe the knees of an average woman are as strong as a big man’s, a man whose knees might be twice the diameter? Second, knees aren’t that fragile. Try extending your leg out between two points, with just your butt and heel are being supported, then put a 20-pound weight on your knee and see if it breaks. They try adding 10 pounds. As you can tell, it takes well over 15 pounds of force to break your knee.
So my second problem with Impact is its graduates will leave overconfident in their abilities to knock out a man. I’m not saying they won’t, or they can’t, just that it’s going to be much harder then they think based on their training. Impact likes to say their graduates have done a certain number of fights by the time they graduate. It’s not a fight when the other person isn’t hitting back. This hardly even constitutes sparring in the world of fighting arts, which we did in nearly every class in karate.
RAD, as far as I can tell, as its graduates aren’t supposed to discuss what they learned with their male significant others, so they can act with surprise against them if it ever becomes necessary, does not encourage such over-confidence. Women are taught it’s unlikely you will be able to knock out a male attacker, rather you want to strike fast and hard, and escape quickly. This is much more realistic than thinking a woman who may not even work out much can easily knock a man out, who might be many times stronger. I don’t think it jives with the feminist mind set of Impact, who think that woman and men not only should be but are equal in everything, but the world is what it is, not how one wishes it should be.
The average woman would have difficulty bench pressing 70 pounds, whereas many men can easily do 200 or more. So I ask, can a man knock out an adolescent gorilla, or a young grizzly bear? That would be the equivalent of what an average Impact woman knocking out a strong man would be. The answer should be obvious. I hope though in the unlikely event you ever face this nightmare, your attacker ends up just as the man in the video is shown at the end.
I’d like to close this post with a few statics. There was a time in America where we had chivalry in general, a time before the 60’s when it was unconscionable to hit a woman, where men considered it their duty to defend all women. I grew up in a place where that ethic was still lived out. You’d get your butt kicked if you hit a woman.
In 1935, we had population of just over 57 million, with 4,106 reported rapes, meaning the per capita rate was 0.00718%. In 1960, we had population of just over 179 million, with 17,109 reported rapes, meaning the per capita rate was 0.00960%. Slightly higher but relatively steady. Flash forward to 2016, the end of the Obama years, and with a population of just over 323 million, with 132,414 reported rapes, the per capita rate was 0.04094%, a greater than 300% increase in the 56 years since 1960.
Women are and were a lot safer when men had more old-fashioned values, and a notion that women should be protected, which still exists today but not nearly in the abundance it did. If we can ever get back to the days, as shown in the original Titanic movie of ‘Women and children first,’ both woman and children will be a lot safer, and the need for programs like RAD and Impact, though still useful, will not be nearly as necessary.
Children will be a lot safer to, as prior to 1967, mass random shooting were a rarity that did not even occur once per decade, despite automatic weapons being legal, but that is a whole separate post.
Laura Chandler says
I am an Impact grad from 2007. I took the advanced class in 2009, where we trained to fight multiple attackers and also fought blindfolded. I’ve never had to fight off someone really trying to hurt me, but my boyfriend back then once made the mistake of grabbing me hard from behind when I thought I was alone and wasn’t expecting it. He was on the ground holding his genitals for a few minutes after I struck and pulled them. I didn’t even think, I just reacted. Just like I had trained to do in class.
I stopped immediately when I heard him yell my name, and he went to his knees on the ground. I felt terrible, but I didn’t. He was being macho. He told me he was just testing me. He found out the hard way I wasn’t fooling around when it came to me and my body. He’s lucky I knew who he was and that I was able to stop myself immediately, because I was very hyped up and about to hit him again. It took me several minutes to calm down after his little prank and I even had tears in my eyes after.
Maybe some men can take a lot of abuse, or maybe some men just think they can. I’ve taken RAD with some girlfriends, before I took Impact. RAD is good, but Impact is better. Once you’ve started fighting, it’s better to take that guy out right there and knock him out. That way he can’t assault you as your trying to get way, and then you’ve lost your surprise. That’s not being mean, that’s just self-defense.
Some guys, like my then boyfriend, are uncomfortable with the fact that a woman can defend herself, and even knock them out. Maybe you’d be surprised to know that Impact women, when physically assaulted, knock out their attackers better than fifty percent of the time? This shouldn’t be surprising.
When I took the classes, we hit full force. It was a very emotional experience. Even though I’ve never been seriously assaulted, I cried a couple of times after my fights. They were scary, hard, and seemed very real. I was exhausted and sore after some of them.
So trust me when I say Impact works. You don’t have any reason to feel self-conscious about it, and if you and other men feel a little uncomfortable maybe that’s a good thing, it’ll make it less likely you’ll ever get the treatment shown in the video and be headed to the hospital yourself.