Setting Boundaries Is A Girl’s Best Friend

To Stay Safe Learn to Set and Defend Your Boundaries- Then Do It!

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Imagine: You’re walking home after a night out with your pals when a man notices you, fixing his gaze. He adjusts his pace and approaches. At first he seems harmless but then he moves in closer, asking personal questions. You’re uncomfortable, frightened. You move to the side wishing he would leave, but he brushes against you, lightly stroking your shoulder. His hand lingers. There’s no place to go.

What should you do? (A) Lunge at his face and scratch his eyes out? (B) Slam him with a nearby brick? Hold on… not yet. Instead set a firm clear boundary.

Quickly and decisively – sooner than later- reclaim your space. Move apart to regain distance (ideally two arms length) and speak up, sending a clear signal and strong verbal message—“This is not okay. I want you to stop.” Meanwhile be prepared to take stronger measures.

Setting and defending our boundaries is our first line of defense. For women it can be highly effective, nipping a situation in the bud.

Boundaries help keep us safe. They are the lines and borders we draw around our comfort zones, personal space, and private lives. Boundaries communicate how much contact we’re okay with or want –and don’t want. Not just with strangers but friends, co-workers, and loved ones.

In the absence of firmly communicated boundaries we are more vulnerable to predators or those who will take advantage. 

Not everyone who approaches is harmful- of course not!. But this scenario included telltale signs and an escalation of behavior that often precedes an assault or attack: selective targeting and approach, probing questions, crowding and intimidation, and unwanted intimacy and touching.

While a nice guy will back off, a creep or worse with harmful intent may continue to encroach and wear down your defenses to gain the upper hand.

Get Your Boundary On

To effectively set boundaries use four tools: solid body language and a good stance (feet shoulder width apart), a firm tone of voice, clarity of language (specific not vague) and a no-nonsense demeanor with direct eye contact. Congruency matters. Don’t be cute and bob your head while firmly stating, “No. I don’t want to (fill in the blank.) We’re done here. You need to leave now!”

In other words: Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Respond proportionately, matching the level of intrusion. In a higher level threat or would-be attack, increase your volume and yell while maintaining a perimeter, “Get Back! I need help!” Your voice is both deterrent and weapon.

If you’ve been raised to always be polite and respond favorably to flattery, give yourself permission to break that rule. It could place you at risk.

Pay attention to how you feel in the presence of strangers and non-strangers alike. Command respect and present yourself with authority. After all, who is a better authority on your body and life then You?

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Ringing it In. Where Power Comes From.

“There are times when it becomes imperative to release a rage that shakes the skies.  There is a time–though rare–to let loose all the firepower one has.  It has to be in response to a serious offense; the offense has to be big and is against the soul or spirit.  All other reasonable avenues for change have to be tried first.  If these fail, then we have to choose the right time.  There’s definitely a right time for full-bore rage. … And it is right.  Right as rain.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estes: Women Who Run With the Wolves

How did you get into this? Where does this ferocity come from? Did… [insert polite pause here] … something happen to you?

They are questions I’ve been asked countless times. Given my enthusiasm for teaching women how to morph their bodies into weapons, and to penetrate targets and say damn, this feels good! well, I suppose it’s reasonable.

But it’s telling too. It betrays the assumption that something bad- e.g., a sexual assault– MUST have happened to me because why else would I– an evolved female and believer in empathy and compassion– be so passionate about helping women learn to be fierce,  and embrace their aggressive capacities.

Honestly, can we imagine asking a fella the same thing? “Hey there manly man, what in tar nation would possess you to learn to protect yourself from all manner of assault or attack?” What a silly question that would be! In man’s world self defense is deemed natural. It comes with beer and nachos and having a penis.

While we, the vagina people, are still principally taught (yeah, it’s changing) to “watch out!” as a primary means of defense. As rape “prevention.”

My answer is complex. My passion and fire stems from many sources, including my (former) work as a psychotherapist specializing in trauma recovery. And yes I’ve had my share – or more- of incidents: violent groping, manhandling, assorted close encounters, attempted rapes, a vicious street attack and a terrifying “it happened to me” nightmare scenario. In 1985 I was awakened in the dead of night by the sound of creaking floorboards from the footsteps of man I did not know. He, the shadowy figure down my hallway, was approaching, heading for my bed blade in hand. That would be after first cutting the phone lines and electric power. (For the record, I foiled that attempt with quick timing and war cries. What? .. .You didn’t hear me? Fay Raye’s KING KONG scream had nothing on me. No no dear with feeeling this time.)

There were follow up calls from this mystery man saying that he knew my whereabouts and the patterns of my and my then fiance’s life. I was terrified. I know what it’s like to be scared to death. 

This was the final initiation that led me from Martial Arts to more practical down dirty methods which would become me.

Still, sometimes the question– where does this come from?- does not always compute. Because how do I trace the genesis of something so deeply embedded in the bone of my being, that the mere asking unleashes sensations that leave my loins simmering with a knowing heat. You might as well ask me, “Where does LOVE come from, or the kindness of strangers, or the female desire to want or to have?”

The truest thing I can say is that IT– this power, capacity, and female warrior spirit– has NEVER ceased to be. It has always existed, it is eternal, unconditional. It is a life-force that we plug into. A bell in the distance waiting to be rung. Often it is rung at the behest or urging of fear terror.

It also comes from the female desire to be safe, self possessed and to have power.

As far as I can remember, including a girlhood incident that first sparked the desire (I’ll share that story in a future post; hint: boy tried to set my hair on fire), I have always hungered for this feeling and the potential it engenders. It wasn’t always a conscious desire, but it was invisibly moving me toward a capacity I would later call FIERCE.

Fast forward from my girlhood assault. One night, years later, on a midnight train churning through India, when a Man In A White Shirt wouldn’t take NO for an answer << insert repeated violent groping here>> it crystallized. The membrane around this inchoate power broke. When I struck back, cracking him about the head and busting his offending hand, a power I did not know I possessed sprung loose, as if released from dormancy, from potential into being. It was an epic moment. A memory, a whiff of something lost but not forgotten rushed back into my body. Like a ghost limb re-membered. The experience was as numinous as primitive.

The match was struck. The fire ignited.

Eventually this realization would become the basis of my philosophy:

Some part of you already knows how to do this…

In the end, this isn’t just my story, my truth or wake up call– it’s YOUR story too. And that is why I tell it.

about-bottom                        YOU’LL KNOW IT WHEN YOU FEEL IT!

9296_920846741262665_2662112249301133413_n          RINGING IT IN WITH THE GIRLS OF INDIA’S RED BRIGADE LUCKNOW.

SELF DEFENSE FOR WOMEN: A New Definition of Feminine Protection

Feminine Protection– from Everyday Lite to Maximum Protection

All women have the primal capacity for FEMININE PROTECTION!

Imagine you’re heading out of town. Before leaving, you probably do a last-minute check to be sure you’re all packed, good to go: Moisturizer? Check. Favorite undies? Check. Phone charger? Check. Self-protection skills? Hmmm… I know that should be here somewhere.

Face it: whether you’re coming, going, or simply staying put, if these essential life-skills aren’t part of your bag, it’s time to get some!

Never mind the self-defense terminology; think of this as Feminine Protection: you’ll want the full assortment, from every day lite to ultra Maxi Brand.

Most of you are already packing some protection — it’s called intuition. If you’ve read “The Gift of Fear” you know that you possess a built-in intelligence-gathering system equipped with warning signals that range from quiet voices in your head (uh-oh) to screeching alarms (Run!) to chilling sensations — all of which forewarn potential dangers. It’s a vital first line of defense, and it’s with you all the time, which is a very good start. But not good enough.

Not everyone has shrewd instincts and perceptions — at least not all the time. Remember, predators and victimizers (not to mention psychopaths) have majored in deception and the ability to disarm women’s warning systems so that they can slip under that radar, cozy up or encroach. Even with seconds of forewarning — which may be all you get — an average-sized man can close 21 feet of distance in 1.5 seconds. This is precisely what happened to a Seattle jogger who fought off her attacker. Her alarms went off and as she fled, he summarily attacked- and was “on her” in a heartbeat.

For those ungodly emergencies, when prevention fails or you’ve effectively been ambushed, you need Maximum Protection! Translation? Bang-up fighting skills delivered with female ferocity. (That and whatever else you might be toting.)

Before I dish out tools for your tote bag, let me share good news: Fighting back works!

Research has shown that forceful physical and verbal resistance strategies (e.g., biting, hitting, fighting back, yelling, screaming, forcefully fleeing or using a weapon, martial arts or other physical self-defense techniques) are effective in thwarting assaults on women. Moreover, these strategies do not appear to significantly increase the risk of serious injury.

Conversely, non-forceful strategies (e.g., pleading, crying, reasoning) and not resisting (e.g., freezing) are generally not effective. Some evidence suggests that passive strategies can even increase the risk of injury.

Fighting back also has mental health benefits. According to Judith Herman, M.D., author of “Trauma & Recovery,” “The women who fought to the best of their abilities were not only more likely to be successful in thwarting the rape attempt, but less likely to suffer severe distress symptoms even if their efforts ultimately failed. By contrast, women who submitted without a struggle were more likely to be highly self critical and depressed in the aftermath.”

I’m not suggesting that you should always fight back in a sexual assault. There’s no substitute for good judgment in the moment. Only you can assess all the variables. What’s most important is remembering that you possess the option to fight, and the readiness of heart and presence of mind to back it up. This means becoming physically literate in the strategies of combat.

Should you have to choose to fight back with FEMININE PROTECTION skills here are some basic principles (remember, your goal is to facilitate escape!):

  • Keep it simple. Use uncomplicated gross motor moves. Bruce Lee said, “Hack away the unessential.” Forget fancy techniques. Under the stress of highly charged emotions mixed with adrenaline and a rapidly increased heart rate, fine and complex motor skills vastly deteriorate.
  • Do it with your hips! To deliver power, get your ass into your moves!
  • Use your strengths against vulnerabilities. Why do you think Tarzan pounds his chest and not his gonads or nose, eyes or throat? Use hard body parts such as elbows, knees, fists, feet, legs, gnarly knuckles and whatever you can get your mitts on! (See slideshow photos below.)
  • Yell. Yelling increases power as much as 33 percent and can attract help. 
  • Seconds count! Seize opportunity and exploit surprise. When it’s “go time,” don’t telegraph your intent with obvious wind-up movements. Focus… then blast. Zero to 100 percent! Explode like a bullet directly into your target, not like a firecracker going off in multiple directions at once.
  • Mindset counts! Think like a Marine. Take charge! Don’t just give a smack — counter attack! Penetrate. Stomp. Gouge. Drive through. Spring into an attacker’s face like a coiled cobra.
  • Breathe. Lower your center of gravity and stay focused. If pinned, for example in a lying down position, abdominal breathing can lower your heart rate and help you collect yourself so that you can think: What part of my body is free… what targets are presenting… where is the nearest exit?
  • Overcome the fear of injury. This is hugely important. Sure, you might get hurt, but adrenaline is a wonder drug. Women give birth, for God’s sake!
  • Don’t overly rely on “stun-n-runs.” Think in succession of rapid fire moves; at least think in threes.
  • Use the environment! Whaddya got? Are there handy objects to wield as weapons or shields? Surfaces to shove off of? Can you pull a fire alarm, smash windows to attract help?

Here’s the bottom line: Decide in advance: What is worth fighting for? What is non-negotiable? Where do you draw that line?

 

Risk Reduction & Savage Skills, Yes! Victim Blaming, No!

Golda got it right: If women are to learn self defense, shouldn’t men learn self control? (I say “men” because statistically speaking it usually is.) 

First the caveat: I believe in fierce self defense. I endorse sensible risk reduction and proactive self protection, from cultivating “jungle consciousness” and heightened internal and external awareness up to and including the acquiring of emergency fight-back skills. I believe in taking responsibility for our personal safety. You’re the only one who’s with you all the time, so you’re in the best position to save yourself. If you haven’t read my Forbes guest blog, BEING NICE CAN KILL YOU, please do. It speaks volumes to where I’m coming from and to this point:

The more a woman is groomed in traditional behaviors of female socialization and platitudes of politeness the more at risk she becomes.

Okay? Now…

After the Investigation Discovery Show aired featuring my friend Keri’s brutal attack and escape in Rome using fight and flight, a flurry of critiques about her choices appeared online. What inflamed me is that it speaks to how quickly we as people and as cultures default to blaming the woman – “What was she thinking/ wearing/ doing?” – focusing on her behavior vs the deceptive, rapacious acts of the attacker. The sexual predator. You know…the guy who ruins the woman’s life. Or tries to. (Thankfully not in this case. Eat this shithead… and I’ll see you in court.. in Rome…. where you attacked me….and God knows how many other women…) 

Blaming the victim, even in subtle ways, is not only insulting and hurtful but in the words of friend and legal expert Roger Canaff, it “deepens survivor’s trauma, delays their healing, and takes the focus off of the attacker responsible for the situation in the first place.”

Psychology 101: Maybe it’s a way for people to distance themselves from the harsh reality that “it” could happen to them. That the presence of danger always exists, that bad things happen to smart, good, “God loving” women. That the upstanding guy in your ‘hood who’s kind to your kids, or the man you’ve lunched with before, who you’ve dated without incident, who fixed your faucets, or the funny guy you met yesterday while walking the dog, or the man you married is also a predator. A Dick of the worst kind.

To appreciate the harm and knee jerkery of victim blaming, look no further than this Dallas news article:  But don’t miss the trail of insightful comments:

“I wonder if those who try to blame the victims of rape, would be as ready to accept blame for being robbed or assaulted because of “reckless” behavior that caused them to be in the pathway of the criminal who robbed or assaulted them, especially [those] who are always so quick to place blame on the women victims.”

Keri is not only a hero, a smart ballsy chick who smacked down her attacker and did the unthinkable (leapt off his balcony and across slippery-sloped Italian tiled rooftops defying death) but she’s also a friend. Knowing all the details of her particular story, any perceptions of “recklessness” are off base.

I’m pissed about this, but aiming to be tactful –hence my shout out for the cessation of victim-blaming brought to you here vis-a-vis my comment (enclosed below) from one online “discussion.”

But first, a request for you dear reader. Take this phrase to heart. It bears repeating:

The presence of danger always exists. Don’t get uptight about it just comprehand it fully, then dissolve or disown any illusions you may have about otherwise realities.  

And please understand this: “No one is vulnerable to sexual violence unless a person near them means them harm.” (Key phrase = “means them harm.”) It initiates with a perp’s intent. Even when it’s a crime of opportunity. Put another way, courtesy of a colleagues student:

Question: You know why women get raped?

Answer: Because there’s a rapist in the room.

It stems from a rapist’s feelings of VIOLENT ENTITLEMENT. The right to take without consent. 

Even if you or I don’t agree with the choices a woman makes or deems some behaviors unwise or downright foolish as I sometimes do, it does not mean she shoulders responsibility for an act of violence committed against her– and this is why I’m NOT in favor of rape prevention TIPS as self defense. Because:

(A) It unduly increases female fear encouraging litanies of DON’T do this. DON’T that! Never be alone…For Chrissake people, women have lives to live. (B) More importantly it misleads women into thinking that safety from violence, rape, assault rests solely upon women’s behaviors, and this potentially then blames women. 

It’s one of the reasons why many assaults and rapes go unreported — for fear of scrutiny or blame. FACT: sexual predators and victimizers assault women all hours of the day and night. And in acquaintance or date rape (such as Keri’s foiled scenario) the attacker has has established familiarity AND already has certain proximity to his intended target. So the idea of never being alone with a predator-prick becomes a mute point.

Below is my comment– I post as “savage beauty”- which is my response to a slew of victim blaming knee-jerkery, and the overt suggestion that women of color are more naturally distrustful and would not then wind up alone with a predator or abuser. I take issue with this– and I think it misses the point for the reasons below:

MY COMMENT: savagebeautyJuly 15, 2012 11:44 AM: 

As a women’s self defense pro, as one who carries some street cred and who has spent time living in other and in developing countries, let me first say: I don’t dismiss the truth that certain experiences, upbringings, cultures and mindsets heighten female intuition and perception of potential thuggery and fuckery — and that all women need to learn and alert to potential behavioral clues and draw hard lines. It’s something I call “jungle consciousness” and it’s central to my women’s self defense teaching and paradigm.

That said, the BIGGER truth and moral in K’s story of outrageous bravery and best use of fight and flight reflexes, not to mention her outstanding presence of mind, disallowing Marco to break her down – which tragically often works- and her execution of decisive action in The Moment of Truth when seconds counts and additional meritorious actions which I could go on and on about here… the point is this: Men like her attacker Marco are VERY GOOD LIARS AND DECEIVERS–they’ve majored in deception, in disarming women’s radars and staging false realities in a very calculated fashion under great care and cover. So Keri’s story could be any woman’s story nightmare and this goes to why women MUST be trained in emergency and aggressive “last resort” self defense strategies. Because it could be you or me or a sister or BFF. 

You or I may have strict boundaries and rules and perhaps you or I would never have gone back to this man’s apt. Good! Smart! Hooray for us! (For the record, Marco  gave Keri no reason to fear him; he was a good guy when they were at his digs hours earlier.) But don’t think for a moment that it couldn’t happen to “me” meaning any of us. Instead of Marco in Rome, maybe it’s that nice fella from church who you trust. Or the new upright man who moved into your hood and he’s been kind and protective of your kids. And one day he and you are alone and his predatory stripes come out and he goes off on you expecting favors. Or attempts to rapes you. Or maybe he IS your minister/ neighbor/ electrician or other known-to-you entity.

Predators are masterful liars. They know how to BLEND IN and have majored in staging. “It” can (and does) happen to the smartest among us and because all it takes is ONE MOMENT OF weakness which we all suffer from time to time.

Let us cease all forms of victim blaming, subtle or overt. Risk reduction, YES! Smart protective measures and bang up skills, YES! Responsibility for personal safety, YES….

My friend Keri was violently attacked by a predator who has likely done this before and she had the balls and smarts to prosecute in Italian courts and may have saved many women’s lives and integrity.

I applaud her survival instincts. I could write a book about all that she did right once it all went wrong. Including how quickly she rallied her fighting spirit and arrived at a bottom line decision – which is a critical step – deciding instantly:

“What is non-negotiable? What is uncompromising and worth fighting for? What do I hold sacred?”

It’s from that deep well of spiritual resolve that we take decisive and heroic action.

I’ll close with this: Violence and sexual violence against women is pandemic. Even when women do all the “RIGHT” things we can still be victimized. Because those who will, who violate women, do so because they can. 

Let’s stop focusing on what SHE (the woman) did, stop scrutinizing her behaviors. Heighten our knowledge and senses, and acquire savage skills and learn the “tells” and behavioral clues for sure. But let’s also move the conversation onto the vile actions of the predators and hold them accountable. Maybe knock some heads and asses around, as Keri and many other women have successfully valiantly done.

We need to stand together as women regardless of background or race or ethnicity. Because in this war on women, we’re one very big hood: Woman hood.

 

 

Hara-scope: How Your Hara Can Help Your Stress

Stress.

We know it’s bad for our health and can make us sick. We’re supposed to reduce stress, ward against it, repel it like a foreign invader. Neutralize stress with exercise, breathing techniques, drugs and “happy” thoughts. (Yeah right.)

Now let’s get gritty about stress and what it does. My writer friend Jen Sexton sums it up nicely in an article for the Cape Cod Chronicle:

Stress attacks your emotional well being, bringing about feelings of fear, distrust, anger, and depression. In turn, these feelings may bring about headaches, upset stomach, insomnia, ulcers, skin rashes and eyelid twitches, not to mention the even more serious problems of hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. Stress wages war on the immune system, making us less able to resist diseases of all types. Scientists have even revealed a clear connection between stress and cancer.

OK we need to kick it’s ass. 

But you want to know what’s really stressful? F-E-A-R.

More stressful? The traumatic aftermath of violence or rape. Or living with a gnawing sense of what the fuck will I do if that bad thing happens like it’s happened to (fill in the blank with names of women you know or friends of friends or that woman on your favorite TV drama or the chick on the evening news who thought her date/ husband / the new guy down the street was just fine.)

Want to know what the best stress-buster and antidote is for THIS particular anxiety which is another word for STRESS?

Come a little closer and I’ll tell you—-and No, ‘m not gonna whisper a guided mediation in your ear or tell you to go inside and visualize wildflowers or the perfect ocean breeze.

Ready?…..

Madness. And a hearty, muscular fight and flight instinct coupled with the know- how to ACTUALLY kick ass. To stick it to the Man, so to speak, when and if he or she tries to stick it to you.  

Let’s be clear: By possessing a muscular “fight and flight” instinct I’m not talking about paranoia or creating hyper-vigilanance– that would be stress-inducing –or being knee jerk reactive, but rather having a healthy felt-awareness of your strength and of the reality of potential danger –all with a spring in your step and a va-va-voom feeling of power that lives in your hips and LOWER BODY- the Hara as it’s called in Japanese. It’s a physical and spiritual power-center located roughly two to three fingers below your belly button then smack-dab into the center of your body.

To Walk with Power and Deliver Power Drop DOWN Into Your HARA!

Think of it as your new favorite body-based locale, your go to and sometimes rush to place. It’s immediately useful–far more than Serenity OM’s– when the fear of danger, its sudden ejaculate of stress strikes your system and can overwhelm. Bummer.

This is part of WHY I’m all about our glorious LOWER half: Because fear – especially sudden fear–makes us rise out of our base. Just imagine a frightful in-breath that lingers too long at the top of the inhale. Everything rises and nothing touches down in critical  moments. This is precisely what baddies count on: to freeze your breath and get that RISE out of you. To throw you off balance in every which way. From their point of view this is a great start.

Countering this stress of fear and being ready and able to act in a jiffy – be it to fight or flee or even to speak with gravity and authority- may hinge on your ability to swiftly lower your center of gravity and drop into your HARA.

Find it. Go there. What’s your Hara-scope say?

 

Raising Fire From Fear: A Screed. A Revolution. A Manifesto in the Makings.


With a little alchemy and will power we raise fire from fear.

“The tribe that possessed fire possessed life.” — 1982 film, Quest for Fire

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”  Gustav Mahler

I love these quotes. They speak of truth and a deep reverence for what has come before.

They also speak to the power of fire as pivotal to life, as primordial. Easy to see if we zip back in time… In prehistoric days fire meant life: it meant warmth, cooked food, better tools and community. Life gathered and unfolded around fire. “Watch fires” set around dens and camps is also what helped keep predators at bay. It enabled survival, allowing our kin  to literally “take back the night.”

So vital was fire to life that tribes had literal keepers of the flame. Their task was to carry  still smoldering embers wrapped in grassy leaves and bark-wrapped bundles from camp to camp. In this manner fire was kept at the ready– ready to be re-stoked and brought back to life at the tribe’s new digs. (I imagine its classified job listing. Wanted: Reliable fellow with good lungs for ultimate BLOW JOB.)

It’s no exaggeration to say that once our ancestors learned to make fire at will and were no longer dependent upon lightning strikes or stealing fire from rival clans, it changed the course of evolution. It enabled our ancestors to then turn their attention to higher pursuits — to culture and community and to a little thing called LOVE. This all started with knowing how to kindle a flame; a flame which became a portal to a whole new life.

This is also the potential power of women’s self defense: to liberate women from their deepest survival fears–at least alleviate undue fear by being armed with skill, strategy keenly cultivated instincts – so that we can nurture and manifest our full 3-D  potential.

Mahler’s quote also relates to my urging for the preserving of fire – more specifically its UTILITY as a self defense weapon and why women need to turn this flame up a notch

In my Dharma Of Defense I speak of the elements of FIRE and ICE. This combo of forces was best described to me once by a teacher and former combatant as a need to be “on fire from the neck down and ice cold from the neck up.”

Or as I prefer to say, we need a HOT body and a COOL head. Amen to that sistahs.

Here’s the deal: If confronted or frightened you want to keep a cool head, yes! (De-escalate. Lower an aggressor’s arousal. Calmly, swiftly extricate yourself.) But if a woman has to GO PHYSICAL to escape a larger, stronger, pumped up creature intent on harm, she best be packing a charge of primal power and heat, armed with the know-how to explode into a target with the ability to source this power from loins and limbs, from her sex and her soul– and to bring it in a heartbeat. It’s a power that must be kindled from the inside out. A knowing to be kept aglow in the heart, ON at all times.

Think of this as a pilot light to be adjusted as needed–from the luminous kindle (no particular threat, life at large) to a suddenly, violently ignited whoosh. (When it’s time to go ballistic on someone’s ass.) It’s a power born of love, fury and primal survival instinct. It dwells in heart and hide; it can quicken your pulse, flash a mean heat across your face  and feed deeper life forces and desires– from the carnal to the spiritual.

Not too shabby!

Let me say: I don’t shake my head and tsk tsk or merely view this as a necessary evil as in– Isn’t it a terrible shame that women have to learn self defense stuff, have this switch turned On? NO! On the contrary I view this readied charge and female-animal potency as part of the larger constellation of life forces, as downright womanly, as part of THE FIGHTING EROS OF LIFE.

If you don’t already know this facet of yourself, let me assure you: It’s a beautiful thing – and it can save your pretty ass.

Finding and switching on this fierce female source is personal to each of us, but it’s also political with far-reaching ripple effects. When this tool is alighted by women en masse we can burn down myths and burn IN ownership of our own courageous and outrageous warrior nature- which might otherwise be crippled by fear.

A FIERY LITTLE HISTORY HERSTORY OF WOMEN’S SELF DEFENSE

It was precisely this fighting spirit that gave birth to WOMEN’S SELF DEFENSE as a movement and consciousness which was spawned in the 70’s, born of the coupling between martial arts and feminism. This was no nebbishy exercise! It arose as a   RESISTANCE MOVEMENT to combat rape, as a viable means of “taking our bodies back” and to paraphrase Black Belt Women’s Nancy Lehman, from the need to feel our force. (Oh how I love this phrase: Feel Our Force. That something as elemental as learning to protect our boundaries and bodies was deemed “RADICAL” by many… is a  telling statement indeed.)

And so this phrase coined by feminist Andrea Dworkin became an emerging war-cry:

 Resist do not comply.

Which brings me back to the quotes about FIRE and another reason WHY we need to turn this flame up a notch: When any discipline or “movement” (Yoga for example) crosses over from grassroots to mainstream and becomes commercialized, something inevitably gets lost or diminished in the process of proliferation. So too, as women’s self defense has become mainstreamed, has become Big “profit center” Business –with franchises and licenses, with weekend and online certifications–and as its been exposed to the dampening winds of political correctness, some of its ORIGINAL FIRE has dimmed, fallen by the wayside in favor of “ten easy steps” or reduced to mere exercise (don’t even get me started) or subsumed by the ubiquitous language of ‘personal safety’ —a term I fiercely resist. Not because it isn’t an accurate umbrella (who among us doesn’t want to be safer?), but because it distances from the primal heart and martial bloodline of self defense, dispatching what belongs in the realm of the senses to a higher headier mount. To a more sanitized, gentrified mindset of cautionary tips and do’s and don’ts whereby FEMALE FEROCITY– its ire and blood-pulsing might -is easily deemed irrelevant, a mere PS in the equation of “what works.”

Nonsense!

Put another way SELF DEFENSE LITE subjugates the need to feel and cultivate our force, to nurture our will and authority for “applied violence” (when needed), to ennoble and verify our own dangerous capacities and female fighting instincts.

And honestly now… personal safety?... what a lustless term. Feh! (We can do better!)

Here’s the bottom-line, my call to arms if you will, a bit trumpeting albeit:   

“As long as men are the sole agents of aggression and women are the casualties of their actions, the victims on the pointy end of men’s violent entitlements, there will NEVER be a balance of power between the sexes. Women will remain relegated to a subordinate status, too powerless or simply too fearful to resist the dominance and brutalities of others, limited by social contract and constraint in the ways in which we can express our own ferocities, yearnings, and fighting spirit.

The gig is up. We must no longer outsource our protection to men– to fathers, husbands, brothers, boyfriends or saviors in khaki or uniform blue. It’s time to bring this power home, refasten it to our womanly roots, to reap its fruits, harvest its furies and acquire the skills to Self Defend. It’s time to rekindle this flame, lionize ourselves, and raise FIRE FROM FEAR.

       Each and together may we become outposts of courage.”

BUT FIRST. SOMETIMES THE CURE LIES IN THE ILL.  

To arrive at a cure (on OUR end I mean) we need to brave the scary places, the dark corners and basement of our “what if” fears- which isn’t always unfounded mind you. Only by confronting our vulnerability – which, face it ladies, we all feel to one extent or another; we all know fear’s imprint, the toll it takes, the signature tracks it leaves in the female psyche and soma; it’s ills, indigntiies and dimiinishing effects…only THEN can we release the POWER that lies in its wake.

Let this journey happen. Grab a torch and dig in. We’re going DOWN TOWN into the primal zone where Fear and Power not only co-exist but often entwine like lovers enmeshed. And from this savage union FEROCITY awakens.

COPYRIGHT – MELISSA SOALT, 2011. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO REPRODUCTION OR COPYING WITH EXPLICIT WRITTEN CONSENT.

 

Black Belt Mag Names Me A ‘Top Five’ Tough Girl!

What’s a nice Jewish Girl like me doing on a list like this? I’ll tell you what– soaking it in and passing the message of finding and tendering YOUR INNER TOUGH GIRL! 

I was utterly surprised and honored to find my self amidst this impressive roster of formidable femmes and fighters including my hero, the lioness Kathy Long. To receive  glowing comments by Combatives legend Kelly McCann makes it that much sweeter:

Melissa is a legitimate combative talent. She’s explosive and fast. Yeah, she’s diminutive but how’d you like to get hit with a bullet her size?

And from reality-based instructor and defensive tactics trainer Lito Angelis:

…she’s the one who understands street self defense the best. She has very good mechanics. She’s a smaller person but she hits hard.

OK, self promotion over.

Tender The Tough

A few words about “TOUGH” – a phrase which has primarily been associated with men possessed of steely skills and fight. Women, it’s time to renew our claim to this word.

Armed with our love and fury, deep-seated survival instincts and fervent desires to bring justice to the world, women have always been tough, long been warriors, fighters and even deadly dames. (Hey, our gender gives birth for Chrissake!) If not in physical realms, we’ve waged formidable battles in social spheres — for the right to vote, for equality in the workplace, for reproductive rights. For our bodily integrity. And the fight goes on…

As sexual assault and violence against women continues to plague our world, it’s  incumbent upon women to GET TOUGH and nurture this potential.

First, a “get tough” clarification: Don’t equate tough with being fearless. (Fearlessness isn’t the goal; we need fear and to go without is dangerous.) Next, remove preconceptions and understand: Far beyond any particular skill set, “tough” is an attitude, a raw tenacity of heart, of strength and guts, and it’s often born in the fires and tremors of fear. Fear is in fact a frequent precursor to “tough.” (Yep, this toughee also knows this well.)

Much like beauty, toughness is sparked from the inside out. It’s often home grown, revealed under the duress of dire straits. I see this all the time with women who have NO training, yet fight like Fierce Mothers and bitches–as in canines junkyard bitches.

Take for example one of my favorite, most extraordinary success stories: When 23 year old Hong Huang was run over (twice; forward and then backward) by a truck driven by a level three sex offender who had followed her when she left her work shift in Tacoma Washington one night, she lay motionless on the ground: Her back was broken, her pelvis, cracked, her lung near collapsed and she suffered numerous facial injuries.

Despite all, when her attacker attempted to scoop her her up and throw her into his truck, she fought him off with the only weapon she had: HER FISTS! With his face in range she punched him in the eyes, pummeling the shit outta that face. He aborted his plan. Her presence of mind was extraordinary. Refusing to go into shock she took note of his features and they swiftly apprehend this motherf. She said of that fight- back moment:

“It was just like a rush of, you know, adrenaline and endorphins; everything your body does when it’s in survival mode.”

Equally memorable was the shy look on her face when retelling her story from a wheelchair weeks later. Her head slightly cocked to one side in a school girlish manner, she remarks, Well…..I guess I connected.

Damn!!!

In another list, I would dub her Queen Of Tough.

Here’s a clanking toast to gutsy women who understand that fear can and must be forged into fire and that being afraid or even terrified does NOT mean being defenseless. 

In the end, tough is not only a quality but perhaps a destination. It doesnt matter how you get here–whether you’re pushed by fear or pulled by power. What matters is that you arrrive.

Mesdames and Mademoiselles — let’s toughen up together!

 

Juicy Radio: Tune Into Dharma Of Defense w/ Deb Colitti

“Deb has in-depth conversation with experts, industry leaders, local and luminaries.”

If you’re not familiar, Deb Colitti hosts a fabulous and popular LIFE ON PURPOSE radio talk-show featuring topical guests from all walks of life, including many high profile authors and thought leaders. I was recently interviewed by Deb who’s whip smart, uber cool and she knows how to dial into the sweet spot. Oh yes!

Here’s some highlights of what we discuss:

The perils of nice-lady conditioning and how and why to get your fierce SELF back online, best uses of fear and adrenaline and what to expect when ‘it’ hits the fan plus why women must learn how to counter the terror … not just counter-attack, tips for deterrence and  boundary-setting plus the intimacy benefits of being a self defender – how this enables us to soften the hard outer shell and let more IN. Plus more juicy talk.

Here’s the bit from her site followed by the podcast itself which I hope you’ll tune into. (Approx. 17 minutes long.)

‘Dharma, Dogma & Self-Defense’
Melissa Soalt AKA Dr. Ruthless is an award-winning self defense expert, former psychotherapist and a Black Belt Hall of Fame recipient. She is widely respected for views on the “DHARMA of DEFENSE” and her no-nonsense methods, emotional depth, and unabashed call for all women to become physically literate in self-protection and to embrace, not shun, their KILLER INSTINCT.

http://soundcloud.com/debcolitti/the-deb-colitti-show-dharma-5

More MEDIA NEWS SOON– and it’s a DOOZY! Stay tuned here…