Looking For Power In All the Wrong Places: To Find Your Fierce Look To Your Heart

   about-bottomRecently I was reviewing some quoted material and found this. It speaks to what I call The BIG SHIFT.

 “Real personal safety calls for nothing less than the re-awakening of instincts that allow for early recognition of danger, the skills and strategies to diffuse and escape violence, and the ability to mobilize deep-seated primal powers to fight off attack. 

It commands a monumental shift in women’s self perceptions, the channeling of intense emotions, unlocking a power and authority women often don’t know they posses. It taps into what Soalt calls, Fierce Love and a knowing in one’s heart: What is worth fighting for? What is non-negotiable? Where do I draw that line? ” 

Self Defense From The Inside Out.

I want to be kick ass! women blurt out with gusto. Great!, I say. But understand this: Self defense is an inside-out job. Before branding ourselves toughees we need to confront our feelings of vulnerability – otherwise known as ‘the female fear’ – which quietly lurks in the background of women’s lives.

Imagine for a moment that you are under attack. That your words and best efforts at peaceful persuasions have failed, that escape is not an immediate option, that terror has seized your heart with such a mighty force that you can barely stand, think, breathe…

Now hit the pause button.

Here’s the critical question: “If under attack, where will YOU go inside yourself to mobilize the focus and presence of mind to effectively act; to unfreeze your fear, activate power and call up courage with the whole of your heart? (Not to mention contending with the effects of an adrenaline-spiked cocktail pumping through your veins which can just as easily hijack your thinking-brain as gift you with super power.)

How will you collect yourself and command your emotions to rally in formation, your subatomic self forging an iron will? And do this in a heartbeat because seconds count.

If you secretly imagined that you’d crumble or get stuck in the freeze —  and if so, I assure you: you are in VERY good company!- ditch that image, and prepare to re-imagine…What if you knew that in a pinch, you could become a dangerous dame and effectively be your own best protector and self defender? 

The Good News Answer: You can and need to be. There IS such a place, a go-to zone and a way to rapidly mobilize skill and power. The path to arousing female power is akin to arousing female desire. It taps into a complex network of feelings, a circuitry not only rooted in biology and the brain but also intimate places spanning our loins and limbs, heart and soul. It’s a primal ‘heat’  that lives far below the topsoil of our everyday ‘nice lady’ selves, our cover-girl veneer. Yet for many, the capacity to BE the aroused warrior has atrophied or become dormant, buried beneath fear or conditioning of one kind or another, subsumed by the artificial constructs of femininity and by socialization which favors women’s nurturing, do-no-harming nature. So it needs to be unearthed, reinstalled, and turned back ON. Then kept on like a pilot light’s flame which can be adjusted as needed. Because in the Moment of Truth all systems must be GO! 

What’s Been Amiss: Looking for Power in all the Wrong Places


The biggest problem and “miss” (especially for women) in the larger martial and self defense world is that power has traditionally been influenced if not defined by men and the male mindset. That’s a mouthful I know.
What I mean is this: the male self defense paradigm has largely focused on an external constellation of power: the strong muscular body, the high-powered martial moves, the pumped and steely mindset as the primary ways and means of sourcing and delivering power, and succeeding in self defense and by extension in the ‘battle’ of life. 

While strength, moves and mindset are vitally important, they aren’t the whole story of power, nor necessarily the most critical components for women who typically lack the luxury of greater size and strength and often the mental or social conditioning to ‘return fire’ if they need to go physical. 

The Female Way

For most women, sourcing power and warrior spirit is INTERNAL and connected to feelings. It is as much about working “in” as working out.

It entails calling up will-power and courage from our deepest emotional reserves, descending into the basement of our being to access strength and grit. It means pulling power from terror and fury itself and bringing this fire into our fight.

In other words, for women, the directive to physically self defend doesn’t just originate in our bodies and brains or from knowing strategies in our heads or even from the fight/ flight effects of adrenaline.


It often arises in a completely different organ: The Heart. It arrives via the emotional and feeling body. And from a place that is both spiritual in nature AND rooted in survival instincts which must be leveraged in our defense.

Once a woman discerns where she draws that line, deciding what is not negotiable, uncompromising, and worth fighting for, this retrieval of power can happen in a heartbeat.

The Power of LOVE  

Women often discover their greatest strengths and abilities through feelings of love. Where there is love, there is ferocity which naturally arises to then protect what a woman loves or holds sacred. Be it safeguarding her boundaries, her body, her own life or the lives and sovereign dignity of her loved ones.


When I talk about “ferocity” I don’t mean a hate-filled emotional recklessness but rather a powerful surge of forceful, directed, maddening energy – whether it’s driven by fear, fury, love or survival. It’s a willful uninhibited force. It is the fevered taste, the already whetted appetite of a hungry lioness; it’s what allows us to punch, tear or claw our way out of darkness or an overwhelming life crisis.

Ferocity is that BIG bolus of juice, of toughness that enables us to swim upstream and fight uphill aided by defiance, a certain gnash in the teeth, and a singular focus to see our way through to the other side.

In context of self defense its purpose is to preserve life and dignity — not to ‘teach him a lesson or make ’em pay.’ It is not rooted in revenge.

The thing about ferocity is that it not only boosts physical strength, but dissolves inhibitions, hosing out obstacles and rallying the will. So it’s a superpower akin to what has traditionally been termed “killer instinct’ — a phrase that still chafes against women’s empathetic nature and sense of connected-ness, including my own. (Yes, even I, plucky brave-hearted leader, have a hard time spitting out the term “killer instinct” and I much prefer “ferocity” and “dangerousness.”)

In the end, perhaps ferocity isn’t just an attitude but a destination. A go-to place and primordial state of being that is au naturalle and organic like the ferocity of childbirth. For women, this ‘state’ needs to become second nature, a second soul-home.

Get Your Mojo Pumping and Back Online 

Although many can teach tactics and tools, Soalt believes that only a female can bring other women into this ‘primal zone’ within themselves. The courage and skills to safeguard boundaries and summon one’s might in the face of fear is best — and most directly–transmitted and realized through a female role model….”

Below are my essential four components and means to realizing this potential, to clearing the path, reinstalling your power, deflating your fear, working with your emotions, and arriving at that sweet spot, where the outermost layers of fear burn off to reveal something far more fearsome. It’s Womanly. It’s Primal. Read on……”

Survival like romance must capture our hearts.



Harmony or Else. Why We Need to Re-boot & Celebrate our Survival Instincts.


I’ve curated many self defense “success” stories over the years. Some have effected me in the deepest of ways, aligning with my reverence for female disobedience and women’s innate capacity to call upon their primal nature in times of danger, even doing what some might deem unthinkable. (For a female I mean.)

As an example, this story – Nurse Kills Home Intruder – admittedly made my bosom heave. In case you missed it, in 2011, Susan Walters, a then 51 year old Oregon nurse, returned home from work one day to encounter an intruder wielding a claw-hammer. He quickly attacked, striking her in the head and face. Our girl gave as good as she got: she attacked back and wrested his weapon away. In the throws of what became a deadly ground fight, she strangled him… to death… with her bare hands. Police found the then 59 year-old intruder heaped on the floor. Good thing: this guy was no mere intruder but a hit man with a lengthy rap sheet who’d been hired by her hubby to kill her.

       “Walters knew she temporarily had the upper hand, and if she continued to apply                  pressure the man would eventually stop breathing, but she offered him a way out. “I            said, ‘Tell me who sent you here, and I will call you an ambulance,’” Walters said. “I            wanted him to be afraid, as terrified as I was.” 

When my fists stopped pumping the air, I printed out the story and filed it into my folder — Deadly Dames.

I’m now in contact with Susan discussing the possibility of collaborative work or interviews. She will always have to live with the fact that she took someone’s life, but as she says with clarity and wisdom: “I didn’t choose my attacker’s death. I chose my life.”

Amen to that, sister.

Survival like romance must capture our hearts.

I get it: The potentiality of violence – including from ‘loved ones’ and those we know– is an unattractive topic. It’s much easier to talk about life skills that sell women’s magazines: Dating, cooking, becoming a happier or fit person, who’s doing who, or “How to Shed Ten Pounds in time for The Holidays!”

(Ironic isn’t it, that publications billing themselves as empowering for women, featuring bold faced tips on “how to make friends with your body” are also chock full of toothpick-thin models and headlines urging women to “lose that ugly belly fat now!”)

The truth is: no one who wants to think that some day violence may be visited upon them. It’s my observation that women often assume they could talk their way out, after all women have majored in “talk” and “empathy.” While these are great strengths and useful self protection tools, allowing us to develop a rapport that might in fact lower an aggressor’s arousal, talk and empathy aren’t always saving graces– they can also be a hindrance. We need additional tools including forceful and explosive ones. And that has become my Major, my contribution, which I enthusiastically pass to other women.

Some think of this place as the dark side, but I call it home — literally. At my house, an overnight guest might find a push dagger and chocolates under her pillow and discover books on Close Quarters Combat sharing coveted bathroom space with Buddhism Today and Bon Appetite.

But it’s the totems on my nightstand that speak most directly to our fierce female endowment. First are photos of my beloved nephews: One glance at their faces and — pardon the gush — I beam with a radiant luminescence that outshines my most expensive haute couture sheen. At the base of their photos lies another love — my trusty Afghan knife, which I bought 40 years ago in the old Kabul market. It’s a small knife, seven inches from its pointy tip to the bottom of its curved wooden handle, with an odd ripple in its blade where the metal was hammered too hard, too thin. I remember the first time I slept with this knife and awoke to find my hand glued to its handle, its carved old wood, and how survival, like romance had captured my heart. I know this Beast Girl part of myself intimately and could no more divorce this primitive endowment than I could amputate a limb. Or disown my maternal and empathetic nature.

This isn’t just my story, my truth, or interior motif- it’s your story too and that is why I tell it.

Decades have passed since my foray into the martial arts. I can say with pride, women have come a long way. Heck, when I was growing up being prepared meant leaving home with clean underwear and change for a phone call. The best advice du jour? Throw up on your attacker.

Today, for every female on TV who ineffectually pummels an assailant’s chest another one dishes out punishing blows or just shoots the asshole. We’re past this damsel in distress stuff, right? So why does my enthusiasm still meet with resistance — and not just from men?

Maybe it’s the glint in my eye but when I tell choice stories — like the co-ed who stuck her scissors in her assailant’s “motherfucking guts;” or my student who cracked her attacker’s head against the bumper of her car then made pulp out of his groin; or when I gush about power, how learning to stomp and kick and slam just plain feels good, I can nearly hear a few uteruses sputter and spasm — in shock, not pleasure. “A fighting art?” quipped one old friend. “What’s wrong with yoga or poetry?”  Nothing! I retort. It’s all good. We are multi-dimensional beings with infinite potentials, not one note on the flute. 

So where do we get this cockamamie notion that women are all-beatific, do-no-harmers with nary a virulent, aggressive or power-loving bone? (Let me be blunt: If I had a twenty for every woman who lit up after delivering thwacking, penetrating blows, this wouldn’t be a blog but dinner with Dr. Ruthless, my treat.)

       This disavowal and disconnect is not only insidious but poses real threats. 

Besides, what could be more natural, more in tune with Mother Nature than knowing how to bash back and not become prey or fodder for a victimizer’s amusement?

Then there’s the incompetence argument — that a woman will only get hurt worse if she fights back. Of course fighting back carries risks. Yes, you might get hurt; but doesn’t getting raped, beaten or traumatized also constitute injury? Strategies aside, this archaic attitude reinforces the age-old pas-de-deux: Men are the protectors; women are the protectees. In other words, you, a wussy female, are defenseless against attack. Got it?

Tell that to the Chicago woman who (brace yourselves, fellas) bit off her would-be rapist’s balls. Compassionate soul that she was, she even brought his testes to the police station… in a baggie! Not to sound crass, but can we imagine the floss job?

Oh please, who said we can’t be outrageous and serious.

I’m not suggesting that fighting back is the solution to violence against women — of course not! — or that it’s always effective or the best option. Or that it takes the place of an urgently needed global shift in the male mindset of violent entitlement, the privilege to “take” without consent or to abuse women and girls. But what I am saying is this: when you boil it down, the answer to why men violate women, or each other, may be simpler than we think: those who will, do it because they can. When we discourage women from learning violent means of self defense we inadvertently encourage them to submit to victimization — not to mention suffering the traumatic aftermath. Distancing from our own lifesaving capacity for the use of force, keeps women unduly fearful of men and their powers. And it diminishes our Selves. And our collective future.

The gig is up. To be safer and self possessed and to pass power to our daughters we must become literate in the strategies of combat.

So here’s my new rule: Instead of shunning aggression I propose we view it as a resource and learn to wield its tools — just as Susan and many others have done, standing up to violence and taking it down or out.  In my more sinister Buddhist moments, I liken my gospel to full contact compassion, so if that helps you, all the better.

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, FL - 1983: Caribbean-American writer, poet and activist Audre Lorde lectures students at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Lorde was a Master Artist in Residence at the Central Florida arts center in 1983. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, FL – 1983: Caribbean-American writer, poet and activist Audre Lorde lectures students at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Lorde was a Master Artist in Residence at the Central Florida arts center in 1983. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Archive Photos/Getty Images)











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