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)











Click to see My Mother, meaning original, youtube: 

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.


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.”


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.”


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.