One of the things that seem to stand out for everybody when doing any of the Shivworks courses like the one I did this weekend in Charlotte, NC is the evolutions. Everyone attending ends up learning unbelievably internal things about themselves where they previous thought very differently. An evolution or “Thunderdome” is where you put on a couple of soft shell helmets with a clear face guard and basically go to town using the skills you have learned up to that point. You might be set up with a specific situation, or you might have a training weapon, but everyone there is going pretty much 70-75%. I am not going to lie, I felt I was going 90-100% out of desperation. You are basically getting the crap beat out of you in the safest way possible for the sake of training. It’s fast, gassing no matter how athletic you are, and eye opening. The thing that is the most interesting is that no matter the experience in the room, and I have been privileged enough to watch several certified and uncertified bad asses fight for a knife, it is always ugly. There are no elegant fights.
I sent a video of one of my evolutions to my two oldest daughters. It was a two person attack where I had to reach and control my concealed training knife. My oldest texted me back and said she could, “barely stomach,” watching it because it made her so anxious. I understand that sentiment exactly, its even worse in person. The last evolution round of the weekend was started off by GI Joe, a Jiu Jitsu YouTube celebrity named Eli (I had no idea who he was until I was telling my husband and he fan-girled all over him) and Nate who could definitely hold his own and told the weirdest/grossest damn stories (I will never unhear about the shoe and spit). GI Joe was at the ECQC (Extreme Close Quarters Concepts) class in Missouri and had come into Charlotte specifically for the Edged Weapons Overview by Craig Douglas. He is an Army Ranger and is attending the classes for teaching purposes. Since we have now attended two courses together we are now friends, I mean he may think differently but…. Just ask Michael about my forced friendship. LOL!
At this course Craig had a right hand man named Scott Oates whose specialty is in talking trash, not necessarily that he is a retired Navy Seal and 2nd degree BJJ holder, just trash talking. He definitely held a comic relief in certain situations that made it feel like home. When talking trash it is a definite, “takes one to know one,” thing and dark humor tends to alleviate being uncomfortable for me….. As a family man and father of three he offered up different perspectives like having children with you in dangerous situations and that information to me was invaluable. Being a mom I am constantly thinking about scenarios and the, “What if?” situations for self defense when that third party is such precious cargo. He has also owned a restaurant, an MMA gym, and did a pilot episode for HGTV since he and his wife are contractors in Virginia Beach. Seriously I feel super under accomplished in life….
GI Joe, Eli, and Nate started off the last evo’s for the course and it was violent. There is no way else to describe it. I was there watching and my heart rate spiked just being a wall of Thunderdome. Everyone is there to test their skill level, what they have learned that weekend, and just a general, “what would you do?” And here is the thing, every evo after that was exactly the same savage way. I am not going to lie, it crossed my mind to sit it out. I actually asked Craig half joking, “has anyone ever puked in those helmets?” I was assured it would flow out the breathing holes….
My previous evolution was the hardest. It was about striking back hand with a knife and the man against me popped my helmet back so many times I feel I may permanently be looking at the ceiling. The point I am trying to make is that I don’t care what skill level you are, the scuffle is not pretty. GI Joe holds a brown belt and Eli, a black belt in jiu jitsu as well as training in many other things; they were still rolling around with hard, fast, ugly hits. It wasn’t coordinated, no specific move was pulled from their repertoire of martial arts history, hell breathing through those helmets I am not even sure athleticism played too much into it when you are are dealing in adrenaline. Everyone seemed to gas out at the same time. ALL evolutions were ugly. ALL fights are ugly, they aren’t this dreamscape choreographed plethora of showy shit as if Chuck Norris and Steven Segal were making out, it’s a scuffle of flailing violent limbs. There were Navy Seals, Krav Maga instructors, several black belts in BJJ, three rather successful YouTuber’s on a variety of all things fighting; they were all ugly and stupid fast.
Edged Weapons overview is set up to basically tell you there is no good knife fight. Women tend to carry knives more than guns because they feel safer, hell I carry a knife more often than a gun. However after this class I am not saying I wouldn’t keep one on me, but am more inclined to conceal carry more. The thing that is most magical though about this class is how quickly Craigs curriculum can bring a person with little to no knife defense skills and have them fairly on par with most of the group in the room. There were a couple of people there with little to no experience in martial arts and they did not look clumsy in their last evo. Ugly just like everybody else? Yes, but not clumsy. This leads in to my next point.
One of the things I have heard a lot from people is that you cannot teach self defense to women in two or three hours. I agree. I cannot teach them everything they need to know for every situation out there in two hours; you know why? I can’t even teach myself everything I need to know for every situation, period. What I can do, and feel I have met many skilled people who will back me up on this, is trim the fat on the crap stuff and get to the meat of what they would really be facing and how to head it off to get them started. That I can do in two hours. I want to teach a woman to think through her adrenaline and have action. Craigs first three to four hours of both ECQC and EWO are all about deescalation tactics. He goes through what are the more likely scenarios, two man attacks, voice fluctuation uses, and arcing to keep a person at a distance. He does this perfectly broken down so that each action builds on the next and it is brilliant. That is the meat and potatoes.
EWO was hard. In my opinion it was significantly more difficult than the ECQC class. Mentally I had to talk my brain into not justifying the thought of stopping especially after watching the start of the last evolutions. Physically EWO is two eight or more hour days which is about six hours less than ECQC but those two days are a constant go. I was flat out exhausted. Craig is extremely clear with the first goal of always, “Stay on your feet and stay conscious,” and then builds with knife defense of, “Get them off of you, keep them off of you.” In the words of GI Joe, “I don’t think there is a question that this is some of the best training out there.” I am inclined to agree, but it is still ugly.
End Note: The people hosting, Fit To Fight, were amazing. All those who attended the class I felt incredibly privileged to meet and train with. The Fit to Fight crew were so impressive that I was planning on including them in this article, but felt I needed to give them their own. So more on that to come!
End Note End Note: Apparently if I want to be all tactical this would be called an AAR… I am changing the name to EIR or Ego Injury Report because that’s truly what it is….
A week ago I was getting a long time coming tattoo at Brickhaus Tattoo Studio in Joplin, MO. I was joking with the artist, Brody about the real bruisers that come in saying they just fall asleep when they get work done. We were teasing about typical tough guy rhetoric when he said that when someone talks of falling asleep in his chair he tells them he will stop work. He will not tattoo someone that cannot give consent to what is done to their body. The likelihood of a person sleeping while getting their tattoo is pretty unlikely and it had not happened to him before, but he had thought through that concept and though we were joking about it, he was very serious as well.
Historically consent is convoluted, hell it wasn’t until 1999 where a law changed in Italy stating that a woman couldn’t be raped if she was wearing jeans because they were too hard to be removed without help from the victim and therefore it must have been consensual. Literally what she was wearing would have affected the outcome of whether or not a rapist was charged. I am constantly amazed at how mixed up the human brain can make consent. I had posted in a previous article about the numbers of reported rapes and based off of the fact above about clothing its not a far off assumption to guesstimate that the numbers are actually much much higher.
In college this get much more muddied for women. “80-90 percent of sexual assault reported by college women are perpetuated by someone known to the victim; about half occur on a date. The most common locations are the man’s home or the women’s home in the context of a party. Half of all student victims do not define the incident as “rape.” This is especially true when no weapon was used, there is no obvious physical injury, and alcohol was involved.” September 30, 2008 National Institute of Justice
In my early 20’s I had dated a person for a couple months rather casually. Though we had never had sex I had stayed at his house a few times when I had had too much to drink and was unable to drive home. We broke up and hadn’t seen each other for a couple months when I ran into him at a bar. Falling into that routine of going to his house unable to drive, I passed out in his home. I woke up to the worst and while crying and trying to leave I was called a, “bit*h” who had “asked for it.”
Fathers and husbands and brothers reading this please know that my story is so incredibly common. In fact I would say about 80 percent of women I know have a similar story of sexual assault; consent was taken from them. I really think the numbers here would astonish you. While initially writing this I thought about asking women who share a similar narrative to leave a check mark in the comments just to see the sheer numbers.
So is this article about self defense? Sort of, awareness about these situations, but also an explanation to simplify the murky waters of consent for women. The reason for this is while that happened in my early 20’s it wasn’t until I was in my early 30’s where I was able to separate what I did from what he did. I never reported it, I never thought of it as rape. But it was. It was. Ladies, understand, it was.
In an earlier article I had wrote about the profound number of women who freeze during sexual assault. The psychological aspect is much harder for them to overcome than the physical. They feel guilty because they didn’t fight him off, even though their body physically reacted by freezing. Now think of that last sentence with knowing most won’t report it for that very reason. And again, why would they? When historically you could have been asked what you were wearing or did you fight them off? Did you get in the car? Did you go to his house? Did you play strip poker with him? None of those things have anything to do with the other persons actions. We have convoluted an incredibly simple concept. I thought for years it wasn’t rape because I was the one who drank too much. Had I not been drunk, it would not have happened. And yes, that is true. I made a mistake, those were my actions, but getting drunk was not illegal and was something I was doing to myself. Rape is illegal and is something another person is doing to an unwilling or unconscious victim. Lets switch this all out with I was drunk and he killed me. Should he go to jail for murder? You bet your ass. Your actions do not negate his. Please please please understand this. When this finally clicked in my brain this staggering weight was lifted off my shoulders. My legal actions did not cross off his illegal ones. This was not a math problem of consequence for MY actions, HE was wrong.
I got my first experience of large techno clubs when I moved to Florida after my first year in college. This is where I date myself and say at the time Kylie Minogue’s big hit was, “I Just Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” and we were a group of about three girls and five guys in huge Miami club. One of the women with us was single and beautiful. She seemed to be having a great time sitting with some guys she just met. We had only been there maybe 30 minutes; she could not have had more than a couple of beers when she started to slide off her stool. Her pupils were dilated and she flat out could not walk. Luckily we had all been mildly watching her and went straight over to grab her and help her out to the car. The guys at the table acted really strange. They said they would take care of her and that she was fine when she clearly was not. We left, she vomited the entire night, and was ill the rest of the weekend. I had heard at the time of girls being roofied in college, but honestly it wasn’t a concern at all of mine. I never watched my drinks, I would take mixed drinks from strangers, it just wasn’t a fear. Frankly it truly wasn’t a fear even after I saw the effects of it, it just was a thing that happened. Later the dawning of the what if’s are like a flood.
That was over fifteen years ago. The drugs are so much more sophisticated now. Several months ago I was working out the ideas of Healthy Buffalo at Boarsnest in Rogers, AR. I had spent several nights there writing out my thoughts and objectives when a man came over and inquired about what the heck a person was doing staring at a computer screen for hours on end at a bar. I explained what I was trying to do and when I mentioned the lack of date rape drug knowledge out there Chuck told me he runs I-N-Out Screening Services, a drug and alcohol screening company. He said that when you go to the hospital after a sexual assault that they may run a date rape panel, but most hospitals only test for about 10 drugs through urine or blood. He later emailed me his panel and there are over 50 date rape drugs out there. I was floored. He wanted the word out there to women because he had heard stories that they were told they were not drugged, and had they gone into his business they could have tested via hair follicle and shown they likely were.
Another story while working on this was a girl I met at a coffee shop. She told me her freshman year of college there was a night she was wandering around downtown Fayetteville, AR completely blitzed after only one drink, her friends found her and brought her back to the dorms where she puked up black stuff all night long. She remembers none of it. This could have ended tragically in so many ways. These girls were scared because they had fake ID’s and didn’t want to get in trouble so they just threw their friend in the shower and did not take her to get checked out. Yeah she wasn’t sexually assaulted, but who the hell knows what she ingested and it could have killed her.
Ladies I am not telling to to walk around in fear. I don’t want you paranoid, I want you empowered. I am not asking you to stop wearing heels so you can always be prepared to run. I am not asking you
wear your hair a certain way to make it less likely for an attacker to grab. However there are things you can do to prevent and be aware at parties, bars, etc.
Watch your drink. Watch your drink. I don’t care if you are with friends and you have to go to the bathroom, DO NOT leave your drink. Finish it first or don’t, throw it away, and go pee. Come back and order another one.
Cover your drink. This applies to ALL drinks, including pop and water.
If you start to feel light headed or dizzy seek help immediately.
If someone is buying you a drink, go with them to get it. Watch it from the bartender. Watch your shots being made. I know in the mix of a party or a busy bar this can be tricky, but make it a priority.
Have a person designated to be sober. Have them not just be the driver but the watcher. Here’s the thing, If your friends aren’t willing to take a turn to do this then they aren’t very good friends and you should probably find new ones. If you aren’t willing to do the same, then you aren’t either.
Step in if you see something suspicious. Ladies look out for each other. If your friend cannot sit straight in a chair she is in no way capable of giving consent to ANYTHING. Even if they are a stranger, tell the bartender, bouncer, call 911, get descriptions. DO NOT follow them out alone.
And though I likely don’t need to say this to the men reading here since they are subscribed to a women’s self defense page, but in the world of consent, be like Brody and don’t tattoo anyone who is sleeping.
If you or a friend has been sexually assaulted please reach down for the warrior inside and report. I know its terrifying, I know the feelings of misplaced guilt. There is amazing momentum going around the world right now, lets keep the support and knowledge of this going. RAINN Sexual Assault hotline can help 1-800- 656-HOPE. If you need a friend to go with you or to encourage you in any way, I am available day or night 479-899-3330
I went to Charlotte NC this weekend for an EWO or edged weapons overview course by Craig Douglas. It was hard. Amazing, but hard. (Article on this class as well as the amazing people and facility that hosted to follow Ryan Hoover) I hit a point on the second day where I was really warring inwardly with myself; wondering whether I could keep going, I knew I was going to mentally but just couldn’t figure out how I was going to be able to do it. I called my husband on lunch break and got to face time the kids and it made me feel a little more upbeat, but it wasn’t until after we got off the phone 40 minutes later that Ryan Erwin sent me this picture and I started cracking up. It was such a typical pose of my sweet Rose that I couldn’t help but just laugh and immediately start to feel more like I could rally. That is what gave me that extra push; just a small funny photo to give me a boost to keep going and to keep lighthearted about it. To enjoy and cherish what I had at home and was privileged to be learning in Charlotte. Also to remind me why I was doing what I am doing. I have six daughters ranging in ages from late twenties all the way down to Rose here who is two. I want to set the example of doing hard things, to keep going, to persevere. When things seem insurmountable to take a step back, regroup, call in support from your tribe. And know that sometimes what may seem like a small gesture like a photo of a pouty, sassy, two year old can be the one thing that helps another have the courage to take the next bite of their elephant.
A couple of years ago my boys and I were walking the Joplin mall. Henry, my youngest at the time, was 2, Gratton was 6, and Cole was 15. We live on forty acres and for the most part my kids run wild; I don’t really know what shenanigans they get up to on a nice day but when out in public I am basically a helicopter parent on speed. My kids are never outside of three feet of me in a store. I had squatted down to look at something as Henry eased himself onto my lap when in my peripheral I saw a tall man standing three feet away. Thinking nothing of him, I noted he was bald, mid 30’s, dressed in a tucked in t-shirt and construction boots, I smiled and thought to myself, this poor guy, his wife dragged him into a craft store. We went to the counter got our materials and left. We wandered across the way to Old Navy and when we came back out to the atrium the same man was standing right outside. I glanced at him and then made my way to the right towards TJ Maxx. We circled the normal route inside the store following traffic flow and when I approached the men’s section right before the checkout counter my neck felt hot and prickly. I snapped my head up and ended up staring straight into that same mans eyes only five feet away. I kept his gaze and sharply yelled at my boys, “Boys! Here right now!” I kept looking and held Henry’s hand when he turned around and quickly left.
Did I overreact? Was I being paranoid as the police station said when I called and they played the crazy placating factor of, “ma’am, you know when you walk in a mall in several different stores you are likely to see the same faces…..?” Thank you sir…. I had never thought of that. Weird. I really don’t think so. See in the last store his actions were not normal, he didn’t follow the route, he stood entirely too close to me twice in two different stores, and when confronted with an assertive look and forceful speech he turned around and hightailed it out of there. I guess he didn’t find what he was looking for or he couldn’t get it. I am banking on the latter.
The name Healthy Buffalo came about late one night over vodka and sodas while brainstorming with my friend Annie. I was trying to explain what my concept was though I am sure three drinks in it was probably more of an over explanation with large sweeping gestures and a tumped glass….. I had been thinking of animals and how nature protects itself from predators and how we weren’t that different. I wanted women to be the healthy buffalo in the middle of the herd blending in for safety, it was just ironic and damned funny I thought at the time that I was comparing us girls to, in a sense, large hairy cows. If you are a sick buffalo or a weak one, you fall to the back of the herd and end up easily picked off by wolves. They circle and bite at the buffalo nipping until all its energy is drained and then they step in for the kill. Originally I was playing with the idea of how my goal was to give women an extra few seconds that could save their lives in an altercation. I was thinking of calling it Two Second Edge, however that sounded too much like a male reproduction problem, thus Two Second Edge became Healthy Buffalo. Annie and I giggled and toasted to the new name. The very next day she presented me with the turquoise logo that you see today, I was hooked. She is very good at her job, check her out at Living Water Co.
One of my friends showed me this video recently of a leopard stalking a deer. Even though the leopard was fast, outweighed the deer, and could likely take it head on, it actually snuck around and waited till the deer laid down to rest. Then it crept up behind taking its life with a quick bite to the neck. No damage to the leopard at all, dead deer. Why? Because nature. Predators do not want a difficult kill. They want simple, easy, and moving on with their day. A fight? Not really what they want, they reserve that for when they need to move up on the alpha scale to show they are the top dog. Human predators pick women who look like easy prey. Ones that look distracted or weak, or as in last weeks article, incapacitated and unable to fight back.
In karate I remember learning move after move of how to get out of wrist grabs. I thought it was kind of dumb at the time only because I could not wrap my head around the fact that a man would actually grab a wrist to control a women when it truly is so easy to get out of. I started asking several men in my life and random ones while out (I got some weird side eyed looks, but hey, research…) about how they would control a woman they were trying to forcefully get to go with them? Some said fireman’s carry, but it was too flashy and they would get caught with the ruckus, some said bear hugs from behind, my dad said he would just punch her in the face to knock her out and transport her. Please remember this was a hypothetical question about control and putting themselves in a predators mindset. Though they answered honestly all were uncomfortable with the thought. These are good guys having to think about themselves doing something heinous and it didn’t settle well. One thing that stood out the most was that I would say 60% of the men I asked stated they would simply grab the woman by the wrist and pull her where they wanted. That blew my mind. I couldn’t figure how they actually thought the woman would just go with them. Why? What was their thinking? Well the answer is going to likely piss you off but it is true.
You know how you hold a toddlers hand across the parking lot for safety? You know your grip can control the child, you know that you have a solid hold and have authority over their actions, well that’s the same subconscious mentality of a man with a wrist grab. They believe deep down in their bones they have the power and for the most part, according to statistics, they actually do. They are confident in their control and women go along with it like a toddler. It’s either the concept of hope or the power of suggestion; it works with a shirt grab as well. People follow people more confident than themselves and women have this hope that if they comply then they won’t get hurt. More often than not if you make it difficult for them, they might not even try in the first place. Or women feel because this person is so confident in their grab that they themselves have no way of escaping. Either way when you stand up in defiance to the abuser their confidence can be shattered, or at the very least they don’t want to draw attention to themselves.
Frank McCourt wrote the book Angelas Ashes as an autobiography. In one of the chapters he tells the story of being present when his mother gave birth to his third or fourth brother. The midwife couldn’t make it for some reason and she only had his dad to assist her. The baby was born blue and not breathing. Frank remembers his dad grabbing the infant and immediately sucking on its nose then spitting on the floor. Turns out the baby had mucus clogged up his nasal passageway. Here is the thing, his dad was illiterate and if I remember right, didn’t even make it past the third grade in school so how in the hell did he know to do that? Hell for that matter how was he cool as a cucumber while catching a baby? The answer is animals remember? We have instincts that tell us when we are in danger or when we need to act quickly, though it seems here lately in light of self help books we tend to ignore those prickling sensations, that small voice of logic, and it seems we have dulled an important natural sense.
I read a quote here recently though I have scoured the internet trying to find out who said, its very popular but no one seems to know the author. Sorry for the lack of cite… but the quote is this, “Never discredit your gut instinct. You are not paranoid. Your body can pick up on bad vibrations. If something deep inside you says something is not right about a person or situation, trust it.”
I had a man hit on my friend Aileen and I one night in my early 20’s. It was nothing at the time to have strangers buy us drinks and we weren’t exactly careful. As stated in previous article, I had seen date rape drugs in action, it just seemed that it never registered to me to be cautious. In this instance though this incredibly attractive man gave a super cheesy pick up line of, “Well hello, if it isn’t Snow White and Sleeping Beauty…” yeah, I know…. However he managed to pull even that off, he shook hands with Aileen first and then reached out for mine. As soon as our palms touched I could not let go fast enough. Everything in me for some reason wanted nothing to do with him. My brain had instant alarms ringing to get away and get away fast. I pulled from his grip quickly and though it pissed off my friend, I said I wanted to go home immediately, I didn’t care how rude I sounded. We left and I never saw him again. Was he a serial killer? Was he a rapist? Hell I don’t know, we will never likely know. However, I was an oblivious young girl who let strangers buy her drinks all the time, walked to her car alone, and had I a cell phone, I likely would have been looking at it at the time unfazed and uncaring of the dangers around me. But, my natural instinct howled loud and proud that night and wanted to be heard with that man. You are an animal, listen to yourself. Be the healthy buffalo, hell be the feral kitty if that’s what floats your boat, but never ignore that baser gut punch screaming to get out of there.
Author- Christun Erwin
"Thank you for your words. They make an impact and its important that, human to human, woman to woman, mother to mother... you know that you make a difference, even to those you never knew your words" -Krystal