Today I was googling, “Mother’s fighting off an attack with children present,” for reasons I will get into here in a minute. I was genuinely curious as to what would pop up on such a vague search. It was not at all what I expected. On the very first page you will see not one, but two different articles with the headline going something to the effect of, Mom Fends Off Cougar to Save Her Children. At first I thought this was the same story, but no, one was in Canada with the other in Colorado. If that wasn’t enough there was also an article of a mother fighting off a bear to protect her kids. A freaking bear. All on page one.
We lived in rural Washington about 6 years ago. Male mountain lions would come down from the Cascades looking for territory and cute little baby lambs. Neighbors would pass grapevine information to each other and you would quickly hear when one was in the area if a rancher lost a sheep or two or three. It was during that time that you would maybe tell your kiddos they were playing inside for a couple of days until you learned the situation had been taken care of. These were no idle threats so the idea of coming across one of them by myself let alone with my babies was daunting. Chelsea Lockhart, one of the moms that took on a cougar, “Just leaped on it and tried to pry its mouth open.” It had chomped down on her boy’s arm and she managed to literally fish-hook its mouth. The other mom, “Charged the animal, yanked away one of its paws and discovered her son’s whole head was in its mouth.” Geez. An average male cougar weighs approximately 140. When I put that in perspective of my frame and weight and what these women stood up against and fought off I am in awe. These kitties are capable of running 50 miles per hour, climbing trees so there is no escaping. They are lean and strong with 20 affixed blades and a mouth made for swallowing lambs heads whole. A big ball of scary fury.
A friend of mine recently posted a much more tactful rebuke to something a troll had wrote on his page. After dwelling and stewing and then boiling over about it I am not sure my response will be as PC as hers but I will try. My personality is not one of girl power, in fact I sort of cringe when I read it on a hand me down t-shirt that my 11 year old daughter wears. I am totally more likely to tease my husband about, “screaming like a girl,” when he almost falls off the ladder while cleaning our windows and a behemoth of a spider crawls over his hand…. I want all my children empowered regardless of sex. I also recognize that there are just some things I flat out cannot do physically as a woman that a man can and I am completely okay with that. I can learn the same stuff as a male in marital arts, but whether I can pull it off like an average one of 197 pounds (you can google that….) is an entirely different story. I am not saying it’s impossible, but I am a realist. Thems the breaks in biology.
Men, if you are reading this understand my disclaimer that this is not a man bashing in any way but an address to the troll that wrote something super offensive to mothers all over the world. I am not going to say a name because truly that’s not the point and maybe some day he can read this and be educated on his ignorant state of mind, but this is a MMA gym owner who wrote on his Facebook page “encouraging,” men and women (I guess weirdly in his brain this made sense…..) to get back into training. #youaredoingitwrong.
The post goes as follows, “if you’re a man who doesn’t regularly workout/train and push yourself to be stronger and more physically and mentally tough, start thinking about what you want for Mother’s Day. This means your workout has to be: hard, sweaty, challenging, difficult. Get to it men (and women!) May 9th, 2021 will be here before you know it!” Yeah.
So I am going to go out on a limb here and assume that maybe he just didn’t comprehend how just awful that post is. I don’t know the guy and would like to give him the benefit of the doubt as well as a few things to ponder. Again this is not a women are better than men post, but just a few things to roll around in everybody’s mind.
Ironically while I was thinking on this article my sister came over and was telling me about a rather interesting conversation her and her husband had. I am going to run the risk of being crass, you are being forewarned, however the phrases being discussed are quite common. She had read somewhere that was questioning why people use the term in regards to being tough as, “having the balls,” when the testicles are the most vulnerable part on a mans body. In retrospect if you are weak or a coward you are called a, “pussy.” I thought that brought up a good point knowing where babies come from. Seems maybe the sayings should be reversed…..
The first medical anesthesia was used at Massachusetts’s General in Boston October 16, 1846. Cool. The earliest medical journals that started recording cesareans was in the early 1600’s. So like 200 years prior in a medical atmosphere women were biting sticks and downing laudanum to get them through their stomach being sliced open in order to become a mom. And we aren’t even talking about the times they were hacked up out of desperation and survived; like the time a Swiss man named Jacob was able to perform, “surgery” on his wife. No anesthetic and she went on to have five more babies including a set of twins. And how about vaginal birth? I myself have never been pregnant, but I have been the witness to both my daughter and sister bring a baby into this world and there is no other word other than, wow, for what a woman’s body is capable of in regards to a pain threshold.
Again please note I am not spewing women power. I have known many many tough men in my life, I am certainly not going to trade blow for blow with a man, he can hit harder, facts. Hell I watched my grandpa Mac once literally explode his thumb with a hammer on his roof; he casually wiped the blood off on his Carhartt coat and moved on with the next shingle. Me? I would have probably been taken to the hospital after I flailed myself off the roof screaming as many expletives I could think of. Also I would very likely milk that injury for at least half a year, not roofing my house.
When talking about women’s self defense with Giles, a trainer out of Jacksonville, FL, he said that when teaching his class he will use the idea of a woman’s children to drag the fight out of her. Many times women won’t fight for themselves when faced with an attack, but put a kid in the mixture and they go, pardon my joke, “balls to the wall.” I was discussing this subject and different dangerous scenarios with my second oldest daughter; she has a three year old and a two month old. Only being a mom of a little over three years she understands the day that switch flipped on using everything in her arsenal to keep her children safe. I feel this is the same likely for women everywhere, when my kids are present, I ain’t playing. I think to the story I told of annoying wedding guy a few articles back and had I been trapped on the elevator with one of my babies that guy was not walking out of that six by six foot box physically on his own steam. At the very least I would have been a hell of a lot less polite. My demeanor is completely different with kids than without. I remember the day I became a mom. I was driving home from the children’s shelter in awe that they just handed a two and six year old over to me to keep alive. I had to have help from one of the social workers to even put the car seat in. Sure I had been vetted and background checked, but it was surreal. I kept looking at them in the rear view mirror and my gut knew nothing was ever going to be the same. I drove differently, I was more alert in crowds with them present. I became a mom. I also had no fighting experience at that time but you can bet I was going at anybody like a feral dog if anyone tried to hurt them.
That’s why this guy is so damn ignorant. Which gender has a higher threshold for pain? There are mixed studies and it doesn’t matter honestly. That’s not the point, my husband would fight off a cougar for our babies too. The point is do not categorize a mom with a weak man incapable of tough physical and mental things because a mom is instinctually capable of tough physical and mental things especially when the odds are stacked against her. I love my friends classy response to that post, she listed all the Krav Maga black belt mamas that she knew with pictures and there were a lot. My recommendation for this guy is to maybe not make such a stupid statement again unless he want to unleash a fury similar to mom zombies from World War Z descending on Brad Pitt.
Also a second point that is quick but just as important, ladies if your biology innately can switch to where you step in front of a cougar or a bear to protect your kids, if your body can physically push out a baby that defies all logic when it comes to sizes of child and exit, then you can take a punch. You can learn to fight, you can spar, you can take that hit and so much more. Make the time, get in there and learn how to do some damage to that cougar next time.
And troll? I am proud to fight like a mother.
Buy an awesome Fight Like a Mother T-shirt here:
A few years ago I was getting a filling at the dentist. They were numbing me up and I can usually be fairly calm, I mean I don’t love the dental work, but I did not have any fears of it at the time. On this particular day they apparently hit something they were not supposed to because all of the sudden it felt like someone had open palm slapped me extremely hard across the cheek. What happened next was so embarrassing that I sobbed hysterically to my husband in the parking lot within the safety of my car later. I have no idea what came over me, but I was flailing violently around and could not get out of that chair quick enough. I believe I mentioned something like, “my teeth could rot out of my head, I don’t care!” I was possessed. Finally the dentist calmed me down enough to finish filling the cavity while a nurse made a snide comment of, “it’s a good thing your kiddos aren’t here or they would be afraid of the dentist.” Yeah, it was that bad.
While in the confines of my vehicle I ran over and over what had happened. I was not scared of the dentist, I use power tools on a regular basis for crying out loud; I have no issues even with shots. So what had made me freak out so bad that I was almost getting into a fist fight with the nurse? Why did I react that way? A couple years later I met another dentist who told me that they must have hit the nerve and it triggered my fight or flight response. I am still mortified to this day.
Adrenal responses are natural. Fear is natural, but its what we do with it that can end us in a pickle or save our lives. I recently heard someone say that fighting is not natural. You must train to fight. They went on to say, “You know what is natural? Drowning. You have to learn to swim.” When your adrenaline is going your natural responses could be any number of things. We have heard of fight or flight. I obviously very inelegantly respond to adrenaline with fighting. Being trained can hone that in the right circumstance, but if not can be a quick gassing way to run out of fuel and end up unable to continue. For some women they freeze. I have gone over several times how common this is for females which is why I am such a promoter of wargaming and planning and repetition all boiled into a big fun ball of training. Pre-thought produces better possibilities, a little alliteration for you today……
My 3 year old grandson had a seizure with my daughter present 20 feet from my bedroom. She tried to raise her voice to call to me several times, but her fear closed her throat and she could not produce sound for several seconds. Several seconds are precious when being attacked. Now that she knows her body reacts this way she can keep it in the forefront of her mind in crisis. Other symptoms of an adrenal dump can be: shakes, dry mouth, voice quiver, tunnel vision, sweaty palms/sweating, nausea, bowel loosening, fugue state (thinking and acting robotic), everything looks black and white, total acquiescence, hysteria, logorrhea (very fast justifying speech), heightened senses, increased strength, and time distortion or memory loss. I once watched my brother haul out and right 2 three wheelers that were upside down in a ditch after we wrecked them while I stood on the side of the road commenting freakishly calm on how everything looked like a Monet painting….. He was a scrawny sixteen year old and I was pretty injured and concussed, we were both doped up on our adrenaline.
The amygdalae are located in your frontal lobe and are in charge of your emotions. Lots of things that go on in your brain come from this area hence why getting hit in the temple can be extremely detrimental. Your frontal lobes are responsible for voluntary movement, expressing language, and higher level body functions. When your body senses danger is present your amygdala wants to automatically activate that fight or flight response. However, at the same time your frontal lobes are also processing the information to determine if danger is actually present and what the most logical response should be. Depending on the threat level determines whether the amygdala or the frontal lobe are going to take over. When the threat is strong the amygdala acts quickly triggering fight or flight. Two hormones are then released, adrenaline and cortisol, from your adrenal glands located atop of each kidney.
The adrenaline released into your system is normally controlled by your pituitary gland via frontal lobes. However, when in danger, the amygdala overrides the frontal lobes normal response and sends basically a gush of adrenaline to your system causing your heart to beat faster and increased blood flow to the brain and muscles. Hence that flushed feeling you get when you sense danger instinctually. Hopefully you are still with me after that neurology lesson…..
Last year I had a breast biopsy done. I was pretty numbed up so I was not in any pain, but my back was to the door and I was effectively trapped face down with basically a knife in my right breast for the better part of an hour. Even though my brain knew I had nothing to fear my body didn’t get the memo. I could not quit shaking. It was as if I was so cold, but I wasn’t. Mentally knowing I was safe I decided since I had nothing better to do I would use that time to test out things that I had read up and learned. At first I did box breathing to see if that would stop the shakes. It calmed me, but did not work. I then decided to rub my fingers in a circular motion to my thumb to expel the extra energy. When adrenaline is not used it can become toxic to the body and panic can set in leaving you feeling drained and immobile or even frozen. When that didn’t work I then started moving my foot in a circle at the same time as my fingers; still nothing helped. Later I was talking with my brother Andrew; he was a Navy Fleet Marine Force Corpsman attached to 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines during two combat tours in Iraq. I told him what I had tried and how it had all failed. He told me that next time instead of doing circles I needed to trace out the alphabet with my foot.
Direct intention, or a mission, overrides jitters. Andrew told me that the very common motion picture idea we see of men raising their guns to fire in combat while shaking is pretty much non existent. The reason behind this was that actual direction superseded the shakes. Now there were those that froze, and anticipation can be an enemy in itself producing jitters; but once the immediate fight started, there was a goal in mind, and a person used that to act, the jitters went away.
When training for water boarding things are broke down into extremely small goals. (To clarify I have not done water board training and its really not on my bucket list of things to try…. Like, at all). This was a conversation that came up with my brother when I was asking him about combat and preparedness. Training for water board survival is broken down so minutely, just keep enduring to the next second; the next breath. That’s it. Not fighting back, not even getting to the next day, just the next breath is the goal.
This is the same when a woman is faced with imminent danger where fleeing is not a safe option. There must be an objective when the adrenaline rushes in and the main and obvious one is survival, but we can break it down more. One of the best goals I have heard in regards to this is stay on your feet and stay conscious, I mean I am also a fan of the shove my fingers through to the back of their skull, but this one is good too…… The objectives are in seconds. Once that person has stepped over and crossed that line to being a threat, once you have asked them to stop and they choose not to, the goal is action. You keep doing the next second, breaking it down because your reasoning will supersede your fear with action, hijacking the adrenal response, and essentially putting the frontal lobes back in charge.
That first flush of the blood flow needs to create action, the action is making goals. Running away being the first action. I want to you flee. Your body is wired to naturally to flee a hazardous situation. If that doesn’t work standing your ground offensively with the goal of, for me, shoving my fingers as fast and as hard as I can in eyes. Best quote I have heard in regards to this is, “nobody has muscular eyes.” The next second goal may start the,” stay on your feet and stay conscious.” You may get thrown down now so the next goal is to move and stay conscious. So on and so forth, continually making small goals of action; an objective to hijacking a freeze response. I am 120 pounds, staying on my feet is a pretty damn good goal. I think prior to taking the training that I have had this year I had what I would call a chihuahua mentality. I read an awesome comment from a woman who had taken an Extreme Close Quarters Concepts course by Shivworks. When asked what she learned while wearing those soft shell helmets, she said, “The average woman is not as strong as the average man and if you keep fighting you may not win; if you stop fighting, you will lose. Stay in the fight.” It wasn’t until looking back at pictures and videos that I realize how much smaller my frame is to an average man. They literally can throw me down like a rag doll so yeah, staying on my feet is a good start. And I guess if that doesn’t work I can always start writing the ABC’s on the pavement with my toe…. Might freak em out..
Small objective goals for the next second of self preservation. Dialogue and movement, work them out in your head and train them over and over so you can use your natural responses for the better. It’s going to be ugly no matter what, but you can increase your chances of survival. And maybe you won’t end up punching your dentist.
Cus Damatio, Mike Tyson’s trainer said, “The feeling of fear/adrenaline is as natural as the feelings of hunger and thirst or the feeling of wanted to use the toilet. When you feel hungry you don’t panic, you eat, when you feel thirsty, you drink. So it is with fear, don’t panic, ACT.”
Action alley in Wal-Mart is made for people like me. I am the biggest sucker for anything, “As seen on TV.” My criteria for the product to be a winner are, does it actually do what it says it will do, or is it worth the entertainment value…. My dad and I once spent fifteen dollars on an automatic potato peeler. You stick six spuds in, smash the lid on and supposedly it will peel the potato’s. We grabbed a bottle of wine and spent an hour giggling in the kitchen over completely bruised and beat up potato’s and potato sludge. Product didn’t work at all, however the fifteen bucks was well spent for entertainment. Skin care products are another story, I am the harshest critic and also one of the biggest consumers. If it doesn’t go above and beyond, I will not buy again. There are too many options out there to stick with something that is mediocre.
Now I will not join your pyramid scheme and to be honest, you wouldn’t want me to. I am literally the worst salesman ever, just ask my husband and grown daughters; I am a terrible negotiator. However, I will promote the crap out of your product if it works well, shout out to Rodan and Fields Lash boost, that stuff is amazing. Makeup setting spray? I have tried out several and my face did not not melt much during those sweaty evolutions… I can also tell you what is crap. ANY of that plumber putty that is supposed to stop Niagara Falls in busted pipes? I have yet to find a use for that other than my kids playing with it.
So what does all this even remotely have to do with self defense? It doesn’t, I just wanted to bunny trail a bit….. Just kidding. The reason I love all of these things is because of the innovation behind it. There are some seriously brilliant people out there that see a need and fill it, or they see something not working as well as it could and they seek out something better. Sometimes the idea is crap, it doesn’t work, but occasionally there is the unicorn or a product that supersedes all expectations and the clouds part a bit.
Another thing to also keep in mind is that with the amount of innovators available you do not have to settle with what will not fit your lifestyle. My friend Rachel has a super involved holster for her Glock, this things ties around her leg and has all sorts of things she would likely hate me to call bells and whistles. This holster fits her lifestyle, it doesn’t fit mine. I never wear a belt and spend most days in skirts or leggings. Guess what? There are holsters out there for that. Same with a knife, I recently found a knife that is perfect for me, it is a folder with a wave for opening once pulled, it also has a handy little loop at the top for my index finger which is reminiscent of my bartending days. However I mentioned at the EWO class when looking at Shivworks knives that I would really like one of their push daggers, but since I don’t wear a belt the sheath doesn’t really complete my everyday wardrobe (I imagine many guys here rolling their eyes at me right now…) But here is what’s great, Craig immediately showed me an idea they were working on with a clip that fastens to fabric. He handed it to me, I immediately put it on backwards, he kindly corrected me, and I am sold when it comes available. Because innovation.
That’s the thing, you don’t have to settle when things are constantly evolving. Evolution is key to success, if you are not moving forward, trying knew things, working to make yourself and those around you better you are stagnant. In our house we have the quote by Walt Disney in our kitchen, “Around here we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we are curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
Innovators, movers and shakers, those that keep moving forward; that is exactly what I am writing about today when it comes to Ryan Hoover and his Fit to Fight Republic. I realize that was a stupidly long intro into this but there it is. Message me later for awesome products tried and tested…..
Ryan Hoover has basically shaken up the Krav Maga world. I had actually read a few things about him prior to even hearing about Fit To Fight or EWO. My friend Elle, a Krav Maga/BJJ Instructor in Bentonville, AR spoke very highly of him and his team and a quick internet search will yield lots of videos and information on him. With a history in wrestling, Ryan is also a 2nd degree black belt in Krav Maga and an author of several books on KM. He has spent the last 15-20 years submerged in all things fighting and he currently holds a brown belt in BJJ. He is also an innovator. I spent several minutes at dinner with a crew of FTF people talking with him about all the holes in women’s self defense that I had seen and got to hear how he and his group are doing something about it. Fit to fight has four facilities in North Carolina, 2 owned by Ryan and around 20 other affiliate gyms all over the country. They have essentially turned training on its head and by their own words, “In a world where lineage determines good from bad, and ranking takes precedence over practicality, we place a premium on what works now and strive for better, always.” Because evolution.
The Charlotte, NC gym markets to only women and they are very big about meeting them where they are at. They have several women instructors, ALL who have heavy Krav Maga backgrounds and the atmosphere of the place in amazing and up-lifting. Interested in self defense, but concerned about where to begin? Extremely apprehensive about all the perceived violence behind it all? They get you where you are at and their only goal is teaching you how to take care of yourself. Morgan Salas, an instructor and manager at the Charlotte facility said, “We want to give real training to people where they need it most in an environment that is conducive to them.”
The Edged Weapons Overview was held and hosted at the Charlotte gym. I was actually apprehensive walking in there thinking I was going to again be the girl who ruins deer camp. I could literally feel the atmosphere change when I walked up at a previous training in Missouri that was very heavy on the male aspect and this time in Charlotte I did not have my husband with me. So I was incredibly surprised when Morgan greeted me right when I walked in and offered to show me around. She has such a welcoming personality and even though she looks completely sweet and harmless, she can kill you. She is a mother of two, has a black belt in Krav Maga and owned her own gym in Atlanta, GA until recently when her and her husband Adolfo, moved to North Carolina to help run Fit to Fight. I was able to run drills with both of them and they have amazing down to earth personalities perfect for teaching. One of my favorite and more relevant things she mentioned when asked about FTF was, “The industry is not a humble one and we would be doing a disservice to the community by not making these things accessible.”
And that’s exactly what Fit to Fight Republic has done. They did not want to create a false sense of confidence created by a “hazing that is stressful but not realistic,” they wanted to evolve from just Krav Maga to defensive tactics. There is a laundry list of what they offer up for training. As a gym owner you can become an affiliate through their courses they offer as well as an affiliate if you just want to be a person who serves your community with self defense. You can become certified in their Defensive Options and Active Killer Defense programs. They bring in well researched guest seminars like EWO and have a plethora of their own. Seriously I have only been back home three weeks and have seen post after post of new workshops they offer. A current one is Firearmed, Fisticuffs and Firewater an afternoon course this weekend that goes over everything from clinch fighting, weapons access and retention, gun defenses, all finished off with a strong drink that you will likely need…. (I know I did after EWO) Other classes offered are Firearm Training, Knight Jiu Jitsu developed by Eli Knight, SPARology- how to spar from clinch to create distance, and knife defense to name just a few. All of these tried and actually tested. If it doesn’t work they throw it out. If something comes along better they evolve. The only lineage here is that not of a name but pullings and cullings of Muay Thai, Krav Maga, Wrestling, Jiu Jitsu, Judo, and Boxing.
Amber Stalinski runs the Gastonia facility and I had the pleasure of chatting with her a bit. Amber basically started martial arts as a fetus and has a black belt in pretty much everything. She is also a BJJ brown belt currently. I was able to watch her use a training knife and impressed is not enough of a word to describe that melee. To quote her facebook page, “I can think of nothing more satisfying than walking barefoot across the jagged shards of a shattered glass ceiling. Ladies shoes off.” If that doesn’t inspire you, I don’t know what will. Hell I may go run a marathon right now….. just kidding, I don’t run.
Anya Wallace is a Physician Assistant so she can patch anybody up that needs it. I feel that’s a pretty neat asset to have. (That’s not really her role at Fit to Fight, I just found it humorously ironic) She is also an instructor at the Charlotte Facility and another Krav Maga Black Belt. She has an incredibly warm personality which again makes for a welcoming environment. She is also another one whose looks are deceiving. Seriously all three of these women could be out and about at Wal-Mart or Target and you wouldn’t have a clue that they could snap your arms off and then take your gun to use it on you. I find that fun.
I had the privilege of watching Riley Hoover, Ryan’s 17 year old son do probably some of the most fancy footwork I have ever seen. This kid (sorry you probably hate me saying that but my oldest daughter is 26 and she is still a kid…) started one of his evolutions and I whipped out my phone as fast as I could so I could show my husband. He is an incredible fighter with such a humble personality. He often does videos for FTF online that are clear and well thought out. He is also funny and engaging and great to do drills with.
These are just people that work locally at their gyms. I was able to meet several affiliates and they were all just as accomplished and just as humble. NO ONE was arrogant. All were there to learn more and the atmosphere was amazing. I seriously had not seen anything like it before. There are several more women instructors at the North Carolina facility. The place is aptly described as, “Wonder Woman Island.”
The best part is their drive, they have a passion and it is not a selfish one, it’s is not an arrogant one. It is an innovative one for a problem seen and one Ryan Hoover and his crew have addressed. In his words in speaking of their recognition as being a pioneer in the industry, “Why is this Important? Whether we are talking about martial arts, combat sports, RBSD, or firearms, the “Industry,” is a male dominated one; in participant numbers, instructor numbers, exposure, voice, etc. In America there are slightly more women than men and women are much more likely to be the victims of rape, domestic violence, domestic homicide, and sex related homicide. This just doesn’t make sense does it?”
Hey also we were huge fans of Revolution
When I was in fifth grade I begged my parents to let me play in the middle school band. I wanted to be a percussionist, more accurately I wanted to play the xylophone. With two parents both in college and four kiddos we didn’t have a lot of extra cash lying around so buying a couple hundred dollar instrument was a big thing to ask. My mom told me they would do it but I had to play in the band all the way through high school. At 12 I would have agreed to anything because time was irrelevant but in 8th grade we moved to a much larger school.
I was incredibly shy if you can believe that, and the prospect of going to band camp the summer of my freshman year was possibly the most frightening thing of my life up until that point. I knew nobody and wanted to blend in. I was a wallflower by choice and begged my parents all summer to let me quit. I straight up made pie charts and formulated amazing and articulate arguments on all the things I could focus on personally if I were to quit band. I cried and threw tantrums when that didn’t work, but mom stood like an oak and wouldn’t budge. I had given them my word and I was going to learn to keep it. First day of band camp I met one of my closest friends through out high school and we were pretty much inseparable until I graduated. Had I not followed through I would not have overcome fear, had awesome expieriences, and met some core people in my high school life.
I recently was chatting with a friend of mine about belts and it wasn’t the first time I had heard it, but he said, “the belt is just something that holds the GI together.” Which, by the way, I agree, that is totally its function, but I would like to throw it out there that it is much more mentally to some people.
When I started karate 7 years ago we were in the middle of homesteading a house. We had a shell of exterior walls, we were pretty much living in a tent in what is now our living room, we rigged up solar showers off our back patio with a ladder and a tarp, and we worked on the house in all our spare time. Our two older girls were married and out of the house and we were down to four kids at the time when we got a call that there were two more siblings that went into care, a two month old baby boy and a three year old girl. I was baking cakes in a smoker, freaking out over squirrels in the dark, all the while contracting our house. It was insane. Jim Gaffigan said it best when he asked if you wanted to know what having 5 kids was like? “Pretend you are drowning and someone hands you a baby…” I was thrust into 6 while living in drywall dust.
But karate was mine. I had set a goal for myself that I wanted to be a black belt so every week I trudged in on Tuesday mornings and took up all of the studio's time with my herd. The older four kiddos had their lessons, then mine followed. There was never a time we were not constantly interrupted. It was frustrating. I wanted to quit so many times, almost did, but harkening back to band camp days, the pie charts in my own head did not overcome. Thanks mom.
To kids the belts are steps, hopefully not a participant trophy in your gym, but something they feel they earned. This keeps them moving forward, formulating new goals and teaches them to conquer. The goal doesn’t have to be a black belt. Recently I was talking with the director at Saving Grace which is home for girls who have aged out of foster care and they are learning how to transition into working in the world. She said that every week they have achievement acknowledgements. They sit down and make sure that they celebrate their weekly accomplishments. This is such an important thing. Some of these girls have never had anything celebrated about themselves like a birthday and things like putting in a college application or getting an interview for a job are a high that needs to be observed with joy. These are the stepping stones to an elephant. That job is their belt that they put the work in for, their next step in life.
When things are so incredibly overwhelming and you don’t know where to even start and you spiral into depression sometimes the only goal that may start that journey up is to put on your shoes. Something small, but a goal none the less. When the house is unlivable because you have not had any time to get to cleaning it, (or you live in a tent in your unfinished living room) and you just can’t, the only goal may be to do the dishes or keep the infant from chewing on a power cord and revel in that accomplishment for the day.
My first job is mom. No career or goal supersedes that, however having something that was mine ended up being incredibly paramount into what I was able to pour into them. When you are constantly managing a household and several lives, when you are the one who organizes everything down to not letting the kids look homeless (side note, my 10 year old bragged to our trainer Aaron one night about how he had had the same socks on for three days, my son apparently needs new goals…) it is a relief to go into a studio and let someone else tell you what to do. I am not in charge. I may not like all the things I have to do, the 180 footwork drill is no favorite of mine, I am a whiner too and definitely over the top dramatic, but I will do it. It is the best thing for my brain to just do what I am told instead of racing through everything I had to get done. I could simplify and focus and not be the one in control. For a person that literally never gets silence or to pee by herself, this is a reprieve of the highest order.
Holding yourself accountable plays into setting the example as a mom. I have heard so much from martial arts schools that for women when life gets crazy the first thing to go is training. When a young woman comes into a gym and then gets a new boyfriend after several months of go go go, it’s the first thing to drop off. I suspect that it is a mixture of several things, but the big one is the lack of wargaming. When you set your goal in your head it’s a little harder to let go. This is turn shows those in your charge that you will do what you say. Another thing to note, I have heard so many times men saying that they want their wives or daughters to train and learn to defend themselves. Then be the pillar to make sure that you support her goal. Help her achieve it, give her the kick and reminder on those days when its easier to quit. Help your children set goals and then hold them accountable to their word. Expect big things from them and yourself. The high from that accomplishment is worth more than the busyness of that single day or month.
My friend Morgan is a trainer at Fit to Fight in Charlotte. Ironically as I was writing this article she posted on their website this, “Ladies what are you tired of? Not having confidence to advocate for yourself? Struggling with weight loss and/or being fit? Not knowing what to do to achieve those goals? What are you READY for?! Being confident. Being fit and strong. Blowing past goals and READY to conquer more.” She had told me that sometimes women come in not necessarily ready to take the step into either accepting violence as a necessity or the confidence to be in a group class so she starts them on the heavy bag. It’s a workout, they feel accomplished, and it meets them where they are at to start setting goals. From there, the sky is the limit.
In Jiu Jitsu it can take upwards of ten years, three hard days rolling a week to earn a black belt, and you are likely to have a chronic injury before you are done. That’s an amazing accomplishment. But sometimes as a foster child going into a bank to open up their very first account by themselves is right up there with that. I am elated and equally proud of both of those individuals. Belts earned in life.
I am now in a different place in life, I met that goal and actually have a different one when it comes to martial arts. I floundered a few months making sure I was set up right in my head. It is not another belt this time around and that is okay. My two girls and I were recently gearing up for our first fight in kickboxing. They are 12 and 13. I asked them if they were scared. They both answered in the affirmative. I understood, I admitted I was too. We had each made the decision that we wanted to to do this and put in the time and training to be ready enough for it. It’s never enough time though it seems. I told them it was okay to be scared. It’s the doing it that is the accomplishment. The fact that they step into the ring knowing they are scared is what makes me proud. It is also that fact that when it is over, win or lose, and they feel that rush of adrenaline and relief that they overcame and the electric charge for the whole day zings, I am glad. It’s a figurative belt and a lesson they will take with them throughout life; just like band camp.
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