A common scene I have been a part of when doing scenario work with self-defense is one of me being accosted by some drunk with not-so-great intentions. I feel this is a really good one for women to work during training because it can go so many ways and it is 100% a situation most ladies will find themselves in at some point or another. A year ago I was working this and totally felt I had it in the bag, this was old hat news/drill for me. I kept him at a distance, even gave a couple well placed eye shots, a kick to the groin, and then it had escalated to the point where I drew my sirt pistol. The secondary player in this drill could be friend or foe, I had no idea. When he entered this particular one it was as a friend. He engaged said bad guy and they started tussling in front of me. I was torn, I hemmed and hawed and then made the call to jump back in to assist the person who helped me by getting bad guy in a rear naked choke.
So many things could be argued about what I failed there; the big one being I didn’t even call 911 before jumping back into the fray. At the end I was asked my reasoning for why; I wasn’t told that I was necessarily wrong for that decision, though I was reamed for not dialing in help, but I was given practical thought processes about my call to enter back into a dangerous situation I had managed to get myself out of unscathed already. I dwelled on that for days because when it came down to it, it was definitely something I would teach my students and children not to do if we wanted to work the perfect scenario.
But it’s never a perfect scenario and while we are working at training against violence using violence, you as an individual are different as well causing an entire cacophony of different ideals. Warning: this article has the perfect set up right now as I work on it to be a long one so buckle up, I have a point I swear.
Do I want my children to put themselves in harms way? No. absolutely not, but I am at a wild waffling ground here because I also teach them about privilege. I teach them that because they are constantly immersed in self-defense then it is also their responsibility to stand up for the weaker person. This goes the same for their education. We talk constantly about just having the ability to learn to read is not something to ever be taken lightly. Because of that knowledge the right thing is to use what they know to build up others. I feel this way strongly about belting up in martial arts. The higher you achieve, the more you attain the role of teacher so make sure you are using it as a service and not to build your ego. I have met a few from several different styles with higher ranks where I totally thought they did not deserve that belt because of that reason alone.
I received an amazing phone call today. My second oldest daughter and her husband’s home was just opened as a certified foster home in the state of Missouri. If you know me at all you know I cry like all the time, so I have been emotional all day. I know that here in a few months our family will have grown faster than Doge Coin did this past May. My sweet girl who spent a majority of her childhood in foster care said on her Facebook post this afternoon, “The greatest thing to come from tragedy in my life was my family, and I hope we can be used in a way like my parents allowed themselves to be.” I was also pumped to post about this on my own Facebook page and my oldest daughter (also a former foster child) was the very first to comment about being excited to love and become an aunt, no matter how temporary, to the kiddos getting ready to be in Amy and Jordan’s home. To say I am constantly floored is an understatement and to say I am damn proud is an even bigger one.
Part of the tattoo on my upper left arm is of a starfish and an elephant with a chunk out of his ear. The starfish is a reminder that even if I can only help one, it is worth it. My husband is the one who constantly tells me this when I get discouraged with my Healthy Buffalo mission. The elephant is to say keep going, no matter the pace, keep chewing your way out. Don’t stop even if the bites are small, you are still making progress and you will be able to look back and see the seeds that have been sowed. I used to think self-defense was 50% mental and 50% physical and the older I get and the more I learn I am starting to see it is so very much higher on the mental aspect.
One of the things I have heard on an almost constant basis when I am asked about foster care is, “I couldn’t do that, I would fall in love with them and couldn’t give them back.” I don’t mean this to make the person feel bad, but I do want to challenge a change in perspective. It is not about your feelings; it is about the starfish and the elephant. Hell, most of the time it’s not even about what you CAN do because you find out quite quickly most everything is out of your hands and heartbreak is imminent. It is about self-defense on a very raw scale and using your privilege to help the person unable to help themselves. Will you get hurt? Absolutely. You are giving that starfish the ocean, the environment it needs to survive and a lot of the time you have to drown to give them that. Most of the time they don’t even know they need the sea, even though they were slowly dying on the sand.
When talking with children who are born into abusive atmospheres, they assume this is just how it is, they don’t necessarily think about getting out so much because they don’t even know what that would look like, they are just in survival mode. Your job is to show them what a safe environment is and a lot of times they will buck the system on that. It is not until they learn how to eat an elephant that they realize their ability to fight against those injustices done to them by healing. They learn that by seeing the drive, service, and sacrifice in your own life. As a foster parent you learn that little steps ARE big steps and when your home shows a warmth and love to a child that has never experienced anything but pain and the smell of cigarettes and cat piss, you are teaching that first step of self-defense, to expect more and that they are worth it.
I am not writing this from a perspective of lecture because I think I got it right, I have seven other kids at home to screw up. Just like with martial arts I feel like I am failing constantly, I feel I am never enough, I can never do enough, I can never learn enough, and I have found that is okay as long as my continued desire is to still serve, still use my arsenal of privilege to help with what I can.
Recently there has been some argument surrounding the new Army commercials that came out. They weren’t exactly my cup of tea either, but there was one comment that stuck out solidifying why they didn’t quite sit right with me. It was how each story seemed to center only on what the person could get out of the armed forces, one even saying she joined so she could see the world. The commenter stated that his issue with this was not about it being a cartoon that erred on looking like a weak military or even the woke aspect of it, but the selfishness of the reasoning; it was the lack of desire to serve something bigger than themselves
On the way home from South Carolina I listened to the podcast Combat Story with Ryan Fugit. Every person who shared was asked why they signed up in the first place and every one of them said they wanted to serve their country and be part of a team. It wasn’t about what they were going to get out of it, hell they didn’t get a whole heck of a lot outside of nightmares and disabilities. They were also all asked at the end if they would do it all over again. One man lost both of his older brothers to the battlefield, and he said he could answer for all three of them when he answered with a firm, “Absolutley.” Podcast after podcast it was the same answer and I listened to them for fourteen hours.
Not everyone is meant to be a foster parent and that’s okay, I wasn’t meant to be military, I am just meant to serve. I am meant to use what means I have to push someone farther up the hill, that’s called humanity and currently those someones are my nine babies. If I want to teach self-defense then I have to begin where it starts and that’s with understanding violence and the people capable of using it for good or bad. I have to be capable of violence myself in order to protect those around me. My nature due to that causes me to reflect and know exactly why I HAVE to jump back into a situation that I had gotten out of unscathed to help. I mean I will call 911 first though……
It’s also bittersweet knowing I am raising my children this way understanding fully that they could get hurt doing so. My father in laws brother died trying to rescue a couple drowning because they had drove their car on an unknown flooded road. He was 17. Amy and her husband will not walk away from foster care unscathed. I will get the devastating phone calls of a broken heart. My soul will crack with hers just like my mom’s did with me when I called her unable to breathe through my tears with news of having to leave our baby behind due to a clerical error.
Foster care is a battlefield in itself and being a part of removing a child from an unsafe situation and giving them the opportunity to see that there is something better out there is the mark of a blackbelt that matters at its core.
It is an absolute honor to watch my kids serve, whether it’s pulling their sibling out of a goat-head patch even though they were barefooted as well, earning their money for mission trips with Casas Por Cristo by making and selling cookies, or now with the continued legacy of foster care. Their hearts and mine will continue to break but the expectation is more and it is all very much worth it, they are so so so very much worth it.
Amy Main Ryan Erwin Chelsea Grace Gaskins
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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