The rear view is 20/20 – We have all heard it and I think we will all agree that it is true. When I look back at different situations in my life, I see where, if I was more aware or if I learned to trust my instincts, I could have avoided danger much more easily.
Although it’s a tempting idea at times, I really wouldn’t go back and change anything. The experience I had made me who I am today, and each of them contributed to the lessons I hope to pass on to my own children and also to my dojo students.
When I was learning to ski in the northern part of Russia, my instructor took me to the piste before I even skied and stood with me at the foot of a busy piste.
“See? You can learn in two ways, with your eyes or your muscles. If you watch and observe the mistakes of others, you will save by having to do them. You will create your own, but they will be different, and not so much if you watch and learn. from others. “
I didn’t know that the day he showed me who was holding his wands badly and who would destroy his hips by fighting the slope, I would be able to apply his advice in martial arts training.
I have learned many things by trial and error – I sincerely hope that when I share them, my students, my children and even you, the readers, will learn from my experience.
When I think of the days when I want to change, I often think of a hot summer day when I was 15. I’ve been picking raspberries since I was 9, but this summer a farmer hired me for about a quarter of a mile. on the country road I grew up on.
The farmer who hired me, a kind Hispanic who didn’t speak English, and I worked on the machine and picked raspberries.
That morning, my boss’ grandson went out into the field. He was a few years older than me and much taller and bigger. He didn’t connect us to work – in fact, he always found it fun to interfere in the work we were trying to do.
He usually showed up, pissed everyone off, and then retreated inside and played video games. I thought that day, like many others, would make him tired of playing with us and leave.
But – he didn’t. I stopped counting the number of times he grabbed me, pulled on his shirt, took my hat off and ‘hit’ me. The machine was made for two workers to stand by the conveyor, and he climbed up and nearly knocked me down, and then laughed as I tried not to fall into the bushes.
Annoying, even angry. My non-English speaking colleague ignored him and for the most part he was ignored. But I’ve already met the boy. Truth be told, he had no friends, and during the previous year I thought I would try to help him. At that time, however, I realized that it was best to step back and keep my distance – something just seemed to me off, even though I couldn’t put my finger on it properly.
The lunch break was a nightmare – he grabbed my food and tossed it to his dog, who swallowed it through no fault of his own before anyone could do anything. An angry roar broke out between his grandfather and grandson, and he eventually went to the house. His grandfather apologized, handed me a soda, and said he would buy me dinner.
The grandson returned in less than an hour. When I saw him approaching, I thought I should go home. But I had a job I was hired for – I really didn’t feel like I could leave just because my boss’s grandson was annoying.
When he returned, he didn’t make me angry – he actually scared me. This time he was standing right behind me, just staring at me nervously.
When we said at dinner that it would end, I was exhausted – not from work – but from the stress of the guy being someone I couldn’t escape.
The look back is really 20/20 – even as I write this, warning signs have been here all day and I want to shout at my 15-year-old self to get out of there, no matter the price.
But – I didn’t do it. My boss left to deliver the berries we picked. He said his wife would have a check for me and that he would go to the house to pick him up. That was the last place I wanted to go – after the day his grandson was harassing me, I wanted to get out.
I knocked on the door and was not surprised at all when my grandson answered. He went out and told me that his grandfather had my check, so I would have to wait until he returned. It didn’t make sense, so I walked around to talk to his grandmother.
When I realized he wasn’t home, I stopped. I really don’t know why it was so important to pick up that check – every time I remember, I remember a voice inside screaming, “You can choose that stupid check every day, just get out of here.”
But – I stood there waiting. The grandson stayed outside with me. He kept telling me he wanted to show me something behind the barn, but I was sick of his company and I just wanted to get a check and get out of there. I stood in the driveway as he kept calling to follow him.
I said no to him several times. I told him to leave me alone. And then I did something very stupid. At that moment, I was just trying to express my opinion.
I turned my back on him.
At that time, I attended karate lessons for over 2 years and we trained strangulation and escape.
Nothing in the dojo prepared me for the intense pain and sudden hearing loss that accompanied breath loss when I was lifted off the ground in a back naked strangulation.
I had no idea how fast the world could turn black. I remember pinching his elbow as hard as I could. I remember kicking him in the knees and shaving.
My hands rose to grab his arm, and as the world went black, I realized I only had a few seconds to escape if I wanted to.
I leaned back as far as I could, and then lunged forward with everything in me. I still don’t think it should have worked, but it did. My feet fell to the ground, I curled into a ball and he flew over me and landed on his back in the gravel near my feet.
The wind blew out of him, and I stood there, bending down, trying to catch my breath and make the world stop spinning.
He sat down and looked at me.
“If I didn’t let you go, would you die?”
I realized my voice wasn’t working, so I nodded.
He lunged at me again and scrambled to his feet.
That was the first time I was really afraid of him, I kicked gravel at him and then I ran away. I considered leaving the bike and running as fast as I could, but I realized I could get much further.
He shouted at me, chased me down their driveway, and finally gave up when I got on the road.
He planned to rape me that day.
He told people about his plan, he even wrote about it. He spent the day waiting for his grandfather to leave because he knew his grandmother would be gone.
I had no idea.
I really had no idea how close I had come to the fact that my life had changed much more drastically than it had been.
I got away with bruises on my neck and sore throat that lasted for several days.
I had loving parents who told their boss I was done for him, and they were sitting with me when the police came to take a report of what had happened. It was a policeman sitting with me in my living room who informed me of the ‘rumor’ this guy was spreading around. He obviously boasted to many different people that he had a plan for me and knew how to make it happen. He also attacked several different neighbors.
Sometimes I still can’t believe that’s all that happened that day. I can’t believe how stupid I was either.
It’s been a lifetime since that day, and I still have to resist panic as we work on the back chokes in the dojo.
But – we work on them. And we’re working on situational awareness from the forefront. It wasn’t part of the curriculum at the martial arts school I grew up in, and it doesn’t have to be at every school. For me, self-defense is more important than any other aspect of training. Every other aspect has beautiful, amazing benefits and I really love them all. That is why we train in our school as widely as possible.
But I remember that day as a 15-year-old, and I want my students to be the first to stop things when they cross personal boundaries. I want my students to be the ones who can assess the situation and know where the boundaries are.
I can’t create a bulletproof program that guarantees the safety of everyone who passes through it. It would be silly to try. However, I can take the lessons I have learned and help my students and many others, as far as possible, avoid the mistakes I have made.
With that in mind, we train – verbal self-defense and drilling into the heads of our students that the best defense is escape – if you feel something is wrong, leave.
It has saved at least 2 of our students from various threats, which means it’s all worth it.
What have I learned since the day I picked raspberries? What advice do I give my students based on this experience?
- Know your own boundaries, both physical and emotional. I was still learning how much there was too much – for me it was because these boundaries were inextricably respected and expected in my home. Unless you have clear boundaries, it’s hard to tell when they’ve been crossed. In different situations with different people, your level of comfort may be different, and that’s fine. If the pushing or stealing of the hat came from a close friend that day, it wouldn’t be threatening at all. However, these types of behaviors should never be tolerated by someone trying to intimidate you.
- Have the courage to defend these borders. This requires practice and an understanding of your personal values and values. Some of us have trouble expressing how we feel in a given situation, and that is the place help clearly defined boundaries. In my experience, both personally and with students, you need to train to protect your borders. Practice speaking tightly. Look at yourself in the mirror and practice saying “no”. If you have a secure context where you can practice scenarios with a trusted person or group, I would strongly recommend it. The woman I am today would be the first to turn that morning, look the man in the eye, and say, “Don’t touch me anymore, I don’t appreciate it and I won’t tolerate it.” If I did, the situation might look different.
- If something seems wrong to you, don’t ignore it. Our instincts serve a very important purpose. I’m not talking about being paranoid, I’m talking about trusting that if something feels bad, it can be. This does not mean that we should panic or overreact. However, this means that we should react with increased vigilance about the environment or the situation. There were times when something was just wrong. Calm assessment of the situation and elimination of myself, if possible, cost me nothing but a few moments of discomfort. When I lived overseas, I entered a grocery store several times and I couldn’t explain in my life why I wanted to turn around and leave again. But he did. I left and returned a few hours later. The clerk once told me earlier that day that they had a massive confrontation with a drunk man. Take it as you wish – for me it was a confirmation that by bothering me a little, I potentially lost my part in a difficult situation.
In conclusion, I would be eternally grateful that the day ended the way it ended. I’m grateful that I trained throws and strangulation in karate classes – although never to the extent I experienced that day – I responded to what I trained and it helped. In retrospect, I realize that it should never have gone as far as it happened. In retrospect, I know that there are so many things we can do to keep things from becoming physical.
I am grateful for the lessons I learned that day, and I continue to work to help others never get that far.