I’m learning how to render an attacker non-functional. This is a cleaner way of saying I’m learning how to break joints, rupture eyeballs and testicles and do whatever else it takes to stop someone who is intent on killing me or my loved ones. It turns out it just doesn’t matter that men are bigger, stronger and faster than me.
It all starts with me being a well-behaved and harmless girl from a small country town. I was a very good girl — always friendly and non-threatening. I learned not to make too much noise (don’t raise your voice), not to take up too much space (don’t sit with your legs apart), not to stride too confidently (impossible anyway in high heels and narrow skirts) and all the rest of the unspoken stuff that women used to grow up with and still do, unfortunately.
This thing I’m doing is called TFT (target focus training). When my 7-year-old son first heard about it, he looked at me like I was nuts and said “What? TNT! You’re going to blow everything up?” Well, not quite. I’m just learning how to deal effectively with someone who actually is nuts (in an asocial, violent kind of way) when there is absolutely no other answer. [See Events for our next scheduled Live Training weekend.]
I decided the high heels were not for me, they hurt my feet and I never mastered the art of walking in them anyway. Nor were the narrow skirts, as I preferred to walk fast, with big strides. However, I couldn’t take off my “niceness” that easily, so it came with me when I moved to a big city to study. As did a vague fear that many women know (and perhaps some men, too). Hard to pin it down, this fear. It just says: Watch out, it’s dangerous out there! Something might happen, it whispers, especially when you’re out, on your own, late at night. My fear wasn’t specific, just some form of physical harm.
Then I actually did get attacked one day during my first semester in Berlin. And it was in broad sunlight, around the corner from where I lived and and where I felt safe. The fear hadn’t prepared me for that. Go figure. I managed to talk myself out of the incident unharmed, and afterwards reasoned that to do the risk justice, I’d have to be fearful all the time, not just after dark. I didn’t like that idea. I preferred walking about the city freely and when I pleased, to do all the things I needed and wanted to do. So I decided to embark on martial arts classes. They taught me to be centred, to be aware of my surroundings when I walk. They taught me techniques. I felt safer, more confident, but in retrospect I’m not sure these techniques would have saved me, had they really been put to the test.
I grew older, heard stories of other women, friends, who experienced rape and physical violence, mostly by people close to them like ex/boyfriends (again something that the vague fear had not warned us about). I experienced one more sticky situation on the street, late at night this time, that I managed to talk myself out of yet again. I never got harmed. From some point on I stopped even to get groped or otherwise molested in crowded places. Maybe the path I am on helped after all.
I’m learning to make good use of my body weight, instead of worrying about it
I changed continent and dojo, became a mum and was lucky to encounter the training I’m doing now. In it I’m learning to make good use of my body weight, instead of worrying about it. I’m learning to stand my ground and even to take the space of an aggressor, literally. I’ve had a few glimpses where I felt my body as powerful and fearless, warm and relaxed as never before: a few seconds as panther rather than scared rabbit. Marvellous. The pesky old über-niceness still creeps in way too often to undermine my power, but at least I’m more aware of it now, and I’m trusting that the training will cure it over time, or maybe ‘render it non-functional’. Perhaps my son was right after all, something is in the process of being blown up through my training, and I am more than happy to leave the powerless good girl behind, in ruins.
Words: Melanie Lindenthal
Photo: Ray Banfield