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The Empowerment of Self-Defense – Starting Over, 12-15-04

by LauraBelle

Empowering is such an overused and trite term, but I think in this case it was custom-made for this situation, and perhaps all other situations are the ones that should refrain from using it. The situation, of course, is self-defense training, something that happens to be near and dear to my heart and well-being.

In today’s episode of Starting Over, life coach Rhonda Britten sent the women of the house to a self-defense training seminar. This was done mainly for Cassie’s benefit, but Rhonda hoped the others could gleam benefits from the training as well. I was excited to see the women sent here, as I have been taking Martial Arts classes myself for the past five years – two of those in kickboxing, and the remaining three in Tae Kwon Do. I am currently a Red Belt in Tae Kwon Do and have never felt more empowered.

Cassie, along with so many more women, was abused and also faced an attempted rape at the tender age of fifteen. These incidents forced her to shut herself off from life, quitting school, and becoming dependent on drugs and alcohol. She is in the house to reclaim her life, get her G.E.D., and perhaps reconnect with the son she gave up for adoption eighteen years ago at the height of her dependency on drugs and alcohol.

As the women are shown some defensive stances, I remember being in that situation for the first time myself. It appears awkward, to react physically to a situation you have never felt comfortable in. But once you are able to connect the forcing of someone to back up to previous situations in your life when you let others take advantage of you, it brings it all home, and makes you wish you had this training years earlier.

The surprise of all in the show, is the woman who is best at defending herself this day is Sommer. Sommer has had the worst opinion of herself of anyone throughout the show, and often felt she deserved bad treatment. But with her one-hundred pound weight loss and greater confidence, she has not only confronted her parents with the true facts of their relationship and her wishes for the future, but she is now standing there in a true powerful stance, forcing everyone to stand up and notice her. She will no longer be denied.

Cassie admits after this class to feeling some greater empowerment. There’s that word again, but it is truly fitting. She is beginning to feel better now about herself, and with the knowledge gained from this class, feels she may not ever be put in that situation again. As the instructor told the class, it isn’t necessarily hitting someone else that causes this empowerment, but your confidence and stance, making you less of a target. If you appear weak, an aggressor knows they can have their way with you. If you appear strong, an aggressor is more likely to move on and search for an easier target. The aggressor isn’t looking for trouble; they are looking to take advantage of someone.

In my own situation, after I gained physical strength and learned how I could force someone to back off of an uncomfortable situation, this strength spilled over into other areas, feeling stronger mentally, socially, and most of all, feeling a strength of conviction. True power comes from knowing your own strength.

Later, Cassie faces this situation as well. She meets with a tutor who is there to help her learn how to study for her G.E.D. She does well until the tutor asks her why she came up with a certain answer. Cassie breaks down and admits her fear that she doesn’t know, and won’t ever begin to figure it out. As the tutor questions her further, Cassie makes her aware of her struggle. She says she faced the attempted rape at the age of fifteen, and felt so horrible about herself after, that she only pretended to go to school every day to keep up the facade, and instead hid every day. Every time she cracks open a text book, she remembers all those old feelings of hiding, not being able to face life.

Cassie’s tutor is very understanding, and tells her she is doing well enough just to face it now and admit to it. She tells Cassie she has done enough for today, and they will do more another time. Cassie hasn’t learned this yet, but she has only begun to find her empowerment. Her true empowerment will come when she realizes she is not gaining strength but had it inside her all along. She never deserved to be treated this way, and had she known that at an earlier age, it could have changed her whole life.

I believe self-defense classes should be taught to all women for that very reason. Women need to know they all have that power inside them. They don’t need to gain it, they need to realize it within themselves. In fact, they should learn it at an early age, before they can have a lifetime of feeling they deserve to be attacked, and before they set before themselves a lifetime of fear. Perhaps self defense should be taught right after sex ed. Once we teach girls how to use their bodies, we should also teach them how to protect them.

I welcome all questions and comments at LauraBelle@realityshack.com.

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