Self-Defense Instruction For Women

Archive for January, 2012

Two Worlds

Recent news from Afghanistan:  An Afghan woman named Estorai was killed by her husband for giving birth to their daughter; a 15-year-old girl named Sahar Gul was brutally tortured and then forced into prostitution by family members; a 19-year-old teenager named Gulnaz was raped, jailed for adultery and then released two years later after Afghan president Hamid Karzai intervened — on the condition that she marry her rapist.

And then this:

To learn more about Afghan women’s issues, check out RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan), Afghan Women’s Mission or Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign for Afghan Women & Girls.


This poem has crossed my path twice in the last week, so I’m thinking it wants to be shared.  My mom used to have a copy of it hanging in our den when I was a kid and I always liked it.

Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.


I really wanted to weasel my way out of testing for my next rank this weekend.  I just didn’t feel like I was ready.  I haven’t been putting enough practice time in for several months… I’ve been too busy with work and life.

A few days ago we did a mock test during our lesson, and I could not make it through even one kata without messing up.  I was sure I’d forgotten everything and it would take weeks to remember it all again.

When I tried to postpone, Sensei Donnie gave me the old “I only had 2 days to prepare for my black belt test and had to walk 10 miles to the dojo, in the sleet and snow, with holes in my flip flops” story.  He told me to just buck up.

So I did — I ate, breathed, slept karate for the next few days.  I’m so glad he pushed me, because it made me realize that I do know everything already… I just wasn’t focused.  As soon as I stopped worrying about how I’d do at the test, and instead shifted my attention into using the time I had left to practice, it changed everything.

It was a big reminder to me about how my thoughts can either pull me down or lift me up. — Patty.

“Practice It In Your Head.”

These were parting words from Sensei Lucas as I was leaving the dojo one day last week. I was in a hurry to get to work, so his advice didn’t quite settle in until I was driving home several hours later.

It reminded me of something I’d heard a while ago about a study that was done proving that when a person visualizes doing any sort of physical activity, their muscles actually fire in sequence.

I turned off my car stereo and began to mentally run through the kempos we’d reviewed earlier that day. I surprised myself by remembering not only the techniques themselves, but several detailed notes that Sensei Lucas had given me as well.

My daily drive to work is about to become my extra workout time. — Patty.

Beauty Bites Beast

Ellen Snortland’s book, Beauty Bites Beast, was very inspirational to me when I was beginning my self-defense journey.  In this oftentimes humorous video, she explains how and why she made women’s self-defense her life mission:

Karate Grandmothers of Kenya

These Kenyan grandmothers have been targeted by rapists, who see them as AIDS-free prey — so they’re learning to fight back.

Bonsai Care

“In order to grow a healthy bonsai tree, you must clip it here and there so that its’ full beauty will shine through.”  I’m paraphrasing something Sensei Donnie said during our lesson today.  We were discussing what to do if a particular technique wasn’t working for us.  Do we throw the whole thing away?  No.  We make adjustments so that it will suit our needs and physical stature.  Instead of a backfist to the nose, maybe an elbow will work better.  Instead of kicking the knee, maybe we should stomp on the foot instead.  He encouraged us to question and challenge everything we’ve been taught in order to become better martial artists. — Patty.