As a lot of you already know, I spent this past week attending a self defense class. I think I told everyone I know that I was going to do it, mainly because I was nervous and didn't know what to expect out of it, but no one really knew what to tell me.
One of the members of Steve's band is a detective with the county police department, and she deals with crimes against children and sexual assault survivors, so when the county allowed them to hold a class, she told Steve that I should come. I agreed, but as I said, I was nervous about doing it. I have never been to anything like that before, and I am not a very strong person, physically. I didn't think I'd be able to learn anything I could actually do. I might have even chickend out of going, if not for the fact that I work at a place where I'm sometimes scared to walk outside by myself. I figured that whatever I could learn might be helpful.
The class was called RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) and the main purpose of the training (obviously) is to give you the skills you need to protect yourself in case of attack by disabling your attacker enough to get away. The class was only 4 days long, but it was intense, and I'd come home at the end of the day completely exhausted. There were 42 women attending the class, no men allowed except for the male instructors, and some of the most badass women cops and civil servants I've ever met. What we learned was fairly easy to do, although the trick will be to remember to do it if/when you are ever in a situation that calls for it.
One thing I wasn't expecting was that I'd be in a class with so many people who'd been victims of sexual assault and physical violence. I suppose it's almost a given that you are around people like that every day, no matter where you go, but people don't really tell you those things unless they know you very well. To hear some of the stories of these women would just break your heart, and to watch them learning to fight back was amazing. I've been fortunate enough so far not to have been a victim of either one of these crimes, but if I had, I don't know if I would have been brave enough to face it head on like these women did.
Friday night was the night we did our...I'm not sure what to call it, really. Our practical exam, maybe? It was the night we had to use what we've learned in the class against the male instructors (who were in these terrifying padded suits that made them all look like Judge Dredd.) Not everyone who took the class came back for this part. But those of us who went were all padded too, in helmets, elbow and knee pads, and padded gloves. We were supposed to do three different scenarios: The first was fairly tame, where we just had to break out of an unexpected arm grab. The second was a bit scarier. We were to be approached from behind, heckled, and then grabbed. I'm not sure what I did, but I managed to knock the guy down and I landed on top of him. (I'm a significant amount of woman to fall on someone, so I hope he's ok.) I kind of just went into Spider Monkey Mode, where I managed to get out of his grasp, and because I was in the moment, I landed a hammer fist to his face cage that may or may not have been necessary. He had to be taken off to the side and checked. I felt bad about that.
Several women had trouble with this one, because it was too familiar to them from when they were assaulted. Some cried until they could be calmed down, and one lady just went mental. She ran after the instructor, beating him and screaming, and had to be pinned down. That was the one that really drove it home to me that some of these women were really struggling with the whole thing. I can't imagine having to be in these scenarios if they'd happened to me in real life.
Because so many of the women in the class were struggling, they weren't going to make us to the third scenario unless we were certain we could handle it. I almost didn't do it. Everything we'd done had caused an adrenaline rush, and by the time we had come back from our break to do the last thing, I was shaking. However, I'd promised myself that if I was going to do this class, I was going to do it all no matter what. I was one of 8 women who did the last part. They turned off the lights, and we had to close our eyes. They walked us around the room so that we'd be disoriented and not know where we were. All three Judge Dredd guys came at you and heckled you, walking around you, bumping into you, and then one of them would grab you. I sincerely only remember bits and pieces of what happened when I actually got grabbed, but it didn't take long for me to get lose. I know I punched and kicked, but everything else is a fuzzy blur. I'd forgotten to open my eyes until right before I punched the last time. I kind of forgot what I was doing and ran after the instructor to hit him again before I remembered to run to the "Safe Zone." People were cheering for me, and that was awesome, but I wish I could remember what I did. All I know is that by the time I settled down, I felt like I might either cry or throw up. Luckily, I did neither.
I honestly don't think I expected to feel as weird about the whole thing as I did once it was over. I tried to tell Steve, but I couldn't explain it well enough to make it make sense. I'm very, very grateful to have been taught everything I learned, and I'm even more glad that I was able to use what I learned to complete the scenarios, but I think it scared me a lot, too. It isn't just that I'm more aware that women are frequently attacked and hurt, much more often than I knew AND a lot of the times it's by people they trust, although that is terrifying enough in and of itself. I think it also scared me that I am capable of hurting another person, and that I will do it if I have to. I'm not physically violent, really, but when put in that position, even in the fake situations we were in last night, I just blanked out and came back to myself beating the crap out of a person. It took me a long time after I got home to calm down from it all. Even after I got up this morning, I was still shaky.
I'm so very, very glad I took the class, and I recommend that any woman take it if they get the chance. The RAD classes are poorly funded and have been cut back to only 2 a year, but I can't imagine many other city funded things that could do as much good as the class I was in. Seriously, do it.
*****Earlier in the week, we had to pair off with someone to practice the moves they were teaching us. My partner was this teeny-tiny grandmother who might have weighed 100 pounds and she was two inches shorter than me. You've never lived until you have had to get someone's maw-maw in a headlock, and in return, have that maw-maw kick your ass. :)