Chelsea King’s fatal encounter with a known sex offender is beginning to settle in as a dark, dark corner of the landscape of life. Slowly we are taking up our routines again, changed by the certainty that we and our daughters are not safe from predators. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
While others try to find solutions in laws and enforcement, I’ve been wondering if it really is possible to empower ourselves and our daughters. The convicted sex offender who attacked Chelsea had registered his address with police. But last week he was staying with his mother in another town. Controlling, tracking, weakening the bad guys seems impossible. Maybe we need to look at how to make ourselves stronger.
Kristen Colwell is a martial arts instructor with a lazer focus on women and girls. Offering free self defense classes to moms and daughters, she wants to empower every one of them to claim her strength.
I asked her, “Can a 115 lb. girl really fend off a 230 lb. football player?” Her honest answer: ”With training, you can have a chance.”
Self Defense Training Starts with the Mind
It begins with training your mind, she explained. Girls do not grow up practicing fight skills. We don’t wrestle, like our brothers. To be safe, a woman must first embrace the idea that she may need to hurt someone else to defend her life. It takes a lot of groundwork to retrain the female mind. A woman must truly believe that she is worth fighting for. She must have a rock-solid mindset that, “I deserve to live; no one, NO ONE, has the right to touch or intimidate me.”
Colwell illustrates the power of this mindset. A 7-year old student, extremely shy, soft voice, who seldom made eye-contact, was bullied by some boys at school. She had been learning “blocks” for about two months when one day, one of the bullies shoved her. She used her blocks, knocking him, crying, to the ground. The school “blamed” her. Her parents didn’t. No longer the victim, at 7 years old, she was changed. Transformed.
Man vs. Woman Combat
With a new mindset, girls need to learn how to use their bodies and their bodies must develop muscle memory. Learning the moves, in a way that becomes automatic, usually takes about 3 months of practicing defenses against an opponent’s grabs.
Colwell explained that man-to-man combat is about punching, fighting. Man vs. woman is different. The same rules of defense don’t apply. The man’s goal is to subdue and control. Instead of punching, he grabs, trying to get the victim into rape position. Defending yourself takes knowing what to expect and being prepared to respond automatically.
Colwell told me about a young woman, about 5’6″, slender build, who was attacked by a taller, husky man who pushed her and pulled her hair. With only a few months of training under her belt, she had 8 blocks down pat. Frightened and not able to think, she just went through her blocks over and over. Projecting that she meant business, she was able to fend him off.
Empowering Our Daughters and Ourselves
These days, Colwell is working overtime, hoping to lead moms and daughters reeling from a new level of fear to a place of confidence and strength. I asked her how much time it would take to get there. Colwell told me everyone is different, but a good guideline is about a year — to learn it and make it automatic. She says martial arts training can be like any other cardio exercise — 30 minutes a few times a week. She said it’s easy to incorporate the motions in your every day life. When you reach for something, do a block! Think of it as a great way to exercise your heart and stay fit. And safe.