It's fun to think of being a badass - being able to fight your way out of an intense situation. Being your own heroine doesn't just feel good, it can also help us escape the loop of trauma, something that can set even deeper in our bodies if we feel helpless. But one of the biggest struggles that I've faced - and countless women before me is - when am I allowed to defend myself? When am I allowed to use what I've learned, especially if he's not "threatening" me?
As a child, I was told to "just ignore" those kids who were being mean because I was the bigger, nicer person. This set me up to be bullied relentlessly from elementary through middle school. By high school, I was dealing with suicidal ideations, homophobic slurs, and a rage that I still have trouble controlling when I feel like I can't defend myself. As I've grown into an adult, I find that it also means that I allow people I do not like or want to be near me to make me uncomfortable because I am trying to be nice. I allow people to blow past my boundaries because I can't verbally articulate why I am uncomfortable and I'm not assertive until I am angry.
This is something that I've heard over and over again in our Stay Away Women's Seminars. Women are often afraid to set a boundary with a person out of fear - fear of looking crazy, fear of escalating the situation, fear of being hurt. And that can make defending yourself very gray: what do I do if I'm being verbally attacked? How do I defend myself if someone is standing too close, but not touching me?
And I realized more and more that what people are actually asking is this:
Am I allowed to set my own boundaries to protect myself?
The answer which I give is a resounding YES!
As someone who doesn't have a great history with boundaries, I've started working more and more on a step in my Krav Maga classes.
With each technique, I discuss a situation where they could use a technique and ask them to evaluate: when would you use this technique? When would you feel comfortable using it?
For example, Krav Maga has two types of techniques that can be used in certain situations: hard solutions (punching, kicking) or soft solutions (joint locks, leverage). In my classes, I'll give a scenario and say, "Someone has grabbed your wrist. I want you to think now or at home later about which solution you'd use in this situation." Krav Maga also gives our students the permission to use their voices or to create barriers between themselves and a person that may be making them uncomfortable. The part that can often be harder, and speaking from personal experience, is giving myself that same permission and making sure that I have set my own boundaries before stepping into a situation where I know I could be uncomfortable.
When it comes to your own safety, ask yourself these questions:
- What is my boundary? Is it a hard boundary or a softer boundary? And if it's a softer boundary, what is my hard stop?
- When will I decide to use the options I have?
- Am I comfortable with physical violence or do I want to try and use my words to deescalate?
And, in the end, the biggest thing I want to pass along is:
You have permission to set your own boundaries. If someone crosses them, it is their fault, not yours. And no one has permission to cross boundaries that you have set for them. You have permission to protect yourself. You have permission to care for yourself.
All Valley Self-Defense instructors have been trained in trauma-informed care and how to help those handling trauma in a Krav Maga class. For anyone with anxiety about trying Krav Maga, we are happy to meet with you in person or speak with you over the phone. To connect with us, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are a number of great books regarding trauma in the body and the use of self-defense. The Body Keeps the Score, The Gift of Fear, and Unbreakable Woman all have something to say about trauma, self-defense, and moving forward.
Krav Maga near me? There is! If you're looking for a Krav Maga class near you, Valley Self-Defense is a proud member of the International Krav Maga Federation with schools located across the United States. To find a school near you, visit the IKMF USA website.