A Female Perspective on Fighting
At the Boulder Quest Center seminar recently, I asked head instructor Mary Aitoshi Casey and a few other skilled female practitioners how they related to my constant emphasis on the realities of street self-defense. Other martial arts are prettier than our To-Shin Do. Maybe such things would appeal more to women? I am always talking about what a street slugger or a mall kidnapper might do. Do women think about fights for survival? Mary writes a blog on women’s issues in the martial arts. Give it to me straight, I asked. Am I overly male-oriented in my teaching approach? Do women identify readily with my style of training for real physical self-defense? Here’s what Mary told me:
By my count, I’ve been involved in four physical altercations since reaching adulthood. All my altercations involved protecting someone or something. I’ve never been in a bar fight or fought to save face. I’ve never been jumped by a stranger in an alley. I’ve never had an unexpected person suddenly in my house. I’ve known the name of everyone I’ve had to fight.
The primary reason I looked for and continue to train in To-Shin Do is to be able to stand and protect those who need me. This is about not letting more violence pervade my world and I’m willing to fight to encourage peace.
My brothers were always very skeptical about my training. I’m the wee one in the family and so they rightly believed they could overpower me. I am not capable of becoming bigger or stronger than they are. I am capable of being smarter, but I wisely never share that opinion with them.
One day, my biggest brother grabbed me in a bear hug and as he was saying “What would you do if I…”, I struck the back of his hand. I swear he squealed and came up on his toes like a ballerina. I stepped out of range while he peppered me with questions about what I had done. Of course, when he was prepared for the strike it didn’t hurt as much and I could tell he was confused. It was an awesome moment of proving the efficacy of the techniques. He continues to playfully test my skills and enjoys seeing me succeed.
As a woman, I often find that men are surprised I’ve been in fights. Somehow I internalized this idea and figured my experience was not typical. Then I was at a women’s business conference and when we were asked to stand up if we’d ever been in a physical fight, about two-thirds of the room stood up. Even I was surprised by those numbers, given the demographic (female, highly educated, business owners).
Women don’t need self-defense because we are constantly plagued by scary men jumping out of bushes. We need self-defense because we are naturally gifted nurturers and protectors. Without the skills offered through To-Shin Do, we need to hope that our force of personality repels any physical conflict or we’ll lose when our bluff is called. With the physical skills to back-up our protective natures, we can live with less fear, better intuition, and greater energy.