a peek inside the fishbowl

18 Mar, 2007

Body hurt

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life|Ottawa|Swaps

My body hurts. In fact, I am finding it uncomfortable to sit upright in my desk chair. I have a slightly-smaller-than-egg-size bruise on my knee and I just woke up from a deep ten-hour sleep. And I am still tired. No wonder, I was attacked four times yesterday.

Kristina (who, from now on, shall be referred to as Potty Mouth, or PM for short) and I have been talking about taking a women’s self defense class for many moons. She told me about this one at Ottawa U. Apparently it was recommended by a family member who just happens to be a police officer. As an unexpected bonus it was going to be tremendously cheap. It was only $20. (!!!)

She signed us up. I only knew it was going to be from 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. on Friday night, and all day Saturday from 8:30 – 4:30 p.m., but I didn’t truly know what we were going to be doing.  It wasn’t until the day before that I realized that it was the kind of program where the guy dresses up in the big padded suit and the participants take turns kicking him in the groin. It was going to be intense.

On Friday night we were all asked why we had signed up for the class. There were 10 of us. We talked about the importance of personal safety etc etc. I should point out that there was one woman who was older than us (say, mid-50s) and the rest were young Ottawa U. students. I was probably the only participant with young kids. Emma and Sarah are one of the main reasons I took this class. I want to be able to protect them. Other moms out there will surely understand where I’m coming from on this. I’d do anything in my power to stop someone from hurting them.  The instructors talked about poking your attacker in the eye, not gently, but HARD. On one hand it is difficult to imagine doing this to someone, but on the other hand, as a mother, I know I would do it without a moment of hesitation. And I would do worse.

I want to point out that I am not the kind of person who lives in fear. I don’t skulk around with my head down and my hand on a bottle of pepper spray because I think I’m going to be attacked. I live with a measure of “responsible risk.”  I don’t think I’ll ever be attacked. And not every guy at the bus stop is a rapist and I never want to be in a mindframe where I think every guy is. But, I also I wanted to be prepared for anything.  And now I am.

We learned a lot this weekend… almost too much to describe here, but it included:

- a lot of basic safety: i.e. don’t park next to a van in a dark garage
- how to stand defensively, in a way that distributes your balance evenly and is also a “ready” position in case you’re attacked.
- how to block a punch, hand open. The reason the fist isn’t closed is because you actually have more strength in your arm when you hand isn’t clenched in a ball.
- how to punch with a closed fist, open palm, spear fingers, hammer fist down on someone’s arm if they grab you and won’t let go. There’s a killer nerve in the lower arm, just below the elbow. If you hit it hard enough anyone would let go.
- how to kick
- sensitive areas to aim for: eyes, nose, groin, throat. Also effective: driving your heel down on the attacker’s foot or scraping their shin.
- You don’t want to bite. Biting is bottom of the barrel. You might get a disease, and you probably won’t do much damage.
- what to do if someone grabs you (from the front or the back) in a bear hug with your arms up or your arms down.
- what to do if someone is choking you from the front, or if you’re in a choke hold from behind
- what to do if someone’s lying on top of you, your arms are pinned.

After a morning of practicing these self-defense techniques we were able to put them to use. One of our instructors put on the padded costume and in turn, we were presented with four scenarios:

1. walking down a path
2. standing at a bank machine
3. waiting for the bus
4. at a party

Each person was “attacked” in a slightly different way for each of these scenarios. So for example, waiting at the bus stop. Sometimes the attacker tried to engage his victim in conversation; sometimes he just pretended he was a raving lunatic or a vulgar drunken student. PM was very funny. She’s a bold little lass. At one point he told her he had a cigar in his pocket, and invited her to smoke it. She laughed out loud. Another time he asked her to come to a party. She said, “THE PARTY IS AT MY HOUSE AND YOU’RE NOT INVITED!” I laughed. And yes, she swore like a sailor while kicking his butt around the room. It was fantastic.

Myself, I was slightly anxious going into it.  But I did it. And you know what, I REALLY DID IT. Adrenaline took over immediately, and I did everything in my power to get away. There was no fear. My mind was a blank slate, a very red, very angry blank slate. In fact, after the attack was over and I was deemed safe, my heart was always in my throat, chest pounding, tears of anger ready to spill over onto my face.

Each scene lasted about a minute, and was recorded on video. We watched it afterwards. Wow. Wow. Wow. And do you know what was interesting to see? Some of the very smallest women were the very best defenders, landing the best kicks and punches. Size is of no consequence here.

I noticed that throughout the demo attacks too few of the participants yelled for help, even though it was encouraged. I know that everyone was thinking of other things, but this is so important. If you ever find yourself in a bad situation, yell something like:  NO. STOP THAT. BACK OFF. GET AWAY FROM ME. HELP ME. You want someone to hear you and come running. This is something Mark and I teach the girls. All kids scream. Screaming won’t get anyone’s attention, but if they say something like: YOU’RE NOT MY FATHER or LEAVE ME ALONE they have a better chance of getting away safely.

Also, PM had a very good survival technique of her own. It was from an episode of Oprah awhile back. If you’re attacked you should never let your attacker take you to the second place. That second place might be the edge of the woods or a car or the dark corner of a parking lot. According to the statistics you’re most likely to be killed at that second place, so do everything within your power not to let him take you there.

Okay, here’s where I have to get a little preachy on you all. If you are in the Ottawa area you must take this class. I insist you take this class. It is extremely cheap, free for Ottawa U women and only twenty bucks for outsiders. They teach skills that everyone should know. At the end of it you will feel changed. You will realize that you are NOT defenseless. If you are attacked (and I hope you never are) you will have gained an arsenal of techniques to help protect yourself. And they work. You will come out of there feeling more confident than you ever have before.

That bruise on my knee hurts a lot. My knee pad came loose during the second simulation. It didn’t hurt at first, and it wasn’t until a few minutes later that I realized I had scraped some skin off. I couldn’t remember exactly when and how it happened. And it wasn’t until much later that I realized that it’s my right knee, my kicking knee. It was obvious. I kneed the instructor in the groin so hard I bruised by knee. And I am very very VERY happy about that. Consider this: if he was a real attacker my knee would have sent his balls flying up through his throat.

Last night Mark, the girls and I were driving home from his in-laws house. We stopped at Mac’s and I got out to buy some milk. There were three younger guys standing at the counter. In days before, apprehension would have intruded on my thoughts like a piece of dirty black coal tossed on a white bedsheet. But not this time. I got the milk. Swaggered to toward the counter and searched out their faces. I was DARING someone to give me a look. I know, it’s foolish. But my kicking knee was twitching. I was more than ready to use it. 

6 Responses to "Body hurt"

1 | Marla

March 18th, 2007 at 9:14 am


Did your voice get all James Earl Jones?

Mufasa: I’m only brave when I have to be! Simba, being brave doesn’t mean you go looking for trouble!
Young Simba: But you’re not scared of anything!
Mufasa: Well, I was today.
Young Simba: You were?
Mufasa: Yes. I thought I might lose you.
Young Simba: I guess even kings get scared, huh?
Mufasa: Mmm-hmm.
Young Simba: But you know what?
Mufasa: What?
Young Simba: I think those hyenas were even scareder.
Mufasa: [laughs] ‘Cause nobody messes with your dad!

2 | andrea

March 18th, 2007 at 10:58 am


Ha. Right, me, with the JEJ voice. Do you mean in the class or in the store afterwards? In the demo attacks my voice became high and rather shrill. I hope for my sake that “shrill” travels far. And in the store I just kept my thoughts to myself. I kept my knee to myself too. I would never go looking for trouble, and I promise to use my newfound powers for good and not for evil. :)

3 | Porter

March 18th, 2007 at 7:16 pm


You sound psyched!
I haven’t taken a self defense course before…note to self “look into self defense course” for interest sake as well as the obvious positive aspects of taking such course.
What age did you start introducing the topic of ‘strangers’ and how to protect yourself to your girls? I haven’t yet, I’m afraid I will scare my young children (preschooler and toddler)…but I know I need to start soon.

4 | andrea

March 19th, 2007 at 8:31 am


Porter – I think we started with the “no talking to strangers” rule when they were really small. (Ha. That doesn’t help, does it?) I guess they were three or so? They were at the age at which they were starting to wander. And as a parent it’s impossible to stay within arm’s reach and have your eyeballs glued to them 100% of the time. Especially when you have more than one kid. And ESPECIALLY if you’re in a setting (like a playground) where there are a hundred other kids running around and obstructing your view.

I don’t think you have to give your kids the Whole Big Speech… about not talking to strangers and exactly why this isn’t a good idea. You can leave the really scary parts out. I think all kids have an idea of what a “bad guy” is, although this is alos tricky because not all “bad guys” are strangers, right? And some “bad guys” don’t look the the Disneyfied “bad guys” we’re familiar with.

We have been telling the girls that if they are offered ANYTHING by ANYONE (no matter how tempting it might sound) they must ask us first because we ALWAYS need to know. I think this is a little less frightening way to introduce street safety to little kids.

FYI – I about this topic last year over at DotMoms.

5 | Porter

March 19th, 2007 at 1:39 pm


Thanks Andrea. I will check out DotMoms.

6 | Paul O

March 19th, 2007 at 6:16 pm


I’ve heard advice that when you scream out, you should try to make it clear that this person is a stranger attacking you. (“Get away from me, stranger!”) Too often it seems bystanders will assume it’s an argument between a couple, and won’t get involved. Unfortunately a phrase such as “You’re not my father” could also be used against a boyfriend, so it might not do enough to bring others to one’s aid.

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