Never Have I Ever

Never Have I Ever

The whole reason I started The Diamond Arrow Group was because I wanted to learn to AVOID a physical confrontation with an attacker. I consider myself to be athletic, but I never wanted to “test” my strength against someone (statistically more than likely to be a male), who may or may not be in an altered state (whether drugs or an adrenaline rush). When I searched for resources or trainings on situational awareness, the majority of what I found was specific to military and law enforcement individuals. I found very little information that talked about learning those skills for everyday life.

With my ties to those worlds, I decided I would become a bridge and translate the information from the tactical world to the everyday person, specifically women.

In The Beginning

It was intimidating at first! How do I take skills that can mean the difference between life or death for soldiers and first responders, and deliver them in a way that makes sense to everyday Jane? Becoming situationally aware can still be the difference between life or death for the average person, but I didn’t want women walking around in fear, waiting for a threat to jump out of the bushes. That’s no way to live. As women, we’re told over and over again that the coolest stuff happens outside our comfort zones, and in the next breath, we’re told not to go out alone after dark. We’re told not to travel solo to see the world. We’re told all these things we SHOULDN’T do in order to stay safe.

It can make it seem like we should just stay home.

And then we read about home invasions.

Is it any surprise women get frustrated by all the mixed messages?

Yea…That’s Not Helpful

I once received a newsletter telling me (and I’ll paraphrase) “The things women can stop doing immediately to be safe”. This well-intended- but way off the mark- list of tips included:

-Never mix alcohol and strangers

-Don’t go through a drive-thru late at night

-Keep unknown people in front of you

I had to read through the list a couple of times because I thought I must have missed the “April Fools” joke somewhere. I shared my response to the newsletter in an Instagram post so rather than re-type my comments, feel free to check it out here. The point is, telling me “don’t do this, don’t do that” isn’t helping me learn to be self-reliant. It gives me zero opportunity to learn how to be safer going about my daily life.

In my book, that’s a FAIL.

Finding My Tribe

In the last two years, I’ve been able to connect with some amazing people in the self-defense world.  A handful of those people included a group of women who had many years of martial arts in their backgrounds. They joined forces because they want to change the way self-defense is taught to women. They welcomed me into their conversation and answered my many questions. When the topic of training opportunities came up, it was a unanimous, “Go to VioDy!”. I had never heard of the training and in my quick google search, I realized there was an upcoming class in my home state. It was the chance to fully immerse myself in the physical and psychological world of self-defense and save a ton of money on travel expenses. Plus-two of the women were going to be there, so I had a safety net. I wouldn’t be all alone with a bunch of strangers. I was in!

What Did I Get Myself Into?!?

As the training dates got closer, I admit, I felt like puking from the nerves. I’d taken one physical self-defense class before, and it was with other newbies. My only true experience fighting someone was wrestling with my brother growing up. I would be walking into a room full of men and women who had years of martial arts experience and taught other people self-defense. I felt way out of my league. I figured they would realize I knew nothing, have pity on me, and let me sit on the sidelines and watch.

Yea…that’s not what happened.

It Got Real, Real Quick

Violence Dynamics isn’t a small-time commitment. It’s four days. It starts promptly at 9am (the group workout starts at 7:15 if you want extra punishment) and goes until 6pm. I would say 80% of the time we were on our feet, going through one-step drills. The instructors tell you to partner with someone in class (they make you change partners after each drill, so you ended up “fighting” with everyone in class) and you VERY SLOWLY physically fight. You might throw the first punch to your partners chin, and they respond by using your momentum to spin you around and put you in a headlock. Maybe you send an elbow back into their ribs, maybe they push you off balance and knock you to the ground. Maybe you kick at their knees to knock them down too. All these movements are done at such a slow speed, it looks comical, but it serves its purpose. You learn what it feels like to make physical contact without actually hurting each other.

Keep in mind, I had very minimal experience in the physical aspect of self-defense. I looked ridiculous on the first day. I ended up in quite a few “well shit, how do I get out of this now?!?” predicaments.

Learn By Doing

But you know what? Not once was I told I was doing it wrong. The instructors made suggestions on different moves to try but stressed the importance of doing what felt natural and getting better at that. Our class was unique in that 2/3rds of the students were “OG’s” (people who attended a VioDy previously). Every partner I fought with wanted to help me and answered my many questions. To be clear- the OG’s did not go easy on the FNG’s (rookies), and I’m glad they didn’t. I was there to test my limits and learn my weak points.

An attacker is not going to “go easy” on you.

I had some bruises, rug burn on my elbows, and my muscles were sore for days afterwards. But I gained confidence in my ability to fight back against an attacker much bigger and stronger than me.

It Wasn’t ALL Physical

The other 20% of training involved class lectures. The instructors covered topics like context of violence, conflict communications, force articulation, and aftermath of violence (this was especially interesting to me as I had never heard anyone talk about the aftereffects of experiencing violence). It was hard for me to just sit and absorb it all because I wanted to turn it in to a class discussion. Each instructor had a lecture topic and the way they explained the psychological side of violence was eye-opening. I’ve read a lot of books on the topic but hearing someone give their own real-world experiences makes a big difference. If you haven’t read Rory Miller’s Conflict Communications book yet, make sure to add it to your reading list.

Real World Scenarios

On the final day, we took a field trip to the Mall of America and learned about physical, mental and emotional boundaries, and what they look like. One exercise involved pairing up with a fellow teammate and playing a certain relationship. My partner and I decided to be mother & daughter. We needed to see if we could accurately project the relationship so strangers would assume that’s what we were. Another exercise involved getting “highly sensitive” information from one instructor to another by using a code and not letting the information get intercepted. It was a lot of fun!

After personally logging over 18,000 steps, the day ended by having dinner together.

The Wrap Party

Even after four days with these people, I wanted one more day to hang out. On the first day, you stood up, said your name, your code name if you were an OG, and talked about your self-defense background. We didn’t share what we did for a living, where we were from, or how old we were; we were simply people wanting to learn how to keep ourselves and loved ones safe.

For those four days, we were all focused on a singular goal, to go from strength to strength. Wherever you started from, they wanted you to get better.

Mission Accomplished

I could go on and on about my different experiences in the training (First time fighting in a car! First time fighting in a stairwell! First time fighting in the ladies restroom!). I’m happy to report I “punched” my graduation certificate and my official OG codename is Starbuck (not the coffee shop;-p).

In Conclusion

The training is awesome, and I highly recommend it to ANYONE. We had more women in the class then men. I met people from California, Nevada, and Alaska. A mom, her daughter and two sons attended, and they were all OG’s (not their first VioDy). All ages, all backgrounds, and all abilities. Everyone was welcome.

Next year is the 10th anniversary of VioDy and they have some epic things planned. They’re even calling it “Mega Prime”. I’ll share the registration link when it goes public with my email list. So, if you were forwarded this newsletter, make sure to get on my email list yourself!

“Develop the habit of doing unpleasant things quickly and without hesitation. If you are going to jump in the cold water, jump in the cold water. If you need to get up, get your ass out of bed. Do the dishes that need doing. Finish the hard jobs at work while everyone else is coming up with excuses to get out of them.”

-Rory Miller

What If They’ve Had It All Wrong?

What If They’ve Had It All Wrong?

Last week I had the opportunity to close out an inspirational day at the first annual S.O.A.R. (Seize Opportunity And Rise) conference for women. Every speaker shared their story of overcoming adversity, facing fear head-on, and striving to live life following their passions. When it was my turn to get on stage, I felt like my message about challenging the status quo on women’s self-defense was going to seem out of place…

…and that’s exactly why I couldn’t wait to share my story.

I had three key points I wanted them to walk away with; how carrying themselves with confidence, communicating effectively and using mental preparedness, plays a crucial role in their safety. Those three points are synonymous with the message of most leadership development seminars. We talk about these topics when it comes to career success all the time. What women haven’t been told is that these are the same skills they can use to stay safe.

Carrying Yourself With Confidence

How you walk into a room or around a conference expo floor can have a great impact on the impression you give potential clients or future business partners.

Communicate Effectively

To be an effective leader or team member, you need to be able to communicate with clarity. Whether it’s advocating for a promotion or why your solution to a challenge is the way to go, you have to be able to clearly explain why you think your solution is the best choice.

Mental Preparedness

When you discover a problem at work, you mentally visualize how the different solutions will play out. Being able to utilize this skill can help you avoid options that aren’t the most viable.

You’ve probably experienced these exact scenarios or something very similar over and over again and at every level of your career.

Look At Those Skills Differently

Let’s change out some of the words to make them apply to self-defense.

Confidence On The  Street

How you walk down the street or around a store can have a great impact on the impression you give an attacker looking for their next victim.

Communicate Boundaries

To create and maintain healthy boundaries with others, you need to be able to communicate your boundaries with clarity. Whether it’s letting a stranger know they are making you uncomfortable or telling someone you know their behavior is unacceptable. You have to know what your personal boundaries are and clearly explain they need to respect those boundaries, or you will leave.

Visualize Victory

When you read a story about a woman being attacked, you shudder and wonder what you would do if you were ever in a similar situation. Hopefully, you literally put yourself in that situation and visualize what you would say and do. Or you picture yourself fighting back against the attacker with everything you’ve got.

What’s Different

Notice that none of these scenarios involved a specific martial art or weapon.

Does having experience in the martial arts or handling of weapons help you in a physical confrontation with an attacker?

Absolutely.

Do you need to start with learning those skills in order to keep yourself safe?

Nope.

Start A New Conversation

In my opinion, the conversation on women’s self-defense has started with the wrong topics. When most people hear “self-defense”, they think of physically fighting. How to kick, how to hit, and how to do a mean karate chop. Being able to physically defend yourself is a critical life-skill, but what about learning to spot a potentially dangerous situation BEFORE it happens? Isn’t that just as important-if not more important to learn?

“Success isn’t about the end result, it’s about what you learn along the way.”

-Very Wang