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.
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).
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.”