Because I didn’t quite puddle enough during today’s hot yoga class, I thought I’d get my ass whooped a little more by going to a Wen-do Self-defence Workshop where everybody was kung-fu fighting… Actually, Wen-do is a set of self-defence techniques designed for women based on karate. The 2-hour workshop was held at U of T, where, once again, I startled myself by being the first participant to arrive. Apparently, the secret to being early is to have a whole lot less going on in your life… Or to perspire so profusely that your constant state of dehydration means you never have to pee anymore, which can be a substantial timesaver. Anywho…
Our bubbly instructor’s name was Denise, whose friendliness immediately put the class at ease. Her inspiring stories about a 6-year old girl who broke a potential kidnapper’s foot by crunching down hard on his instep, and a 73-year old woman who scared off a potential assailant with a whoop ass stance and hearty ‘Back off!’ yell boosted our confidence enormously. We were ready to rumble!
But first, some sobering stats. Despite being raised as the demure women that we are, we were surprised to learn that 70-80% of women who fight back in an attack get away, and that 97% of women in crisis centres had been strangled, usually by a partner. In fact, most attacks happen in your own home, in your car, or in a public building, and typically by somebody that you know. Seriously – it is not the low-cut top, skanky skirt, red lipstick and CFM boots that you’re wearing walking home from the bar at 3 am in a dark alley (not that that’s a good idea). Take a minute to let this sink in – Mom was wrong! Just on this one point. Deep breaths – ready? Okay, let’s move on.
There are two types of moves in Wen-do: hard and soft. Basically, this relates to whether you’re going to leave a permanent mark or not (i.e., most broken bones heal). The first thing we learn is awareness, avoidance, and the power of yelling. Coupling this with the mom finger-wag is as effective as you remember from childhood. As well, never underestimate the element of surprise. Most assailants simply do not want to deal with some screaming, crazy nutter who is ready to defend herself in a loud way. The best thing you can do, though, in any situation is to get yourself out of it. If that means losing the 6-inch heels, ladies, so be it. Release your inner Forrest Gump, and run, baby, run!
In the remainder of the workshop, we learn to look at a potential assailant’s weak points, rather than at the dweeb as a whole, along with some crafty moves that we get to pseudo-practice on each other. This includes how to break a nose, collar bone, knee and foot, along with some more temporarily demobilizing tactics, such as jamming our elbow into a stomach, using our hand to karate chop a carotid artery in the neck, and twisting out of an arm grip. All moves are accompanied by audibly breathing a word similar to ‘Hut‘, as in Pizza. I personally cringe at the idea of making my hand into a bear claw, reminiscent of Phoebe’s guitar lessons, to gauge an assailant’s eyes out… but hey, it’s good to know there are options.
Finally, we learn how to get out of a choke hold, by putting our hands together as if in prayer, gluing our forearms and elbows together, and diving up through the arms of the strangler. If being choked from behind, we clasp our elbows overhead, with one foot back, and quickly pivot towards our back foot to face the bugger. Having this info is strangely calming. Not in a ‘Bring it on!’ kind of way, just in a comforting good to know sort of way. All kids should be taught this stuff in school, if you ask me, and repeatedly!
But the biggest take away for me from today was to remember there are always options, including running into a crowded area, shop or restaurant, shouting at a specific stranger to call 911, or simply screaming, ‘Fire!’. And most of all, when in doubt, go for the groin. There’s a reason we learn just how debilitating it is at an early age. Because it works. Play safe!