Monday, September 05, 2005

My problem with self-defence classes

There are going to be a couple of self-defense classes offered at our dojang. Brian asks me if I'm going.

"No--self-defense classes really creep me out," I say. How articulate.

So I spend the evening thinking about what bothers me about self-defense classes. I'm still not exactly sure, but I think one problem I have with it has to do with how you envision your attacker. In a self-defense class you learn how to quickly hurt and run away from an attacker--like knock him over or break his arm, kneecap, or leg.

Well, sure. I'd love to be able to do that to a nameless, faceless bad guy who attacks me in a parking ramp. But I really don't think that's who is going to hurt me if someone does hurt me. So who hurts and rapes women anyway?

Once the kids are in bed, I ask Bruce if he knows anything about exactly WHO is hurting and raping women when they get hurt or raped. Is it bad guys in parking garages or dark alleys? (Bruce teaches political science at the college and knows where all the statistics are.)

"Funny you should ask that," he says. He'd just heard a public service announcement during the Cubs game about how women aren't being hurt and raped in parking ramps, but in domestic abuse situations, by men they know. Ik. Just what I'd feared.

(Does this match up with your experience in police work, Brian?)

I guess my thought is that it's one thing to break the kneecap of some nasty bad guy who grabs you in a dark alley. It's another to do it to your husband or boyfriend. So maybe if we have a self-defense class, we need to teach emotional detatchment. If someone seems threatening to you, even if it's someone you love, you're allowed to hit them. I don't know. That seems like it will lead to a lot of hitting.

Not that it's very likely that I or most of the other women who take TKD at Hughes are going to be raped. According to the statistics Bruce had (in the Almanac), it's poor, single, young women (younger than 34, income less than 15,000) who are hurt and raped. Of course some domestic abuse isn't reported . . .

So does it make sense to spend hours teaching middle-class, middle-aged women how to defend themselves against a rapist/attacker? Well, I suppose it can't hurt. But another thing that bugs me about self-defense class is the mentality: we're helpless to change a culture of violence against women, so let's fight back.

Now, I realize that we can't completely change our culture, but a TKD school seems to be one place where we should begin trying ("I shall be a champion of freedom and justice and build a more peaceful world," part of the tenets of TKD)

Here's my bottom line on self-defense classes: I will take them ONLY when the school starts also offering (and encouraging) non-violent conflict resolution classes, and especially encourages men and boys to take them! They could focus on how do you deal with your angry feelings when things don't go your way? That would be a good class for us all to take, but especially men, who have more physical power to hurt.

Like the women in our school, the men in our school probably don't need it, but I think it can't hurt. And the mindset--that violence and physical fighting don't need to be the solution to conflict--certainly needs to be spread around.


Anonymous said...

Hey TKD Mom -- Sounds like you've had some excitement over the past few days. VERY GLAD to hear that Eli is fine and seems to be on the road to recovery.

Regarding Self-Defense classes -- I'm not a big proponent of them either. Once or twice per year, my TKD school offers a free four-class self-defense course. It is attended primarily by mothers of the young students. I've helped out at a couple of these classes, and my biggest fear is always that these women will be lulled into a false sense of security because they learned a few defensive moves on a random Saturday morning. Occasionally, however, some of those women become students of TKD, and I believe that the study of the martial art is very psychologically empowering for women. Athough I do agree with you that we need to treat the core problems with society's culture of violence and not merely its symptoms, if a self-defense class can help a woman break a cycle of victimization, it's a good thing.
Kicker Chick

Anonymous said...

Just thought I'd add my two cents. I personally love self-defense because it gives me a sense of security to know that I could probably get away from someone trying to hurt/rape me. My dojang hasn't touched on the domestic violence issue yet, but I may bring it up sometime... What we do stress though, is that your focus shouldn't be on hurting your attacker, but on escaping. I think this is important because, as martial artists, we will be held to a higher standard if we seriously injure an attacker. We need to be able to control ourselves and not use excessive force when trying to escape. Its one thing to break a nose and run; its totally different to break a nose, wrist, 3 ribs, and a kneecap, then claim self-defense. Hope you're having a good week!

-Pam (not the Pam that you mention in your blog sometimes, but the Pam who you don't know and who isn't a freaky stalker person, but a fellow TKD enthusiast.... Or you could just call me Myst! ;)