With the news that Stanford rapist Brock Turner is being released for “good behavior” after just 3 months of a pathetic 6-month sentence, I’ve been reflecting on one of the best decisions I have ever made as the mother of two young daughters who are growing up quickly. Investing in Krav Maga.
Most of us know a woman who has been assaulted, raped or worse, killed. Sadly, I do. And the Internet is rife with staggering statistics about violence against women and girls worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) this year, “Recent global prevalence figures indicate that about 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.”
Just think about that. Scary, isn’t it? And yet, not surprising.
Early on, when I began dating my husband, he shared with me that his (future) children would have to take a martial art. It would be mandatory and they could quit when they turned 18 or could defend themselves against him – whichever came first. Five years ago, when Margaret turned 7, we unsuccessfully tried to find a Tracy Kempo studio like the one he’d trained at back home in New England. He wanted a martial art that would focus on real-world scenarios and results. He wanted our girls to be able to defend themselves against any predator – from a date (increasingly common), a random person jumping out of a bush (less common) to a co-worker. Knowing absolutely nothing about martial arts, I suggested Krav Maga – a self-defense system used by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) that a few of my friends had learned growing up in LA at a Jewish private school affiliated with our temple. My husband looked into it and liked what he saw. We enrolled Margaret in a children’s program. Four belts and almost 5 years later, Margaret can fight. More importantly, she can defend herself. And she gets better each year.
My husband had been trying to get me to take Krav Maga since Margaret started in 2011 but to no avail. I wanted to take – but had a zillion excuses as to why I couldn’t. Excuse #1: I am a dancer, and after working and sometimes traveling on business, I felt guilty enough taking my Sunday lyrical class. With work, how could I justify leaving my girls a few nights a week for Krav Maga classes too? It just was not tenable in my mind.
Until December of 2014.
That night I stood in a video store for an obscure movie that we couldn’t find on Netflix et al. I was waiting in line to check out the DVD and my eyes went immediately to the crime scene flashing across the television that loomed over the counter. Video footage of a young, petite Asian woman getting mugged as she checked her mailbox in the lobby of her apartment complex in Garden Grove, CA looped over and over again as the news anchor provided sympathetic “oooohhhhhs” as if watching an Olympic ice skater “eat it” after attempting a herky. The guy came up behind her and grabbed her purse. The woman tried desperately to get her purse back but the assailant easily beat her down to the ground. You could tell she was indignant and fired up, but no matter how much adrenaline she had pumping through her teeny, tiny body, she had one main thing going against her: She did not know how to fight. God bless her feisty spirit but she had no chance but to get crushed. And as I watched that horrifying scene play out over and over again before me, I did not see an Asian lady getting attacked and lying defenseless on the ground; I saw me.
The reality was that I was not prepared to defend myself (or more importantly, defend my girls) against an assailant. So it got me thinking: What kind of a role model was I to Margaret and Filumena if I kept telling them how important it was to learn Krav Maga to defend oneself if I wasn’t willing to invest that time in learning KM myself? So I grabbed my huevos and embraced KM. I have been taking ever since. It is empowering. It is painful. It is hard. It is ugly. And I love it.
My youngest daughter is 6 and will start next year when she turns 7. It recently occurred to me that my girls will grow up unlike me and many females, who are not comfortable touching others in a way that might be construed as inappropriate behavior for “nice young ladies.” Instead, they are growing up more like boys, who regularly get rough with one another, however playful. Case in point, I had once snuck up on Margaret from the back only to find her elbow in my ribs. Her training at the Krav Maga of Orange County had her already prepared for the next move: a hammerfist into the side of my head. My point is, protecting themselves against any physical threat will be second-nature to them when they’re young adults. And while some people will roll their eyes and think I am crazy for worrying about these things (I actually had a former female boss look at me with disgust that I put my kid in Krav Maga despite her two girls being similarly aged), with 1 in 3 women violated in some way, I am providing my girls with anti-violence insurance – in case they are not part of the lucky 65%.
The Brock Turner case is alarming because the victim was unconscious. No amount of Krav training will help a person in that condition. So my husband and I have begun to discuss with her the dangers of getting so drunk at parties that she can’t protect herself. We’ve also discussed the danger of not keeping her eye on her drink at all times – be it jungle juice when she’s older or a coke now – and unknowingly letting a predator slip a roofy in it while she’s in the bathroom or has gotten up to socialize with friends. She already knows that once it’s placed on the table and she’s walked away, she’s done with it and can get another one. And she’s NEVER to let someone buy her a drink.
But do I pity the poor soul who may try to assault one of my beautiful daughters. They may look sweet and spice and everything nice, but make no mistake: The disgusting, despicable Brock-turner-esq attacker won’t see it coming. If only I could be a fly on THAT wall…