We asked the instructors at Seven Star Women’s Kung Fu to come to the factory to teach us a two hour class on self defense basics. Our instructors — Michelle, Julie, Ellen, Martha, Susan — were awesome and made time to ask us what we wanted to learn about or situations in which we might feel less than safe.
Here are our top three takeaways. Obviously, none of this is a substitute for taking your own self defense class. We aren’t experts (though we’d love to keep taking more classes!) This is just what stood out to us. And we didn’t include all of the super cool stuff we learned about strikes, kicks, targets, and getting ourselves out of grabs and holds: you can see some video of that practice below, but that’s the stuff you’ll want to learn directly from an instructor.
Practice Being Loud and Taking Up/Holding Your Own Space
We found out that many of us don’t have a lot of practice shouting in a firm voice because it’s not something we normally do. Yet it’s something we want to feel totally confident and ready to do in a moment’s notice and without hesitation if we find ourselves feeling less than safe. Practicing being confidently loud in a self defense class was great — and we realized that after class we could continue practicing with friends and family members. Once we realized we could do it, we knew we could do it.
Same goes for taking up and holding our own physical space. In situations that call for it, take a wider stance, put your hands on your hips or cross your arms or put both hands up with your palms facing the person, and make direct eye contact. You own your own physical space and if someone encroaches on it you have a right to tell them that’s what they’re doing — and to stop!
Practice saying “No”, “Go Away”, “I don’t know you”, “Back off” and “None of your business”
We practiced both shouting “No!” at an attacker or potential attacker and we also practiced saying no even in more everyday situations — a family friend persistently asking for money, a creepy stranger asking our name, or a stranger offering/insisting upon help we don’t want. In these situations, we may get a threatening or yucky feeling right from the beginning, or that feeling might come after we respond with a polite but firm “no” and the other person persists in their request.
When it doesn’t feel right and we say no, we don’t need to explain ourselves or apologize — we can repeat our “no” and issue our own request: “I said no. Don’t ask again.” or “That’s none of your business.” or “I don’t know you and I don’t need to tell you anything!”
Worried about being rude? You’re not alone! That said, know this: your top priority is your safety, and any reasonable, rational person that doesn’t mean you any harm would gladly agree. You’re responsible for you and they’re responsible for them. We’re giving you (and ourselves) permission not to worry about being rude.
Take more self-defense classes and bring friends and family to them!
The class was fun, empowering, and we learned so much that we’d encourage everyone to take a class if they’re up for it. Some of us were totally excited to take part in the class from the first moment we heard about it and others amongst the crew felt a little unsure — in the end, everyone felt it was worth their time and that it was an empowering experience.
Thanks again to everyone at Seven Star Women’s Kung Fu, to the TOM BIHN crew for being so excited and up for taking the class, to our amazing interpreters who provided translation for the class, and to the customers visiting our Factory Showroom that day who were cool with looking at bags while we practiced shouting, strikes, and kicks just 20 feet away!
If you’re in the Seattle area, consider attending one of Seven Star Women’s Kung Fu community workshops. Seven Star Women’s Kung Fu provides martial arts and self defense training to individuals who identify as women (age 13+), and non-binary/genderfluid folks comfortable training in an all women environment. They provide self defense training to all populations and offer childcare, ASL interpreting, scholarship and work study. Next workshop: Sunday, June 9th, 1pm - 3pm. Another option is Z Ultimate Self Defense Studios -- this studio provides a variety of classes for men, women, and families with young kids.