8 lessons I learned in self-defense class

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Friday night is usually kick-back-at-Nanny’s night. I get home from work, change into comfy clothes and relax for a while before Bruce and I head to my mom’s for a couple of hours of TV.

After a long week at the office, I’m ready to be brainless and lounge on Mom’s sofa while we watch cop shows. (I talk about that in Family, faith & Friday nights.)

But on a recent Friday night, I had to skip the vegging time in favor of a women’s self-defense class, organized by the women’s ministry leaders at my church. (Thanks, Maggie and Jody.)

By the time Friday evening rolled around, I was looking for an excuse to blow it off, not because I didn’t think it was important, but because I was so. stinking. tired. But I couldn’t shake the thought that someday, God forbid, I might have to employ the skills taught in the class. So … my pragmatic side won out, and I showed up.

What I didn’t expect – at all – was how much fun I would have! Who knew those punching bags could handle all my pent-up aggressions? Who knew those church ladies could put a choke-hold on our instructors in the blink of an eye?

It’s great when you can have fun while getting life-saving instruction from a knowledgeable teacher. The two-hour class was over before we knew it.

I couldn’t take notes (too busy kicking butt), but I remember a few key pieces of advice from our teacher, Matt, plus some things that weren’t in the curriculum but came to mind as I walked away from class.

Of course, I make everything I learn into a “life lesson” that bleeds into other areas. These tips will keep you safe from an attacker and help you navigate relationships, business and much of life.

8 self-defense tips for staying safe and strong

  1. Be confident. In my opinion, this is the No. 1 thing you can do. (Notice I didn’t say cockiness; that backfires. CONFIDENCE.) When coming face to face with people – alone on the street, in a crowd, during a business meeting, whatever – look them in the eye. If you don’t feel particularly confident, project it anyway. Eventually you’ll get there. People respect that, and an attacker will think twice about approaching you.
  2. Expect the unexpected. Sure, in class we knew (most times) that Matt was going to “attack” us from behind. Even when he had us close our eyes, we still felt safe, mostly. But in a real-life scenario, you never know what someone is going to do. You have to keep your wits about you, stay calm, remember your training. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. 🙂 (Yoga is good for learning the habit of mindfulness and staying calm. Click here to read the lessons I learned from yoga.)
  3. Learn how to adapt. In the class, we asked Matt a lot of “what-if” questions. What if the attacker is a lot taller/shorter, has a knife/a gun, tries this/that? What if X, Y or Z maneuver doesn’t work? Bottom line: When you’re in real-life danger, there are no rules. Use whatever tactic will get you out of the dangerous situation (including running away). In the rest of life, there are times to stand up for your rights (fight), and other times you should recognize a no-win situation (flight). Know the difference.
  4. Practice. Just as practicing the moves taught in class builds muscle memory and mental agility, practicing these principles in other areas of life helps prepare us to handle whatever punches life throws at us.
  5. Stay healthy. This includes your body and your mind. A healthy mind means you’re alert to danger, including approaching bad guys, your own ego, and that plate of glazed doughnuts your office-mate plops down in front of you. A healthy body means you’re strong and capable of taking on life’s challenges – even big-fat-hairy-scary ones.
  6. Embrace community. There’s safety in numbers. A would-be attacker is less likely to approach a group. Don’t live life as a lone wolf; it’s safer and a lot more fun with others. It’s also a great place to learn all sorts of life skills.
  7. Don’t worry so much about being nice. A few of the ladies in class were hesitant to put the instructor in a choke-hold for fear of hurting him – or making him pass out! I admit, I was afraid of that, too, at first. But Matt has taught self-defense for a long time, and he knows his limits, so I believed him when he said he would tap me on the leg when it was time to let up. Thing is, you can’t learn it unless you practice it. In other areas of life, we (especially women) worry about what others think of us. My dad taught me not to worry about that. There will always be people who misunderstand and judge (“haters gonna hate”). As long as you know you’re doing what’s right, let go of others’ opinions of you. (I’m still practicing that one.)
  8. Trust your teachers. This starts with knowing which teachers you can trust, of course. Once you’ve figured that out, it’s time to learn from their wisdom. Just as we had to believe Matt when he showed us how to do the choke-hold – because he has years of experience – we have to trust others’ wisdom when we seek advice. If you’re looking to quality teachers, trust their advice.

I learned more from self-defense class, but I’m saving some of the tips for later. (Stay tuned.)

Meanwhile, I want to thank our instructor, Matt Sellers, and Joe Valadez, the workout guy he pulled in to act as another “attacker” so that we could learn to defend ourselves. Thanks for letting us punch on you, kick you and choke you!

And a shout-out to Without Limits MMA, where our class was held. Matt and his wife, Lisa, are the owners, and they offer a variety of classes. Your first week is free, and I took advantage of the offer and spent this past week in a ladies kickboxing class, which was – oh, my goodness – AWESOME! For more info, visit the Facebook page or call Matt at (870) 307-4515.

If you’re local to my area (Batesville, Ark.), stay tuned for updates; our church ladies plan to do this again in a few months. You’ll definitely want to sign up. I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

 

 

Have you ever taken a self-defense class? If so, what’s the No. 1 thing you learned? If not, what’s holding you back from signing up?

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