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Why women should practice kung fu: my real life application

I have been asked about teaching a ‘women’s self defense’ seminar over the years, and I always decline because in all honesty, I don’t ever feel like I am a true authority on the subject.  Yes, I have done kung fu my entire life.  Yes, I have done sparring class.  Yes, I have been taught self defense.  However, I do not practice fighting on a daily basis or apply my kung fu in a combat environment as often as I would like to.  I never like to pretend I am an expert in something I am not, so I usually shy away from the request for a women’s self defense class.

The main focus of my martial arts training has always been its expression as an art form, preserving the cultural tradition, health, philosophy and self defense application.  I always hated the question “Have you ever used kung fu in a fight?” because as a traditional practitioner, my goal was always to avoid a fight.  Learning to deflect and avoid confrontation is kung fu to me.  I know some people may scoff at this and say “yea, but if you were attacked those things aren’t important.”  They would argue that knowing how to physically fight and defend yourself is the most important thing.  I disagree.  I do agree at the end of the day, a woman should be able to defend herself physically, and have the tools to harm an attacker.  However, I am also realistic in the fact that an average female is at a disadvantage to a male in size, weight, and strength.  Don’t get me wrong …  I am all about girl power, and anything he can do I can do better… but nature can’t be overlooked.

Do I think I could defend myself against someone within my weight, size, and skill level?  Yes.  Do I think I could fight off a couple 6′ 3″ 250 lb guys attacking me?  I certainly would put up a good fight, but probably not.  Furthermore, if my attacker had a fire arm or other weapon, I would certainly be at a disadvantage.  This is not a kung fu movie.  However, I liked to believe that my kung fu training has taught me to have heightened awareness of my surroundings, ability to detect potential danger, and the ability to react quickly in a stressful environment.  I know many are scoffing at these ideas as well.

I unfortunately finally had a live test of this theory.   This past week, I was sleeping in my room and heard a loud noise that woke me up.  I thought it was O in the kitchen and remembered that I wanted to remind him to take some boxes to the Temple.  So I left the bedroom and went down the hall to find a man in a hooded sweatshirt running through my house.  When he turned his face, I saw that he had a full face mask on and at that moment I knew it was not O.  In reflection, I believe that my adrenals kicked in and I went into offensive mode.  It was fight-or-flight and my instinct was to fight.  I changed my stance (albeit I was in my fluffy bathrobe, and was probably the least threatening I have ever looked), started yelling at him to get out, and advanced forward.  He ran away from me, slammed the sliding glass door onto the ground, and ran out the back. I then proceeded to barricade myself in the room closest to the street and dialed 911.  The police arrived within 5 minutes, but were on the opposite side of the street.  I had to direct them to the correct house, asked them to come in, and clear the home because I did not know how many people were in the home or if he had returned with a weapon.  Even under the duress, I was able to give concise directions, describe the thief, and felt confident in the interaction we had.  I did not pursue him out the door because I did not know what was waiting around the corner, and knew he must have had some tool or weapon to break the glass.  I was not trying to be a hero in this scenario, which I truly believe was the smartest choice I could have made. When people asked if I ‘would have’ used kung fu on him, I tell them I did use kung fu.  I didn’t have to fight, but I was defensive when I needed to be, and offensive when I needed to be.  I held a confident posture, I yelled loudly and pointedly (enough to make him run in the opposite direction of the woman he outweighed and was larger than).  I secured myself in a safe room and called for help.  I gave clear directions when I saw the police was at the wrong house.  I was able to tell them what direction he headed, what he was wearing, and general details about his appearance.  In this stressful situation, I did not freeze, I did not get emotional, and as a result, I am alive.  I attribute this to my kung fu training.  So have I ever used kung fu in a fight?  Yes.

To hear more about this, subscribe to my podcast as I will be discussing it on there soon.  You will also hear some great conversations with fascinating guests: www.culturechatpodcast.com