Week 12: Learn Self Defense

I don’t think I’m alone in this.  If I’m walking alone to my apartment building or sitting in a sparse subway car and see someone shady, I start envisioning a showdown in my mind.  I pull out my keys or position my messenger bag in front of me as a shield for the inevitable confrontation between myself and my purported attacker.  Thankfully, I’ve never actually had the imaginary faceoff come to fruition.  This is the point in the blog post where I’ll ask you to find the nearest piece of wood to your person and to knock on it please.  Thank you kindly.

Though I have come close.  On the very first day of my first job in Washington, D.C., I took the metro home and a bearded, unstable man sat next to me on the bench as I waited for the train.  He used the government ID badge I wore around my neck as an icebreaker to start a completely one-sided conversation with me.  Eventually, he told me that he just got out of prison, at which point I decided I no longer wanted to sit next to this man.  Fortunately, the train arrived, though as I jumped through the front door of the subway car and sat down, I saw the bearded man surreptitiously enter through the back door of the same car, thinking he got in without me spotting him.

I sat frozen, lost in thought and genuine fear for much of the train ride back home.  My stop was the terminus and I was positive that this man would follow me to my car as soon as we arrived.  It wasn’t until the penultimate stop that I devised a bright idea.  When the doors opened, I stepped out on the platform and waited for Beardface to exit as well.  As soon as he exited the car and saw me staring at him, I jumped back in the car, just as the doors closed behind me.  Now that he had been seen, he sputtered around the platform as if he had really meant to get off, and as the train passed him by, I gave him the best stink eye I could muster.

I was lucky that time but I’m not naïve to think this situation couldn’t or wouldn’t happen again.  I’ve lived in cities for the past four years, and coming into contact with hundreds of people on any given day means that it’s just good odds that I’ll run into crazies and sickos again.  I’ve always wanted to learn how to defend myself should the worst occur, but I’ve never taken that wish seriously before.  Man challenge, enter stage left.

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The only experience I’ve had with self defense was a stage combat class in college.  Our wonderful instructor realized that it might be beneficial for us students to learn some combat techniques that didn’t require our assailant to stand several feet away and make a loud clapping sound when “hit.”  Though we only spent a single day on learning self defense techniques, I felt empowered to go through the motions and understand the foundation behind it.  But now it’s been six long years since that class and whatever knowledge I had gathered is all but forgotten.  I wanted to find a self defense class that was available to both men and women and one that would teach me a fair amount of techniques in a short amount of time.  Krav Maga fit both those requirements.

I first heard about Krav Maga in the DVD extras of Batman Begins, when the fight choreographer mentioned using it as part of Christian Bale’s training regimen.  If something has the Batman seal of approval and doesn’t cost thousands of dollars to try, I figure it deserves to be on this website.  As I did more research into this Israeli martial art, I discovered several schools in NYC.  I settled on the Krav Maga Federation.  I bought a three-class pack over one weekend and convinced Q to come with me as moral support.  Before we arrived at the first class, their website encouraged me to buy groin protection.  I had no idea the variety of groin protection that exists nowadays.  When I played Little League, I remember the simple jockstrap and plastic cup, but now there’s compression shorts and long pants with protection built in, along with cups made out of bullet-resistant glass.  As in cups that could stop bullets if need be.  I went with the simplest and cheapest I could find.  When I came home and Q volunteered (a little too eagerly) to test out my new equipment, for a moment I thought that going cheap may cost me in the long run.  But thankfully my protection held up and I was ready for class.


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Want to read more? You’ve reached the end of the preview, but the full text of this entry and many more can be found in my book, BE A MAN: How I Spent One Year Drinking, Shaving, Farming, and Fathering My Way Toward Masculinity.

Click on the book cover and you’ll find more information on how you can purchase the book in paperback and e-reader versions.

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