Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls - #EVAWG
This was the 7th year my friend and fellow krav maga instructor Sarah Brendlor held her annual ladies only workshop. When I thought about it I realised it was the 5th year I had attended as I first went as a student in 2013. This event is to raise awareness of the violence that women and girls encounter on a daily basis.
For the history of the day go here:
Sarah works tirelessly in her home town of London and throughout the UK to empower people, but particularly women, to give them the skills they need to defend themselves. I don't think there is another krav maga instructor male or female that does so much to raise awareness of domestic violence and what you can do to combat it. She is an absolute legend.
Her website is:
Diversity, and no not the dance crew!
One of the things I've always loved about this event is that there is such diversity in the women that attend. Some have never done any krav maga before. Some are women that have trained regularly. There is no "typical" attendee. Best of all it's always a great laugh and we usually go for a drink or a bite to eat afterwards. Ordinarily, Sarah works on specific techniques and provides practical skills for what to do if being attacked. I remember a couple of years ago we worked on what to do if someone grabbed your bag. Implicit in this is the idea we are training on what to do if being attacked by a stranger, such as a mugger.
This year Sarah tweaked things a little.
This year was slightly different. This year Sarah wanted to get us working on the psychology of how we interact with others. The beauty of krav maga is that it is a reality based system and offers lots of solutions to problems, however one thing I believe is an issue is the assumption that the attacker is unknown to us. It's uncomfortable to consider but Sarah gave us some statistics that truly horrified me. Granted statistics can always be manipulated, however as these are from the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) I felt that they had at least some credence. The reality is that the CPS tells us that of all physical assaults reported 80% are by someone known to the victim. Out of all rapes that are reported 90% are carried out by someone known to the victim.
When Sarah first told me that I couldn't believe it. I really just found it too horrifying for words. Like most things that hit me hard on an emotional level, it took a while to sink in but I started to process it. You see this is simply the reported crimes. We also know that a lot of crimes don't even get reported. So my belief is that actually, it could be worse than this. Is it possible it could be higher?
The chances are yes, it could be worse and one of the things I loved about Sarah's workshop this year is that she was challenging women to think about how they are treated. She encouraged them to think about creating and maintaining firm boundaries. As women, at times we are taught by society that boundaries are not welcome. We are given messages about how we are supposed to behave. We are meant to be soft, kind, nurturing and caring. Enforcing boundaries be they physical or psychological is threatening to the status quo.
During the short period where the #metoo hashtag was trending, I wasn't surprised by the number of women that posted about their experiences. For whatever reason despite having had several experiences as a young woman that went way beyond what is acceptable normal human interaction, I felt uncomfortable sharing my stories. The truth is it doesn't really matter that much about me as an individual but it did make me ponder. Why did I feel so ill at ease? Maybe it is because as a society we seem to vacillate between telling people to "man up" if something offends them, and being so uber PC that any slightly bawdy joke made at the office is deemed a sackable offence. I just want us to find some middle ground, for us to be able to figure out what really matters as individuals and deal with that. We need a dialogue for that. Ranting at each other or failing to see that what offends you may not offend me means we miss what really is unacceptable behaviour. We are expending energy on something that doesn't matter when we should be shining a light on the really dark and destructive habits. Being offended doesn't change a thing. Taking action to share a message or raise awareness is a starting point.
We are equal. We are different.
What I want to do as a krav maga instructor and a human being is to make sure that other people, men and women, young or old, feel able to stand up to anyone that is victimising them. I am neither a feminist nor an apologist for abusers. I don't think all men are evil and I don't think women are superior. I believe we are equal to men but different. We must celebrate that, and most of all we must understand it. We're built differently, we think differently, we act differently. Are we capable of what they do? Yes for the most part. Don't think for one minute I think women aren't capable of disgusting and heinous acts because I know they are. However, I also know that we are still living in a time where women experience prejudices. We still live in a time when rape victims are reluctant to speak out and when people still ask victims of domestic abuse "If he hits you why don't you just leave him?"
It is up to us.
Despite raising awareness of violence against women and girls and despite a recent law change making coercive control now a crime, as a society we are still failing. I have the pleasure and privilege to teach in various schools as part of their enrichment. I get to speak to young people about what they are concerned about. Most of the things that worry them are occurring within their own social circle. Despite our obsession with "stranger danger" we need to educate these young people not just about WHAT to do when faced with physical attacks, but also WHO it is that might be doing it to us. You see I think we are failing our children by not telling them the truth about things like coercive control. I accept it's a really difficult subject to comprehend, yet it needs to become a part of what we educate them about. We also need to ensure that we work on things that empower them and develop their confidence. We must celebrate them as individuals and for their unique gifts. I could go on but if you've read this far I'll just say I'll leave that for another blog post!
Obviously I'm biased, but learn krav maga!
Learning krav maga or any type of martial art or self-defence system invariably increases confidence. Confident people are less likely to be victimised. Yes, there are no guarantees but if you are secure in who you are and what you want in life the chances are you won't settle for less in your relationships. That includes friendships as well as your romantic relationships. (**Sidebar: Jim Rohn said that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with! Think about that for a minute!) I am aware I am hugely biased but I can't think of any downside to learning krav maga and the younger you start the better! Assisting Sarah at her workshop meant that once again I was part of someone else's krav maga journey, be that at the start or otherwise. I really can't think there's a better way to earn a living!
If you think you're ready to start your krav maga journey get in touch.