Saturday, July 17, 2010

When They Get It Right

As you may or may not know, I help to teach a women's self defense course.  It is an outstanding course.  But for the participants, it is grueling.  For some, those who have been raped, it can go beyond that and be utterly terrifying.  We (the instructor and assistants) really push them. 
The first few weeks, as we have them practicing the strikes and kicks they've learned, are a little harrowing.  Not because they are throwing excellent strikes or kicks, but because they are throwing horrible ones.  We, the "leaders" are used to proper technique.  And sometimes get a bit banged up holding bags and such for them. 
For example, last week (so 12 days ago), I was holding the bag where the individual SHOULD have hit it no problem.  Instead, she drove my foot into the ground, creating a massive bruise and a very swollen, sore joint.  BUT... it was effective.  I told her that wasn't what we were after just then, but it was a good technique.

The night sort of went downhill from there.  Sloppy techniques, crummy attitudes... just over all not so good.  The women were getting frustrated, we were getting irritated.and on the edge of being flat-out angry.  It was tempting, SO tempting, to yell and tell them to leave.  To come back when the were going to actually put forth some effort.
But then... something snapped in someones eyes.  And she started kicking, hard.  And yelling, loudly.  Her strikes would have been extremely effective if delivered to an actual human target.  A little later, she escaped from a choke hold on her first try, for the first time.  She will pass her graduation with flying colors... because she got it right.

Switching gears a little bit.  Way back when, I was a nanny for a sweet, beautiful boy.  Remember him?  His house was laid out in such a way that it was IMPOSSIBLE to gate off the stairs.  So, as soon as he was able to crawl, I started working with him, teaching the art of going up and down on his knees, and doing so slowly.  And I made it VERY clear to him that he could go up and down the steps all he wanted - as long as an adult was present.  So, after two weeks, he would crawl towards the steps squealing.  He'd get to the bottom, and freeze in his tracks.  And when he got to the top, and looked at me with those glittering black eyes... when he got it right.... I know.  I knew that if he did try to do it when an adult wasn't around, he'd more than likely be okay.  Because he got it right.
My last story is about a man I will call D.  D went to school with a close friend of mine.  That friend and I were at that school - an old, one-room school - working on restorations when D stopped in.  He was clearly intoxicated.  So many things had gone wrong in his life.  He was hurting, desperate, alone, afraid.  He'd turned to alcohol to try and make up for those things, and it was failing.  He pulled away, and I felt bad for him.
A few weeks later, he came back.  We were replacing the maypole (or strands, as some call them).  The two of them worked together, and I quietly watched.  I watched D open a bottle of beer and take a swig.  I watched him close his eyes and pause.
I watched him climbing up the side of a hay wagon, so that he could drop the new pole into position.  He climbed down, and the two of them stood there, staring.  These people are not what would usually be referred to as "young."   But they each grabbed a strand, and ran until they could leap in the air.  Their smiles, their laughter, the slaps on the shoulder...  his almost secretive dumping of the beer... my heart leaped within me, because he got it right.

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