After hearing Kelly Herron’s attack in a Golden Gardens bathroom on a Sunday afternoon last month, I was [once again] reminded that simply being a woman puts me in danger. Being scared and paranoid doesn’t work and neither does living in ignorance or “othering” victims (ie. victim blaming: “Well she shouldn’t have worn that outfit / she shouldn’t have been alone / she shouldn’t have been drinking” etc.). Unfortunately there are never any guarantees, but being prepared, aware, and informed hopefully helps.
In one of the news articles, Kelly mentioned that she had just recently taken a self-defense workshop at Fighting Chance Seattle. I looked up the class and signed up immediately and they were initially booked out until June, but they opened up a few classes because of the publicity and demand. I invited my friends and we headed to the class last week.
The classes are taught in three sections: strategy, empowerment, and simulation. The first two thirds of the class is structured for “soft” skills, including listening to your intuition, talking about rape culture and victim blaming, and learning about boundaries (why don’t we talk about this more?!).
Our instructor Jordan led a discussion about asking for consent, and also to seek a “yes” and not to take a vague answer in its place. His own personal rule with his partner is that if it’s not a “Fuck yes” then it’s a no. I think this is a huge point to stress. Wearing down someone to the point of saying yes is not the same as getting a confident yes. If there’s ambiguity, the safest option would be to take it as a no or to gently and openly have a conversation about it.
One of the exercises was to practice saying no and afterward, we reflected on how strange it felt. How often do our no’s come with a qualifier, explanation, or an apology? Understanding that we don’t owe anyone an explanation for why we are saying no is empowering and not nearly discussed enough. The last third of the workshop is for working on actual skills: how to get out of different holds, what parts of the body are the boniest and hardest, and striking practice.
Throughout the class, the instructors and teaching assistants stressed that each person can participate (opt in) or opt out. The space is safe and one of the best parts of the experience was getting a sense of community. Many of the women are runners, petite, travel frequently, or walk home from school or work alone. This is all of us and our girlfriends and mothers and daughters. I would highly recommend this workshop for any woman in your life.
Fighting Chance Seattle offers monthly kickboxing and teen martial arts classes, self-defense classes for women, and on-site workshops for corporate self-defense.
1446 NW 53rd St, Seattle