Tag Archives: teaching

Sirens! Tomorrow!

Sirens begins tomorrow!

(Well, Sirens Studio is actually already in progress, but I couldn’t swing my schedule into alignment until the conference itself.)

But I am excited!  I pick up a friend at the airport tomorrow morning, then head to the hotel to meet up with existing friends and meet some new ones.  A couple folks have volunteered to help out with “The Movement You Don’t See (it’s a low-low-impact workshop, but I did want to demo a couple things that some might find uncomfortable), so I’ll get to meet up with them, too.

My son has been such a good sport, helping me decide what to leave in and take out of the presentation.  My inclination is to teach a three-hour class, so keeping it all within an hour is a bit of a challenge.

So if you’re attending Sirens, find me and say hello!  If you’re in the Denver area and not attending, drop me a line if you’d like to BarCon for awhile anyway!

 

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A New Martial Arts Home

Last week ended up being incredibly and unexpectedly busy–and for a spectacular reason.

100_2182I found a new place to train.

This is not a small thing.

I moved to Colorado a year ago, mind.  Though I didn’t spend every moment of the last twelve months seeking out a new dojo-home, I invested a great deal of energy looking up schools and instructors online, asking around, and spending more than a few hours sitting or standing in parking lots watching classes through storefront windows.

That watching-classes part quickly became depressing.  I wasn’t looking at how marvelous the students were.  I was watching how instructors managed their class and interacted with students… and never once came away thinking, “I’m impressed!”  In fact, I never walked away thinking, “Wow, good job.”  I wasn’t looking for a school that taught the exact art I’ve learned for the last fifteen-ish years–that’s impossible for many reasons–but was looking for quality instruction and school community.

Yeah, I’m picky.  And I don’t apologize for it. Continue reading A New Martial Arts Home

The Expectations and Fault Follow-Up

In the comments to Making the Nice-Guy Challenge a Safe One, mrissa and scallywag195 both shared questions and perspectives I wanted to answer in more detail. That “more detail” ended up being much longer than I thought… but here it is!

Questions from mrissa first:

My question is twofold:

1) In what context would his actions have been reasonable in a class/mat setting? In what context is “respond as though someone who is not in pads etc. is the actual attacker” the correct scenario? If this was a mismatch of reasonable expectations, I am having a hard time seeing where his expectation was reasonable.

The short answer is, “When Sensei says so.” Continue reading The Expectations and Fault Follow-Up

Where the Boundaries Are Drawn

 

(This article originally appeared on These Certain Musings in July 2012.)

This story troubles me greatly.  It’s taken me awhile to pinpoint exactly–beyond the obvious–why.  During this morning’s karate class, I think I figured it out.  Now to see if I can articulate it.  I’m using a bunch of newbie-author italics and bolds.  Oh, well.

The decision made by the Readercon board says to me that harassment happened, and that witnesses backed it up.  It says the behavior was not acceptable–but it was excusable.  A short-term banning says the boundary-crossing–which I understand included physical contact, correct me if I’m wrong–was determined to be not nice, but not a big deal.

But there’s another notion I want to discuss–a related tangent, if you will–that this situation triggered for me.  I don’t think it’s anything new, and it incorporates what others are saying, but I decided to post it anyway.  While the situation I’ve read of is the jumping-off point, I am not talking about that specific situation.  I’m talking about generalities and probabilities, not specifics and certainties.

Statistically, the larger danger is not the creepy stranger lurking in the bushes, waiting to pounce.  It’s the family member or acquaintance who keeps his behavior just inside the lines of what society tells us we should expect to accept, the level of behavior we should treat with subtlety and civility, until he’s ready to attack.

But the primary danger is where society puts those lines.

Alas, many acquaintance attacks begin with the same behavior that many would deem “mere clueless rudeness.”  But following from place to place, invading personal space, seemingly casual touching, refusal to stop–all are behaviors we know can lead to a life-threatening attack.  We know this at a deep and primal level.  That’s why it makes us uncomfortable.

And society as a whole has agreed we may not take defensive action until after the aggressor has attacked.  In other words, it’s perfectly cool for the man to say he misinterpreted a woman’s actions, even though the woman is left fearing for her physical safety.  But if the woman takes definitive and physical action to stop an attack before it escalates, she is usually blamed for overreacting.  Shamed for being rude.  Castigated for embarrassing the one who is crossing boundaries.

Y’all know I teach self-defense.  One thing we discuss and practice at length is the correlation between distance, time, and safety.  The greater the distance between you and danger, the more time there is to react.  The more time you have, the greater the likelihood of reaching safety.

But the good manners women are taught draw the lines of “appropriate” response inside an average person’s reaction time, inside the point of likely success.  It isn’t the man’s superior strength or size that is most dangerous.  It’s the fact we’re not permitted to take action against him until he’s already gained the advantage.

If society wants the woman to take defensive action only after she has been isolated, restrained, or struck, society is placing the woman’s right to protect herself far behind the man’s desire to avoid being embarrassed by his own behavior.  Clueless or intentional–I don’t care.  The aggressor’s feelings are given a higher value than the woman’s safety.  And frankly, it’s the ones who claim cluelessness who are more dangerous.  If they claim they don’t understand, “Please leave me alone,” they can’t be trusted to understand, “I don’t want to have sex with you,” either.

There is one thing I try to hammer home–for myself as much as for my students–in an attempt to override that societal conditioning:  If someone places an unwanted hand on me, that person has forfeited the right to said hand.  If it is on my body, it belongs to me, to do with as I think appropriate for the situation.  That might mean a pointed but low-key removal of the hand from my shoulder, or a blatant and painful pinky-finger twist, or something more aggressive.

(If my intuitions–which should be trusted–are telling me the man isn’t going to comply with my words, I hope to all that’s worth hoping to I’d do what I’ve been trained to do.  Saying with complete conviction that I’d do X would really be nothing but bravado.  We all hope we’ll know what to do, but it’s after you’ve faced a confrontation that you realize how unpredictable it can be.  Anyway.)

My actual response isn’t as important as knowing, deep down, that a person who harasses me, touches me, and tries to corner me has forfeited the right to polite words and civilized reactions.  I don’t need to be his teacher first, and verbally remind him to be a man rather than asshole.  If he hasn’t already learned, that isn’t my problem to solve nor my fault to bear.

If you tell a woman her “appropriate” boundary is within an unwanted hug–when her ability to strike is impaired, her ability to flee gone, and her body possibly at the mercy of another person’s strength and mass–you’ve decided you’d rather see her come to harm than upset the “civilized” nature of an event.

Really think about that for a moment.  Consider the term “acceptable losses.”  Now put faces to those losses.  Put that in context of what price we’re willing to pay to keep those lopsided and threatening situations from being an “embarrassment.”  The physical and emotional wellbeing of the person  is of less value than the feelings of a man who may choose to pursue a woman who tells him to leave her alone.

Distance = time = safety.  No amount of training can compensate for a societal requirement that the woman wait until she is hurt and restrained before fighting back.

I can’t speak to what Readercon’s decision means to those who are involved or those who have faced similar situations.  That’s for others–who have more con-going experience than I–to explain and discuss.  It’s just this little sliver of self-defense I’m addressing.
Notes:
1.  All of the above applies equally to men who have been assaulted by men or women, and women who have been assaulted by women.  I struggled with what pronouns to use, and decided to default to the genders specific to the Readercon situation for the sake of clarity.

2.  I’ve had women ask me some variation of, “But what if it’s one of your husband’s friends, and he’s drunk, and he doesn’t mean any harm?” My response is some variation of, “But what if the next time he cops a feel, it’s your teenage daughter?”

3. Yes, it’s possible to turn an unwanted hug to your advantage, but not for the average person.  If that nitpick is the best response someone can come up with, I expect it to be followed by, “So let’s give everyone a year’s worth of Krav Maga training!”

So What Do We Tell the Children?

A word before the start: Y’all come here with your own religious and political beliefs, and I think that’s marvelous. I ask you to remember, should you bring up or respond to something religious or political here, you’re sitting in my living room with my guests, and I treat all my guests with equal respect in the expectation all my guests will do the same. 🙂

TyPuppy 001
My son, age 5

My son was almost five years old on September 11, 2001. Among the gazillion concerns and fears of the ensuing days was a very important one: how do I balance my need to know what’s happening with the need to protect my son? And how do I teach my son about what’s happening with scaring him or, on the flipside, leaving him ignorant?

“Balance” is the key here. Recently, Maggie Hogarth shared her thoughts on how a sheltered childhood altered her view of the world in negative ways, and there is much there that applies to this discussion.

While I wanted to hide everything from my son—everything! Anything that would disrupt his joy and happiness!—it wasn’t at all a realistic or responsible choice. At the same time, I needed to stay informed, especially in those first few days. Remember, it wasn’t known if the attacks were isolated or, shall we say, introductory. And no one knew the extent to which our military would be mobilized, if there’d be a new draft, if the government was going to institute new restrictions, if survivors were going to be found…

Yesterday, I found myself in a vaguely similar situation with my nephews. I say, “vaguely” because the attacks in Lebanon and France happened on the other side of the ocean, so the level of reactive fear was much lower. But there remained my need to know what was happening, to stay in touch with a couple people, and so forth. It all tossed me back to parenting post-9/11.

I don’t think there is an absolute and universal “right” choice because there are so many variables. The temperament and maturity of the child. The existing knowledge base. The willingness and ability of the parent to make age-appropriate explanations. The potential impact of the event on daily life. The importance of current events to the family. On and on and on.

So I’m not coming from the perspective of some childhood expert wanting to tell everyone the One True Way to communicate with all children in the aftermath of any and all terrible events. I’m just sharing what worked for me, to the best of my memory.

Continue reading So What Do We Tell the Children?

Plotting Again

I spent last week at karate camp, where much of my time was given to coaching upcoming black belt candidates on kata and self-defense.  (Sparring isn’t part of our testing process.)   Black belt candidates are my favorite group to teach.  Despite the heat and humidity, the week flew by.

An added benefit of karate camp–the hours coaching students on the strategy of defending against multiple attackers, other hours considering the best strategies to communicate with parents, and yet more hours determining what motivates kids to make good choices under tough circumstances–was the ability to see my plotting with a sharper eye.

So why doesn’t Syrina tell her Big Secret to the exiles at the earliest opportunity?

Because I hadn’t thought to do that in the first draft, then just let that choice ride through all subsequent revisions.

Why did I let it ride?

Because I couldn’t figure out and manage the consequences of her revealing the Big Secret.

Then I began to wonder about that last answer. How many stories have a “Why didn’t she just do X?” moment because the writer was unable to think through the consequences of X? Because the writer cannot–due to inexperience–see what would follow said revelation? (And I mention inexperience because I found those at the foundation of my own un-choices.) How much of it is a hesitation to reveal because, in real life, the writer would herself hesitate to face the changes such a revelation would cause?

Or is it just me?

So now I’m on a kick of analyzing my “revelation” choices all over the place–determining if keeping a secret enhances the plot or manipulates it.  Looking at the reasons behind the choices.  Forcing myself to consider if the choices were made for convenience.

In this case, revealing the Big Secret creates a massive ground shift in the motivation and outlook of several characters, and greatly alters the reasons later choices are made. But–as with the worldbuilding changes I made earlier–it doesn’t change the story I wanted to tell.

Oddly enough, I chose to work on Sand of Bone because I thought it would be a relatively simple task to edit. Instead, I’ve opened the Pandora’s Box of revisions.

There Is No Such Thing As Typical

Today the 30-day blog challenge is to describe a typical day from my life.

I do not have typical days.

The best and the worst thing about being self-employed in three different fields–karate, wellness, writing–while also homeschooling a teenager is that no two consecutive days will be alike.  Toss in a sister who works as a flight attendant while parenting my little nephews, parents who love to spend time with extended family, and two crazy-sweet dogs, and it is guaranteed days will be interesting in the ancient proverb sense.

Let’s take today, for instance.

Up at eight in the morn (because I suck at early rising) to get laundry rolling and hoe the garden before it gets to muggy.  By nine, the garden has been weeded, laundry is well underway, breakfast has been eaten by human and canine residents, and I’ve settled in to answer wellness emails while the Son works through his assignments in algebra and economics.  We talk about Doctor Who somewhere in there.  At a few minutes after eleven, the Son and I head out the door, with the Son driving.  (We’re trying to figure out how to get the time for his driving test in before the end of the month.)

The Son sees his econ/algebra teacher for two hours.  In that time, I run to the printing shop to pick up karate-related stuff, then see a karate student at his own factory to provide a private lesson on kata and kicks.  We finish ten minutes late, which means I barely make it back to the teacher’s office in time.  But the teacher is also running late, so all’s good.  I return phone calls while I wait: a client looking for info on digestive enzymes, the mechanic trying to schedule what might be an all-day job for my car, someone seeking information on karate classes.

By the time we return home, it’s a little after two.  The dogs dance on their back legs as if we’ve been gone forever and threatened to never return.  Fortunately, the Lab didn’t find any unattended food items to devour, and the Bull-Boxer-Rotty didn’t tear up anything in his crate, so their greetings were well-received.  We indulge in many minutes of playing with the dogs because it makes the entire day better for all involved.

Then came the midday ninety minutes with the Son, when we make something quick and easy for lunch before sitting down to watch one of the nighttime shows we record to watch together.  Today was the most recent episode of Falling Skies.  I ate a Sloppy Joe and salad.  The Son had the Moo Shu left over from last night and a banana.

After the show, we chatted for a bit before the Son had to start his government assignment and I had to be out the door.  I reached the dojo just five minutes ahead of both my instructor and my sparring partner.  Fifteen minutes of kata work and forty-five minutes of sparring followed.  Less than five minutes after the end of practice, I bowed beginning students on the mat for the first class of the evening.  Four hours later, around nine, I bowed my last students off the mat.  In between, I taught some students a new kata, others a new throw, then worked as both teacher and uki for an hour of multiple-attacker self-defense.

Upon arriving home, a shower–quick and cold–was the second order of business.  The first was to hug the Son.  Since the Son is working on a Minecraft something or other video and chatting with his international friends, I am left to my own devices: more answering of email, petting the crazy sweet dogs, and writing this post.  By eleven, I’ll be settled enough to get some fiction in before my eyes begin to cross.  By midnight, I’ll curl up in bed with my yet-nameless Kindle, and read until I fall asleep somewhere around one in the morn.

And that’s about as typical as it gets around here.  Tomorrow I’ll teach karate again in the evening, and the Son and I will still spend our midday time together, but everything else will be different.

That midday time is most precious to me.  Because the Son and I both often work evenings, we can’t have dinner together very often.  Instead, lunch is our time.