It had never occurred to me to take Karate. I had done aerobics, ballet, swimming etc, I liked to be busy. I started martial arts because there was a dojo near my house and I heard that they did a good workout. I didn’t like working out but I had just had twins and the bod was a disaster.
My introduction to self defence training was in the dojo. I found it interesting and physically challenging but didn’t see a great deal of need for it in my life. And my traditional martial arts training was giving me my body back.
Fast forward a few years, I was a single mother of 5 but I had my black belt and I loved my karate. It provided me with a necessary escape and break from busy and challenging days with my girls. My self defence instructor was pleased with my progress and was using me as an assistant instructor (an unusual honour in my male dominated school).
Then there was this thing that happened. I was with a family friend, we had been friends for years. We were alone. I said no and he kept going. He assaulted me. There was no yelling, no fighting. I didn’t realize it was a sexual assault. I guess I should have done something sooner. I couldn’t believe he had been such a jerk. I certainly didn’t tell anyone. Our kids were best friends.
I was in process that summer of starting my own martial arts school. I headed to Boston for a conference of self defence instructors. Obviously (wink wink), I was already an expert in self defence but I was excited to meet other women doing martial arts and self defence training.
The first seminar of the conference was a panel discussion on the history of women’s self defence. Well. I felt like I had done just fell off the turnip truck, if you know what I mean. These women were the ones who had broken down the doors of dojos to demand training that would help them prevent rape. They had started the rape crisis centres and distress lines. They were the pioneers in the field. I was gobsmacked. Not only by the collective wisdom in the room, but by the explanations and understanding of how the socialization of women affects our ability to defend ourselves from violent situations.
When I came home, I revamped all of my programming for my new dojo with my new understandings. I also sent an email to my former friend explaining the impact that his actions had on me. The seeds of Strong Orange were planted and that was how it all started.