A woman is walking down a dark street, simply trying to get home. A large man approaches her and attempts to force her into his car. She flees, panicked, and sees a light ahead of her — an open business.
A karate school. “Help!” she screams. “A man is trying to kidnap me!”
The instructor stands between her and the would-be kidnapper, a large man who demands his “right” to put hands on the woman. The instructor responds to his aggression. The man goes to the hospital.
A woman self defense instructor, only four foot eleven, is questioned by the boyfriend of a prospective student. He pushes her and prods, contemptuous, and she is confused…until he backs her against the wall. Then something happens. She finds clarity, and responds with a round-house kick to his jaw, dropping him in his tracks.
A boy is chased by a gang, slapped and punched and threatened with a stomping. He cannot win, but cannot run from the conflict. He steps out into the middle of a busy street, standing on the double yellow line, cars and trucks whizzing past on both sides. “Come out here and do that,” he snarls.
The bullies back down, and never bother him again.
I was assisting in a martial arts workshop, and the instructors brought me a woman who simply couldn’t attack, couldn’t kick or punch the striking pads. She was overcome by fear of “hurting” her partner, but I saw something deeper. This was fear of triggering a more aggressive response. Better to play helpless. Better to be inoffensive and survive than fight back and just make him angrier. The illusion, the LIE she spoke was that she was afraid of harming her partner.
She was crying and shuddering, and for a moment I thought: why did they give her to me?
And in the next moment, I shed the false ego, and a voice said: because they know you can help.
“Do you have any children?” I asked.
“No,” she sniffled.
“Do you have a sister?” I asked
“Yes,” she said, and just slightly, I saw her energy shift.
“A younger sister?”
“Do you love her?”
“Of course!” and her energy shifted even more. I saw it.
“And you’d do anything for her?”
And now I saw her steel. Bingo. I had her.
“All right,” I said, and my voice was as cold as dry ice. “If I get past you…” and I described something hideous I would do to her sister.
Instantly, she was a different person. Something inside her bared its teeth. Like a little wolverine she was, and CAME AT ME. Knocked me against the wall and with zero concern for her own welfare she…well, she beat the living hell out of me. It took two men to pull her off.
Delighted (and bruised) I bounded up. “THAT’S IT!” I screamed. “THAT’S the place inside you! Inside your head and heart. THAT is where you go, what you access. Make every punch and kick come from THERE!”
She was crying again, but this time…the tears were of clarity, and joy. She was the standout student for the rest of the workshop, a maniac under careful control, sheer survival energy. After the workshop she hugged and kissed me, and told me that I’d given her the best and cruelest gift she’d ever had.
The gift of seeing who and what she really was. An animal, capable of fighting without concern for her own survival. All it took was knowing what she was fighting for.
It isn’t the size of the dog in the fight. It is the size of the fight in the dog.
Or: It’s not what you fight with. It is what you are fighting FOR.
The world is not a safe space. It never has been, and by some standards, it is safer now than it has ever been. But it can be shocking to come face to face with people who don’t play by some set of genteel rules, the civilized reciprocal courtesies between civilized human beings.
The reality of animal existence is fang and claw. But even animals display respect for each other. I’ve seen lions and leopards in the wild, and the lion doesn’t attack the leopard, not out of friendship, but because it knows that the leopard might be smaller and weaker, but it can still blind the lion, dooming it to starvation. Predators prefer not to attack other predators. And what of the herbivores who are its natural prey? If that herbivore can defend itself, the lion STILL prefers to find the halt, the lame, the weak, the young, the old.
The story goes that two hunters were being chased by a bear. One was getting tired, and gasped out “It’s no use! We can’t outrun that monster!”
“I don’t have to outrun the bear,” the other said. “I just have to outrun YOU.”
Ouch. Truth, ugly as it sounds. Predators will take the weakest, least aware, most timid member of the flock. Don’t be that weakest link.
How? There is another story: a wolf cub was raised by sheep, and came to believe it was a sheep. It ate grass, and followed the herd as timidly as any other future mutton sandwich. One day, wolves attacked the flock, and were astonished to find the wolf, shaking and shivering with terror. The alpha wolf grabbed the terrified creature by the scruff of its neck, and dragged it to the river. There, for the first time, it saw its reflection. “You are a WOLF!” the leader screamed. “Wake up!”
And in that moment, the wolf was enlightened.
If there is a gap between how you would fight for your child, your sister, your loved ones…and what you would do to protect yourself, you are asleep.
If you play by social rules when dealing with uncivilized people, to the point that you are unable to defend your life, honor, principles or dreams…you are asleep.
If you believe there is nothing you can do to defend yourself against a larger person…you are asleep.
If you are a woman and think it “unfair” that you have to take responsibility for your own defense…if you think that men give each other a “pass” but single out women for violence, you are asleep. Look at the statistics of mugging and assault and you’ll see that men beat the holy living hell out of each other unless they believe they might be hurt.
Does that mean you stand and box with someone out of your weight class? Of course not: you’re a primate. Use a tool!
Does that mean it is cowardly to run away? Hell no! “He who runs always wins” may not be totally true, but its true enough.
How about courtesy and politeness. Is that weakness? Hell no! It is removing all possible legitimate reason for someone to attack you. If you have removed ALL rational reason, you have maneuvered the opponent onto moral ice, where they have no while your feet are on solid ground
Does that mean it is cowardice to seek help? Hell, no. There is safety in numbers, and seeking protection is simple rational response. But the bottom line, the core responsibility you have in your life, is to be your OWN last resort. The person who does that simply doesn’t attract predators as readily. A lion has to be starving to attack a leopard. It might attack a deer just for entertainment.
Talk to people who have been to prison. What is the rule? If confronted, you MUST fight. Even if you lose, you gain respect. If you don’t fight, you will be a victim the entire time you’re in prison, unless you can find someone to defend you…and that comes at a higher price than bruises or even broken bones. Just the BODY LANGUAGE of someone who is willing and ready to defend themselves deters casual assaults.
You can access this core wiring, beneath all of the “I can’t” “I shouldn’t” and “I mustn’t” simply by accessing the part of you that would defend another human being. All healthy adults can access this by thinking of defending their own child. Most can by imagining defending a family member. Most men can by imagining defending a woman, particularly a family member: sister, mother, daughter, wife.
Let’s not get into arguments about gender roles, shall we? That discussion is going on next door. Have fun. This discussion is about Adulting. Survival. Living your life with integrity, and I’ve known too many women who have accessed this head space to have any illusion that its about size, age, or gender. It is about being real in a world of illusions.
The trick here is to find the internal wiring that triggers an all-out response INSTANTLY. And to, before the occasion presents itself, have CLARITY on what your values and beliefs are about throwing that switch.
I can promise you that that martial arts instructor’s lines were crossed. Who knows what they were?
- Defending his home (dojo)
- Defending a helpless person
- Defending a woman
- Defending his own body
Every day for years, he had trained his mind and body. Why? Well fitness, skill, sport, all sorts of fun.
But really? For a moment like this one, when he had total permission to do what was necessary to use those skills. Some combination of the four above mentioned principles. What might have triggered an even greater response?
If the woman was younger, a child.
If she was older, or disabled
If she was related to him
If she had already been wounded
The attacker was said to have been taken to the hospital. Increase the motivations, and he might have been taken to the morgue. What happened triggered the instructor’s “I have permission to respond” wiring.
What is yours? Under what circumstances do you step OUT of yourself, forget everything except your commitment to survive unharmed? My brother Patric Young taught martial arts in China, to some of the Red Guard. He pretty much tore through their pretty Kung Fu skills. They were amazed by him (he’s an amazing guy) and asked him what his art was.
“My art is the art of getting home alive to my family.” He said.
Amen. He had the right to defend himself, because he has a vision of unity with his family, and an obligation to serve them. That makes him dangerous as hell. And would, even if he was small and untrained.
And here is the beautiful thing: this “wiring,” this survival energy, can be accessed by imagining yourself protecting someone helpless, or by slowing down your own breathing until the CO2 level of your blood triggers panic. At the edge of that panic, ask what you would do to stop someone stealing your next breath. Do this correctly, and you will feel that animal inside you bare its teeth, and you have identified the direction of the real, survival wiring inside you.
And that ability to protect yourself, your family, the helpless, the righteous, is also the strength that protects your dreams, your ability to access your creativity and speak your truth. That “first chakra” energy simply manifests in sexual energy (you must feel either totally safe or totally out of control to have a full sexual response), power, and emotion (fear and love fight for the same space in your heart).
The IMAGE (not necessarily the reality: that’s a different discussion) of the European knight is useful here. An invulnerable monster of war, but all that strength, and ferocity, and the deadly sword, the piercing lance, the godlike armor and the fiery steed…all of that were…
“At your service, m’lady.”
Strength, in the service of softness. This isn’t a “male” thing, although for the sake of dualistic discussion it can be labeled as such. The truth is that the ULTIMATE strength is found in protecting what you love.
And a mother protecting her young is as deadly as any male animal. Deadlier, unless he is operating at the same level of clarity and commitment, that “I’m ready to die, and I’m ready to take you with me” energy that parents have defending their children.
THAT is the energy that can not only make you a “black belt” but keep you safe on the street. Or in an abusive relationship. Or a board meeting. Or when faced by writer’s block. Or when you need to grow and change and evolve, at the cost of ego-death. That is the doorway.
The WHAT is the thing you must do to forward your life, to grow and evolve and awaken.
It is the WHY that powers you.
The HOW is totally secondary to these two.
What is your “why” for any change you need to make? If you haven’t made that change, go deeper, into your secret inner self. Find the things you would fight and die for. Connect the change you need to make to THAT.
Do that…and you have accessed an entirely different level of the game. And then…God help anything that stands in your way, be it a threatening thug or your own limiting ego.
(The path of “Adulting” involves physical sovereignty, responsibility for your body, your sexuality, your home and family. It all flows together. The “Soulmate Process” is specifically about finding the love of your life, but by implication PROTECTING that relationship afterward, and being an adult, aware human being. In February we will explore this path, in a FREE five part workshop. www.soulmateprocess.com)