That's me on the far right (front row) with the blue, purple and black hair.
Early in life I discovered all the things that women couldn't do. The message was made clear in a variety of ways both at home and outside it. Women can't be too intelligent, too successful, too active, or too strong. Women can't stand up for themselves. In particular, women can't be angry or have control of their lives. I'm not saying that any of these opinions are correct -- they absolutely aren't. However, they are the concepts that I was barraged with as a young woman. It should come as no surprise that not long after that I hit a self-destructive phase. Luckily, I was seeing a therapist at the time. We tried a couple different drugs, but none worked very well. I was still having panic attacks. So, she told me to find a physical activity that contained an element of self-discipline in order to help me work my way through the anxiety. Naturally, martial arts sprang to mind. Kendo sounded like a good fit because I'm a bit of a geek, and well, I like swords and have always wanted to learn to use one. UT offered semester long courses. So, I signed up. Interestingly enough, the panic attacks vanished the instant my hand wrapped around a shinai. However, late into my second year of study I decided Kendo was too aggressive for me. It wasn't that I couldn't handle being so forceful -- I could, but long term, I didn't like the energy it brought out in me. I needed to feel calm and grounded, balanced, not agitated. So, I quit and moved on to European style fencing. That fit for a while because western fencing isn't nearly as confrontational as Kendo. Four years went by, and then I decided to focus on other things -- my writing career among them. Martial arts slid off of my list of priorities.
And then last December there were a series of attacks on women in my neighborhood. The attacks escalated, a home invasion was reported and soon two women were found murdered, one inside her home. This was the second time in four years that a string of crimes against women had happened in my area. I stopped feeling safe, and no longer wanted to be outside once the sun went down. Being home by myself was uncomfortable. Other aspects of my life began to feel out of control. That's when I decided a self defence class was in order. While I was confident I could protect myself with a sword, if the need arose, I didn't know what to do if I didn't have a sword to hand. That was when I saw the discussion on my neighborhood email list about self defense courses. I was told that the Moy Yat Ving Tsun Kung Fu school offered the classes for free. It felt terrific to do something active about my fears rather than sit confined in the house, hoping nothing bad would happen. And that was the thing: I needed to feel I was doing something -- taking some form of control of my life again. I needed structure. I needed self-discipline.
I'm a writer. So, words, their meanings and relationships are important to me. Interesting thing about the word "discipline" -- it's related to the word "disciple." A disciple is a student who learns from someone (a mentor or a wise person) or something (a philosophy or belief system) that they care deeply enough about to follow. Self-discipline is about incorporating that belief system into your life. Kung Fu does, like all martial arts, have a belief system of which it is a part. So far, I've learned that Kung Fu involves honesty, heart, and stillness or peace. These are things I've been looking for all along, peace in particular. Kung Fu aims for a balance between defense and offence rather than mere aggression for aggression's sake. While Kendo appealed to me because if its emphasis on the warrior-artist -- or the balance between the creative and destructive forces, Kung Fu seems to be more about the balance between peace and aggression. When class ends I feel calm and centered in myself, not agitated. And it's peace that I most need.