I am frequently asked if I've ever had to use my martial arts training in a real life situation. The truth is that since I began training, I haven't had to use my physical training once. I'd like to think though, that my training has steered people away from engaging me in conflict, kind of like the Jedi.
Another common question I'm asked is why I decided to start training in the martial arts. There are many reasons. I had always had an interest from the time that bully punched me in the back when I was in junior high. I always wanted to know how to defend myself, but I was a little intimidated of learning a martial art. Big I wanting to start classes is how I got my start.
But this doesn't mean I've never had to defend myself. There was a date gone wrong a long time ago, and it's one of the things that drives me to continue training; and it's also why I want my daughters to train in some form of self defense. What happened to me was no joke.
It was the summer after my freshman year in college and some friends and I went to a dance club. One of my friends instantly found a guy for the evening and they hit it off. His friend liked me, but I wasn't interested. I was having much more fun hanging out with my guy friend and ignoring him. At the end of the night, my friend and her guy exchanged phone numbers and I got into the car as quickly as possible, wanting to avoid giving my number to his friend.
About two weeks later, my friend called me and told me she was going out on a date with the guy she met. They wanted to make it a double date and asked me to go along with his friend. I didn't want to go. At first, I said "no" but I was talked into it over a series of days. Normally, I probably would have said "yes" earlier to appease my friend. This, after all, is what women do; but I had a funny feeling about this guy and I wasn't at all interested in dating him.
My friend arranged everything and a few nights later, we met the two guys in the parking lot of the hotel where I worked as a lifeguard. I didn't want to leave my car behind and go with them. My gut was telling me not to, but my friend insisted, and so I got in their car and off we went.
When we arrived at the one guy's house, I was uneasy. It was in the middle of nowhere. I thought we were going to go to a movie or miniature golf or something, but instead we were at a house with no one home. My friend and her guy quickly disappeared into the wooded backyard to find the pool. I was not at all interested in swimming. I had spent the entire day life guarding and I wasn't going to approach water with this guy. My friend had also made it clear she wanted to be alone. My date asked me if I wanted to watch a movie. It was either watch a movie, or stand in the driveway waiting for my friend so I reluctantly agreed to go inside.
When I went inside, we were in a small living room. The sofa bed was pulled out. He started the movie and sat down in the middle. I sat on the very edge. I didn't want to give him the wrong idea.
I don't remember what the movie was, probably because I was too paranoid to watch any of it. He kept gradually moving closer to me and he was making me feel uncomfortable. He tried to hold my hand and I fixed my hair with it. I was not interested. I wanted to make it clear.
Apparently, I wasn't clear enough.
It all happened so quickly, but before I knew it he had grabbed me and pulled me down and into the center of the sofa bed. He climbed on top of me quickly. He was kneeling on my thighs and holding my wrists down with my hand while he worked on the button on my shorts. Thank God for button fly jean shorts because they gave me the second or two I needed to realize what was going on.
I immediately told him to stop it, firmly. I started yelling, loudly. I told him to get off of me. I screamed for him to knock it off, but he was not listening. He was in this terrifying zone and I had to do something quick. I squirmed a little bit and was unable to move him.
Then something snapped in me and I got completely FURIOUS that he was trying to do this to me. He WAS NOT going to succeed.
What came after this was fast and furious. I managed to get my legs out from underneath his knees, pulled my knees up to my chest, planted my feet on his chest and launched him. I remember watching him literally fly across the room as he slammed into the wall. This is the adrenalin people talk about when Mom's remove cars from on top of their kids.
He hit the wall and sort of bounced off it. After the initial shock of what I had done to him was realized, he charged me. But I was ready. As soon as I had sent him flying, I was on my feet, crouched down and ready. He charged at me, but was met with fists flying at him. I hit him in the eyes, nose, mouth, neck. I just didn't stop. I went at him without stopping, because I knew I had to. He was going to keep coming at me, and I needed to make him understand that it wasn't going to happen.
After hitting him multiple times in the face, as hard as I could, he staggered backwards and I saw my opportunity to run. I darted out the door as fast as I could and then quickly turned to face the door. I didn't want him surprising me again. I began SCREAMING at the top of my lungs for my friend.
My lovely date appeared at the screen door looking horribly disheveled. He didn't dare venture outside. I told him to stay away from me. I told him he hadn't seen anything yet and if he came anywhere near me, I would wreck him beyond what I had already done. From the safety of the screen door, he yelled "So you don't want to have sex?"
"What do you think, you idiot? I said NO!" I screamed at him. I was shaking something terrible and so was my voice, but my volume was as loud as possible. I wanted anyone within the area to hear what was going on.
It was then that my friend and her date appeared. "What is going on?" she asked as she surveyed the scene.
I told her we needed to leave right away and that my date was not coming with us. The problem was that it was his car. He came outside, and tossed the keys to his friend and asked him to drive. I was absolutely sick about having to get in the car with this guy and his friend again. I don't think my friend understood the severity of the situation, despite the fact that I told her straight out, "He tried to rape me!"
Her date got in the driver seat and she sat in the front passenger seat. At the last second, she allowed my date to climb in behind her and sit in the back beside me. I was furious, but I figured at least in the car, I had witnesses and he wouldn't try anything.
By now though, I think he was afraid of who I would tell and what would happen to him. He kept getting in my personal space and begging me to forgive him. Believe it or not, he was trying to kiss me. Every time he crossed the center line of that car, I grabbed his face and slammed it back against the window on his side of the car. His face was already swollen and bruised in areas where I had pummeled him during the initial incident. I had no problem adding to his injuries and continually told him to back off.
My friend seemed upset that her date was cut short, but I was never so happy to see my car. The car had barely stopped and I was climbing out behind the driver's seat. My date still wouldn't stop. He kept trying to talk to me and grab at me. It was like he thought we had a minor lover's quarrel or something. It had been nothing of the sort.
I got in my car and told my friend she better get in or I would leave without her. She was saying her goodbyes to her date. As I went to close my car door, my date stuck his hand in the frame and told me he wanted to talk. I told him he had two seconds to remove his hand or else I'd be taking it with me as I drove away. He removed his hand and walked away.
On the drive home, I told my friend what had happened and broke down. What if I hadn't reacted the way I did? What if I hadn't been able to move him? It had been the worst date ever and I was so angry at myself for not trusting my gut about this guy. I knew he was bad news and yet I allowed a sense of obligation to my friend to lure me into a date with him. I would never make that mistake again.
When I got home that night, my dad was up and asked me what was wrong. I was still shaking and my hands hurt from punching him as much as I did. I had sore spots that would turn into bruises on my thighs from where his knees had been digging into my legs. My Dad listened to what had happened before retrieving his baseball bat and demanding to know where he lived. I told him I honestly couldn't get him back there. He lived in the middle of nowhere. I also told him that the bat wasn't necessary and that I had given him plenty of abuse with my fists and legs already.
A few weeks later, my friends and I were at a different dance club. My jerk of a date showed up. My best guy friend saw him and started slowly rolling up his sleeves. Another friend alerted a friend of ours who was the bouncer and he was promptly removed from the club. My date backed away from my friend, was grabbed by the bouncer, and that's the very last time I saw him.
I had no martial arts training when I gave him a tie-dyed face. After five years of martial arts training, I can't even imagine what I would have done to that jerk with the training I have now. I hope I never have to find out.
One of the greatest things I've learned during my martial arts training is that you should always trust your gut. If I had done that from the beginning, I never would have ended up in that terrible situation. I was stupid to get into a car with people I didn't know well. I should have said we'd follow them in my car. I was dumb to agree to go out with someone who gave me a bad feeling to begin with. And you know what? I really should have just stayed in the driveway at the house, and paid closer attention to exactly where we were going. However, I was 18 years old, thought I was invincible, and was suffering from a severe case of "it can't ever happen to me." Many teenagers currently have the same attitude and I serve as proof that it can happen to you if you're not careful.
Not everyone reacts the way that I did. Some women completely freeze and are incapable of doing anything to defend themselves. The unfortunate thing is that no woman ever knows how they'll react until truly tested. I'm glad to know that I don't freeze. While working at Sexual Assault Services at the University of Pittsburgh, I know there were many girls being counseled because they had been sexually assaulted. So many of them suffered from troubles related to the fact that they did freeze and bad things happened.
Personally, I think that martial arts training can help to eliminate a lot of that freezing up that can happen in bad situations. As I learned the other night during our class in the dark, muscle memory kicks in, and if practiced enough, your reactions just become second nature. They take over, and they keep you safe and alive.
As this school year comes to a close and many young girls get ready to head off to college for the first time, it would be a great time to check into picking up a self defense class or two before heading off. It's also important to remember that your instincts are usually right and you should always listen to them and trust them.