Yesterday, on the way to the airport, I stopped at a gas station to fill the tank and clean the windows. The afternoon worker had evidently forgotten to show up for his shift, so there was a line of cars waiting for service, mine among them. While my brother and I sat in the car, two beggars entered the station: one chareidi (ultra-religious), the other Arab. The Arab beggar approached our car and offered his merchandise to me, asking me to help him.
“I’m sorry, I can’t,” I said, shaking my head. Though truly, I was not obligated to apologize for it.
He offered me another object. “Take this,” he said.
“I don’t want to,” I replied.
He offered me something else, this time reaching inside the open window of my car.
Is it important to give charity? Yes.
Is it good to give money to beggars? Yes.
Is it okay to reach your hand inside the window of my car after I have already said no twice?
Not in the slightest.
“Take this. Help me.”
“No.” I insisted. He did not remove his hand.
“No,” I repeated, but my words fell on deaf ears. I recalled my IMPACT classes, where the instructor sometimes called out “He’s deaf!” to imply that sometimes, he is, and you should not hesitate to raise your voice. I raised my hand to stop him, looked directly into his eyes and said, louder this time, “No!”
He continued to ignore me.
So I gave it one more try. “I said NO!” I could go on all day and never get bored of saying that.
Under the weight of my shout, he caved and backed away, avoiding my gaze. I drove away wondering why one negative answer had not been enough for him.
“I really would prefer not to have to use IMPACT,” I told my sensei later in the evening. “I mean, shouldn’t everyone just be nice?”
She agreed with me. “The world needs to learn that when a woman says no, she means – no. Right now that is something they do not get.” Then she added, quoting somebody else whose name has slipped my mind, “But hopefully, if they see that there is a consequence to their behavior, maybe next time, they’ll think twice.”
People often mistakenly presume that teaching self-defense to women makes them violent. (These same people don’t seem to have any problem with training soldiers in the military, developing nuclear weapons, or watching violent programs on TV.) This assumption could not be further than the truth. People who study martial arts or self-defense do not seek out opportunities to use their techniques on innocent passersby. In fact, most will say that they would rather never have to use it at all.
Self-defense can not be seen as violence on its own; it is a response to violence which has already been started by someone else.
Besides, self-defense is only one of the aspects of IMPACT. Improving self-confidence, learning to set clear boundaries and effective communication between the sexes are of no less importance than the punching and kicking.
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s face it: men and women are different. (*shocked silence*) We need to learn to speak their language as much as they need to learn to understand ours. Fighting about it in court will get us nowhere. But if we take the time to listen and learn from each other, then perhaps we can change the world, one person at a time.