Posts tagged IMPACT
Posts tagged IMPACT
Have you ever heard of Muslims and Jews in the Middle East joining hands to battle violence against women? Stay tuned. You’re about to get an earful.
I volunteer as an assistant in a self-defense program for women called IMPACT. The course we finished yesterday was for a group of Muslim women in East Jerusalem. Since none of the team spoke fluent Arabic, we used a translator most of the time, but we communicated pretty well even without a common language.
After the third session, one of the women shared this story.
It’s no secret that there is a lot of tension between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East. However, stories about peaceful encounters and coexistence rarely make the headlines.
This month, El HaLev instructors taught a self-defense course to a group of Arab women from East Jerusalem. Since most of the staff does not speak Arabic, they used a translator….
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.
My new philosophy on life: Find the things that help you get high, then stay high all the time.
I am most certainly not speaking of substances. I’m talking about things you feel passionate about, things that make you tremble in awe, feel inspired, and go to sleep smiling. (Yeah, now we’re convinced. That doesn’t sound like drugs at all.)
Today was the last day of the teen IMPACT course here at El Halev. In contrast with the past three days where I felt emotionally and physically drained after each class, tonight I feel ecstatic.
I am bursting with pride in eleven amazing and powerful girls who finished this week’s course. This may sound strange, but I feel safer knowing we just put more strong girls out into the world.
It is so important that we understand about rape and sexual harassment. IMPACT is not about how to punch - it’s about learning that we have the right and the ability to fight back. If you want to learn how to punch, there are a million other ways you can do that (i.e. boxing, karate, taekwondo, get younger siblings, etc.). But nothing guarantees that you will punch back, in the heat of the moment, when something intimidating crosses your path. With IMPACT up my sleeve, I feel absolutely sure that I would fight. It’s in my body, in my blood. An instinct, as natural as swallowing.
P.S. The title of the post was inspired by the t-shirt the guest mugger wore this morning. It was bright purple. 20 points to Gryffindor.
(Sigh. I’ll never stop blogging about IMPACT.)
Yesterday I started a new course as an assistant. The course is for young teens, ages 12-15. This is my first teen course, and it is different from the women’s course.
*For those who are unfamiliar with IMPACT - it is a self-defense course for women, specially designed for rape prevention.
The girls amaze me, one by one, with the amount of courage they demosntrate on the mats. We present them with inconceivable challenges. We ask them to willingly turn their backs and allow an armored mugger to grab them from behind. Furthermore, we ask them to fight back when he does. And they do. Every one of them. They whine and they screech as teenage girls should, but they keep fighting until their attacker is out cold. And they don’t give up. It is inspiring and empowering to know that we have girls like that among us.
I gave up a lot to be in this course - mainly my sanity, because it means doing four thirteen-hour days in a row this week. I have considered dropping out of the course several times, but now that we’re half way done, I feel a responsibility to finish what I’ve started. In the spirit of these incredible girls, to abandon them on the path to strength would be to spit in their faces. I want to be there for them, to be there with them when they reach that moment when they feel their own power.
Many dilemmas arise when teaching self defense to teenage girls. The main question, especially when dealing with 12-year-olds fresh out of childhood, is how much material to give over this early on. On the one hand, we have a responsibility to prepare them for what’s out there. On the other hand, we have to tread carefully so we do not blur the line between sexuality - which is a stranger to many of them - and rape. Girls at age twelve are mainly trying to understand what’s going on with their own body parts. We can not discuss the details of a rape scene with someone who is not even faimiliar with the anatomy, and it is not fair to try. So in a way, teen courses are more challenging that adult courses. Although the material is less disturbing, the questions of the students are much more difficult to answer. During today’s class, I was asked, “But who would rape a twelve-year-old?”
Naturally, my association was a Harry Potter reference.
Harry Potter: And how is theory supposed to prepare us for what’s out there?
Dolores Umbridge: There is nothing out there, dear! Who do you imagine would want to attack children like yourself?
Harry Potter: I don’t know, maybe, Lord Voldemort!
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Because the answer to the girls’ question is, in fact, Lord Voldemort. He is the symbol of evil in the world - the reminder that there are terrible things out there which we must not ignore. It is easier to see the good in everyone than to confront the hatred in people’s hearts. It is our responsibility to give our children the knowledge that they may encounter evil, and in turn, the ability to protect themselves against it. Denying Lord Voldemort’s existence might make them happier for a year or two, but in the long run, we would be better off announcing to the world that he is back, that he has power, and to remind ourselves that we are a worthy match for him.
First, I’m going to name some big problems we have in the human race.
You with me? Good. These are big problems. Huge problems. Problems which can not be fought with protests and organizations. Worldwide problems originating in our own human survival instincts. These issues are going to exist for as long as humans exist, because it’s who we are, and how we survive. So let’s call them Giant problems. They’re our giants. Things so huge we can’t even see past their knees.
And here’s another one: Rape.
Why is rape set aside from the others? Rape is a giant, universal problem, claiming more and more victims every day. One in THREE women - those are the statistics! ONE IN THREE! So why am I mentioning it down here, and not up there with the rest of its giant friends?
Because rape can be fought.
With hits, kicks and screams. With an aggressive look in the eye. With a single word.
When I was in high school I swore to myself that I would be one of the two who did not experience sexual harassment of any kind. Now I can confidently say that I never will - as an IMPACT graduate, I’m insured for life. I know how to fight. I know what to do. And it’s not something I’ll ever forget.
Most - if not all - of the giant problems I stated above have some sort of idea at their basis. For instance, the idea that someone who is different is a threat (racism), or the idea that being fat is unhealthy (sizeism). In both of these cases the problem originates from a survival instinct but is fueled by a concept which has been so deeply implemented in our subconscious that we believe it to be pure, solid fact. In the case of rape, this idea is that men are stronger than women.
IMPACT battles this concept at its roots, shaking up humanity at its most basic, existential levels. Beyond proving without a doubt that women are equally strong in their bodies as men, Impact takes a step further to say: women do not have to tolerate sexual harassment. Women do not have to tolerate verbal abuse. A woman does not have to stand there quietly while someone hisses and whistles at her. She’s allowed to fight back. She’s allowed to stop him the instant she feels slightly uncomfortable. You don’t have to wait for him to hit you in order to tell him to go away and leave you the hell alone. All of these things seem so trivial - so blatantly obvious, we shouldn’t even have to think about them. And yet, the opposite is so deep within us, it has become our nature to tolerate harassment, abuse and disrespectful behavior.
So many women go through years unable to say the word “no” without feeling pangs of guilt. But Impact teaches us that it’s never too early to say no to something you do not want. You’re allowed to say no to the way someone looks at you. You’re allowed to say no to people you love. You’re allowed to say no in random, everyday situations. Heck, you’re allowed to say no in the middle of sex, and you don’t have to feel bad or apologize for it. No one has the right to force you to do anything, and no one has the right to cross your own personal boundaries. And if you don’t think you can stop them, you should learn how.
In IMPACT, you’ll learn the unbelievable strength of your own body. You’ll achieve what you and the rest of the world believe is totally impossible. You’ll meet guys who prove to you that not all men are the same, because those muggers are the sweetest guys ever. You’ll learn how to stand strong and defend what is yours, and feel good about it. In IMPACT, you’ll never shout alone.
To the women of the world: take IMPACT!
I came to this course knowing full well that I have the right to stand up for myself, with some background in martial arts and self defense. I got lots of tips from high school educators on how to be safe (i.e. carry pepper spray, take out your keys, etc.) But nothing ever came close to giving me the feeling I have now after Imapct. I am a different person. Well, not entirely; I’m still me, but a lot stronger and a thousand, if not a million times more confident.
I am not afraid.
IMPACT gave me a new set of instincts. Now I can say for certain that if someone surprises me and grabs me from behind, I won’t even bother trying to escape - I’ll punch them in the face without thinking about it. Instinctively. It’s in my muscles. My body has been reformatted to fit a self respecting woman who has the right to make her own decisions.
IMPACT taught me how to set clear boundaries. There are situations in life which we do not feel comfortable with. We don’t always know what to do about them, and often prefer to lie low and wait until they pass. However, there is an alternative. You can stop them. You can tell them to go away. You have the choice to remove yourself from the situation, or the situation from yourself, whichever works better.
IMPACT taught me how to say no. How to really say it, and mean it, and not regret it. I now understand better than I ever did that sometimes it’s perfectly okay to deny someone the right to come close, and you do not have to feel bad about it. It’s okay to tell your child they may not have a second piece of cake. It’s okay to tell your friend you do not want to go out with him. You can say no. It’s your prerogative. And it is also your right not to feel guilty about it.
IMPACT taught me how to shout. I never knew how to shout. I have spent years being told to be quiet, to be modest, to conceal myself and not show my feelings or speak too loudly. Now I know how to make noise, how to cry for help, how to intimidate someone and scare them. I know how to use my voice to add strength. I can show my feelings and use them to put more force into the kicks.
IMPACT taught me how to recognize what is a safe situation and what is not.
IMPACT taught me how to support another person who needs help, and how to ask for support when I need it.
IMPACT taught me that I am strong, that I can defend myself even without using violence.
IMPACT taught me that I do not have to be afraid.
Take IMPACT. Don’t hesitate. It’s hard, it takes a lot of bravery, but it’s worth every penny. There are courses all over the United States and Israel.
Go sign up. No day but today.
In IMPACT we learn how to set clear boundaries. We learn to define what is ours and how to say how close people are allowed to get. If they cross the line, you have the right to object.
We also learn the power of our own boundaries. When you hold up your hands and shout, “BACK UP NOW!” no normal person is going to willingly approach you. They most certainly are not going to try to attack you.
When someone threatening oversteps my boundaries, it triggers something inside me, a signal that I now have their permission to fight back with all my might (which means they are either helplessly stupid or very, very drunk). I don’t even think about it. It’s an instinct - you take one step closer and you’ll be on the floor, Buddy.
MYTH: Women who take IMPACT will become violent and attack anyone.
FACT: Women who take IMPACT only attack when they are attacked first.
In IMPACT we learn to recognize who is an attacker AND who is not. Last night I was on the phone with my boyfriend, and I told him “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” There, I set my boundary. “Okay, we won’t talk about it anymore!” he replied, and a voice in my mind said, “AHA!” That is how a normal person who is NOT trying to rape you would respond.
Clear boundaries are hard to cross, and anyone who does has definitely got a screw loose.