Why I’m happy that my parents sent me to martial arts classes

This is why all women should train some kind of self-defence. It may not be Korean language related, but maybe it will inspire some of you to expand your Korean culture repertoire with Taekwondo or some other exciting and just slightly violent sport. Even if you don’t use it in ordinary life, it might give you a sense of calmness that shines through, which is why I have decided to share this otherwise somewhat personal story. Today I had a could-have-turned-nasty experience on my way to work.

I was almost by the train station when I realised two men in their late twenties loitering at the next corner that I had to pass. Something seemed… Off.
When I approached I could see them looking at me and talking, but not like you would regularly notice someone else in the street. They *looked* at me. I was listening to music, but quickly scanned the area – there was no-one else around. I crossed the pedestrian crossing, they stayed put while I passed them, I continued towards the train while staying aware of them and then realised one of them suddenly went towards me, walking quickly to to catch up with me. His friend stayed behind to look at us.

The platform was too far away for me to outrun him and I’d have to go through a tunnel. No routes of escape. Not an option. When he was just a few metres from me, the thought “this is it, my training will be put to the test, I’ll have to fight him” flashed through my mind. It seemed like a bad idea to keep my back turned at him given that I was pretty sure he would continue to approach me and possibly also take a swing at me, so I decided to face it straight on to at least be able to see what he was doing before he got to me. I took out my earphones, turned around to face him, and put on my best evil stare. I tried to look calm.

I’m not sure what happened next. Maybe it was the surprise that I did not even try to run and also looked downright murderous, but all of a sudden he got so busy turning around and fleeing that he almost tripped over his own feet before scurrying back to his corner. I walked away quickly, keeping an eye over my shoulder.

Did I at least get a good look at him? Somehow I cannot remember what he was wearing exactly or exactly what he looked like. What I do remember is thinking of my initial impression of him “app. 1.80 metres tall. 75 kg. Slightly delayed reaction time – probably due to alcohol. Bare hands”. I figured that with 5 years of jiu-jitsu and 1 year of judo I would have a decent chance of doing some real damage against an untrained and slightly tipsy guy while getting away fairly unscathed myself.

While I was nervous, it surprised me afterwards that I was not downright frightened. Actually, I was feeling rather annoyed more than anything. It was not until afterwards I thought about how unpleasant it really was.

Only after finishing work in the afternoon did I call my mother to tell her about it. Over dinner my parents got a more detailed account and figured it would be an idea to tell the police even if nothing happened to me. The police officer praised my instincts and told me I handled the situation well. If there (God forbid) should ever be another situation like it, I should call them straight away after getting into safety so they can send a patrol even if I don’t need help anymore.

While I would never stand a chance against a guy of that size with a martial arts background, against a regular bastard I actually thought I could win. That is probably why I managed to stay so calm and not break down in tears afterwards, going to work and have a normal day with my colleagues.

So, I guess the morale of this story is: if you ever thought of going to some self-defence class/taekwondo/judo/jiu-jitsu/other martial arts class, just go! The sooner the better. Yes it will be hard, often frustrating, mostly great fun, and a source of plenty of bruises. Hopefully you will never ever need to use it in the streets, but if you one day do get into a bad situation, you might not even have to use it.

9 thoughts on “Why I’m happy that my parents sent me to martial arts classes

  1. Caniche

    That is just so scary! I’m glad you managed to get away safely. I did Ninjutsu for 2 years, but I don’t know if I’d be able to keep my cool and use it real life. ^^ I might feel more confident than I would have been without it though.

    1. koreanlearner Post author

      It makes you wonder how such people can even exist…
      I don’t think you can ever be 100% prepared regardless of how many years you’ve practiced. However, the more you have practiced, the more hope there is that you will have some useful default reaction – if that’s the right wording…? So I think you would definitely have a better chance than someone with no ninjutsu experience. Let’s hope you will never have to test it!

  2. moly2tea

    I’m glad nothing serious happened and you were able to get to work safely. I plan to sign up for taekwondo but my mum worries that I will end up with every limb broken 😀 Well there’s also one annoying and sad thing. If I were to use martial arts to protect myself I would most likely end as the aggressor and aggressor would be a victim, that’s my country…

    1. koreanlearner Post author

      I’ve left judo classes so bruised that I would bring my judo bag to university so people wouldn’t automatically think I had an abusive boyfriend (personal record: 65 individual bruises in one week). But I think it depends a lot on who you train with. When I did jiu-jitsu, there was one person I always got injured sparring with so I just avoided him. I almost never bruised or anything worse although the techniques were more dangerous and not even allowed in judo. In my country there is also a fine line between being the victim and the agressor. It depends on whether your defence is proportional to the force used against you. You can pacify them, but not break every bone in their body once they are lying down and no longer a threat. However, I think they take into account a lot of factors. My grandfather once told a story that he read in the newspaper of a 10 year old girl (karate trained) who beat up a grown man who had attacked her. She had to call an ambulance once she was done with him, but her defence was considered adequate.

  3. asmorningdawns

    I can totally relate to this. I don’t know why there are so many weird people around and I’m always bumping into them be it at home or overseas and I used to always feel really scared and helpless but one day I decided that I can only depend on myself in such a situation so I signed up for Krav Maga classes (an Israeli form of self defense) and I enjoy it so much! Not to mention that learning Krav has given me greater confidence makes me more empowered. And the more I practice, the more the moves become muscle memory and I won’t have to worry about my brain not working in a fight or flight situation. My mum gets very paranoid over my bruises as well but hell if getting bruises can save my life, bring it on.

    I really dislike the subtle notion/ideas we get in society today that girls who learn martial arts are not as feminine or that girls must depend on a guy to save them.

    1. koreanlearner Post author

      I really don’t know which holes all those weirdos come crawling from. I wonder what their parents would think (assuming they don’t know about their children’s activities).
      Krav is fierce! I have a colleague who trains it so we sometimes talk about it. He was once walking down the street when he heard three guys behind him “hey, let’s beat up that guy”. He just turned around and said “feel free to try”. Suddenly they weren’t so cocky.
      I think it’s important to be able to look out for yourself. And surely you can know martial arts AND know how to de-trollify your hair into an elegant updo when called for and put on some make-up.

      1. asmorningdawns

        Haha yes I do agree that Krav can be quite violent and aggressive at times but it is this aggression and the element of surprise that’s key to getting away from the aggressor. Cos most guys sure love to assume that girls = weak. (And if they see a girl who owns them at a ‘guy’ thing like martial arts or fighting, they objectify the girl and call her names instead of simply admitting that she is simply darn good. That’s what happened to one of the girls at my krav school.)

        Confidence definitely plays a huge part in scaring a potential threat away and often times that involves using our voice, which we have been taught to disregard in most Asian societies. In Krav we practice preemptive moves that require us to shout and more often then not, a shout is a good enough weapon for anyone, which was what happened to your colleague.

        Seriously, self-defense classes should be made mandatory for all females, it is so useful in so many ways.

      2. koreanlearner Post author

        I agree, it should be mandatory. I’ll send my (future) children to some sort of martial arts when that day comes – regardless of gender. My sister’s children (boys) both do karate and that is not negotiable. In the beginning they found it a bit daunting, but now they both enjoy it. They were enrolled when starting school. I think it’s also easier to adapt and not be scared of the moves when you start as a child. I’m so glad I went through the falling practice as a child when the floor wasn’t so far away ^^. My sister’s youngest had to do a lot of push-ups until he learned that he couldn’t charm his way out of paying attention to the sensei, though ^^.

        Many martial arts schools – the good ones anyway – emphasise that the students have to be good ambassadors outside the dojo as well, and they get kicked out if they misbehave in the street. They don’t only teach you how to fight, but also when to avoid it.

        It’s surprising that the school allowed that to happen 😦 is she still there?
        I took capoeira classes for one year when staring my BSc for the sake of variation. There they had a thing for nicknaming (but not in a nasty way). One of the guys was known as “grandfather” because he always seemed a bit tired and a Danish slang expression for a nap is the word for grandfather on the maternal side. In comparison a girl was known as “the assassin” because whenever she met an opponent she wasted no time and just beat them. She was really popular, though.

      3. asmorningdawns

        I don’t think the guys said it to her face plus no one else found those comments even slightly offensive. It’s scary how that’s the norm and how male-centric our society is.

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