Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fighting Back

This past weekend, I attended a Women's Only Self-Defense Course at CrossFit Northern Virginia. I stumbled upon the class when on the CrossFit main site and saw a link to a picture in the affiliate blog about a kettle bell certification course at their facility. I went to their site, and, lo and behold, read up about the up coming event. It was good timing as it fell 3 weeks to the day after I was assaulted. I passed on the information to the rugby team and a few other friends, and ended up going with 3 other people, my GF included.

The week leading up to the course, I was unsure if I really wanted to go and having major second thoughts. The assault came back every night as I tried to sleep, and even worse thoughts of someone else assaulting, and even raping me, came in a flood of emotions. I didn't sleep well early in the week and cried a lot. I emailed a guy I had met at the Monkey Bar Gym CNT course that I took 3 weeks ago who also teaches self defense and is involved in martial arts. He was helpful in the psychological part of the event by reminding me that I survived, that I'm still alive, instead of focusing what I could've done and dwelling on the past. He's also a fellow trail runner and I hope to hook up with him for some long runs.

I didn't know what to expect, but did like that they started off the course with this funny Jim Carrey clip that they preceded by saying "Everything I learned about self defense I learned from Jim Carrey"

One thing they didn't want to show is how you HAVE to do something, which is what JC tells his students - "you HAVE to come at me with the knife like THIS, so I can defend the attack like THIS." An attack isn't always going to happen the same way, or how you've trained for it. We were told about the 97/3 Percent Rule. Here's an example in this video below that they played for us.

This guy represents the 97% - someone who is harmless - but the woman trained for that 3%, and responded to him as she was taught, as if she was being attacked/assaulted. For me, I need to find that common ground where I can still feel comfortable telling that 97% the time or giving them directions, and not assuming that everyone that approaches me is in that 3% and is out to harm me.

We weren't taught how to punch, hit, kick, grab, stomp, poke, bite, or scream. We all know how to do this, or some of these, and would be able to do them if given the situation. It was mentioned in class that there would be other, more intensive courses, that would involve donning the protective suits and really getting physical.

What they did show us is how to flinch. Sounds weird, doesn't it? Think of a foul ball or stray bat coming quickly into the stands at a baseball game.

It's the same reflex - your hands come up to protect your face. Someone scares you from behind? It's a similar reflex, but you 'turtle' your head a little bit and your hands still come up. A few of them are doing it in the picture. How does this protect you? If someone tries to put you in a headlock from behind, they can't get to your windpipe. A drill we did with a partner was to have someone come up from behind you and put you in a headlock (loosely!) so you know what it feels like. Next time, when you SEE them coming, you flinch; another time, when you HEAR them coming, you flinch; and lastly, when you FEEL them coming, you flinch as they put you in a headlock each time.

SEE - their arm coming around. use your peripheral vision.
HEAR - their breathing, a shuffle of their feet, their clothes/jacket making noise.
FEEL - they brush your hair or clothes or bump into you as they try to reach around you. Or you just have that 'sixth sense' feeling that someone is behind you.

We did the drill with the attackee standing, but you can do it that way, or with both people walking, as if the attackee were being followed.

So you're in a headlock, what do you do? First off, your windpipe is (hopefully) protected, so you could scream. Can you tell which arm is around your neck? If so, reach back with your opposite hand and jab them in the face. *Try to stay to the right of the person when you put them in a headlock with your right arm. Difficult? Hence, reaching back with the opposite hand*. Why not jab them in the eye? That's the goal, but if you aim small you're going to miss big. Get them off balance, maybe letting go of one hand to cover their injured eye, and use your other hand to pry their arm away from your neck and face them.

Now what? Oh, so many options that involve the groin, the face, kicking, punching, screaming, etc. They didn't tell us what to do 'now'; your body will know what to do and will do something. We did, though, when in a situation like this, try a few things. You're facing them with their right wrist in your hand, so you could 1. kick them in the groin or the shin, 2. stomp on their foot, 3. punch them in the bicep, chest, face, 4. bend the fingers back on the hand you're holding. But why not bend just their pinkie or index finger? Why not hit them in noise with the palm of your hand? Why not aim for their fibula when kicking them in the shin? Because if you aim small, you're going to miss big. I thought of the movie Kill Bill when The Bride, Uma Thurman, was buried alive. It would've been great if she had an ax with her to get out of the wooden coffin, but all she had was the knife, flashlight, and her fists. In such close quarters, she was able to punch repeatedly until she (unrealistically) freed herself. What I thought about was the fact that you don't need a big wind up to make a punch effective. There might've been weaker points on the coffin, but she worked on the one that was closest. So as much as you'd love to nail them in the nuts with your pointy toed shoes, a closer body part might be a better option - that finger bend or foot stomp.

This was just one of the techniques/situations that we practiced. Another was the 'flinching' when being attacked from the front and how to play 'keep away' with a gun or knife.

It was interesting being paired up with my GF. I did accidentally poke her in the eye when she put me in a headlock, but I blame it on the adrenaline and wanting to get out of that situation. Her shoulders and neck were sore 2 days later from trying to fend me off.. she also has a bum shoulder, but still! I'd like to think I made her work a little.

It was a good event for the price, and was definitely worth my time. If you're looking for something more physical with more 'role playing', keep an eye on their website for upcoming events. I hope to attend more sessions like this in the future just in case I encounter someone from that 3% group again.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dating a junkie

There was no intervention that came to this realization, just a simple email to my girlfriend:

"You're now one of the deal junkies who know us best, so we'd be stoked to hear about your buying experience. Simply answer two quick questions – it's a step towards Steep and Cheap bringing you more and better deals, not to mention aligning the universe's gear deal karma."

I've mentioned before how addicting the website Steep and Cheap is, and apparently they, as an enabler, know she's addicted and aren't doing anything to help ween her away from the website. Her getting this email is like a smoker hanging around outside doorways 'just for a whiff'. Next thing you know you're there everyday and later with a cigarette in hand.

Of course, if I get a sweet IceBreaker top for Christmas, I'm going to look the other way.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Christmas in November

A number of weeks ago, my girlfriend and I started to discuss the holidays - how much time we were going to take off from our respective jobs, how much time we'd spend together and with our respective families, and how much we were going to spend on presents for each other. Last year we set a budget of how much to spend on each other and did a good job of staying within that budget.

This year we decided to get a 'big' gift for the two of us, which took up a bulk of the budget, and will get a couple smaller things.

This is how I try to decide what smaller item to get.. "Babe, I was going to get you X or Y. Is it something you'd want? Do you care? Okay.. well, then act surprised." I did manage a few surprises last year, so not everything I get is as lame sounding as that fake conversation. Not everything..

So this years big 'us' gift was a Nintendo Wii Console with Wii Fit and Sports Pack

I hemmed and hawed about it until my GF proposed a stipulation about the purchase - if we didn't use it at least 3-4 times a week, we would give it all away for free. That's not saying that we're up at all hours trying to get to the next level of Call of Duty or something, but that we're putting in at least 60 minutes a day of use to get our monies worth.

Aside from that, my glowing review is that it's really cool! I never had a video game console growing up, and would have to play Q*bert on my neighbors Atari, Kid Icarus at the sitter's house on Nintento, or Tetris when babysitting my cousins, so I only have those experiences to compare it with. I grew up playing outside until the porch light went on, making 'houses' by raking leaves into a blueprint of a one story house, and begging to stay out longer. I enjoy the bowling part of Wii Sports and working on my Balance my heading soccer balls (and dodging cleats and decapitated panda heads) as part of Wii Fit. As a spectator, you'll get a good core workout from laughing so much when watching others trying to head the soccer balls. It's friggin hilarious when they get hit in the face and the head whips back.

I was happy that my Wii Age is 'only' 33 when my sister scored a 43 during her first assessment and my GF a 50. She brought it down to a 36 after doing some of the basic yoga poses and playing around for about an hour with other balance, aerobic, and strength exercises. It's a little easier when you know the tests and how to control your balance. Your weight (it was pretty accurate) and BMI also plays into the Wii Age, but I wouldn't live and die by that age.

I've only tried a few of the Wii Sports games - boxing, baseball, and bowling. I enjoy the training that you can do for each sport, which I've tried for boxing, golf, baseball, tennis, and bowling. The controller and the timing takes a little getting used to, but nothing you can't figure out with a little trial and error. And with that, you'll be amazed at how quickly the time flies by because there's always "just one more time!"

The only additional games we've purchased so far are Wii Play and one of an Outdoor Challange. I don't expect to get anymore anytime soon since there's enough variety with what we have to keep us entertained. I do have my eye on Guitar Hero and DDR in the near future. I'm not really into Action or Role-Playing type games, but that remains to be seen. I want to keep the butt-sitting to a minimum and the activity level up, so sitting on a stability ball and working on my core stabilizing muscles isn't really considered increasing my activity level. However, I do see myself practicing my left handed batting stance, boxing stance, and golf swing in the near future. I don't want one arm or one side of me stronger than the other, so why not mix it up a bit?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Successful Weekend

Aside from Saturday's assault, there was some good that came out of this past weekend.

I was off from work on Friday to attend the 3-day CNT Course Level 1 that was held in DC and taught by Jon Hinds and others from the Monkey Bar Gymnasium in Madison, WI. For 8 hours Friday and Saturday, we learned the progressions of certain movements - for example, vertical upper body pulling and horizontal lower body pushing - as well as how to make sure the body is properly aligned before doing said workout.

Layman's terms - chin ups and lunges.

We were given a folder of information that explained everything and also had everything broken down visually as a Flow Chart. At first is was a little confusing when you were put on the spot in front of all 20 people (5 trainers, 15 students) and given 2 minutes to demonstrate the 4 steps from alignment to power.

I'd like to say that the course wasn't about reinventing the wheel, but about looking at each part of the wheel and making sure each part is working properly and efficiently so the entire wheel, and every wheel, works better, and improves the performance of its vehicle.

Sunday was testing time and my mind was elsewhere after Saturday nights main event. I got up early (didn't really sleep well) and did more studying. While walking over to the facility with my GF and the dog, a woman approached us from behind and asked if I was out dealing with the police the night before. I said yes, and she informed us that she lives in the high rise along that street and wondered what was going on when she saw the police lights. She recognized the dog and my jacket and thought the two might be 'related'. She expressed her condolences regarding the situation, and I was thankful.

I was last to finish the written test and last to go through the practical part of the testing, demonstrating to the trainers in 2 minutes that I could accurately explain (verbally and/or physically) the four progressions of a particular movement - i.e. a Hindu Pushup. I felt like I had regressed back to speech and debate class in middle school, talking a mile a minute with a cotton mouth. Two minutes can feel so short, yet so long. Fortunately, I passed both the written and practical exams.

Soon after the group met in the community room where MBG was selling training DVDs and other products from there store. It was time to talk strategy with the other guys that I'll be working with this winter to plan workouts for the DC Strokes. It was then that I had an 'a ha!' moment, and everything that I had been shown, read about, and was tested over, actually made sense! I was surprised at how easy it was to come up with workouts using what I had just learned.

I know it will take time and that it's really a skill and an art form to become proficient in designing workouts and working with others, but the weekend training course really simplified things for me. I plan to use and apply this knowledge in the coming months and hope to attend a CNT Level 2 course to learn more skillz.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Victim of a random act of violence

Saturday night around 11pm, I was punched in the face from behind. While walking home from a friends house, a mere 4 blocks away, I became the target for a group of kids sitting around, bored, at a bus stop, with nothing to do but challenge each other. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was less than a block from home when a girl, who was with a group of kids, crossed the street and asked, "Excuse me, do you have the time?" I turned around and looked at her before holding my arm up and pulling up my coat sleeve to look at my watch. I told her it was 11:05, she thanked me, and I turned around to walk away. After a few steps, I could hear a few quick steps behind me me and a low grunt before feeling a blow to the face on the left side of my nose and just above my mouth. I could hear her grunting as she jumped a second time and swung, catching me further up on my nose and under my left eye. I bent down a bit and put my hand up to my face as she went back across the street, laughing.

I had my cell phone in my right coat pocket and pulled it out, dialing 911 as quickly as my shaking fingers could manage. I kept my eye on the group of kids at the bus stop as they got up and casually walked down the alley while I was on the phone. I told the 911 operator that I had just been assaulted at X cross street in SW DC. The person that did it was an African American female, no more than 5' tall and 14 yrs old. I told her what I was wearing so the police that had been dispatched could easily spot me. The first car arrived within 90 seconds, passed by, and did a loop through the alley and housing project. The second car arrived shortly after to take my statement. I didn't get a good look at the girl, so I couldn't give an accurate description of what she was wearing. I set a text to my GF and to the friend whose condo I had just left. My GF got the dog and came to meet me. While she was on her way, I got in one of the squad cars and we drove his route through the housing complex. His first time through, he said he stopped by one of the groups of kids hanging out and asked if there was any fighting going on. They said, 'no', but he said he heard them say 'it's hot out here' as he drove away. I figured it was code to those around that there were cops snooping around. He shined his light on 3-4 groups of people, but they were all two old for the kids that were at the bus stop.

We got back to the corner and my GF had arrived. The cop had called for an ambulance to look at the cut under my eye, but ended up canceling it. He got a report number and gave me a note card with a report of the incident as well as his cell phone number. Before leaving, he mentioned what time he's on duty and what days he's off in case I wanted to call to be escorted home from somewhere, which was very nice of him.

I couldn't sleep when I got home. I was reliving the events in my head and making myself nauseous with all the possibilities of what I could've done differently. I was fortunate that only one person and not the entire group approached me. I was fortunate that she didn't have a sharp object or anything in her hand when she hit me. I'm fortunate that she didn't try to rob me. But I wish I would've been more aggressive in my body language by walking faster, being more aware of my surroundings. I wish I could've gotten a better description of her and the group of kids. I wish I would've left sooner, not stayed as late, asked for a ride home, gone a different route.

Writing this now and reliving it again only two days later, still brings me to tears. I feel vulnerable and stupid. I feel less inclined to offer assistance if someone approaches me for directions or asks for the time. I am hesitant to turn around if some one says "Excuse me" from behind, no matter where I am at or what time of day. I am considering carrying pepper spray, too.

I've always had this "it will never happen to me" attitude. I've lived in a decent area of DC for almost 6 years with no problems. I've read and heard about crimes - assaults, break ins, etc - happening to others in the area, but it doesn't hit close to home until it happens to you or someone you know. It has happened to me, so now my thought process is when is it going to happen again?. I need to be prepared and vigilant.

The kids meant to scare me and they did a good job of it, but I can't continue to live in fear.

not too bad