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How Asian women discover new confidence through self-defense

On a warm April afternoon at Washington Square Park, I confronted my friend Noelle, a petite Filipino policy researcher, and pressed her against her. She fell down hitting the ground and sat down first with a dull noise. did. She put her hands on the ground behind her, lifted her legs, bent her legs, and kicked my shin, with a grinning grin. Then she got up, got dressed, and let me do the same.

This sparring match was part of a private self-defense class organized for my Asian friends in New York. Report Malicious attacks especially against Asians Woman And Senior citizens, The media has been filling the news feed since February Started to cover Anti-Asian hate case It rose during the pandemic.

For the first time in 12 years of living comfortably in Manhattan, I became afraid to walk around the city as a Filipino woman. Every time I went out, I thought of the assailant who struck me with a gun. Old man For Auckland sidewalks, or anyone who hits or kicks meaninglessly Filipino woman Near Times Square. I wondered what to do if it happened to me.

So I organized a class and hoped that my friends and I would remember some tricks and perhaps less helpless. Psychologists found that self-defense training could increase. Did Trust Improve in women mental health And Reduce feelings of vulnerabilityBut since then, I’ve learned that self-defense offers more than skill and self-confidence. You can develop a strong independence.

There are many styles of self-defense. Some are based on traditional martial arts such as taekwondo, karate and judo, while others combine the movements of other fighting systems such as Krav Maga and Street Fight. However, most types of self-defense can help you escape quickly, as they will teach you how to avoid dangerous situations and harm the attacker.

One type of empowerment self-defense is not only to protect yourself from violence, but also to make confident eye contact early in the attack and stop the attack with words such as “no backup, no trouble”. To train. If that doesn’t work, it may be time to cause pain.

An important step is to prepare for the impact of an attack.In promotion video In the case of the DC Impact Self Defense group, students scream in the upper lungs while hitting a pad or instructor in a cushion suit, simulating the reaction to a real attack.

During the battle, most people felt incredible fear and anger, which caused an adrenaline reaction, and when many froze, Jill Sermele, a professor of psychology at Drew University in New Jersey. Said. ..

With training, you can take advantage of the adrenaline response to give a painful blow or escape quickly. And many self-defense skills can often be adapted to the elderly and people with disabilities. For example, a walking cane can be a nasty blow.

“that is, Are doing It tells you what you can do. I know I can do it because I’ve done it before, “Dr. Sermele said.

Yes Solid proof This supports the effectiveness of self-defense through empowerment, but other approaches may also help, said Jocelyn Hollander, a sociologist at the University of Oregon and an expert in preventing violence against women. Stated. In late April, I took a free street fight karate-style class offered to Asian Americans using Zoom by the Chinese Hawaiian Kempo Academy in East Village. A former Marine named Jack Chamberger, the founder of the school, taught me how to hit the soft parts of the criminal’s face (eyes, nose, ears) with the fist that hits the table. fist. “

According to Schambager, we kicked an imaginary attacker into the scrotum. The target can cause him to vomit. He also taught me how to use our cell phone as a weapon. I held it in two hands and stabbed its end into a person’s throat. I falsely perpetrated these movements. I practiced with him for over an hour and burned it into my muscle memory. If I ever need to use them, I’ll get ready.

For a few weeks after taking the two lessons, I was still afraid of being attacked, but I felt ready to protect myself. Above all, I realized again my body and its potential.

This confidence turned out to be protective. The perpetrator looks for simple targets such as: Run around quietly Said Dr. Sermele. Tsahi Shemesh, founder and chief instructor of the Manhattan-based Krav Maga Expert, said the confidence gained from self-defense was a way to “remove the target from the back.”

According to experts, the lasting advantage of self-defense training is a self-confidence-related concept called: “Self-efficacy” — The belief that you can Use your skills We provide services when needed. Some of the instructors I talked to said that many people, especially women, attended classes thinking they couldn’t protect themselves and realized that they could do it once they tried it.

“I am confident in my abilities,” said Karen Chasen, vice president of Prepare Inc., a member of the anti-violence organization. Impact International, A group of organizations that teach empowerment self-defense.

Dr. Sermele was always afraid of being assaulted until he attended his first self-defense class in 1998. She felt physically vulnerable as a woman and was overwhelmed by the stories she heard from her trauma therapy clients. She avoided the dark parking lot for fear of assault. On her first experience on the mat, a male instructor in a padded suit asked, “Hey, what time is it now?” Dr. Sermele immediately began to cry. Faced with an imminent attack, he felt helpless and paralyzed.

However, after only eight hours of training, Dr. Sermele was able to get out of the car fearlessly for the first time in the parking lot at night.

I wasn’t the only American Asian to learn how to protect myself this year. Self-defense schools in cities such as New York and San Francisco are reported to be increasingly enrolling Asians in their classes. Rej Joo, an instructor and program manager at the Brooklyn Center for Nonviolence Education, said at least half of the students in the class have been Asian women since February. At 10.

One of the reasons Asians are learning to defend themselves is Stereotype Asian Americans can’t or can’t fight back, “said Stanley Sue, an Asian-American mental health expert and professor of psychology at the University of Palo Alto and the University of California, Davis. He explained that people are often stereotyped as model minorities or “quiet and unobtrusive Asians.” These stereotypes are easy targets for perpetrators and we are. It can make you think you are not defending yourself. But self-defense is a way to turn the script over.

Whether it’s Zoom, classrooms or parks, these classes also foster a community. Linda Lou, a self-defense instructor and executive director of the Impact Bay Area, a branch of Impact International, said it was a big problem for Asians to be confessed about their experiences of racism and violence in class. He said. You will be taught not to talk about unpleasant things.

“that is Harmful to our mental health, Our physical health, “she said.

In one lesson in class, Noel pulled my ponytail and stopped me. According to the instructor, pulling hair is a common attack on women. I reached behind my head with both hands, turned Noel’s wrist with my fingers, and lowered back to pull her arm toward my body. At that point, I could have snapped her wrist. No. Together with the other women in the class, I was amazed at the potential of this move. And I was surprised to be able to do that.

I don’t want to be in that position again, and I don’t feel like kicking out with my hands supported on the sidewalk. But if you need it, you’re ready to put it where it hurts.


Yasmin Tayag is a science journalist and editor.

How Asian women discover new confidence through self-defense

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