Have you ever noticed how at certain times in your life you come across exactly the right song, book or quote that supports you? Rachel Platton could have belonged to a different era and her hit single, Fight Song, could have been released at a different time. A time when I wasn’t even born yet. But it just so happened that Fight Song was released in 2014, a year that marked a massive turning point in my life. Somehow this song is still massively popular in 2016 so that at some point this week, when I tuned into my favourite radio station, I heard it being played. Every time I hear it, it reminds me of something incredible that’s happening inside me: I am discovering my warrior within.
I’ve never really considered myself a warrior. I am the bookworm, the nerd, the writer, the dreamer, the silent one, the thinker, the philosopher . . . At school, my afterschool activities consisted of participating more in cultural activities like the school newspaper or singing in the choir than in sport, for example. I didn’t see myself as very brave: I preferred doing tasks on my own or watching other kids delivering speeches on stage than being in the limelight myself. I didn’t particularly like any contact sport or any form of aggression, and I still do not like watching violent or gory films. When kids fought, I was the peacemaker. I didn’t like conflict. When I was bullied, I ran away or hid to try to avoid it.
But sometimes life gives you opportunities to choose differently and rewire the habits that just don’t serve you anymore . . .
A month ago I was mugged at gunpoint. Something like this had never happened to me before, although I have been aware of the crime and violence happening in the world. Perhaps I had decided not to pay this situation too much attention as not to attract it into my life. I have lived in Durbanville, Stellenbosch and Cape Town and never felt unsafe or in physical danger – until a month ago. Because of my distaste for contact sports, I never trained in any sort of martial arts. I didn’t know how to defend myself. I couldn’t run. I was trapped in front of my house. For the first time in my life I thought that this was the night on which I was going to be raped or killed. The violence of this thought still catches me off guard at times.
It’s a very strange experience to go through. When I look back it seems like something on the TV. Luckily I wasn’t harmed. The guys only checked me for earrings and ran away with my purse. I also distinctly remember screaming, which set off my neighbour’s alarm. For days afterwards, when this scene haunted me every time I got home and passed the place where it happened, the memory that I had screamed helped me tremendously.
Instead of going ‘into hiding’ (even if this means hiding psychologically by detaching (read what this means here)), I did what I knew how to do. I screamed.
After the mugging, I felt it was important for me to learn to defend myself properly should I ever find myself in a similar situation. I had heard of True Krav Maga and how it is one of the most recognised and renowned forms of self-defence. It is used by, among others, the Israeli Defence Force, policemen and civilians. It simulates real-world situations during which you are taught how to increase your chances of survival through very intense counterattacks while in close combat.
So there I was, about 1,56 m tall, confronting a guy that towered over me and weighed at least 100 kg more than me. He was about to stab me with his (rubber) knife. The days of hiding or running away were long gone. I had to take the knife from him or ‘be killed’! This meant I had to throw myself at him with some force – possibly one of the scariest situations I have ever found myself in.
We know there are certain circumstances we just can’t escape from, especially when our lives are on the line. At that point, it’s just us – no one else can save us. We have to do something. Nevertheless, I felt there was something amiss with the True Krav Maga training. Somehow fighting wasn’t working for me because in every attack there are still a multitude of things that can go wrong, and no matter what I did, I know I would get hurt quite badly in the process. There had to be another way.
In the end I went only to three classes: one demo and two trial sessions. I resembled a battered wife and felt that I had been thrown in the deep end a little too quickly after my own experience and needed to stop. But I had found something very valuable in my True Krav Maga experience. I felt, as if from a dream, something rising up in me: it was something that doesn’t necessarily want to fight violently or run away, but rather wants to stand her ground no matter what happens, and face the threat head on.
This is, it seems, the nature of my inner warrior. She doesn’t use violence to fight violence. Instead she stands her ground and blocks every attack so that it is rendered harmless.
I had forgotten about this part of me which had lain dormant for so long. I remember now that when the other girls were browsing through the latest teen magazines or watching music channels, I loved following Xena, the warrior princess, on her next adventure. How I admired her! This gorgeous, strong woman with long dark hair and dressed in a leathery, armoured outfit. With a special iron ring, she battled the forces of darkness bravely and fiercely in an attempt to redeem herself from her past. She was particularly skilled in hand-to-hand combat which enabled her to disarm anyone who dared to attack her. Vaguely I also remember her having a very unique battle cry. Wikipedia says the following: ‘Throughout the series, Xena often utilized a signature war cry or “Alalaes.” Her cry was an alternate for “Alale” (or “Alala”), who in Greek mythology was the female personification of the war cry.’ (Read more here)
This is then my battle cry, in Rachel Platton’s words:
This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
’Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me
And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?
Of course, Krav Maga might be exactly how your warrior chooses to express him- or herself. If you want to know more about this organisation, get in touch with Etienne at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Globally it seems there is a need for non-violent ways to deal with conflict and war. I found this TEDx talk very illuminating:
[Main image credit: Royalty free stock photos from 123RF/Elena Ray. True Krav video from Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Truekrav-272673106170182/?fref=ts]