Embracing My Duality – Wen Do Self-Defense!

From the Canadian Council of Muslim Women

Thrilled as any girl would be to attend a self-defense class I was really excited to learn some kick-ass moves through our Wen-Do Self Defense Class on Feb 28th, 2014. Laura, our awesome instructor, started the session off in a circle asking each one of us the reasons of our presence and what we hoped to learn from the class. When my turn came I answered quite frankly that as a young woman who considers herself a feminist, who works out, considers herself as strong as any man –I often feel like being “macho” is a ‘front’ I put up because deep down I’m scared to walk alone in the dark, of being attacked, and being vulnerable in a situation where my attacker may be a man, one who is twice my size and may have double the strength. Sharing this not-so-empowering truth was actually very self-healing because through it I admitted that like most of the girls in our session I too had fears, doubts and a past history of being exposed to the perpetuation of violence.

Women often walk carrying a baggage of historical moments of violence, harassment, intimidation that remind them of their vulnerability –at all times. This is a truth which I am too good at dodging in my reality. However, recently watching a Lisa Nicholas talk I had a break through when she spoke about the fact that as women of power it is okay for us to live in a space of duality. It is okay to be strong and weak, productive and relaxed –that we don’t always have to be “super women.” I realized that we can have moments of both. We need to step out of our self-created binaries and except duality. And this is exactly what Laura taught us! Before the class started I excitedly asked if we can take a “strong” picture and remarked, “I don’t want to look feminine.” But, Alaya, a fellow Exec member, (thankfully!) questioned me: “Hey what’s wrong with looking feminine?” And, this is the question I ask myself and all of you: what is wrong with looking feminine? Must we always do things against our instincts (whatever that may be for each one of us)? Must we go out of our way and embrace an image of ourselves that someone else thinks is powerful? Definitely Not!

Laura taught us very easy to learn yet very tactic life saving moves, for dangerous situations in various contexts. My favorite move was the knife hand! But I also really enjoyed learning how to loosen someone’s grip from both my wrists simultaneously and releasing myself from a choking attack —who knows when this skill can come in handy! Not only was Laura an expert teacher she was also very culturally sensitive and acknowledged the diverse issues women face unique to their cultural, religious and social belonging. She even suggested a counter move for Amani for her hijab

We all shared inspiring real-life stories of resistance and success in our discussions. And I had one of my most powerful moments of 2014 in Laura’s last activity called “I am.” Unfortunately it can’t be disclosed, as it is a special treat only for those that take Wen-Do. But, after the class I could feel the strength in the room. I personally felt like a superhero ready to take on anyone! But of course we have to practice these moves and remember that in a difficult situation we should follow our gut feeling always!

I think all young girls should take a Wen-Do Self Defense class. In fact it should be a part of every elementary school curriculum! Many boys can benefit from it as well, specially those that are targeted by bullies. Laura showed us that women of all ages, shapes, and sizes, with and without disabilities are powerful.

Most importantly Wen-Do taught me to embrace my girl power and it is power just because I added “girl” to it doesn’t make it any less credible!