Tag Archives: martial arts

Building Bridges in the Middle East

It’s no secret that there is a lot of tension between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East. However, stories about peaceful encounters and coexistence rarely make the headlines.

This month, El HaLev instructors taught a self-defense course to a group of Arab women from East Jerusalem. Since most of the staff does not speak Arabic, they used a translator.

The following quotes were said by the women at the course graduation:

“Before this course I never dared to walk alone. Not anywhere at any time. I was just too afraid. Today I walk alone and feel confident and strong. How liberating!”

“At first I was embarrassed to work with men in the room, but after the first day I understood how tremendously important it was for us to fight against a realistic attacker. I thank the men so much for giving us this gift.”

Thank you for giving me permission to say NO and teaching me to use it with strength and purpose.”

The volunteer assistant shared this:

Despite the language barrier and cultural differences, the women remind me a lot of the Jewish women I took the course with at El HaLev two years ago. They’re in denial, but at the same time, curious. Shy but daring. I feel that the similarities by far outweigh the differences.

I came to IMPACT after I was attacked by an Arab man in my neighborhood. I survived the attack, but like most victims, awaited his return. IMPACT helped me feel my strength and realize my true abilities.

And now, here I am surrounded by shouts in Arabic, the very words which failed me when it mattered most. But soon I learned to shout the way I didn’t know back then.

The level of trust, intimacy and friendship between the women and the team of instructors has helped me, more than anything, to renew my own trust in mankind. There were moments in which we glimpsed that perhaps, under different circumstances, we could have been friends.

Teaching self-defense to women from east Jerusalem  serves as a reminder for what we stand for: empowering women, regardless of age, color, size, nationality or political background. The first step to fighting violence against women is accepting that every woman deserves to know how to defend herself. When we focus on our similarities rather than our differences, we find that we are not alone.

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Personal Boundaries: If I Don’t Respect Them, Who Will?

Boundaries: If I don't respect them, who will?

To respect your own boundaries you need to know what they are.  They need to be an intimate part of your personality. They must have shape, form and content. If we wait until they are tested it is significantly more difficult to act. Why? Because personal boundaries are confusing and they are not built of stone. They are built by conviction.

Last Tuesday night I found myself standing in front of a lovely group of about 30 religious high school girls in Gedera. My goal: Convince them to sign up for the self defense course starting next week.

You might think that in 15 years of teaching self-defense, I would get into a routine of how I teach a class. However, I am amazed at how each time I run an introductory self-defense workshop it’s different.

I must thank the Simpsons for providing new meaning to the term “Krav Maga” as I found myself Kiai-ing  like Lisa Simpson every time a verbal strategy became a need for a strike. The girls had been told that I was going to be teaching Krav Maga (Oops – I am a Judo Teacher…)

Somehow even after years of working with this very progressive school, which is one of the few girls’ schools that officially requests a self-defense course for their students, I was stumped. “They just don’t get it!”

I decided to try setting a different goal: get them to understand why El HaLev’s Self Defense is different from others, and how essential it is to learn.

After an hour of scenarios and demonstrations of different types of responses to different levels of attacks, it dawned on me. One sentence came out of my mouth that made it so intensely clear why I had driven to Gedera for a one hour intro.

If you do not respect your own boundaries, how can you expect anyone else to?

Take a minute today. Show respect to your personal boundaries by getting to know them. Allow them to take form and to exist within your consciousness and not be some far away relative you only think about when someone mentions them.

Yudit Sensei

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Can A Woman Fight A Man?

Let’s assume that not everyone is a high ranking martial artist. Is it possible for a woman to escape from a man who grabs her?

“Does anything hurt?” the instructor asks kindly.

“No,” I reply, trembling slightly.

“Are you ready?”

“Yes,” I say, not entirely sure if I mean it.

Before I have time to breathe, I am grabbed from behind by a man who is twice my size and in full armor. His arms are strong, locked around my chest.

“HANDS!” yells the instructor. I raise my hands slightly, but I can only move my forearms because my upper arms are trapped beneath his.

“WAIST!” yells the instructor. I shove my hips backward at the man holding me. He staggers slightly but his grip remains firm. I have gained an inch of space, just enough to slip my arm out of his grasp and slap him hard in the –

“GROIN!” yells the instructor.

The man releases me as his hands drop to his groin, which is supposedly throbbing painfully. I turn around, hands raised, prepared to protect, prepared to punch hard.

“HEAD!”

I punch him in the face.

“GROIN!”

Again? Yep. Because my knee is right there. It’s an easy target, and my legs are strong, so I can hit hard.

“HEAD!”

Because, having been hit in the groin twice, the man has bent over and his head is hanging conveniently next to my knee. I knee him in the head. He falls over onto his back, arms at his helmet, the signal that, were he without his padded armor, he would have been unconscious.

IMPACT is an internationally recognized personal safety, assertiveness and self-defense training program, which is part of a comprehensive effort to prevent sexual assault and other acts of interpersonal violence and boundary violations.

In IMPACT we learn much more than punching and kicking; we learn to set clear verbal boundaries, to stand up for ourselves. We learn to appreciate the strength of our own bodies which not many women are aware of.

When it comes to a physical confrontation, we learn to match a woman’s strengths to a man’s weaknesses in order to get away unscathed. Usually, in everyday life, they are matched the other way; a man’s strengths to a woman’s weaknesses – which leads us to believe the common stereotype that men are stronger than women. The truth is, men are stronger in the upper body, while women are stronger in the lower body. So when a man and a woman arm wrestle, of course he’s going to win – upper body strength! But what if we matched lower body strength in a man and a woman?

Now, you might say, “That’s not fair!” It’s not fair to match one person’s strength against the other’s weakness. But may I calmly point out that SEXUAL HARASSMENT IS NOT FAIR either. If someone is trying to rape you, shouldn’t you be allowed to play dirty?

Written by @liorasophie.

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Filed under IMPACT, Violence Prevention, Women Empowerment