Long Format Self Defense – Day 2

Click here for Day 1

Today’s post is a bit of a potpourri. I had a bit of trouble finding a cohesive theme. I’m not sure how I can link my impressions and takeaways. Oh well, this is, after all, a blog. Informal writing is OK for a blog 🙂


Even kicks that are “lousy” by karate standards could hurt someone. If everyone at the second seminar had been taking a 10th kyu test (for the very first rank one earns in karate) I’d have flunked every single person in that room including the instructors AND myself. That said, some of the ladies were able to generate enough force to hurt family jewels. I was surprised at how much force I myself was able to generate with “lousy” kicks. Teaching “proper” karate kick dynamics isn’t necessary for self defense seminars. Attendees are not karateka, they are ladies who want some tools they can easily use. Key word: easily.


I observed that with other techniques some of the women made the very same mistake that a lot of beginning and intermediate karateka make. Heck, I still struggle sometimes after five years. They are trying to “muscle through” a technique. Think about pushing or lifting a heavy object – that feeling is exactly what you don’t want in karate. “Muscling through” just slows you down, which is detrimental to any given technique.

Force equals mass times acceleration. I can’t accelerate my fist if my own tense muscles are holding me back. My fist isn’t massive, but accelerate it, and – ouch. Pressure is force divided by surface area, which is why we hit with the itty bitty first two knuckles of the fist. It’s simple physics. That said, biology might be working against people who are new to the concept of fast is loose/loose is fast. It takes conscious, consistent effort and time to develop fast-twitch muscle fibers. One must learn coordination in order to get the right muscles to tighten and release at the exact right time. The techniques offered in this class did not need this level of coordination.

An Experiment

I’m conducting an experiment in psychology. I have not identified myself as a martial artist to my classmates. The instructors know. One question on the paperwork we filled out on Day 1 asked about martial arts experience. So far the instructors have respected my wishes to keep silent about the fact that I am a karateka. I have been keeping silent so as to observe the class and the instructors better.

I should have anticipated that my skill and spirit influences the class. My sensei(s) have many times remarked on the phenomenon of how even just one person’s good attitude can lift a class. With the self defense instructors’ encouragement I executed the techniques full speed and power, and yeah, it was pretty impressive. Because my classmates don’t know I’m a martial artist, they think, “Well, if that’s how it’s supposed to be done, I’d better up my game,” and “If she can do it, I can too.” The instructors encourage us to be quite loud, so I have no problem being an example of how to kiai (yell) the word “NO!” If the other women find out that I am a karateka, they might think, “Oh, she’s good at that only because she’s in karate.” That’s not what I want to see happen.

The Letter

At the end of the 2nd session of the women’s self defense class, the instructors handed attendees a letter for our Significant Others. This letter asks the Significant Others to please refrain from asking us students for demonstrations of what we’re learning. The idea behind this is the instructors teach us to use full speed and power. They don’t want us to get into the habit of doing anything less because they fear that if us students get used to that via demonstrating what we’ve learned, we’ll be ineffective when push comes to shove.

I get that – I’ve had recurring nightmares of being in a fight for my life and pulling my punches just like I would in sparring. This program is designed for women who don’t want to study a martial art (it even says that in the book), so there’s no need to teach control. But I haven’t had those nightmares since I re-started Karate five years ago. I know my abilities. I know I can spar with children without hurting them, and I know I can send an adult to the hospital. It takes far longer than nine hours to develop both control and power. I could demonstrate what I’m learning to my husband without compromising my abilities.

However, my husband will abide by the letter. He will not ask me to demonstrate what I’m learning in the self defense class. Not because he fears that my abilities will be diminished. Oh no, it’s because he doesn’t want to be treated to a nerdy, lengthy analysis of each technique, how it compares to my training, the philosophies behind karate and the self-defense organization (R. A. D.), the differences in teaching beginning karateka and teaching women you might not ever see again… Yeah, he just wants to avoid my geek fest.

Takeaway for My Karate

I can adapt even if my muscle memory is screaming at me to execute the kicks “properly.” I still have a bad habit of dropping my hands when kicking – ARGH!

Author: Joelle White

I began training in Karate in June of 2014 after a 27 year hiatus.

3 thoughts on “Long Format Self Defense – Day 2”

  1. Nice to see you posting again, and I totally understand that it might be regularly for a while. the seminar sounds fascinating, and I love your explanation as to why your husband will not be asking for a demo. The same thing happens at our house. Although I love the chance to talk about what I learn, my husband and sons feel the same way! Lol (except for one who trains as well)

  2. Thanks for stopping by, June! I didn’t know you train with a son 🙂 That’s awesome! I’m taking the post of Day 3 out of the pre-writing stage today, and will publish at my usual time (biweekly on Fridays). I’m not sure about publishing regularly for awhile – I’ll see how it goes.

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