I started jiu-jitsu because I was going off to college in a city and wanted to learn some basic self-defense. Rather than shop for floor rugs and dorm decor, I wanted to learn how to render men unconscious. I didn’t expect to fall in love with it or even continue it, quite honestly.
But I did, and jiu-jitsu has equated to much more in my life than just self-defense. That said, the thought of ever having to use it is extremely unsettling. I hate that I know how to break almost every bone in the body, and I still don’t feel safe.
After years of training, I like to think my inner Liam Neeson would come out if a situation were to arise. I would hope that I would employ my “particular set of skills” that would make me a “nightmare” to my assailant. But that most likely would not be the case. Since I began training, I have had multiple phrases thrown my way along the lines of, “Well, at least you know jiu-jitsu,” or “I’m glad you know jiu-jitsu,” but unfortunately that is not enough. We don’t currently live in a society where knowing self-defense is enough to ensure a woman’s safety, and we may never.
I am comfortable with the self-defense techniques I’ve curated, and sure, I am always aware of my surroundings and locate fire exits upon arrival, but I still feel just as scared walking alone at night as I did before jiu-jitsu. When I’m at the gas station alone and see a group of men eyeing me, I still find myself searching for the nearest bludgeon or potential weapon before ever considering my own hands.
It offers some peace of mind that I know how to break bones and choke the average man unconscious, but what if my attacker isn’t the average man? What if he’s a trained fighter? Or has a gun? Or what if there’s several of them and only one of me?
We live in a society where we always need to be on guard, and that’s a disheartening reality. If I still feel unsafe and I have been training for years, I can not imagine how my friends who don’t train feel.
I love that I know jiu-jitsu, and it does allow me a certain degree of confidence, but I hope I would never have to use it. My initial reactions in potentially dangerous situations are to diffuse the tension, walk away, yell for help and try to avoid things elevating to a physical confrontation. Utilizing jiu-jitsu is an absolute last resort.
One of my first ever jiu-jitsu professors used to talk about “flipping the switch.” He said that if I was ever in a dangerous situation, I needed to know how to let my survival instincts take over and that “anything goes.” I don’t gauge eyes or aim for the groin with my training partners, but you can bet these are things I would do in a real-life situation.
He told me that while training and drilling submissions is great, out on the street you are going to have to flip that switch and go absolutely crazy to defend yourself. My goal with jiu-jitsu is that I would be a very hard woman to grab, and I would not go down without a hell of a fight.
I am glad I know jiu-jitsu, because knowing how to defend myself is far better than someday saying that I wish I had. But at the end of the day, I personally hope I never have to “flip the switch.”