Self-defense might lead to a more self-determination

By David Broyles

July 11, 2013

In spite of my nonviolent tendencies, I found myself applauding and grinning broadly Tuesday night at Surry Community College’s Self Defense for Women class. Seeing some of the ladies visibly cut loose on Bubba, the practice dummy and the ensuing liberation this brought became a sort of group therapy.

Back when I dabbled in martial arts it was all so new, so exotic. The myth of the diminutive practitioner being able to stop a charging rhino with the proper technique gave a lot of geeks hope. Some of the systems being taught incorrectly got a lot of geeks hurt. You could talk about discipline, control and personal growth but then the majority of us guys just wanted to learn to bust some chops.

I think there has been a shift in thought on self-defense, a blended approach if you will. There is a need for both the traditional methods of learning the martial art, and the field now has the maturity to know training should include the easy to learn techniques taught by Brent Trivette which work.

What was (get ready for a pun) striking for me was these ladies were literally taking a swing at a cultural stereotype which delegated them the role of victim. This is the type of thinking which justifies girls cannot be scientists, or mechanics. How absurd for them to be anglers, hunters or drive race cars. Once again I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Even though I was just watching I felt a sense of pride in the women who were well on their way to busting some chops if the situation called for it.

It’s just so sobering to realize after all the progress we’ve made, society still seems to be incapable of moving on once the wheel has been invented. We have covered “people are people” from every angle and it appears it hasn’t sunk in. There it was. Polite sexism had denied these gals the option of fists. I particularly find this bewildering because when I hit high school I quickly noticed girls’ fights involved much more bodily harm to the participants that the blustering, high profile fights of the boys. (Don’t even get me started on how scared I was of hair picks once I saw the first one slung like a ninja’s throwing star.)

Is there a silver bullet lurking somewhere in our minds to stop old habits of “girls must behave this way” and “boys must behave that way?” What can allow us to see the person before the gender?

What to do? Frankly folks, I haven’t a clue. (Now I sound like Dr. Seuss.) I have puzzled and puzzled till my puzzler is sore. It’s all too close to a Monty Python comedy skit for me. Funnier still is I’m a lot more positive these days than I have been. I see a lot of good stuff happening.

The most recent example which gives me heart that we humans can be magnificent was a flight attendant on the 777 which crashed in San Francisco. That tiny woman, in high heels and a pencil skirt no less, piggybacked injured passengers out of that burning plane. This my friends earns an “Atta girl” from me.

Having been whupped in a bewildering variety of geography, weapons, other fighting styles and in all kinds of weather, I’m thinking maybe, just maybe practicing on Bubba isn’t such a bad start. Even the Whos in Whoville were eventually heard.

David Broyles is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at or 719-1952.