To The Woman Beginning Self-Defense Training Who Has Survived Abuse or Assault

My Bruises Are From Jiu-Jitsu

Photo Credit: My Bruises Are From, taken at Queens of the Mat

Today you are beginning self-defense training. You have been considering this for quite some time. You still aren’t sure if you should. Or, if you can. You are terrified. You have lived through horrors that most cannot imagine. You know what people in this world are capable of. You want to be able to protect yourself. You want to live. But you know that self-defense training is going to re-open all of the wounds you have been desperately trying to cauterize. You are tired. You don’t feel like you have the strength for this, but you know that this is something you have to do. For yourself. To eventually help others if you ever can.

You are not alone.

This might be completely new to you. You might not know a single person in the room. You may never have learned the difference between a hook and an upper cut, or perhaps you have never seen any of these moves before. You know you are strong, but you don’t think of yourself as a ‘fighter’. Not in this sense, at least.

You feel completely alone. But you are not alone. There are countless women, in this room and across the world, who are learning how to defend themselves.

It feels like too little too late.

It isn’t too late.

You survived. You are alive. Even if you cannot see it, or even hope for it, you are alive for a reason. You already have self-defense skills. You would not be here today if you did not.

Think of a time when you did something you did not think you could do. Do you remember how it felt when you finally did it? This is the hardest thing you will ever do. But you will do it. You are capable of learning how to physically defend yourself. You are only adding to the self-defense skills you already have.

This process requires a lot of trust: in the instructor, in the others in the class, but mostly in yourself. Because of what others have done to you, you don’t trust yourself as much as you once did. You feel responsible, even if only for not doing something differently.

I will forgive myself for what I did not know before I learned it.

Thank you for trusting yourself enough to be here today. Trust for the instructor and anyone else in the room will be earned over time. If at any time you do not feel comfortable with anything, you are welcome to step back, leave the session, or never return. You are always welcome, but it is your choice to be here.

You will be triggered. You might not sleep tonight. You might have night terrors after every class for months to come. But you will not always be triggered. You will sleep peacefully again. If you have a flashback, it will end. I cannot give you a date that you will sleep peacefully again. That will be different for each of you. But, it will end.

This, too, shall pass.

In order for you to sleep peacefully again, in order to continue to live a life full of joy and happiness, in order to achieve your dreams, you must first chase down each and every one of your fears and face them head-on. You are stronger than your fears. You are stronger than you feel right now. You are stronger than you believe. Chase your fears as passionately as you chase your dreams. Many times they are one and the same.

You dream of safety, of being able to protect yourself if you ever need to again, but you fear not being able to.

You dream of connection, with others and yourself. You dream of being able to trust others. But you fear the fact that no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes, and some people will never be worthy of your trust. Mostly, you fear you will trust the wrong person, because you trusted the person who hurt you.

You will only regain trust in yourself by taking chances, making decisions, and seeing the results. This takes time. This takes courage. This takes strength. Right now, you are relying solely on faith and hope and the primal instinct of survival. That will carry you until you begin to see the results of your actions.

Celebrate your progress. If you can only do one push-up today, celebrate when you are able to do two. If you can only make eye contact with a man for half of a second today, celebrate when you are able to hold eye contact with them for a full second. In order to get where you want to go, you have to accept where you are today. Where you are today fucking sucks.

But this, too, shall pass.

Keep fighting the Good Fight, my dearest Warriors of the Light.

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Ann Edwards