by Mac S. McGregor -
Special to the SGN
Due to the recent assaults and threats on women and drag queens in our area, I approached Social Outreach Seattle about us hosting a self-defense class for the community, because I believe that knowledge dissipates fear. I have spent my entire life training in and teaching martial arts to empower people to walk through life with more confidence and knowledge - to be safe in our not-so-safe world.
I began my own martial arts training at age six, when an introductory class was offered through my elementary school. Since I loved to watch Kung Fu Theater on weekends and wanted to be Bruce Lee, this was my big chance to start that process. I brought the sign-up papers home and begged my mother to allow me to take the class. She signed the papers and it all began. I did so well in the class that I was asked to lead a martial arts demonstration at a PTA meeting.
At the end of the six-week class, the husband-and-wife instructor team told my mother and grandmother that I was a 'natural' and a hard worker, and that they would like to see me continue my training. My mother, a single parent of two who worked as a bartender, did not have the money for this, but my grandmother said she and my grandfather would pay for my training. Since then I have never stopped. This training was important to both my grandmother and my mother, because my mother had recently come out of a physically and emotionally abusive marriage and they never wanted me to go through that. As a small child I saw this man beat her many times to the point of needing to be hospitalized - on two occasions she ended up in critical care. I remember watching this, seeing the fear on her face and being frustrated that I was too small to stop him. I recall him being charming and nice at times, and then turning into a monster. I have never forgotten those times and this experience has always given me a special passion that no one should ever have to live in fear. It also gave me a great deal of motivation to be physically strong and capable of taking care of myself and those I care about. I never again wanted to have that helpless feeling I did as a child, watching that nightmare and not having the power to do anything to help.
FIRST CLASS A SUCCESS
I heard friends in our community talking about being afraid due to these recent attacks and I wanted to do all that I could and can to help. After 43 years of martial arts training, having achieved black-belt levels in 17 different styles of martial arts, being one of the highest-ranking martial artists in the world and a defensive tactics instructor for security and law enforcement professionals, I have the knowledge to help. The class at Velocity Dance Center in Capitol Hill, held on February 17, was a great success. We had a variety of people attend and participate - all sexes and gender expressions, body types, sexual orientations, and strength levels. It was a beautiful thing to witness: the confidence the participants build as they gained knowledge, practiced the techniques, and saw that they worked.
Despite my vast martial arts knowledge and training, when I teach street-smart self-defense I am not really teaching martial arts. I am teaching martial arts principles and some very basic martial arts techniques. Many martial arts teachers don't understand this. I am training people who are not martial artists. I need to be able to teach them simple things that can help them live safely and carry themselves more centered and with more confidence in a short amount of time, once a year or once every two years. In other words, I simplify things. After years of teaching, bodyguarding, doing security work, and working with law enforcement officers, I have developed techniques that are simple but will work on a much larger and stronger attacker. I teach techniques that use large gross motor movements so that under stress with minimal training a person can still make them work. I show people the weak points on the body that even if a person is extremely strong will still hurt and be effective to help one get away.
I use this analogy: Find the biggest, strongest, most muscular guy you can. Put him in a small, closed space such as a phone booth with a couple of angry bees, and then watch that tough guy dance and do whatever else he can do to get away from those bees. Now, BE THE BEE! Sting, sting, sting, until he does not want to be anywhere near you. I have found that this is something everyone can understand and relate to, and it gives people confidence that a smaller, physically weaker person can be effective.
AWARENESS, INTUITION KEY
The two most important tools everyone already has at their disposal are awareness and intuition. Learning to hone in on those is key to one's safety.
Let's talk about awareness first. Always look around when you walk into a place - be conscious of where the exits are and where would be a good place to hide if necessary. Look at the people and notice if anyone stands out to you, and never sit with your back to the door unless you really trust the person you are with to watch your back. Look around your car as you are approaching it and your home when approaching it. Be attentive to anything out of the ordinary around your home. Most attacks happen in or around a person's home, which is where we have a tendency to let our guard down.
The second tool that we all have is intuition - the sixth sense, the angel on your shoulder, that gut feeling, that inner voice. It doesn't matter what you call it. What matters is that you listen to it. This is really our subconscious mind picking up on clues to protect us and keep us safe. Our subconscious minds have no ulterior motive but to protect us, so LISTEN. Our intuition presents differently to each of us but here are some common ways it presents: the hair on the back of the neck standing up; unusual sweating; a lump in the throat; nagging thoughts; a strange feeling in the gut; getting chills when it is not cold; and many other ways. Many people argue with these messages and make excuses for them. If you meet someone new and you have an eerie, uncomfortable feeling about that person, you may argue in your inner dialogue, saying things like 'I really shouldn't judge,' 'I just met this person,' and so on. Most of us don't want to be considered rude or a bitch, so we jeopardize our own security to be polite. Be the bitch and be safe! Get over worrying about what people think, especially when it comes to your well-being. The difficult thing about intuition that we all have to understand and be OK with, is that when you make a decision to listen to it you may never know the full story of why you got that message. You just have to trust it. If someone gives you these feelings or 'red flags,' get away from them immediately. It can be a person or a place that makes you feel uncomfortable - either way, LISTEN and TRUST your intuition.
IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU
As someone to whom this work is so personal and important because of what I saw growing up with two of my mother's nine husbands, it is frustrating to me that in our society little attention is paid to this type of safety training until a rash of violent crimes make the news in an area. Then it is localized and quickly goes away in a community after the publicized crime spree dissolves. People have a tendency to think it will never happen to them or in their neighborhood and so on. This is living in denial. Crime can happen anywhere, in any neighborhood, to anyone. It is our responsibility to participate in our own safety. There are not enough teachers, security, or law enforcement professionals to protect us all the time. We have to take the initiative for our own safety and to look out for one another. Bring those you care about to my next community self-defense class.
The class at Velocity Dance Center was the first time I have taught a self-defense class, or any class, with a drag queen host. Not just any drag queen, but my good friend Robbie Turner, whom I adore. Robbie and I met a couple of years ago, sitting at the bar at Broadway Grill. We hit it off right away, talking about both being raised in a conservative religious background, in conservative parts of our country. We laughed a great deal reminiscing about our crazy childhoods and how we are both now OUT and PROUD in the world. Educating and entertaining is a way out of the box for people who are warm and compassionate, and who have a sense of humor about it all.
Robbie is like my brother/sister from another mother, and yet I also call him my 'first lady' because he is beautiful inside and out and has a dress for every occasion. I have the utmost respect and admiration for him, and it grew even further the night we taught self-defense together. I just thought Robbie wanted to participate and host this with me because of his wonderful, caring heart - but no, like me, I learned that there was much more to it then that. He too has had a personal experience, one of being beaten by a man he refused to date to the point of being unconscious for a couple of weeks and needing facial reconstructive surgery. He has a special personal passion, as I do, for people being confident and safe and having the knowledge to take care of themselves. Now I love him even more. This makes us a passionate, dynamic team that gets it. We do this from the heart with humor and compassion. We will be doing this class quarterly with Social Outreach Seattle.
I have had a diverse, interesting life and view of the world. From formerly being the highest-ranking female martial artist in the world to a youth and children's pastor. I've been a keynote speaker for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and now I'm an activist and sex and gender educator. I have had the privilege to travel and teach people to be safer all over the world, from little children to women in prison to the elderly. I will always use this knowledge I have to help others. I believe that is the responsibility we have when we have knowledge and gifts - and I will never forget that little helpless child, watching that destructive violence that helped to shape my life's path, my mission, and my life's work to empower others.
Share on Facebook
Share on Delicious
Share on StumbleUpon!