Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kyoshi Problems

Yesterday was one of those days. Not a terrible day, mind you, just a terribly mediocre one, full of bad choices and things that did not go the way I wanted them to. I blame my breakfast. I had cereal. Bad choice! I'm normally an eggs and bacon person. You have to start things off correctly or there is no telling what could happen!

Maya and I followed Matthew to his noontime jiu-jitsu class. Whenever we go there we eat lunch at the same Brooklyn diner, a tiny hole in the wall called L&D Luncheonette, that is the most Brooklyn place in all of Brooklyn. (And I use to LIVE in BAY RIDGE so that is saying a lot!) They specialize in greasy things made in the deep fryer (even my sausages were made in there!) and silver dollar pancakes and tuna melts and black & white shakes where they give you the extra mixture in a frosty silver cup. The women who work there are all long nails and big hair and twangy Long Island voices. They call Maya "honey", know everyone who lives on the block and know exactly how to make Vinnie's burger and how Tony likes his coffee. Yeah, its that kind of place. Whenever I eat there I usually order a perfectly respectable chicken wrap but for some reason this time I opted for a plate of greasy eggs with home fries and sausage instead. 

My stomach was not too pleased with me. For hours.

My classes at the dojo were similarly disappointing. I had 16 kids in my second class. Three of them were brand new. They did great. Out of the other 13 kids, exactly 4 of them were actually paying attention. Normally when I have a group like that I immediately scrap anything I had planned on teaching and invent some brilliant game instead, one that somehow combines karate moves with Buddha-like meditation. Suddenly they are completely focused without ever knowing how they got there. (I am a karate teaching wizard! Like Gandalf, only with spin kicks.)

But not yesterday. Yesterday we did some mediocre katas, I yelled a bit, and then we all went home.

Again I blame my breakfast.

Also, there were the shoes. Maya needed new shoes. So on Monday we went to the store and I let her pick out these pink sparkly things that proceeded to rip half of the skin off of her heels. Since my child is nothing if not persistent, she wanted to wear them again in order to "break them in better." After wrapping her foot in no fewer than six Band-Aids, I then allowed her to hobble around all day, in theory "breaking in" these awful shoes. Finally, while we were walking to grandmas house around 6:00 last night, Maya turns to me and says, "We should get some socks." 

She is a genius that one. At no point during the two days of watching my daughter stubbornly limp around did it occur to me to put socks on her feet. Because that is the kind of spectacular mom I am. Also, I had cereal for breakfast.

After a quick trip to CVS for new socks (Genius!) , and dinner at my parents house, I was on my way back to the dojo, ready to disappear into training for an hour. Or at least that was the thought I had while walking up Broadway. I was frustrated and cranky. My stomach still hurt from the deep fried sausages. (Why???) I just wanted to punch and kick things for an hour. Preferably in the back of the room. Anonymously.

When I was a lower belt coming up through the karate ranks, I often went to the dojo to relieve stress. And except for the casual pre-class small talk with other students, and the occasional correction from my teacher, I could usually disappear into the crowd and completely lose myself in the joy of hard training.

This task is a little more difficult now. The dojo floor where I punch and kick is my own, and therefore I cannot help but look up whenever the phone rings or someone comes in the door to ask questions. Everyone in the room is a friend of mine. Which means that even on my worst day, I cannot help but smile when I see them. I cannot avoid conversation. In fact, the minute I enter the womens changing room, I often forget that I wanted to be alone in the first place. Its hard to stay angry in a place where everyone knows your name. Remember Cheers? No one is ever angry in that bar. (Ok, so I've never actually watched Cheers. But I know what the theme song is about. No follow up questions please.)

Also, my husband is the teacher here. He's seen me give birth. (TMI? Sorry.) Although, to his credit, he does a miraculous job of treating me just like everyone else. (Yeah, I totally messed up that bo kata last night. And no, he did not let it slide.) 

And lets face it, it looks a little weird if the highest ranking person in the room, the co-owner of the dojo in fact, is stretching in the corner by herself with a bitchy look on her face. When there are three black belts in class who are still learning their katas, it is not very friendly for the person who they are following to go all super aggro and speedy so there is no way anyone can keep up. 

In other words, having a "me party" in a class of 15 is a tad obnoxious. Besides, that is what we have a heavy bag for.

And the truth is, I only thought that I needed to punch in the back of the room with my angry tournament face on. Once I got on the floor I realized that what I really needed was to mess up an easy combination alongside a woman who I have known since I was 13, laugh at myself, fix my hands and move on. What I really needed was to have Kyoshi Matthew correct the form of my pushups when I got a little lazy. (Never lets me get away with anything, that one!) What I really needed was to be the only one who got the first move of the kata perfect (I am KYOSHI Jennifer!) and then turn around and help the others get there too. And so on. 

I also needed to have ordered a chicken wrap for lunch. 
And to have remembered the socks.
And to have made those kids punch pads instead.

And perhaps a glass of wine.
Mediocre wine, of course.

Because nobody's perfect.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Communications Blackout

When I was a young pre-teen in the 1980's, I desperately wanted to attend Space Camp. Not because I was a science buff but because I wanted to be Catherine (Lea Thompson), a tough but beautiful gal who not only gets to fly the space shuttle home after it "accidentally" gets launched into space, but also gets the cute but obnoxious guy with the bad teeth. Confused? Then you never saw Space Camp. 
What brilliance! What genius! This movie had it all. Romance. Adventure. An unfulfilled dream. The ditsy blond who ends up actually being smart. The token black guy. The little boy who feels left out and bullied but eventually finds his place in the world. A talking robot friend. Outer space! Danger! 

Just think of how excited I was when I learned that Space Camp was a real place! Only it turns out that it is really just science camp. Astronaut themed science camp, but still just science camp. Also it is really expensive. And no one ever gets launched into space by a little robot named Jinx. (Can you say lawsuit??)

In a very dramatic moment towards the end of the movie, when Lea Thompson's character is struggling to keep the joystick thingy steady so the shuttle can re-enter Earth's atmosphere without burning up, they experience a "communications blackout". Suddenly, Mission Control can no longer talk to the shuttle! The camera switches away from the anxious teenagers inside, to the anxious dudes at NASA who are waiting to hear if the shuttle made it. "Atlantis, this is Control, do you copy? Atlantis, this is Control, do you copy?"

"_ _ _"

"Copy that Control, this is Atlantis!"
Good job Catherine.

While I admit that the premise of Space Camp the Movie is somewhat dubious, communications blackout is a real phenomenon.  From Wikipedia: "The communications blackouts that affect spacecraft re-entering the Earth's atmosphere.. are caused by an envelope of ionized air around the craft, created by the heat from the compression of the atmosphere by the craft. The ionized air interferes with radio signals. For the MercuryGemini, and Apollo spacecraft, such communications blackouts lasted for several minutes. Gemini 2, for example, endured such a blackout for four minutes, beginning at 9 minutes 5 seconds into the flight."

So there you go. 

This Monday, we begin summer camp at the dojo; an annual ritual for us that includes twice daily karate classes, sports and water fights in the park, cute art projects like homemade backpacks and rubber band bracelets, and exciting activities like board breaking and indoor ball games. (Dodgeball. No matter how many choices I offer them, they always pick dodgeball.) July is the only part of the year where I have a "real job": 9-3, Monday - Friday, followed by my normal afternoon classes. 

I do not write anything during these two weeks. I do not do much in the way of training. I am terribly anti-social. I plan activities and I sleep. When I remember, I eat stuff.

Here are Adri and I at the end of last years summer's camp:

It is not a set shot, we really were that exhausted.

Of course this year will be different. We have less kids for one. And, for the first time ever, the dojo has air conditioning. 
Last year, during the second week of camp, NYC had a heat wave. It was 102 degrees outside. I am not exaggerating, go Google it if you don't believe me. It was 102 degrees outside, which meant it was 101 in the dojo. (Fans, We had fans.) Matthew filled a bucket with ice water and some towels and the kids walked around with their heads wrapped like the dojo was the trauma center in some old war movie. We stuck an AC in the women's changing room, threw some Legos in there, and called it the "cool room".

Camp was a huge success anyway. The kids had a fantastic time. I was the only one who was completely stressed out, constantly chasing them around with cups of water: "DRINK this! Drink it or you'll DIE!!". 

Barring an accidental space shuttle launch, I predict this year's camp will be a bit easier.

Still, do not expect much from me for the rest of the month, except a few half-assed Facebook posts and the occasional photo of some cute kids grappling.

Communication blackout.

You can do it Catherine!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Day I Quit Jiu-Jitsu

Tuesday was graduation day, my last scheduled session of physical therapy. That does not mean I am all better. I still have to continue doing the exercises on my own in order to make a full recovery, and more importantly to ensure that I do not re-injure myself. I just no longer need to do them in her office. 

In general I am a gym-hater, but I adored physical therapy! I loved the predictability of my twice a week appointments, which started with a bunch of neck and shoulder strengthening and ended with some spinal manipulation and a trigger point message. I loved chatting with my therapist, who is named Alyssa and is awesome! I even learned to love those stupid chin tucks.

At the end of my session yesterday, Alyssa showed me a model of the cervical spine and explained again exactly what a herniated disc is. (For more detail feel free to review my previous "jelly donut" post.) She told me what to do if I started to feel pain again. She signed off on my return to grappling, provided I promised to be careful. When she asked me how I felt about being done with her I stuck out my tongue like a pouty five year old.

"I feel like the minute I walk out of this gym my head is going to fall right off my shoulders."

I know that it is not Alyssa at Equinox that has made my neck improve. Or at least, it is not any kind of magic in her fingers; rather, it is simply her series of exercises (all of which I can do on my own) and time, that have helped me. But I still feel cut loose, afraid of my freedom, drifting around randomly in the ocean of neck cranks and triangle chokes. 

In other words, if it were free, I think I would go to PT forever.

I injured myself some time around early-April, right after my husband tore some rib cartilage. He was out of class for a week and a half.  I went back to BJJ last week. This comparison does not matter really; I am not competing with him for who can recover from injury faster. It is just one piece of the story.

Some time in early June, Matthew came home from BJJ all excited. He had had a great class, one where he really felt in control. All his movements felt smooth and strong. Oh, and there was that one tap he got on a black belt! That was kind of cool too.

About halfway through his story I realized that I was only half listening. The other half was stomping around, throwing a toddlerish tantrum that, if it were real, would have sounded something like this: "I WAAAAANT TO GOOOOOOO TO JIU-JIIIITSUUUUUU!"

Over the next week or so, whenever the subject of training came up, I would feel angry. I started making up reasons to hate my BJJ school. I complained that no one had called me to see how I was doing. (True, but there were multiple Facebook conversations.) I berated my teachers for not being more involved in the rolling part of class. (A fact which had nothing to do with me getting hurt.) I made fun of all the new spazzy white belts. (Well...yeah...some of them are kind of spazzy...) I worried that I would never be able to train without re-injuring my neck. I hated everyone who did jiu-jitsu and it was on the tip of my tongue to ask my husband to please stop telling me his BJJ success stories.

Then, I quit.

I do not mean that I called my school and told them I would not be returning. But in my mind, I went from being a BJJ student, to not being one. Now I did not care how many black belts Matthew tapped, I was done with all that. Clearly this martial art was not for me anymore.  And it was fine. I still had karate. Maybe I would find something else to do with my weekdays. Tai chi perhaps. Or Nia, whatever that is.

A week or two later, I had a dream. I dreamed I was rolling with this brown belt I know, and suddenly, in the middle of the round, I caught him in a cross collar choke and he tapped. I tapped a brown belt! 

I woke up feeling restless. It was a Thursday. My neck felt fine. In truth, it had been feeling much better in general. On Facebook, I chatted with two of my favorite training partners, our usual "Are you going to class today?" conversation. I stuck my gi in my bag. At 12:05 I was on the mats working on spider guard.

It was only some slow drills. But I woke up that Thursday morning with the sudden realization that if I did not go back very soon, I may be done with BJJ forever. And I guess, I was not ready to quit yet. So I went to class instead.

It is rare that a martial artist stops training all of the sudden, by throwing their belt on the ground and storming out the door. Usually, it goes something like this: Work gets busy, you miss class. Your kid gets sick, you miss class. You hurt yourself, you miss a few classes. Now you can't remember your new katas. You miss another class feeling embarrassed that you have forgotten everything. You have gained five pounds. You hate that. You miss a few more classes. You go on a mini vacation with the money you did not spend on classes that month. You eat too much on vacation and feel bad. You go to one class. Then you get busy with work again. A month has gone by. Then two. Before you know it, you have been gone so long that it feels weird to come back. So you don't. Slowly, without really meaning to, you have stopped training. 

I don't think most people are aware of a tipping point, a moment when they can either choose one road or the other. Often there isn't one. In fact, it is only in retrospect, that I realize how close I was to quitting jiu-jitsu. That does not mean I would not have returned to class in 6 months, after realizing how much I missed it. All I know is that I was on that ledge for awhile. And now I am not. For now, anyway.

I went to class twice this week, and yesterday I did my first round of careful rolling. It was awesome!  Scary, but awesome. Of course, there is always the possibility that I will hurt myself again. But there is also the possibility that I will discover a whole new rolling style, one that is fluid and smart and allows me to completely control every aspect of every round. It is most likely somewhere in the middle. But that is the nice thing about long term training; you can always evolve. You are always re-inventing yourself. 

For now, I am just happy to be on the mats again.

Happy 4th of July. 
Go eat some grass-fed, free range hot dogs.
And try not to blow up your fingers. You need them for cross-collar grips.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

If You Want to Be Happy for the Rest of Your Life....

At least once a day, I am reminded of how fortunate I am. Whether it is while being shoved into a claustrophobic L train during a rare rush hour commute, or while lounging on a sunny playground bench in the middle of a weekday; my days are full of opportunities for appreciation. I do not have a normal life. 

I am not sure who decided what this "normal life" should be. But I do know that I should be spending more time at a desk and less time in the park. I am supposed to see my child only at bedtime and on Sundays when we go to brunch. I should vacation more.  I do not go to Starbucks enough. Or Indian food buffet. I am supposed to wear heels more. There should be less gis hanging in my bathroom. And so on.

Running a karate school for a living is not always easy, but there is nothing else I would rather be doing.

Now, this may come as a shock to you, but my husband was not the first man I ever dated. (Shhh, don't tell him!) In addition to a couple of other karate guys, I actually went out with a few non martial artists. My high school boyfriend was a drummer. There was "sensitive poet guy". And then there was that dude who used to sell fireworks out of his buddy's basement. But we do not have to talk about him. 

The main point of all this is that most of these prior relationships were in high school and college; therefore, meaningless. By the time I was an adult, living on my own, with adult responsibilities, I was dating a karate guy. 

Matthew and I have been together for like, forever. So it is easy to take for granted things that are just normal for us. Like that on 6 out of the 7 days in a week, at least one of us is either teaching or taking a class somewhere. Sometimes it is at noon. But on other days it is right in the middle of dinnertime. For example, here was yesterday: I took Maya to my BJJ class at 11am, where she happily sat on the side of the mats and made rubber band bracelets for an hour. Then we went to the playground, had lunch, went to the pool and then back to the playground for an hour before finally returning home for dinner and bedtime. I watched some TV and fell asleep. Around 11:00, Matthew came home from the dojo. 

That's Mondays. On Tuesdays and Fridays we are both at the dojo until after 9pm while Maya hangs out with my parents. Wednesday and Thursday afternoons I go to jiu-jitsu. Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, Matthew goes to jiu-jitsu. And Wednesday evenings. Occasionally he does an extra evening class, and only then is there a conversation; who makes dinner, who puts Maya to bed. This is our "normal."

When you run a business and raise a child with someone, you see an awful lot of each other. Matthew and I do not have to make time to talk, we are constantly talking. We do not have to schedule family time, half of our week is family time. Which is why it is easy to forget that our relationship is not "normal". It is easy to forget that in this area of my life, I am also extremely lucky.

Recently Matthew contacted a student of his who has not been in class for awhile. This happens a lot in training; you get busy with work, family, etc. and you can't make it to class for a week. Then that week turns into two, which turns into a month, which turns into two months and then, without intending to, you have quit the dojo. This student who Matthew emailed had indeed been busy with work, but the main thing he was struggling with was where to fit his training in with his new marriage. He wants to train 4 times a week. His wife, who does not do karate, is not thrilled with him being at the dojo until 8pm every night, leaving her all alone. 

This is not the first time we have seen this. Another former student of ours was in constant 
negotiation with his wife regarding Friday night sparring, versus dinner and drinks with her. And, lest you think I am being sexist, it is not always the wives who have a problem. About 6 years ago, a female student of ours quit the dojo when her boyfriend could not handle the amount of time she spent "training with all those guys."

And can you blame them? All of our adult classes are at dinnertime. So, after working hard all day, a loving spouse arrives home just in time to hear, "Bye honey, see you in a few hours. Oh, and I will be sweaty and stinky and I may have injured something so be prepared to hear me whine about it all night."

I guess most couples who have gym memberships work out together. Some people take morning runs while their spouse is still asleep. Pure Yoga is open all day. Even my BJJ school has 7am class for the really motivated. 

OK, in truth, I am full of it. I have no idea how you normal folks do it. I have been a martial artist married to a martial artist forever. I have no clue how hard it is to fit your training into your relationship. I don't know when you have dinner together, or what normal people are supposed to do on Saturdays. Matthew and I both hate to travel. Our daughter has been sitting on the side of a class since she was a newborn. There are three gis currently hanging in my bathroom! No one takes showers here.

Like I said, my life is not normal.

 All I know is that I am lucky to have a husband who not only doesn't mind that I roll around on mats with other men, he sometimes even washes my stinky gi for me.

If that isn't true love, I don't know what is.

What do you think? How do you train seriously and still maintain a relationship? 

Or does everyone have to marry a black belt.
(Which I highly recommend, by the way. It is pretty awesome!) 

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Circus

There have been a lot of shows this month. The end of the year is always like that, every specialist wants to show off what they have been teaching all year. So we went to the spring concert and the spanish show and now, today, the Max the Cat Circus. To be honest, I am more than a little sick of watching shows. At this point in the school year its all I can do to put pants on my kid. But Maya was really proud of this one ("Mommy you're gonna love the circus show!") and she really was the cutest little robot clown ever. And as I sat there listening to a bunch of first graders singing along to Katy Perry I realized that I was close to tears. 

I thought it would only be the end of pre k that would choke me up so I was taken a bit off guard when the whole Kindergarten moving up ceremony got me. But even after that I swore this year would go off without a hitch. No nostalgia. No look how big they all are moments. No tears.

But look how big they all are! 

Who cares that my baby is going to be a second grader? Who cares that none of her pants fit anymore? Who cares that she still hugs me when I leave like she actually doesn't want me to?

Apparantly, me. I do.
Who has two thumbs and is a sucker for 6 year olds in costumes? This gal.
What a wuss.
Damn that Katy Perry!
Maya is the third clown from the left. Yeah, I know...

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Go Hug A Newbie

For some reason I have spent an awful lot of time this week in Facebook conversations with martial artists. Perhaps it is due to my month long "nobody is allowed to touch my neck" BJJ hiatus, or maybe its the whole Miss USA scandal, but whatever the reason, I have been particularly verbal lately. 

The Internet is full of people who have no idea what they are talking about. Particularly when the subject of the martial arts comes up. Everyone has trained in something "when they were a kid" and everyone has watched a UFC match and EVERYONE has an opinion about EVERYTHING. So JoeMMA posts a comment about his training and there are 30 responses and at least three of them say "Joe you are douche.", while four others say "Joe, you rock!" and then there are the rest of us attempting to have an intelligent debate about belt whipping or kata practice or what color rash guard we prefer or whatever.

But, after 25 years of karate and 3 plus years of BJJ, there is one thing that I can say with certainty and that is this. New martial artists just don't get it. 

And it is not because they are idiots. Or misogynists. Or aggro asshats who only train to beat up their teammates. 

No, newbie's don't get it because they can't. Their martial arts brain is not developed enough yet. It is like trying to get a baby to read War & Peace. It just is not possible yet. 

Everyone comes into their training with a few preconceived notions; some of us, more than others. And the only thing that changes those beliefs is mat time. Experience. No amount of internet hashtagging is going to do it. 

Don't believe me? Fine. But just in case you are looking to save your breath (and your typing fingers), here are a few concepts that that new white belt is just not going to get yet.
  1. How to "go light". It does not matter if it is BJJ, karate or naked mud wrestling, a brand new person is always far too amped up and nervous in the beginning to notice how hard they are sparring, let alone control it. I cannot tell you how many conversations I have had that went like this" "Can you slow down, you are going a bit too hard." "OMG I am?? I am so sorry, I had no idea!!" Unless they have had prior experience, the new guy (or gal) is always going to be spazzy, aggressive and exhausted after two minutes. And no matter how much you think they "just hate women", they probably did not elbow you in the nose on purpose. It is ok. They will get better. For now, just keep your hands up.
  2. How to train "long term". Most people are not thinking about black belt in their first month. They are not thinking about being 40 and running a string of dojos across the USA. They cannot possibly be expected to understand things like patience and pacing themselves and preventing injury and a slow learning curve and a calm mind and all the other things that those of us who have been around awhile are privy to. They also are unlikely to get exactly how their martial arts training is supposed to help them in the rest of their lives. (Hell, I am still working on that one.) Most of the deeper benefits of training do not come for years. For now, it is enough that she just comes to class. 
  3. How to train with women. Or children. Or tiny men. Or anyone else who does not look and act exactly like them. This is an advanced skill. It requires nuance. And discipline. And time. Most of all, it requires paying attention to your partners, which is an acquired skill. (See number 1.) 
  4. That there is no "best style." Although if you are planning on getting in a lot of street fights, I recommend some kind of weapon. I hear guns are pretty popular nowadays. If your goal is the Octagon you need to train in BJJ and wrestling and some kind of stand-up art like kickboxing or karate. And be 25. With multiple tattoos.  But otherwise it does not matter if you are doing katas or armbars. There is benefit to ALL training. But do not try to explain this to newbies. Like religion, everyone just wants to believe  that they picked the right one. So go ahead, let them feel proud that they chose jiu- jitsu. They can learn tai chi later.

There is more. Much more. But my typing fingers are already fatigued from all that Facebooking.

So go hug a newbie. Shower them with love and understanding. Do not mock them. You were them once. I know it is hard to remember, but you too were spazzy and scared once.

Some of us still are sometimes.
I mean you. Some of you.
Not me, I'm perfect.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Ok, I’ll bite. You want to know what I think of Nia Sanchez, the newly crowned Miss USA, commenting that women should learn self defense in order to fix the campus rape problem. Or whatever it was she said.

Never mind that it is likely her statements were written by some pageant publicist. Never mind the question of why we would expect Miss Nevada, who is beautiful and seems at least somewhat intelligent, to know how to solve the college campus rape problem.

And never mind that the very existence of a beauty pageant is a direct threat to the whole #yesallwomen movement, that instead of complaining about what she said on stage we should be complaining about why in 2014 there is still a competition that involves women dressing up like princesses and getting scored on how well they curled their hair.

(Yes, I still occasionally watch Toddlers and Tiaras. And yes, it is still horrifying.)

Also never mind the fact that all the news sources are advertising her as a “martial arts champ”, yet I could only find one photo online anywhere of her in her Taekwondo uniform. And before you get the wrong idea,  I am not saying that her fourth degree black belt is illegitimate. I am just pointing out that if you are going to jump on the “strong is the new skinny” bandwagon you should at least have a few photos of her being, well, strong. Instead of just skinny. And beautiful. In an evening gown. With too much makeup.

But I digress.

Here is exactly what Nia Sanchez said: "'More awareness is very important so women can learn how to protect themselves,' Myself, as a fourth-degree black belt, I learned at a young age that you need to be confident and be able to defend yourself. And I think that's something we should really implement for a lot of women."

And here is some of the brilliant criticism she received:
"How did she win after that awful and offensive answer? Idiot."
"I'm sorry, but women shouldn't need to take self defense classes to protect themselves from rape."
"Let's hope Nevada uses her media tour to reiterate that teaching girls self defense is NOT the best way to protect against assault ."
"Miss Nevada described how individuals need to protect themselves from rape, instead of teaching others not to rape. Stop the victim blaming."
"Miss Nevada: How is it a woman's responsibility to learn to protect herself from rape?"

And here is where I piss off some feminists.

Number one, saying all women should learn self defense in order to prevent rape is NOT the same as saying that a woman who has been raped should have known self defense. It is also not the same as saying that a woman should not have worn that dress, or should not have left with that guy, or should not have gotten drunk. Advocating for preventive measures is NOT “blaming the victim”.

Two, there is no excuse for rape. Period. But saying that we should not teach women how to protect themselves because men should not rape is like saying we should get rid of all condoms because teenagers shouldn’t have sex. Or, like my friend Oliver pointed out, like saying we should do away with locks on doors because breaking and entering is against the law. Or like a million other anologies I could come up with. In other words, it is stupid. Why not teach men about consent AND teach women how to do a rear naked choke? Why does it have to be one or the other.

It doesn’t. It shouldn’t.

The truth is that all women should take martial arts. Not because it will prevent them from getting raped, but because it will give them confidence, and strength. Because it will teach them that their bodies can do amazing, powerful things. Because it will enable them to be able to identify themselves as something more than just a pretty face. (“I AM a black belt!”) Because it will teach them to be awake and aware and maybe to make better decisions (like to not have that fourth beer) and maybe, just maybe, those things will help keep them safe.

And while we are at it, all men should take martial arts too. For the same reasons. Because if they are training to become black belts, maybe they will care a little less about hanging out late with their buddies doing tequila shots. Maybe they too will make better choices. And maybe, just maybe, those things will help keep EVERYONE safe.

My problem with Miss USA is not that she had the audacity to say that women need to learn to protect themselves. It is that she did not come out on that stage in her dobok and black belt, instead of a bathing suit and heels . It is that she did not perform kata as her talent. It is that she did not throw her hair back into a ponytail and drop down on that stage and do twenty perfect pushups. (Provided of course that she can.)

Of course then she would not have won.

Which, in the end, is what we should really be angry about.