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To the Man Who Tried to Hurt Me

“You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.” 
― Mary OliverWild Geese

Today is Wednesday. Over the past few days, numerous people have asked me if I am ok. This question, simple as it may be, has made me pause and think. If by ok, you mean am I able to go about my life like normal, to teach my classes, to train, to be a mom, then yes, I am absolutely one hundred percent ok. Sunday's situation has not changed my actual life one bit. But if by ok you mean am I still angry, still sad, still disappointed, then the answer is no, I am not ok at all.

Many of these well wishers have been men, and when they ask if I am ok, they all have the same look on their face. I didn't really understand that look at first, but now that I have had a few days inside my own head, I get it.  I realize why, despite the very perfect resolution that my husband provided for me on Sunday, I am still positively furious. Despite witnessing a whole team of black belts literally have my back, I am still furious. And hurt. And confused. 

I stood up to a bully last Friday. I spoke up for someone who was being mistreated, someone who is a bit weaker, someone who was not in a position to speak for themselves. I did so in a private conversation between myself and one other person. No one else heard it.  But because I did this, I was verbally and publicly attacked. I was threatened and shamed in front of my family, my friends, and a room full of black belts who have known me for years. I was shamed in my own dojo, in my own house.  By a man in a position of power. 

What a cliche.

While all this was going on, out of respect for the people who were taking promotion, I held my tongue. My husband did not. He pronounced the promotion over, called forward his army of black belts and together we stood, us against the world, until everyone else had left the building. Because no one messes with our family.

I am deeply grateful for the people in our little Upper West Side dojo. I am so thankful for my husband who immediately stood up to defend me and our team, who is a leader in every sense of the word. You don't always get an opportunity in life to really see how many people love you, to see who is willing to stand by your side when a choice has to be made. It was beautiful.

Yet still, I am angry. 

Immediately after the promotion ended, two women who are very close to my heart came over to me. One of them said, "I can't believe you didn't cry. I would have been in tears." The other one gave me a hug and said, "I am so sorry this happened to you."

I do not regret what I said to this man in defense of our student. I also do not regret holding my tongue while he retaliated in a very aggressive, very public way. It was the right thing to do at the time.

But martial arts masters get confused sometimes. You forget that the respect people give you is earned. You forget that we bow to you because of your years of experience, because of your talent, because of your generosity. You forget that we bow to you because we choose to. You forget that your belt, no matter how many stripes are on it, is not a get out of jail free card. You don't get to bully people just because you can. Because of your name or your rank. Because you are physically stronger. Because you are a man. You do not get to make me feel small in my own house. 

So for every woman in that room on Sunday morning, and for every woman anywhere who has ever been belittled and bullied by a man, this is for you. On Friday I stood up for someone who was being treated unfairly.  I would stand up for him again, just like I would stand up for any one of you.  I do not care if I am lectured for twenty minutes or 4 hours and I do not care how many people attempt to embarrass me for it.  I am a fighter. I am a teacher. I am a wife and a mother and a successful business owner. I strive each and every day to contribute to the good in the world. Those students fighting for their black belt on Sunday contribute to the good in the world. The other karate teachers in the room that day contribute to the good in the world, as do every single one of their students.

To the man who tried to hurt me, I do not know what personal struggles you are dealing with in your life right now. I do not know what pain has led you to such a dark place, but I hope it is short lived. I hope you find peace from your bitterness and anger. I hope you find joy again. I really, truly do. The man I used to know was warm, and passionate and full of life. I hope to see him again some day.

But I know who I am. I know who my family is. I know who my team is.  Nothing you say can touch that. You can't break it, and you can't take it away. I am a strong woman with an even stronger team behind me.

You are either with us or against us.


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