Today's Hakkoryu class was ground-breaking in the trust department. I enjoy martial arts. It's good for me, healthwise. Practicing movement means better flexibility as I age. Practicing safe falls means I'm less likely to trip down the stairs at 80 and end up with a broken hip or a head injury. Martial arts gives me confidence in situations where I used to feel threatened. It makes me feel protected and safe. However, I only get so far before my internal what-ever-it-is applies the brakes. I didn't understand why--only that over time my motivation fades. I become uncomfortable. I stop training. I wait a while. I miss the workouts, and (let's be honest) the whole warrior culture thing. (I'm an Aries, afterall.) Then I select a new martial art school, and off we go again. Today, I figured out what the problem has been. It's trust.

There's a border between self-defence and active harm. It's fuzzy. Most people don't understand that there's having a response to a threat and then there's having a response to a percieved threat that isn't actually a threat. As a woman, I've had to deal with questioning my perceptions of other people's actions my whole life. "Did they really mean to say that? Or is it harmless internalized bullshit that we all have?[1]" "Did that man really mean to touch me like that? Or was it an accident?" "Is this a danger? Am I over-reacting? Where's my boundary? Am I safe?" I used to have to worry about this every day. Now, not as much. I'm a fulltime professional writer. Still, it's something that takes up space in my head. So much so that when I'm training one of the things that crops up is: "How much trouble will I get into, if this action is pre-programmed into my brain/body? What happens if I react and the other person never intended to hurt me?" You may not have had the experience with abusers that I've had. So, let me explain something. Abusers actively live in the in-between space. They want you to question your perceptions. Not only does it give them the opportunity to physically harm you with impunity, it gives them the extra-added bonus of psychological damage. Grey spaces are their playground, baby. And largely, I think that's the biggest problem with a majority of self-defense programs. They do not acknowledge this. They approach situations in a good vs. evil mindset. "Someone is attacking you. This is what you do." The end. There is no ambiguity in their example. Ever. Perception of danger is never even discussed, and when I've brought it up I'm generally dismissed as being too paranoid. But real life isn't like the example the trainer is giving. And if you're training in order to be able to protect yourself in real life, then being able to react with an appropriate level of force--rather than a deadly one--is a huge factor. IMHO, this is the biggest potential problem with martial arts training. I've literally had instructors tell me, "I train women separate from men for one reason. I'm training women to be deadly. I don't train men that way. Because women need to protect themselves more than men do." I understood his position. It's certainly why some men feel women should carry guns, but as I see it, excessive force causes more harm than good. It trains women to be more violent than necessary. It doesn't resolve the problem. It opens women up for lawsuits--or worse, prison for murder. I don't want that for myself. I don't want to harm others--not on purpose and not even on accident. At the same exact time, I don't wish to be harmed.

Enter today's epiphany. Hakkoryu (as it is taught in my dojo) focuses on training an automatic response that reflects the energy put into it by the attacker. The intellect is bypassed. There is no second-guessing. If you train well, you will not add to the force being directed at you. You simply direct it back. I've said that before, I know. But today I really, really got it. I can trust myself to train in this way. I can have this level of control. I know this now. Pain compliance is an option, certainly, but it isn't the first option. And I suspect the main reason this is so huge for me is because of that one little word: trust.
[1] I suspect any person who happens to be part of a minority group has that little number running in their brain.

It saddens me that you haven't had as many good experiences with martial arts schools as I have had. When i hear that there isn't perception of danger being taught. That just makes me think what a sloppy school. It has been taught at the schools I have gone to mostly at the upper level. At the lower levels not many schools will go into it because as a beginner most places focus on form and beginner concepts. Not many schools spell it out for you, and different schools teach the concept differently. In one school i went to, the highest order of martial skill is "don't be there". Seriously. When that was handed to me in my early 20's i did not fully grasp the concept. That means different things for different people, but basically if you are super perceptive you can actually avoid fighting in the first place. Fighting, even redirecting force, is considered 3 or 4 tiers down failure from "don't be there". In another school, we trained by trying to sneak up and touch wild birds or squirrels without being harmed and noticed. Let me tell you how hard that was, because animals know all about gray space better than we humans do. They can sense someone's ill intentions from several feet away. The animals taught me all about it. Anyways glad you are enjoying your school and progressing so much! :)
thank you! i think i was merely not in the school that was right for me until now. :) i like what you said about the animals. that's interesting. we'll have to talk about that soon.
wow! very interesting end to this post… when I started reading it, I nodded along in agreement with my own internal interpretation, that this group of advanced beings I'm training with (even the relatively new folks like FS, who I think started within the last year?) .. that they all resonate for me on a level of [I can *trust* these people, be in this space, put down my guard and lift up a feeling of "be here, now, without much internal chatter", I feel trust that there is utterly no conniving intent to harm me, to bully or lord over my ignorance & newb mistakes, so many angles of awesome "Mensch" attitudes, from men and women here].

Like the entire, organic, dynamic training group that comes together for each class has a group awareness that resonates for me, letting me trust in the space that they-we hold together. Somehow cosmically diametrically opposed to "triggering" -- maybe even giving me an environment where I can unwire some over-trigger responses, rebalance to a fair/useful set of triggers? hm. sorry, too late at night, my English is all woppyjawed.

…and then as I kept reading, your concept of trust is very different, about yourself, and that is also wonderful, and just adds more to the joy I am finding in this path.

thank you, so much.
maybe it's the catholic in me, but i'm very clear that abuse is passed from one generation to the next. the abused becomes the abuser. (g-gate is a blatant example of this cycle in motion.) i never want to be that abuser. so for me, i'm careful of that line. i'm not always good at being aware, but i try very hard to maintain that awareness--particularly when training. this is next to impossible to do at the start. as kit says, control is an advanced subject. thus, they don't teach it right away.

and you're right about our dojo. everyone in it is pretty great.