Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Make A Change

I've been an avid reader my whole life.  Books have always been a means of education as well as escape in my happiest as well as darkest moments.

Right now I'm finishing up a book called Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.


It's a fascinating study in how change happens - or doesn't happen - in large organizations, small groups, or individuals.  Some of it you've no doubt heard before:  if you want to make it to Krav class more often but have a crazy schedule, stash some boxing gloves and workout clothes & shoes in the trunk of your car.  That way, if the opportunity to come to the studio pops up in your schedule, you'll be ready to hit the mat.  They call this "shaping the path" or making it easy to do the right thing.  

There's lots of practical advice here, and they make it both entertaining and easy to see how you can really change things for the better in your personal life and at work.

For me, though, the one point I can't get out of my head centers on the issue of identity.   Change happens when you believe you are "the kind of person who..."  

I've seen this over and over again on the mat.  

The biggest roadblock to getting females on the mat centers on their beliefs about their identity (this is true of males as well, of course, but its historically been more a part of the male identity to participate in combat arts).

We spend our whole lives learning to be sugar and spice and everything nice.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

"I could never hurt anybody"  This comes from women who will go after a heavy bag like she's a hungry honey badger, but if a human holds a punch shield she instantly throws little tap-tap-tap "punches".  "They won't like me if I'm 'mean' "So she's completely capable, but unable to make herself strike hard.  Having struggled with this myself in the past, I feel for her.  I was only able to break the habit because my male friends who train kept hitting me hard and yelling HIT ME!  I love them for that.  However it still took years before I'd really hit someone, and if it's been a while, I still involuntarily deliberately miss or pull back the first few strikes.  I'm a nice lady.

So the question becomes:  how do I shorten that time period for other females?   How can I save them years of believing they just can't strike aggressively, that it's not who they are?  Maybe for some of them it's really not who they are, but I doubt that's true for most.  We are a war-like species, and that includes the ladies.  

As Rory Miller says, there is a story we tell ourselves about ourselves.  That story is often what is the most damaged after an attack.  The person who thought it would never happen to them comes to see their whole existence, justice, and humanity differently.  The person who thought they would be brave, and wasn't, can burn with shame over the incident for the rest of their lives.  The person who thought they would be weak, and wasn't, can begin to see opportunities they were completely blind to before.  They begin to see their behavior in that one moment as who they are, even though it was only a moment in time.

How do I shorten the time period for females?  How do I convince her to allow herself to train aggressively without spending the years it took me?  I asked Jeff about this a couple of months ago, and he replied that maybe there are no shortcuts.  Maybe if you want to climb that particular mountain you just have to put in the time.  I really hope he's wrong.  Too many students have quit to go take up a kinder gentler pastime because while they enjoyed class they believe they just aren't the kind of person who can be strong enough to fight.   

I believe we create the person we become.  If you are willing to defend your child - and most women will fight like Hellcats to protect their child - you can learn to be willing to defend yourself as well.  You are worth defending.  You can make the switch.

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