Aloha Grill is my favorite spot for lunch. I love me some teriyaki chicken and rice with mac salad! My lunch hour last Spring started out like any of the dozens of times I squished into that packed hole-in-the-wall restaurant. But didn’t end the same.
Two blue-collar men entered right behind me and stood so close that our arms were touching. Everyone who knows me knows how much I loathe being touched by anyone, let alone strangers, so I looked around the waiting area for room to move aside. Out of nowhere, one of the men grabbed my arm so hard I thought that maybe he was trying to keep from falling, but when I turned toward him, the look on his face said it all. He was a sleazy predator and I was at the unfortunate place and time to be chosen as his play thing.
Continuing to squeeze hard enough to leave bruises on my arm, he made a comment to me about the place being so crowded today followed by a wink and dirty smirk. I just stared at him in disbelief of what was happening while his friend snickered behind him. He finally let go of me when it was my turn to order. The tiny room was full of customers, mostly men who were oblivious to what was happening right next to them. When the cashier asked for my ID to use my debit card, I took it out and showed it to her in a way so the men still standing close behind me couldn’t see it. I was afraid they would see my name and try to find me.
I had always thought that if the time called for it I would be tough enough to do and say what needed to be done. But in that moment, when I was being assaulted, every ounce of feminism I thought I had left me, and I desperately hoped that any of the other men around me would swoop in and save me. That didn’t happen.
By the time I got back to my office, I had lost my appetite and sat down on the bathroom floor and cried.
I thought about that moment every day for the next few months. Why didn’t I say or do anything? Why didn’t I stick up for myself? What would I have done different if I could go back and re-live that day? I thought of a million ways that hindsight would have changed that scenario, but I knew in reality that the only way that would have gone any differently, was if I was different.
So, I decided to be different.
Krav Maga was something I had been researching for years. I heard about it on an episode of How I met Your Mother and loved to watch YouTube videos of Krav Maga fighters in Israel and training clips from different gyms and would imagine what it would be like if I were strong enough to do something like that, but that was laughable. I mean, you’re looking at the girl who would sit out of PE if we were playing volleyball that day because I didn’t like the way the ball hurt my arms.
I was afraid of pain, both physical and the embarrassment of failure. I’d never really worked hard for anything, pushed through anything, or fought for anything. I like my comfort zones, things that are safe, familiar, and EASY! And to top that off, it had been 14 years since the last time I exercised. (Yes, you read that right. 14 years) So obviously the most aggressive form of martial arts was not for someone like me, but I couldn’t shake the burning desire for it, and knew I needed to do something drastic to not be that person anymore.
Last July I went to our local gym, Krav Maga Spokane, for a consultation. I had decided that I was going to enroll before I walked through the doors, no matter the cost or how scary it looked. My mind was made up, It was time to rip the band aid off the wimp and jump in with both feet.
I asked my husband to drive me to my first class for moral support. The cardio was incredibly intense, and if I looked as ridiculous as I felt, I’m sure it was comical. But I kept going and did the best that I could. When the hour was over, I climbed into the car and let out a victory cry! I did it! Not only did I survive, but felt like I could fly. (The next day, however, I was so sore I had to crawl up my stairs on my hands and knees.)
Now here we are in February, and I am still madly in love with Krav Maga. I’m in it for the long haul and would even love to be an instructor some day. After a few months I stopped going to classes because of the man at the restaurant and started going for me. Its lessons have spilled over into unexpected areas of my life, drastically improving my mental health, reviving my sense of adventure, and even strengthening my relationship with God. Here’s just a few:
- Comfort zones are cages holding us back from our God-given potential. God gives us our dreams and desires, and He wouldn’t do that if He wasn’t willing to give us His strength that we need to reach them. If your calling is bigger than your abilities, or in contradiction to what is safe and familiar, step out anyway. It’s not going to kill you, and you’ll be surprised at what you can actually accomplish.
- It’s OKAY to stand up for yourself. No, establishing healthy boundaries, like delivering a palm heel strike to the face of someone with a death grip on your arm, does not make you a bitch. It means you value yourself, and that’s healthy because God values you too. Empathy is my biggest strength so this was a hard one for me. I try not to come across as rude to others, sometimes at my own expense. But kindness and compassion do not mean we should take abuse. God cares about us, it’s okay to care about ourselves, too.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. A foot injury this winter took me out of class for nearly 5 weeks. I lost a lot of fitness progress during that time and got really discouraged by the setback. Because of it, I’m won’t be ready for the upcoming belt test, which many of my classmates, including those who started after me, will be taking. But as much of a bummer as that is, I am happy for them and will be there to cheer them on, because the only competition I have is myself. Likewise, there are a lot of folks much younger than Donnie and I who are serving full time at churches as Pastors, and we are not yet, but everyone’s journey is unique. If I choose each day to surrender my mind, attitude, character to Jesus, to renew my mind in God’s word, to do one more rep than the day before, to hang on the bar a few seconds longer than last time (no, I can’t do a pull up yet, but it’s coming), then each day, by God’s grace, I can be a better version of myself than I was the day before.
It always irks me when people use Philippians 4:13 for just about everything, but in this case, I think it’s appropriate to say that what I’ve really learned is that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” and if God had to use a medium like Krav Maga to help me really understand that deep down, then that’s okay.
If you’re looking for something that is going to challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone in ways you can’t imagine, consider trying krav Maga. You won’t regret it. You’re stronger than you think.