Hi Everyone! I’ve had some questions from other women out there about our upcoming Ernest Emerson class on October 13th and 14th that addresses how to use a Defensive Edged Weapon or in my terms, a knife! Here is a short blog I wrote to give you an idea of my experience last year. It forever changed the way I see my capabilities and I think it is something every woman should experience. Enjoy!
When I was a little girl, I loved swimming in any type of pool. Pools were clean, clear and easy to move around in. I felt comfortable in pools because I could see everything around me.
I distinctly remember the first time I went into a lake, which looked very different than a pool – cloudy, brown tinged, and lumpy on the bottom. My toes felt like they were sinking and with every small movement, I hoped I wouldn’t be pulled down under the sand, to be forgotten forever.
I remember curling my toes into the sand, once…twice…waiting to see if I would sink down, but everything held. Just as I reached my arms out over the water, about to leap into the lake, my father’s deep voice rang out:
“Remember, if you swim out too far, the fishies will eat your toes.”
Startled, I reigned myself in and slammed my arms down to my thighs to quickly stare straight down in the murky brown water, considering what fish that might be swimming there.
Never before would I have considered rabid fish wanting to cause me harm, nor would I have let them change my plan for the morning, but there, standing at the edge, I was suddenly unsure.
“How far out is too far?” I heard over and over in my head.
That same feeling came over me recently at a class we held at Sealed Mindset, Defensive Knife Fighting Skills with Ernest Emerson. This was to be our most intense and most extreme class we have held up to this point, and I was one of three women who would be attending.
As much as I wish I were a blond ninja, I’m a normal woman who just happens to be married to a Navy SEAL. The “married to a Navy SEAL” part tends to throw people because they assume I’m either insanely protected at all times, or that I have secret stores of invincibility taught to me by Larry that I use whenever Larry is not with me.
Neither is true.
What is true is that I’m a normal woman who has learned a heck of a lot along the way of our relationship and our business. I’m a woman who has the same normal concerns that every other woman has had: what do I do if my husband is out of town and someone tries to break into our home? My one advantage over other women is that I have a very open mind to learn from the Navy SEAL I have at my fingertips, and I practice what I learn every day.
Back to that unsure and uncomfortable feeling…
I felt that weight of discomfort the second I stepped into the Ernest Emerson Defensive Knife Fighting class we held that weekend. I argued with Larry about attending before I ever showed up, claiming I had learned enough about personal safety, awareness and fighting for the time being. He would calmly listen to me discuss my concerns and then he would say in a very loving voice, “I know, but you’re still coming.”
So, I arrived in my lululemon yoga outfit determined to not let this class get the better of me. I was cautious and nervous, but I was determined not to show it. At least if I looked great, then I could feel great, right?
The first thing I learned was my startle response and how to work with it so that I had an advantage rather than giving my attacker an advantage over me. Awesome. I felt prepared, I felt comfortable, good piece of information.
The second thing I learned was that you must be a fighter in mind and body. If Mr. Emerson were to hand you a knife and teach you how to use a knife, you would then be a person with a knife. But, if I were a fighter first and foremost, then when he gave me a knife and taught me how to use it, I would be a fighter with a knife. If I did not have any tool at my disposal, the fact that I would still have the soul of a fighter would be there would be no time where I would ever be unarmed. Again, AWESOME, I got it. This was comfortable. I had taken some boxing classes before, so my form was good. I felt powerful.
The third and most important thing I learned was 3 minutes is a long time. Oh no. Now I’m told that I have to punch a boxing bag in front of the entire class for a minute as fast as I could without stopping before being given 10 seconds to punch with whatever I had left. I looked quickly around the room, for the first time feeling a wee bit unsure.
What if I messed up?
What if I couldn’t keep going that long?
What if I looked ridiculous, e.g. what if I frothed at the mouth like some of the guys? (Not that frothing is bad, I’ve just only ever seen Fluffy do it!)
I watched man after man get up to punch that bag. Each man ended his last 10 seconds with a foamy mouth, with wild swings and intense, angry eyes and everyone cheered. The excitement was electric, but all I could think about was the fact that I couldn’t remember the last time I foamed at the mouth or was so sweaty without doing anything…maybe during an overly intense tooth brushing session? ARGH. I can’t get out of this.
So what did I do? I SMILED.
I took my spot at the punching bag with a big smile on my face (the face of an unsure champion), and began to punch. Punch punch. Punch punch. Punch punch. Punch punch. Punch punch…is it almost over?!?!…don’t think about the clock, keep going, keep punching…my arms were starting to feel like lead…punch punch. Punch punch.
“KEEP GOING!” yells Mr. Emerson.
“LIKE A HAMMER!” calls out Larry.
But I don’t hear anything. I just keep punching and punching and punching. Breathe. Breathe. Punch. Punch. ARGH. Keep punching, keep punching, move your feet, move your hips, keep moving…don’t stop…everyone is watching…punch, punch, punch punch.
Finally, eons later, I hear the bell for the last 10 seconds and I decide the safest bet to control how I look in this moment (because I was still going for professional and coordinated) was to hook punch on each side of the bag. So, in a rather dignified and ladylike manner, with a smile still on my face, I hook punched my way to the end of the bell. I had made it!
I came off the bag shaky, but my breathing returned quickly and the smile I had plastered on my face was still there for all to see. I turned to another guy and said, “Well, that was better than I thought it would be.”
He replied, “Obviously, you’re still smiling.”
The fourth thing I learned in this class was that I don’t like random guys lying on top of me while I struggle to get my only defensive weapon, a knife, out of my absurdly small lululemon Capri pant pocket. Those pockets are NOT made for knives. WHO KNEW?!
Mr. Emerson started to pair us up, always with a purpose, to test our ability to get our knives out of our pockets during a real altercation that ended on the ground. When he first mentioned this, I turned to Larry with pleading eyes, “Can I PLEASE be paired with you? I don’t want to go with anyone else!”
Larry gave me a hug to reassure me that everything would be okay, and then suddenly Mr. Emerson was calling out my name and another law enforcement officer’s name, an officer who has spend a lot of time on the street dealing with criminals. GREAT. Just my luck. Here comes that tooth eating grin again. I can’t help myself. It is like my blankie.
He called us to the mat. I tucked my drill knife into my capri pocket and with that same smile plastered on, jokingly said, “So, do I get to start on the top?”
No smiles here. “No, you start on the bottom. Make sure you really lean all of your weight on her, Officer.”
Good lord. I can feel his entire weight as he lays across me with his upper body completely flattening my body beneath him. He stares down at me with intensity and I quickly avert my eyes. Oh God. It’s not like we’re in battle. We’re in a damn training class, lighten up, I think. At least my long legs are free, but his large arm is holding them too.
Geez, he weighs much more than I do, I thought angrily. How is this fair??! Then suddenly, “how the heck am I supposed to move let alone get the knife out?”
Before I knew it, the timer was on and I was shoving and pushing, getting shoved and pushed, elbows in my face and arms everywhere. I pulled into a fetal position as quickly as I could to divert the hands reaching, pulling, grabbing. Suddenly, FREEDOM and I was screaming, “I got it!!!! I got it!!!” All the while with that smirk still plastered to my face.
Thank goodness that part of the course was over, I thought as I shakily get to my feet and finally heard the applause coming from the group around me. One fight down, more to go. And I think I still look all right. Haven’t embarrassed myself yet.
The fifth thing I learn is that you NEVER want the time you first experience something bad to happen in real life. You want to practice it happening in a safe situation before it ever happens to you in the real world. Why? Because if you’ve never experienced it, you probably don’t know how to react and those seconds you waiver or wait can cost you your life. I know those seconds will cost you because I never knew if I could move faster, hit harder, and I spent the first few moments of this section of the class trying to figure out how hard I should be hitting…how hard was “as hard as you can hit.” If I had never experienced this in the class, I would still be wondering…still waiting…still asking.
The sixth thing I learned is if I can fight all out for 3 minutes, 30 seconds will seem like nothing. I waited my turn, hoping that the longer I waited the more likely it would be that they would forget that I had not yet taken my turn. I tried to employ the techniques Larry had taught me about avoiding eye contact, shrinking my frame, becoming one with the wall but I was thwarted…tends to happen when one is wearing a bright pink tank top at a mostly male gathering.
Mr. Emerson called my name. I snapped the protective eye shields over my eyes, sweat sliding them slowly down my nose as I waited. I cleared my throat and methodically brushed my hair behind my ears as I watched Mr. Emerson hand the plastic practice knife to one of the other instructors. He read out the rules, the instructions.
I looked down at my empty hands, looked back at the knife held tightly by the instructor who was to be my adversary. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is pushing through the fear. Damn it, Anne PUSH.
I pushed the glasses back up my shiny nose and immediately felt multiple thrusts sharply whip against my waist, my upper arm, my kidney. Snap, snap, snap, thud – I threw up arms up at the last second with a perfect outside 45 degree angle and deflected the blow. Hmmm. Mabye I can do this!
Deflect. Block. Again. Deflect. Block. Both Arms. One Arm. Block. Block. Deflect. Block. How much longer is this going to go on? Block. One Arm. Both Arms. Both Arms. Deflect, Move, Move, Block.
TIME – Mr. Emerson starts my second full minute, but this time hands me my own plastic knife so that it is now knife against knife. My life becomes a minute of short, snappy strokes with my plastic blade. I imagine pushing through my opponent, blocking as I throw a few perfect Achilles strokes and inner thigh cuts. I imagine fluidity. I imagine power. I become one of those robot maids, back up, move in, back up, move in, try not to hit the wall. I feel the blade snapping, stinging, striking, but I still move.
TIME – Mr. Emerson starts my third full minute and hands me a blue gun for weapon strikes against an opponent with a pad. My legs are shaking, pulled down by gravity and the lactic acid lead that courses through my veins. I cannot breathe, I cannot control my breath, I feel saliva slip unconsciously out of the side of my mouth and I leave it there. I want to put my head between my knees and breathe, but there is no time for that.
So, instead of running, I look up and meet his covered eyes.
I look into the murky water; feel the sand sliding between my toes and suddenly the water is clear… I do not care if I cannot see, if my father is worried, if there are indeed fish ready to bite off my toes.
For the first time in a long time, I feel peace.
And then… I leap.
The smile disappears replaced with a thundering battle cry:
“Come and get it mother fucker!”
The blond ninja has climbed her mountain, and she will be forever changed by it.
The switch had finally been flipped.
Thank you, Mr. Emerson.
If you liked this blog post and would like more like it, please email Anne Yatch: email@example.com. She’s working on the next one!