Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman

In my 39 years on this planet, I’ve been groped, flashed, wanked at, had a knife held to my throat for telling a would-be molester what he could go and do to himself and his mother and, in one particularly memorable incident, I got punched in the face by a drunk Russian.

Luckily, my mouth more than makes up for my diminutive size and I’ve been able to talk (or yell) my way out of most precarious situations – apart from the Russian who blindsided me and left me sporting a rather fetching fat lip for close to a week.

Still, I’ve always been of the opinion that if I have to go down, I’ll go down fighting, thank you very much. You know, if life gives you lemons, keep throwing them at the bastard until he either realises the error of his ways – or kills you. While having a big mouth and no inhibitions when it comes to using it is all well and good, being able to back it up is even better. So, when Berliner Unterwelten offered an intensive, two-day self-defence class to its female employees, I jumped at it with the speed of a drunk Russian attacking a small woman.

Lemme at it…

The course took place in a boxing club and was being given by a giant of a man and his son. There were around twelve of us taking part and, interestingly (or maybe sadly), every woman there had had some kind of negative experience. There was quite a bit of talking in the beginning about the amazing concept of using common sense – seemingly it’s not all that common – and also trying to talk your way out of danger before getting physical. However, if that doesn’t work, there’s nearly always something you can do.

We warmed up a bit by walloping some punching bags and then learned what we could do with our hands, elbows, feet and knees in various situations. Gigantor asked me if I’d boxed before. I hadn’t but seemingly was something of a natural. It might be an Irish thing. Gigantor Junior then went off and got kitted out in full-on combat gear.

Uh oh…

He charged each of us in turn with a boxing pad in his hands. We had to shout “NEIN!”, or pretty much anything else that came into our heads, block him and then start beating the crap out of the poor guy. Unfortunately, I got a little over-enthusiastic when it came to the kneeing part of the exercise, kneed my way past the boxing pad and hit one of his protection guards.

Oof. I had a feeling that it was going to be pretty bad but even I couldn’t have imagined just how impressive the bruise would be.

Ouch.

By day two, my knee had swollen up to three times its normal size and was a stunning array of colours. I basked in the oohs and aahs that it received from the other participants, and the guilty look it prompted on Gigantor Junior’s face, and limped about my business.

The first exercise was to revise what we’d learned the day before, which meant that GJ would be coming at me again. I did consider sitting it out – one of the German girls came and sat for four hours because of period cramps (Germans do like to take care of themselves) – but what the heck, in for a penny, in for a pound(ing).

GJ charged me. My knee buckled a little but I somehow held my ground and then went at him hell for leather with my hands, elbows and other knee. He went down. Woop!

I probably deserve a place here…

For the rest of the time, we learned different manoeuvres for various scenarios, including what to do if someone comes at you with a knife or if a maniac comes into a bar with a machine gun. Any kneeling exercises were unfortunately out for me, but I limped my way through to the bitter end in spite of the pain.

It’s hard to describe how empowering the whole experience was and I can’t recommend doing something like this highly enough – to both women and men. Not only was it incredibly useful, it was also a lot of fun – and it gave me a chance to practise my kick-ass German.

God help any drunk Russians in the future.

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48 thoughts on “Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman”

  1. Good for you. I’ve never taken a self-defense class although I probably should … especially as I’m getting older and while not more attractive, definitely more vulnerable. Also, I tend to have “flight or fight” reactions which is not good. Years ago a young presumably homeless man followed me into my elevator at work. I hadn’t known he was following me although we had had quite an intense exchange out on the street (he was asking for money, I told him what he could instead, and it was downhill from there). When I turned around and saw him in the elevator with me and the doors starting to close, I know I started yelling because later I was told that I was yelling. But I don’t remember yelling. I only remember the panic I felt and the thought that if he touched me, I would fight back, but not necessarily in an effective way. Fortunately the security guard heard my yells and was able to stop the elevator doors from closing. He escorted the man out of the building while I went upstairs to my cubicle, in shock. What I was left afraid of was not him, not the idea of he might have done if those doors had closed and trapped me with him. I was afraid of me. I had felt out of control. In a situation like that, out of control is not a good place to be 😦

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    1. No, definitely not. You need your wits about you. I still can’t say how I would react in reality but it’s always good to have some basic training which will hopefully kick in at crunch time. Basically the main goal is to extricate yourself from the dangerous situation as quickly as possible. Violence is a last resort but if it comes to it, I’ll definitely go down fighting 😉 And my knee also recovered!

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      1. Glad to hear your knee is okay now 🙂 I was literally backed into a corner on that elevator, but I’ve been in other situations where flight would have been the better option 😉 Once I knocked my own glasses off, I was so upset … lol … that was embarrassing.

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        1. I keyed someone’s car in France. He got out of his car with sperm in his hair and his dick in his hand. I told him to put it away or I would scrawl PERVERT all over his car. That worked 😉 “Ma voiture! Ma voiture!” 😉

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          1. I think you might have shared that story before … sounds familiar. Guys have passed me on the street (in California) holding their crotch and making sucking noises at me as we passed. I would want to yell, put my fist in their faces or my knees in their groins, but instead I would stare straight ahead and ignore them, telling myself that they got no satisfaction from being ignored. Still, restraint is very, very hard.

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  2. I hate how often I feel the need to apologise for my gender – I hate how awful guys are to women and that you’ve had such terrible experiences. I hope you never have to put the self-defence moves to use but I’m glad you’ve got the knowledge… and that is one impressive bruise!

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    1. You don’t need to apologise for all men! And most men are perfectly lovely. Just the few who give the rest a bad name – sad really. And yes, the bruise – I never do things by halves!! 🙂

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    1. Kick-ass von Grady 😉 There’s some lunatic going around Berlin on a bike spraying women in the face with battery acid. Not sure how even I would cope with that – has to be the most cowardly way to attack someone that I’ve ever heard of. Six victims already and they still haven’t caught him 😦

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    1. Yeah, I was a bit worried I’d done something more serious to it too! It took weeks for the bruising to go down and it was painful for quite a while too! Seems to be fine now – ready for round 2 😉

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  3. This has reminded me that a self-defence class is on my to do list. Until then I make sure I carry my big umbrella everywhere, ready to leap into action! Actually , my aunt did once break up a fight in a pub armed with nothing more than her trusty umbrella so it is a handy piece of kit to have 😁

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  4. Sadly I am not at all surprised that every woman there had had a negative experience. It would surprise me more if any woman claimed NOT to have had a negative experience, even if that experience is nothing physical but “just” being cat-called/talked at when you just want to be left alone/whistled at.

    By the way, I am coming to Berlin at Easter if you’re around for a drink?

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    1. Oh! Yes, I’m here for Easter! That would be great! Maybe we can get Kim out as well 🙂
      Some lout on the train platform the other night – drunk out of his mind and still drinking – looked me up and down and declared me “over 30 so therefore a -30”. Like he was some great prize 😉 Gave him the finger which resulted in a lot of swearing and spitting. What a guy 😉

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  5. A swift blow below, and I mean with fist or knee, and any woman can bring down any obnoxious ort threatening man. Taking a course in self defense is a wise plan, though, so you can learn how to do it effectively, as you know. No woman should have to put up with this behavior from any man. Disgusting!

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    1. Tell me about it! Luckily I think Germany isn’t too bad on the whole. A lot of these things happened when I was living in Lyon. Pretty much a dick a day – it almost became the norm. Sad when that happens! But yes, I can’t recommend doing a self-defence course highly enough. To guys too – lot of random violence out there these days…

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      1. Gad! I can’t imagine how frightening and disgusting that had to have been. Though I think of myself as a feminist and have great empathy for women dealing with male ignorance in these sorts of matters, the reality is this kind of behavior simply has no place in decent society.

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        1. I couldn’t agree with you more! But until other people catch up with our way of thinking, self-defence courses are an advisable plan B. I guess if nothing else, that year toughened me up. It’s pretty hard to be shocked by anything once you’ve lived through that! You learn how to stand up for yourself pretty quickly, I can tell you!

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