What I expected of Tina Zhang’s self-defence training for women was to learn a series of determined techniques: I’d have to practice them and then I would be able to defend myself. But things turned out differently.
Tina Zhang, a petite woman, welcomed us and then began with an unexpected subject: alertness. At first we practiced to really be aware of ourselves, the room and the other women. Small encounters and incidents raised the awareness for the moment. Theoretically this is quite obvious but we realized how practicing helps to see everything from a different angle. The perception extended, we felt it in the corner of the eye, in the area of the back.
The next subject was quickness. We practiced to be attentive and to react as quickly as possible. My training partner shoved me and I had to turn into her as fast as possible. I realized that in many cases these basic principles already are an essential impulse of self defence. Tina, the martial artist who enjoys fighting very much, taught us that alertness and quickness are helping us to get out of the situation. To take off is the first commandment. The second one is to let go of purse, bag and other things of value and then again to run away as fast as you can. To shout and scream can help too.
After this basic introduction we finally began to “fight”, within the group and with our future training partners, according to rules of tussle and practise. Here and now we didn’t care about the emergency of the situation. If anything, we lost our fear of getting physical while quarrelling. In a protected and controlled setting we learned how to tussle.
Girls and women often don’t know the joy of playful fighting. But this is the best training for feeling good in your own body and for a possible physical conflict. It automatically creates a body memory. Young animals and children learn this way. The puppy for example learns to fight in a playful manner without really biting its companions. “As if” – manoeuvres are important. They provide practice and an increase in pleasure and enjoyment.
In our training we nearly died of laughter when every woman tried to hold on to her training partner with all her strength or to wriggle free out of her grip. There was astonishment about what every woman was capable of. We were not used to grabbing others like that and it gave us a great new feeling of physical strength.
The whole group was tussling and practicing and every single woman was intent upon the training. According to Tina Zhang, over and over again, the self-defence training for women workshops are the ones with the most laughter. There’s no reservation left when you are forced to react, when one woman has to shake off the other one.
Afterwards Tina Zhang talked about the more special subjects of martial arts. Again it was not about motion sequences but about principles of fight.
Hard against soft is one of them. On TV you see helpless women hammering their fists against the chest of strong men. Wrong! Not hard against hard, but hard against soft. Our group had to learn about our “hard” parts: not fists, but the elbows, the head and our butt (!). We practiced with these new and unfamiliar weapons. Hard againstsoft; elbow against face, voice box, neck, sternum, head against the face and neck, butt against belly and abdomen.
Surprise is another principle. Surprise techniques like full hand against face, fingers against eyes were taught.. It cost us quite an effort to try these gestures. It’s against our education to slap somebody in the face…
Turns – body turns can be very surprising. Everybody knows the headlock. One woman placed her arms around the neck of another and pressed down heavily. Painful memories of schoolyards emerged – we would never have had the idea to turn into our opponent. But this was exactly what we practised. We turned ourselves into the grip and submerged from under the arms of our partner victoriously – surprise! This kind of exercise we also practiced with other forms of strangleholds.
How to free yourself from the state of shock
The only thing we couldn’t practice in its fullness was how to let go of pain. In our training we didn’t want to extravagant or to hurt each other and so we could learn this only as a theoretic principle. Nevertheless it’s an important mindset. If somebody hurts us we are shocked and outraged and often even paralysed. This kind of reaction leaves us defenceless. It’s like back-pedalling, like “this just can’t have happened”. We only can get out of this state again by letting go of the physical pain. In the end the pain is not important. Instead it’s crucial to get out of the state of shock and to run away, shout, act, fight. To restore alertness, attention and perception, to run to other people, to street lights, etc.
At the end of the day every woman was content, completely exhausted, alert, encouraged and tired in a very good way. Next time I will bring along my goddaughter. She’s an older teenager already. We will fight and have great fun together.