Nattering Social Justice Cook: Self-Defense Class, Week One

Image of a baby two-toed sloth, taken at the Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica.

Sloths are kinda irresistible in the morning.

Well, it’s been interesting.

Monday, I got up at 4:45 AM and drove over, first making sure I’ve eaten half a protein bar despite my stomach protesting the early hour. Because I’m always anxious about getting places late, I was there fifteen minutes early and got a chance to chat with the instructor, Carrie, a peppy woman maybe 10-15 years older than I. The gym’s fairly minimal: mats and bags. Four other women arrived, and we got started.

Shock number one. We’re learning self-defense, but this is also a fitness bootcamp with a hearty dose of circuit training included. I find the fact that I walk a lot and do a plank once every few days has totally deluded me to my state of fitness. This is brought painfully home during the jumping rope section. I haven’t done it in decades and simply cannot do more than a couple without hitting my feet. Still, I persevere.

We spend some time hitting and kicking the bags. It’s satisfying. I like it because it’s getting me used to the idea of using my body like that. This part of the drill is kinda killer, though, as we alternate hitting/kicking with things like push-ups, side bridges, and jumping squats.

It’s a long time before an hour is over.

Wednesday I get up at the same time, eat some yogurt, and decide I’ll walk over. Things are dark at 5 am, but not too bad, and I get there in plenty of time. We’ve lost one person and are down to four now. It’s much like the last session, particularly the humiliation of the jumprope session, but this time, somewhere in the middle of sit-ups, I find myself on the point of tears at how unfit I am and how painful all of this is. It’s unpleasant to the point where the thought of just apologizing and walking out flits across my mind. But again I persevere. Towards the end, we learn how to break free if someone grabs your arm, by always moving towards the spot where the resistance is least.

Afterward I walk home. It feels uphill all the way, and actually is, due to West Seattle’s geography. It’s highly unpleasant and I stride along grumpily wishing I’d driven.

Keeping that in mind, I decide to drive over on Friday. I’m surprised by the internal objections to going I’m feeling when I get up that Friday morning. What if it’s as bad as it was on Wednesday? What if it’s worse? I finally talk myself into it with a promise: if it’s that bad, then I will let myself quit after this session. Having managed my yogurt and drunk some water, I head over.

And it’s not as bad as I thought. I actually manage five jumps in rapid succession with the jumprope. (I do follow this triumph up by somehow managing to tangle myself in the rope to the point where I feel absurd and pray that no one is watching.) I’ve ordered my own online and it’ll arrive Saturday, so I can practice a little before Monday’s class. Overall I feel peppier than I have before, to the point where there are moments where I might actually be enjoying myself, such as the warm-up where we’re circling to the sound of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and the dodgeball session. Make no mistake, though, there’s still plenty of pain.

I leave feeling pretty good about the week. The class is one quarter over, and I think I’d be a bit better equipped if someone came at me. Next week includes the Ladies Basic Gun Training on the 4th so that should come with its own set of revelations, given that I grew up in a household where we were forbidden toy guns.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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