In 2017/18, the #MeToo movement struck a chord of fury, unleashing feminine wrath across all sectors of the US. Calling out years of coercion, manipulation, and outright abuse, women took a stand for themselves and each other to change the power structure. For many girls and women, it was manna, it was finally being heard- nourishment after years or lifetimes of silence or apathy. Dr. Kristin Werner is a therapist empowering young girls and women from victim to victor along the domestic violence and sexual abuse spectrum. One tool she uses, once she test-drove it herself, is self-defense through martial arts.
Doing The Work
As a therapist and trauma survivor, I know the importance of “doing the work.” I know the crucial aspects of spending time diving into painful memories, sharing my story, and working through forgiveness. I know the path from being a victim, then a survivor, to becoming a thriving human capable of creating a healthy and beautiful life for myself. After completing many, many years of trauma work (over 10 years!), I thought I was in a really great place. And I was.
Little did I know, on a cold Saturday, January 2014, I was about to be given a wake-up call.
The catalyst was when my clients from the DV support group I ran asked me to “find someone who can teach us some reality-based self-defense techniques. Someone who can help us get out of bad situations, so we won’t be victimized again.”
What a brilliant idea, right?! No sooner did they ask when an application magically appear in my mailbox. Sensei Mike Duffy, with Checkmate Martial Arts West, applied to volunteer his services.
Master Duffy and I met and I found his offerings indeed were a complement to the needs of my clients. We spent several weeks developing a curriculum for my clients. We completed the seminar and my clients were thrilled. They wanted Master Duffy to come back on a regular basis. We were thrilled it was such a success.
I was hooked, even.
After years of feeling disempowered – feeling as if I had no control with men who were stronger and faster than me, at 5’2’, 120-pounds – I reveled in the power of martial arts.I wanted to know more, so I began training on a regular basis with Master Duffy.
I discovered how a simple wristlock could take down a 200-pound man who towered over me. I discovered that I could remove a knife (a training knife for those of you freaking out right now – it’s not real!) from my neck and pin this same man down to the ground. I also discovered that I could effectively escape someone choking me with his bare hands, or even escape being pinned to the ground. Talk about feeling empowered! Wow!!
None of this came without triggering trauma.
I mean … seriously triggering my trauma. I thought I had faced the worst of it – processed those scary memories. But, bam, they came flooding back again at the touch of his hand anywhere near my neck. For the first year, he couldn’t place his hand on my neck without me bursting into tears. But, I tell you …
I have never in my life experienced such a deep level of trauma work.
My previous therapy was critical to stepping onto the training mat. Placing myself in simulated situations that occurred in my past may seem a little “messed up.” However, it’s actually a form of “exposure therapy” in a safe environment.
I’ve been training four-plus years now. During this time, I’ve shed many tears, had several panic attacks, and even gotten super pissed at Master Duffy. However, through it all, he has stood by my side. He is patient, kind, and never pushes me beyond what I am capable of achieving. He is sensitive to abuse issues and intuits our limits– through his own training.
Today, I’m rarely triggered on the mat. I have healed such a deep part of myself– my trauma. I’ve developed a level of mental and physical confidence within myself I did not have before. I feel so incredibly empowered. Martial arts healed my trauma in a way that no other therapy has provided– this, coming from a Ph.D. therapist. Some modalities can be far more effective in complement to another, transforming us from victimhood to victorious.
I am strong, I am powerful, I am capable.
For more information about Checkmate Martial Arts West and their class offerings, please visit: www.checkmatewest.com. I currently assist teaching classes with Master Duffy and provide support for students who are survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Our new dojo just opened in Carbondale, below The Goat Restaurant. Come visit us!!