I apologize for the long break. I returned to Chicago recently from my travels in India and have needed some time to get re-settled and re-adjusted to living in the States. This break has been good for me, as I was starting to struggle with potential topics for future posts. Over the past month or so I have spent a lot of time reflecting on this blog—where it began, where it is going, what I have accomplished and what I hope to accomplish with it in the future. I am humbled by the support so many of you have given me (in-person and electronically) over the past month or so since this blog has become more widely circulated. The many conversations I have had with others about this blog and about the Self-Defense work I did in India have encouraged me to continue to be active in this work even while in Chicago, and have inspired me in new directions. My karate school in Chicago, where I serve as an assistant in the Violence Prevention program has been eager to hear about the work I did abroad. It occurred to me that since many of you following this blog may have only recently joined this conversation, some of you similarly may be interested to learn more about the Self-Defense work I did in India as well. I wrote a detailed summary about this work for the May issue of my dojo’s bi-monthly newsletter, Kiai!, which I share here for your perusal. I also wrote an article for the December 2012 issue of Kiai! as well, reflecting on one of my experiences teaching Self-Defense in Sarnath.
But now for something completely different. I wrote this post to introduce a new series of entries I am currently working on. Rather than bog down the first entry in the series with a long introduction, I decided that the introduction of this concept deserved a post of it’s own. I’ve wanted for a while to share some of the insights I gained from teaching Self-Defense in India, and from talking with various women (Indians and foreign female travelers) about their experiences. I also want this blog to serve as a medium for those who have suffered from harassment and other forms of gender-based violence in India to feel safe to share their experiences, and also to provide a forum for other experienced travelers to share their advice.
To this end, I decided to embark upon a new format for a 5-part series of posts, based on the model of Self-Defense taught at my karate school, Thousand Waves (and Seido Noida in Delhi) called the “Five Fingers of Self Defense.” The five fingers are, in order: THINK, YELL, RUN, FIGHT, TELL. Each finger represents a collection of skills and techniques that can be applied to any potentially violent situation. Some of the skills or techniques may overlap between one or more of the fingers so organization of the tools we teach may become confusing, but as a whole the model is helpful as a mnemonic device. As you can see, the Fight Finger is fourth and comes only after Think, Yell, and Run. This is intentional. We teach physical fighting as a last-resort, only to be used when all other methods have failed—a method which requires an active choice. The following five posts that follow will attempt to practically apply the “Five Fingers of Self Defense” to travel-based situations, in particular travel to South Asian countries. The reason for this is, as I have discovered, the tools and strategies we teach to students in Chicago need to be modified in order to be most useful for those traveling around in India and other parts of South Asia. Each of the following five entries will explore a different “Finger” of Self Defense, examining ways in which the skills and tools we teach in Chicago might be successfully applied to various situations in South Asia.
I will use this format as a springboard for discussing issues specific for safety of women traveling to South Asia, but which I also hope will be helpful for Indian men and women struggling to understand and deal with these issues as well. I welcome (and encourage) comments, suggestions, and feedback along the way. I hope that through this we can all work together to discuss issues, strategies, share stories, and support those who have suffered. You may feel free to post with your name, under a pseudonym, or anonymously. I do request that all comments or replies—especially replies to those brave enough to respond with their personal experiences—be supportive in nature. It is never supportive to tell someone who has suffered violence, no matter how “small,” that they “should have done X or Y thing.” That is not the point of this blog. If there is a situation you regularly experience while in South Asia for which you are looking for suggestions or advice, please feel free to share that as well (but be sure to let us know you are requesting advice!). “Success stories” (stories about ways in which you successfully dealt with some form of harassment or violence, or strategies that helped you feel empowered) are particularly welcome. I hope that this blog will encourage more people to become ‘allies,’ speaking up for and supporting those who have experienced harassment and other forms of violence in South Asia.