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Bucket List Mon Feb 06 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: Learning to Kick a Guy in the Groin

Previous Entry:4 AM at the Green Mill
Next Entry: Gallentine's Day

Number 28: Take a Self-Defense Class

backoff1.jpgI've never really been the self defense "type" of girl. To be honest, I didn't want another bullet point to add to the "angry feminist" stereotype. I've already got the NOW signs in my living room and the "hey hey, ho ho" chants memorized; I didn't want the imagine of an angry Niki Fritz kneeing some hooded guy in the crotch added to the already characterized version of my feminist self.

Plus I really really really like to avoid unpleasant thoughts in life, you know, things like muggings and rapes. I like to pretend violence against women is just a thing that happens to other people. I am safe.

And then something rather innocuous happened: a guy was rude at a party.

I was in Wicker Park so I shouldn't have been so shocked, and yet I was. A fellow guest at a house party, who had drank a bit too much of the fun-time juice, cornered me in the kitchen and then, rather oddly, spit a gummy bear into my drink. It was weird but also oddly threatening. Spitting guest eventually harassed other ladies and had to be "calmed down" by several guys at the party.

It is easy to say no harm, no foul; what's the big deal you panty-twisted femmie? The big deal was leaving the party at 3am with no cab in sight, I felt unsafe. This drunken guy had violated the purity of my red solo cup and my personal physical boundary. He had made me feel vulnerable and now I was questioning my ability to keep myself safe. Not such a happy feeling to have at 3am in Wicker Park.

When I told the story to my mom, she said I should have kneed the guy in the crotch. My immediate response to this was, "I didn't want to make him upset."

I'll let you wrap your mind around that for a bit. A guy spit into my drink and my thought was to not offend this gentleman.

This is when I realized I needed a self-defense course, or really I needed a course to teach me to be OK offending an asshole. Luckily fate stepped in when a friend invited me to a special two-hour self defense course called "Backoff!"

When I arrived at the Backoff's studio on Saturday afternoon, I was welcomed to "come on back" by the booming voice of a six-foot-something giant, our instructor, Kevin Sogor. Kevin, a towering man with no shortage of presence or personality, looks like a stereotypical "attacker" minus the hooded sweater shirt and aviators. It is hard to imagine how this massive man could empathize with women feeling vulnerable or threatened.

But Kevin's own story involves being attacked as a child and constantly feeling unsafe until he began to take martial arts as a teenager. Since then, he's been dedicated to helping all people realize their potential power. Having trained for years in martial arts, Kevin began to realize it was unrealistic for an average sized woman to go toe-to-toe with an attacker his size. So in the '80s he created his own Women's Self Defense course to teach women how to defend, not attack.

Basically Kevin doesn't teach women to fight, he teaches them how to define and defend their own boundaries.

What I'm saying is we didn't learn to kick guys in the groin. In fact we didn't learn how to kick, punch or otherwise maim at all.

What we learned was how to not feel guilty saying "Get your drunken, gummy bear-spitting face out of my boundary, asshole."

We learned how to physically remove ourselves from a situation we don't want to be in.

We learned that 80 percent of attacks come from acquaintances; that rape is about power not sex; that it doesn't matter what you wear, rapists attack because of their need for control not your desire to wear stilettos and a miniskirt.

We learned to listen to our gut, to ignore the socialization of women that tells us to not make a fuss and be quiet even when we feel unsafe, to make a scene even if it means being that "crazy bitch" at the party.

We learned how to maneuver out of a body trap, how to use weak points to throw someone off balance and how to potentially dislocate someone's hip who was trying to rape us.

And more importantly we learned to create our own boundaries and enforce them.
To many this may sound outdated, like something women really don't have to worry about anymore. Or maybe it sounds terrifying, like a reality to avoid all together. Or maybe it just sounds kind of granola, like hippy flower power '70s women empowerment via martial arts. Whatever your reaction, I think it is important to remember the reality. Women are raped, sometimes by people they know, sometimes by people they don't know, and it is scary. But this is no reason to be quiet about rape; it is no reason to ignore the threat and it is no reason to be numbed by fear.

And ladies, if you still need convincing, Chicagoan and writer Jaclyn Friedman says it best in her new book, What you Really Really Want:

"The main reason women in particular feel anxious about self-defense is that it forces us to confront our vulnerability...They much preferred to just not think about it...[but] if you're trying to reduce the amount of energy you give to fear, the only way out is through it."

Kevin has a special price for his six-week self-defense course this winter. Check it out on his website and feel free to email Kevin or me with any questions.

*You may have noticed but I'm switching it up folks! My bucket list column will now be posted on Monday afternoons for all you 9-5'ers needed a Monday coffee break.

What are you doing next Monday? Coming with me to check off Number 4? Chicken and porn anyone?
Join me on Feb 13th at Evil Olive as I check number four off my Bucket List and kick off Valentines Day 2012! Join the Facebook event!

Picture for my G-ma

She really does photograph well but good lord in person she's got feet the size of boats

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Niki / February 9, 2012 1:01 PM

Kevin will be giving another "core elements" self defense class on Saturday, March 10 at 1PM. The cost will be $10, Check it out on the BackOff! website or FB:

Kevin Sogor / March 12, 2012 10:27 PM

This is the story of why I teach self defense...

TruthTellerr / January 26, 2014 10:49 PM

Female self defense is a joke.

too weak to work.

D99 / June 2, 2014 12:16 AM

girls can definitely beat up guys

when i was young my sister and i both did tae kwon do

i wasnt a great brother and would fight her regularly and beat her up

and bully her, (i was stronger)

however my sister was faster and more flexible then me

so her hits couldent effect me as much as mine could hers, so i always won fights

until one day she connected her foot with my balls when we were fighting.....

and that was the first time i ever i got kicked, boom i cried and got beat up by my sister

the next day humiliated i suprise kicked her groin and she laughed as it didnt hurt her much, and we got in another fight in which she managed to get my balls again........and own me again

from then on my sister became the more fierce of the two of us

although i was stronger then her i was not fast enough to stop her from getting to

my balls and even when she wasnt attacking them the fear of her attacking them made me vulnerable to attack in other areas, but shed almost always manage to get my balls

and from then on i didnt bully her lol until like when we were 16 we got into a fight again..........and yup she won that too.....same way

moral of story a faster female martial artist can beat a stronger male martial artist in a no rules fight......

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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