The Unspoken Fear: Violence Against Women

January is National Personal Self-Defense Awareness Month and this month’s blog gets into the serious, scary, and widespread epidemic of violence against women.  It is a heavy but important read for all adults and mature teens.

January is National Personal Self-Defense Awareness Month.

Have you ever had that dream where you try to scream, but no sound comes out?  You try to run, but your legs move in slow motion? You try to fight back, but everything you do is completely ineffective?

We often hear about the fight or flight instinct.  But what we really fear is the freeze response.  We play out scenarios in our heads and imagine what we might try to do.  Where we could go, how we could use what is sitting next to us in the car, what we would yell.  But we also fear that nothing we do will matter.  That they will be too big, too strong, too fast.  That we can’t possibly do anything that will make a difference to the outcome.  The outcome that we aren’t really willing to think about, let alone say out loud.

So, let me say it out loud for you.  Take a deep breath and let these terrible snapshots of reality land and settle one at a time.  These statistics condense the millions of heart wrenching stories and experiences into sanitized bite-sized pieces.  Let their real impact be felt as much as you are willing and able.

  • The single greatest cause of injury for women is domestic violence (The Journal of the American Medical Association).
  • 1 in 3 women are the target of some sort of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).
  • A full 44% of women experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).
  • Nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped, and of those who were, more than three-quarters of them experienced their first rape before the age of 25 and 40% before the age of 18 (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).
  • Unlike the “stranger danger” safety slogan, 3 out of 4 rapes and sexual assaults were from someone the victim knew, was in a relationship with, or was related to. Only 1 in 5 rapes or sexual assaults is committed by a stranger (Bureau of Justice Statistics).

Wow.  This staggering reality for women in this country often goes unmentioned or downplayed.  The effects of ignoring this reality have severe consequences.

First of all, we normalize objectification.  From a very young age, girls are teased and verbally harassed.  The verbal abuse increasingly eats away at what we consider acceptable.  We begin to accept being objectified by others and slowly this perception can color how we view ourselves.  We don’t step up to defend ourselves because we would spend all day doing so.  Instead we just ignore it and eventually, we don’t hear it as a problem.

Additionally, in downplaying the widespread epidemic of violence towards women, we rationalize it as someone else’s problem.  This “how sad, but it won’t happen to me” mentality is supported by classic safety advice, which puts the blame on the victim. We are told that if we don’t dress provocatively, if we don’t walk alone, if we don’t go out at night, and if we stay out of the “bad” neighborhoods then we will be safe… maybe.  And when something inevitably does happen to one of us, well, clearly, she must have been foolish in some way to invite that sort of behavior (after all, “boys will be boys”).

Here is the truth: nothing you say gives anyone the right to assault you; nothing you do gives anyone permission to harass you; nowhere you go gives anyone an invitation to touch you.  Here is another truth.  You are worth defending.  You have every right to stand up for yourself, and to feel safe.

If this is such a big problem, what can I possibly do?

Violence towards women and the justifications that lead to it are epidemics that are being fought on a global scale.  Protests rage in the streets, speeches ring out behind podiums, and social media trends with messages of solidarity and demands for change.  But the reality is, we won’t be able to eliminate violence overnight; and for many, the fear of being attacked is very real and very imminent.

In addition to fighting the systemic issue, we need to take action to protect ourselves now.  We are worth defending and we have more power than we realize.  We just have to learn how to use it.

It turns out that personal self-defense really works.  Fighting back, yelling, running, hitting, and resisting in any way you can makes a difference.  The studies and statistics support this.  The National Institute of Justice found that most self-protective actions significantly reduce the risk that a rape will be completed. In particular, certain actions reduce the risk of rape more than 80 percent compared to nonresistance. The most effective actions, according to victims, are attacking or struggling against their attacker, running away, and verbally warning the attacker (National Institute of Justice).  These are not fancy maneuvers; these are things that everyone can do.

It is also heartening to know that “women who participate in self-defense training are less likely to experience sexual assault and are more confident in their ability to effectively resist assault than similar women who have not taken such a class” (Professor Jocelyn Hollander).

Self-defense is not the same as martial arts.  It does not take years of dedication to learn how to defend yourself effectively.  Good self-defense classes focus on techniques that are easy to learn, hard to do incorrectly, and very effective against attackers.  They help you find the power you already have and learn how to access and hone it.

Reading about what to do is not enough.  Playing out scenarios in your head is not enough.  Practicing in a safe and supportive environment allows you to own it in a way that thinking does not.  You have to yell out loud to know that you can.  You have to move your body to feel what you can do.  You have to hit a target full force to really believe the power you have.  Good self-defense classes let you do this in a controlled environment.  Just one good class can make a world a difference.

Many organizations offer self-defense classes, including police departments and martial arts schools.  Here at Redwood Dojo, we have a two-hour introductory class coming up.  Click here to sign up for the Women’s Self-Defense Seminar (Sunday, January 27, noon to 2 pm).

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December 2018 Schedule

We have almost reached the end of 2018!  We will have all classes as usual for the week of December 17 to December 22.  The last day of Redwood Dojo classes for 2018 is Saturday, December 22.  Our regular schedule will resume in on Thursday, January 3.  During the holiday week, all students are invited to several special classes at our sister school in Berkeley, Rohai Dojo.  We hope to see you there!

  • For Pre-Karate (under age 6): Friday 12/28 at 5 pm
  • For Kids (all ranks): Thursday 12/27 at 5 pm, Friday 12/28 at 5 pm, and Saturday 12/29 at 10 am
  • For Teens/Adults (all ranks): Thursday  12/27 at 6 pm, Friday 12/28 at 6 pm, and Saturday 12/29 at 11 am for Kata and noon for Sparring

All of these special classes are offered at Rohai Dojo (Berkeley Cuong Nhu Karate) at 1819 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, 510-526-4880.dec2018sched

Before the holiday training begins, several advanced Redwood Dojo Brown Belt students will be testing for One and Two Black Stripes on Thursday, December 20th at 6 pm.  Teen and adult students will still have class in addition to watching parts of the test.  You are invited to come at watch the test, which includes board breaking, weapons, sparring, and advanced katas.  Come support your classmates and get a glimpse of what your future training will be like!  Immediately following the test, everyone is invited to celebrate together at Redboy Pizza in Lincoln Square.

Cuong Nhu Etiquette: West Coast Training Camp Edition

Each year, Cuong Nhu instructors from across the country come to the Bay Area to teach classes at West Coast Training Camp. With a full schedule of classes ranging from soft-style katas to advanced weapon training, balanced with meal times spent socializing with fellow Cuong Nhu practitioners (not to mention the famous cookie break!), students of all ages always love the experience.

As you get ready for a fun filled weekend, here is a review of some of the rules of etiquette in Cuong Nhu. Cuong Nhu Redwood Dojo is a traditional martial arts dojo; the customs in Cuong Nhu help students respect each other, their instructors, and the art. Once you know what is expected, you can focus on your training. Whether you are a new student or have been studying for years, a student yourself or a parent of a student, will be attending West Coast Training Camp or not, it is worth reviewing these guidelines.

Bowing

The Cuong Nhu bow is a sign of respect that is used frequently. When you are bowing to a person, both people bow to each other simultaneously. Some of the most frequent times we bow are: when you enter or leave the dojo (or training space); when you begin and end class; when you begin and end partner work; when you begin and end a kata.

Speaking to Black Belts and Instructors

Black belts are called “Sensei” in Cuong Nhu. If you are speaking to a black belt in class, weather they are your instructor or your partner, you should address them as “sensei” or “sensei <first name>.” This title does not mean they are better than you, it simply acknowledges their rank. Those who hold the rank of sixth degree black belt or higher hold the title of “Master.”

Asking Questions

There is a time and a place to ask questions, and there are lots of times in class to NOT ask questions! When you are in class, it is always best to focus on practicing even if you have a question or two. There will be a time to ask these questions, either at the end of the drill or class, if the instructor asks for questions, or outside of class time. Questions to clarify how something is done are much more useful than questions that begin with “but what if they …” Be thoughtful about your questions. Is there something you don’t understand or do you just need to try it a few more times to figure it out?

At events like West Coast Training Camp there are also lots of opportunities to ask questions about Cuong Nhu from experienced instructors who have lived much of its history. You are encouraged to attend the dinner on Friday and the party on Saturday evening to get to know the out of town guests. In these non-class setting, questions and conversations are encouraged!

Wearing Your Uniform

Make sure your uniform is neat, complete, and put on properly. You should wash it, and if needed, iron it regularly. A complete gi top includes the Cuong Nhu patch (left side) and your first name (right side). If you have a stripe on your belt, it should be sewn on and should be on your left side when your belt is tied. If you do not yet have your patches or name on your uniform, get them done before training camp!

All Redwood Dojo students below the rank of black belt wear a white gi. You may see instructors or students from other dojos wearing other colored uniforms during the classes at West Coast Training Camp.

Your uniform should not be worn outside the dojo. If there is a place to change (like there will be in the Alameda High School gym for West Coast Training Camp), you should arrive in your street clothes and then change into your uniform. Similarly, when you leave you should change back into your regular clothes. When you put your uniform on, ensure that you don’t have other clothes sticking out (for example, your shirt should be tucked in). Do not wear a watch or jewelry in class. At Redwood Dojo, since we do not have a full changing room, you may arrive in your gi pants and a shirt. You should put your gi top and belt on after you are in the dojo.

Joining Class Late

If you are late to a class, you are still encouraged to join in! Stand in natural stance on the side where the instructor can see you. Once they bow to you (you bow to them at the same time), just join the group and listen carefully to find out what is happening. If for some reason you need to leave a class early, you should let the instructor know and bow out of class before leaving.

Working with a Partner

When you are working with a partner in class, either at training camp or at your home dojo, remember to show your partner respect and focus on practicing. You should not talk with your partner. You should not instruct your partner. This is true no matter what ranks you and your partner hold. If someone is a lower rank do not assume you know more than them. It is not your job to instruct; it is your job to practice and to allow your partner to practice.

The only time you should give your partner feedback is if you were specifically instructed to do so for the drill or if you feel unsafe. If your partner is doing something too hard, you may ask them to lighten up. Similarly, if you are practicing and your partner asks you to go lighter, then go lighter! Safety is always of the utmost importance. Do not let you or your partner become injured.

Learning a Weapon

West Coast Training Camp gives you exciting opportunities to learn weapons and other techniques or katas that would normally be beyond your rank. While you should absolutely take advantage of this opportunity, you need to understand and respect the weapon.

Treat the weapon as real even if it is a practice (or blunted) weapon. Do not play around with it, hold it inappropriately (for example, by the “blade”), or hit it against anyone or anything. You will learn the proper way to use the weapon in class, and this is how you should use it at any time. Practicing outside of class is great, but not to show off or goof-off, especially with a weapon.

During Breaks

Keep in mind that if you are in the dojo, the expectations of control and respect always apply. Break times do not give you permission to run wild and ignore the rules. Be aware of what is happening around you. If you see something that needs to happen, take responsibility for it. This can be anything from cleaning up spills or helping set up chairs to reminding kids to not run in the dojo.

Parents Watching Class

Parents, you are a big part of your child’s training and we thank you for it! The classes for children at West Coast Training Camp are great and taught by highly skilled and experienced instructors. As is true at Redwood Dojo, you may either stay and watch or you may leave your child and come back to pick them up at the end. If your child must leave before the end of the event, please be sure that their instructor knows when they are leaving.

If you are staying to watch, please keep in mind that your child should be focused on their instructor. Do not advise or coach your child from the sidelines. Similarly, your child should not just leave class to go to you. If they need something, they must get permission from the instructor before stepping out of class.

Please keep in mind that the we are teaching your child that the dojo is a place of respect. You can do a great deal to support this lesson; while you are in the dojo, model respectful behavior and help other children or visitors do the same. If you have younger children with you, ensure that they are not disruptive and please refrain from loud conversations during class.

When in Doubt

If you have questions about etiquette, the safest bet is always to do whatever is more formal. You can also ask a senior student (brown belt or higher) or an instructor outside of class time. In Cuong Nhu, we have many rules and traditions to follow. If you make a mistake, simply fix it and move on.

West Coast Training Camp is about learning new things, getting to know other members of Cuong Nhu, meeting talented instructors, and enjoying a great workout. Review these guidelines before you go, and then allow yourself to focus on the fun weekend of training!

Register for West Coast Training Camp.

Holiday Schedule

We are coming up on the end of 2017 – our 26th year!  For the end of December and beginning of January the Redwood Heights Recreation Center will be closed.  Our last class of the year will be Saturday, December 23.  Classes will resume at Redwood Dojo on Thursday, January 4 for current students.  New students will begin on Monday, January 8 or Tuesday, January 9.

But don’t worry, you will still have the opportunity to practice over the holidays!

It is a Redwood Dojo tradition for students to visit Berkeley Cuong Nhu Karate (Rohai Dojo) over the holidays, to meet new friends and practice Cuong Nhu at our “sister school.”  All students are invited and encouraged to attend make-up classes Wednesday, December 27 through Friday, December 29.  Kid/Peewee classes are from 5 to 6 PM and Teen/Adult classes are from 6 to 7 PM.  See the schedule below for details.

2017 holiday sched2

Rohai Dojo is located at 1819 San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley, 1.5 blocks north of University Avenue, between Hearst and Delaware.  Whether you go to Berkeley or not, don’t forget to practice!

We look forward to closing out a great year at the dojo, and then…

We’ll launch into 2018 with a 26th Anniversary Celebration!

January 21: Be sure to mark this exciting event on your calendars!  The Redwood Dojo celebration will include a demonstration by students and a potluck party.  We want all students to participate in the demonstration.  Family and friends are invited to watch, and then join the party fun.  Keep an eye out for more details to follow.

Fall 2017 happenings…

As summer draws to a close all too soon, and kids get ready to return to school, we at Redwood Dojo are looking forward to returning to our full schedule, starting on Monday, August 21st.

If you’ve been away for the summer, we look forward to having you back! Stop by and let us know you’ll be in class, so we can save your space and make our lesson plans. If you’re a former member of “peewees” now ready for “big kids’ class” (age 6-7), plan to attend on Mondays at 5 pm and Thursdays at 4. All new and returning students – check the class schedule here, and let us know if you have any questions about which class to attend.

Sensei Lara is in the house! If you trained in the dojo this summer, you had a chance to take class with Sensei Lara Tribe-Jones, and she’s now going to be a regular instructor at Redwood Dojo. Sensei Lara grew up in the dojo (so to speak)! That is, she began training here when she was a young student at Redwood Heights Elementary, earned her black belt with us, then went away to college after graduating from Oakland Tech.

Demo at Sarah's Science "Ninja Science Week"
Sensei Lara prepares a group of Redwood and Rohai Dojo students for a Cuong Nhu demonstration at Sarah’s Science camp in Roberts Regional Park.

Luckily for Redwood Dojo, she returned to Oakland after college and continued her martial arts training while earning a masters degree and teaching middle school math in OUSD. Now we can all benefit from her considerable talents as an instructor. Just one more good reason to come take class.

West Coast Training Camp is on our calendar; be sure to put it on yours! Every fall, the Bay Area Cuong Nhu community hosts a martial arts training weekend for all ages and levels, featuring Grandmaster Quynh Ngo, Cuong Nhu’s head-of-style, and many of the top instructors in our organization. This year it’s scheduled for October 6th & 7th. Classes are held on Friday evening and all day Saturday (including a catered lunch), at nearby Alameda High School. Children age 6 & up are welcome (we make a point of bringing in instructors who love to teach kids), and of course, there will be a wide range of special classes for adults and teens. Details can be found at Berkeley Cuong Nhu Karate’s website, or on the Facebook event page. Don’t miss it!

Welcome, and welcome back! Fall schedule under way.

As promised in the previous post, our full class schedule resumed last Monday, August 22, and Sensei Didi is back in the dojo full time, hoping to see everyone back in class again. All sections are open to new students at this time. Let’s get started!

And West Coast Training Camp is coming up, too! This very special martial arts seminar for all ages and levels takes place every year near the end of September, and we encourage everyone – including kids age 6 & up – to take part. We bring high-ranking Cuong Nhu instructors from across the U.S., including head-of-style Grandmaster Quynh Ngo, to the Bay Area, so all of you will have the chance to meet them and take class. (This is much easier for most of you than attending Cuong Nhu’s annual training camp in North Carolina.)

For more information please CLICK HERE to read about it – and register! – on Berkeley Cuong Nhu Karate‘s website. Or visit the Facebook WCTC Event Page.

Spring Tournament: New Event for Parents!

Rohai Dojo’s Spring Tournament (which this year takes place the day before Spring, on Saturday, March 19) has always had a special division for Family Team Kata (parents and kids performing kata together). In the past, though, it has only been open to parents who train in karate. This year, for the first time, we welcome ANY parent who wants to compete alongside their child or children to enter a special division. Come in for a few classes to learn a basic kata from your child’s instructor – or work with your child to create a kata, and come in to get some expert coaching in the lead-up to the event. Families at Rohai Dojo are invited to attend the Wednesday 6 p.m. Family Class to practice together, if they cannot attend together at other times.

At Redwood Dojo, Sensei Didi will be coaching family kata during the Saturday Morning class on March 12, and/or at other times arranged by interested families. Saturday morning class meets outdoors, so dress warmly and wear waterproof shoes! As of today, the weather forecast predicts that it will not rain before noon on Saturday, so all should be well. However, if we do get rained out, family team kata groups should attend anyway, and we’ll find somewhere we can sneak inside and practice quietly.

Try it, parents! This is going to be fun.

If you have not yet registered for the tournament, or did not receive a flyer or hear announcements during class, please visit the Rohai Dojo website for complete information. https://rohaidojo.com/2016/02/22/twentieth-annual-kata-tournament/

You may also click HERE to register online. Note that more than one family member can be signed up with a single transaction; to do this, click the “sign up a friend” button after entering the information for the first registrant.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Sensei Didi at redwoodojo[at]earthlink.net.

PLEASE NOTE: There will be no Saturday Class at Redwood Dojo on March 19, as we will all be at the Tournament. See you there!

Don’t Miss West Coast Training Camp!

WCTC is coming up soon! This year it takes place on Friday evening, October 2nd, and all day Saturday the 3rd, at Alameda High School, just 15 minutes away. As always, we’re bringing in some of the top instructors in Cuong Nhu, including head-of-style Grandmaster Quynh Ngo, to teach students of all ages and ranks. This is your chance to get a taste of international Cuong Nhu, without having to travel to North Carolina for the annual international training camp. Don’t miss it!

It’s a great event for kids, and a great training opportunity for adults of all ranks, including beginners. WCTC2014For full details, please follow this link to Rohai Dojo’s website. If you’d like to go directly to registration, click on this registration link. At the bottom of the registration page, after you send in your information by clicking “submit,” you’ll find a link that will allow you to pay online by credit card if you wish.

Can you help by hosting an out-of-town guest? Every year, people travel from as far away as Florida, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and Georgia to take part in our event. Most stay at the official WCTC hotel in Alameda, but some prefer to stay with a local family, to make new friends (and save a little money on travel costs). If you can host an out-of-town guest and help them get to Alameda for the events Friday and Saturday, please let us know by emailing Sensei Didi at redwoodojo[at]earthlink.net.

Thanks, and see you at the event!

Here are some of the folks who came last year. Make sure YOU are in this year's picture!
Here are some of the folks who came last year. Make sure YOU are in this year’s picture!

P.S. Did we mention that WCTC is the only national training event with an official Cookie Break? Register today!

Special Event!

Master Nguyễn văn Nhân, head of Cuong Nhu in Vietnam, will be teaching in Berkeley and Oakland on Monday and Tuesday, June 1-2. MasterNhanThis is a very special visit, creating a bridge of friendship between the Cuong Nhu schools founded by O Sensei Ngo Dong in the U.S., and the Vietnamese “descendants” of his original schools in Vietnam. Master Nhân attended the Cuong Nhu 50th anniversary training camp in Raleigh, North Carolina, over Memorial Day weekend, and since then has been visiting Cuong Nhu schools in Florida, including the National Headquarters. He is now honoring us with a visit, and I hope everyone will be able to attend and take class.

The schedule will be as follows (adults in particular are encouraged to attend on both days):

Monday, June 1st, at Rohai Dojo in Berkeley (aka Berkeley Cuong Nhu Karate)

4 to 5 p.m. Kids purple belt & above
5 to 6 p.m. beginning kids
6 to 8 p.m. class for adults and teens (all ranks), and kids green belt & above
Dinner after class (details tba)
Location: 1819 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, 1.5 blocks north of University Avenue
Call 526-4880 for directions

Tuesday, June 2nd, at Redwood Dojo in Oakland

4 to 5 p.m. beginning kids
5 to 6 p.m. kids purple belt & above
6 to 7 p.m. teen class (adults welcome)
7 to 8:30 p.m class for adults and teens (all ranks), and kids green belt & above
Dinner after class (details tba)
Location: Redwood Heights Community Center, 3883 Aliso Avenue, Oakland, just off Highway 13 at Redwood Road.
Call 482-7827 for directions

Note to Redwood Teens: You are strongly encouraged to stay for the adult class.

Note to kids age 6 & 7 who do not normally attend on Tuesday: If you would like to take class from Master Nhân, you may ask Sensei Didi’s permission to take part. You may also attend class just to watch. VietnamStudents-narrow

Train for Berkeley’s Spring Tournament

Rohai Dojo’s annual Kata Tournament is coming up soon – on Saturday, March 15th. In case you didn’t receive a flyer and registration form in class last week, it’s now possible to download them from Rohai’s website at this link:

The Spring Tournament is Coming

They’re also offering an online registration and payment option this year. That should make it easier to get registered before the late fee kicks in on March 5th! Visit their website and follow the links to use this option.

We’ve been practicing “tournament style” in some classes, and hopefully students of all ages and ranks will be inspired to train to a new level. That, after all, is the point: trying to be the best we can be!

Let Sensei Didi know if you have any questions about the tournament, registration and payment… or anything else concerning your or your child’s training.