Have you ever been so afraid that your body literally shut down? I have. And I’m pretty sure that memory had a whole lot to do with me training in martial arts and creating a career out of teaching self-defense.
It was a beautiful, sunny Tuesday morning in New York City. I was 23 years old and heading to work on the subway. When I stepped out at the Wall Street station, I entered a chaotic scene that felt like it was taken straight from a movie. People were screaming and running; I followed their fingers pointing to the black smoke billowing out of the World Trade Center. In a daze, I continued to the building where I worked as a marketing assistant for a special events venue, three blocks south of the towers.
When I saw the doorman, he told me I couldn’t go up to the loft where I worked but could use the phone in the lobby, if I wanted. Minutes later, the first tower fell and people started swarming into the lobby for safety. I was pushed into a utility closet with dozens of strangers and that’s when it hit me.
Tears streamed from my eyes while my whole body felt paralyzed.
To make a long story short, a woman shook me out of my state of shock. We were kicked out of the building by a policeman and had to head into the street, where ash rained down on us. Hours later, we made it over to the martial arts studio that I trained at.
The martial arts studio was my safe haven. For the next six months, it became a metaphor for my life. It was the place where I spent as much time as I could because the martial arts training was helping me become stronger than I ever thought possible. Physically, my body was getting stronger; emotionally, I became more confident and less afraid. As I learned life-saving self-defense techniques, I felt more capable of protecting myself from danger.
It was in that following year that I decided I wanted to make my career about helping others feel those same benefits; strong, safe and more confident, both emotionally and physically. I had a lot of training to do before I could start teaching martial arts (hapkido specifically) for a living, so I first became certified as a personal trainer.
Over the course of 10 years, I trained as often as I could while building a personal training and health coaching practice. I became a certified health coach at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and later on went back to school part-time to attain my master’s degree in nutrition. Throughout that entire decade, I trained in hapkido as much as I could; I taught classes and trained private clients. Towards the end of the 10 years, with some help of my martial arts master, I began teaching self-defense for women who didn’t want to train in martial arts. I named the workshop Stilettos & Self Defense after a night that I was grabbed on the street years earlier. I was able to scare off my attacker and chase him down the street wearing my stilettos.
After 10 years, I tested and passed with my 3rd degree black belt in hapkido and moved to Los Angeles, where I continue to teach self-defense at colleges, corporations and conferences around the country.
Doing this work has strengthened my commitment to teaching this important subject because I have met thousands of women along the way. Sure enough, after any presentation I give, women of all ages will share their stories with me of how they have survived sexual assault.
Currently, 1 in 3 women globally will be victims of sexual violence and that is NOT OK. It’s a shameful statistic and I think we can all help reduce it. There are three ways that I have identified that everyone can do to participate in this journey of taking a stand for women’s safety:
- Empower ourselves to learn self-defense and protect ourselves against predatory behavior
- Continue the conversations and make it safe for survivors to share their stories. This gives survivors room to heal
- Become better bystanders and speak up and call out predatory behavior and sexual harassment and assault
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. If you exchange gifts with your husband, boyfriend or a guy friend, and are having trouble finding the right gift, I’ve come up with a list of 10 out of the box ideas for the man in your life.
Good quality chocolate
Chocolate isn’t just for women on Valentine’s Day; everyone can get down with a good quality box of chocolate goodies. My husband loves when I buy him Lake Champlain Chocolates. The only problem is, I can’t resist myself from eating his, so I will often just buy my own as well. Luckily, he prefers milk chocolate and I try to grab a healthier, darker version. There are so many gifts to choose from on their site from gift baskets, hot cocoa’s and boxes of truffles. It’s Valentine’s Day, so we all get a pass to eat as much chocolate as we want!
Does your man like beer? Gift the Six Pack Cooler Tote from Uncommon Goods, so he can bring his beer cold to his next outdoor concert, party or BYO restaurant. It’s like a koozie on steroids!
A personal defense product
If your man is into personal safety, the Mace Brand Pepper Gun is right up his alley. It’s compact and when fired, it can stop an attacker or intruder in their tracks before having to get too close.
Is your guy the grill master of the house? Since I do most of the cooking in my house, my husband likes to be the one to do the grilling (makes him feel like he’s contributing to the meal!). At Mancrates.com, you can choose the Grill Master Crate gift set that includes meat tenderizers, a smoker box, hickory woodchips and a variety of BBQ sauces. P.S. there are also a ton of other “man crates” to choose from with different themes.
A stylish backpack
Are you buying a gift for a fit guy or one who is trying to be? He needs a way to get his sweaty clothes home from the gym. North Face makes a backpack for guys on the go who need to carry his sweaty clothes from the gym.
Everyone should be happy when they look down at their feet. Why not add some flair to his footwear, even if he has to wear a suit all day? Happy Socks bring a lot of style and life to an ordinary wardrobe piece.
Nobody wants your stereotypical father’s big wallet anymore, especially when people rarely carry cash anymore. A slim and well designed wallet, like this American flag leather wallet by TGT Wallets is the perfect gift for someone who likes things neat and tidy, and the products are made proudly here in the US of A.
A bucket list map
I love this idea and am actually buying this for my husband for this Valentine’s Day! We are avid travelers and love to dream about all of the places we want to explore. This visual map that allows you scratch off the places you’ve been and you can also tag the places you wish to go!
A manly scented candle
A candle gift says ‘I like you’, ‘I’m thinking of you’ and perhaps ‘I want your apartment to smell nice too’. These soy wax candles on Etsy are safe, non-toxic and smell of spicy tobacco and hints of vanilla. It’s an inexpensive, thoughtful gift for someone you either share a home and bathroom with or would like to share a home or bathroom with.
An experience gift
I’d much prefer to give an experience as a gift versus a product. An experience can create happy memories that will last a lifetime. Obviously budget plays a big role in choosing an experience gift that can range from a night at the museum or a weekend getaway. Personally, if we can’t get away, I would plan an outdoor adventure for my husband that would include some sort of physical activity (like biking or hiking), followed by a really good meal. Choose something that your guy loves to do and plan a day around it. Throw in any special surprises that you can think of and present the idea in a handwritten card.