I’ve been Martial Arts training from the happy age of 5 (picture above), telling myself one day I will meet Yip Man and become his protege (irrespective he had already passed away by the time I was born). Back then, I trained in a long artillery hall where people practiced how to shoot guns, bow and arrows and gymnastics. Sometimes we would use a huge community hall for practising large group attacks on one person, blind folded.
We had a hardcore ethos; a traditional one — no food, no drink, no protection. We trained bare knuckle in the heat and in the cold, and we were not allowed to stop for water. Training sessions were an hour and a half long, practicing weapon training, mild gymnastics, forms and fighting. We knew how to do forms forwards and in reverse, all language was in Japanese, and on my black belt grading at the age of 13, I vomitted quite beautifully on the floor, and carried on.
My first ever teacher taught me how to meditate, he taught me focus and respect, he showed me I was capable of taking on a 6ft 10stone man and protect myself at the same time. I practiced everyday, my parents took it about as seriously as I did and were always there to support me and nurture my passion for Martial Arts. I practised whilst walking, I practised in bed, I practised in my living room, outside, I practised in Malaysia, in the shower, I still practised when I had a severe bone/muscular issue with my legs and was confronted with surgery. On days where I forgot the tiniest thing by over-thinking a move or a simple brain-fart, I’d hang my head in shame and be told off by my teacher.
Out of all the incredible gifts 8 years of training with him had given me, as well as the immaculate amount of luck I had in finding the right teacher for me, I wasn’t prepared for what was one of the biggest life changing issues that dominated my life. Throughout my training, I was completely unable to defend myself from the one thing that I believed I should have done — abuse. For years I have lived with an overwhelming amount of guilt that I should have and could have stopped it. I knew how to fight. I know how to disarm or knock someone out cold. But when faced in situations such as abuse… My body froze.
I said nothing for years. I was abused for 8 years and said nothing and did nothing. Even when I was beaten up by some kids once, I simply stood there and took it. I didn’t fall to the ground, I just stood and stared at them blankly until my friend told me to run as fast as I could. I was about 13, and I remember thinking that if I even touched one of them, I’d get in trouble… but then again, that could’ve been the message that my abuser had put into my head.
So I stopped training for 2 years, and I got very, very depressed. Although at the time I couldn’t link two and two together — I didn’t realise martial arts was actually saving my psychological and physical state all along. That every time I was training, it was helping me deal with the emotion and trauma I had to hide so perfectly.
When I was 15 I decided to take up Karate again and found a teacher in a nearby dojo. I observed his class and disagreed with the way he taught. His passion for Martial Arts just wasn’t there, so I left. My grammar school was also sending me to Kick Boxing classes, which I hated with a ‘this is killing my soul’ sort of hate. It was run by a woman who suggested we pulled hair and used sovereign rings to punch people in the face. I ended up teaching most of the students (my classmates from school) how to actually kick and punch someone properly. The instructor invited me to join their national Kick Boxing academy. I swiftly declined.
Feeling pretty unfulfilled yet knowing that martial arts certainly made me feel a bit better (even though I had also punched my class mate on the nose and broken it during a training session and was banned from going anywhere near her by her mother), I was still severely depressed. One thing led to another, and I had a break down. It all came out, my secrets, everything. And bam… along came Child Protection, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Psychiatric Medicines, Anger Management and a whole load of guilt and blame from not only my own head, but also from my parents. Their overarching question was, “Why didn’t you defend yourself? You knew how to.” Being from a Chinese background, my family held a lot of pride and warned me about speaking of what had happened to me and that it would bring shame upon the family.
Fast forward to 21. I had finally gotten out of the hellish mess I was in and moved house. I was dating a martial artist who brought back my passion for it all over again. His passion for martial arts got me thinking, and so I began to search for a good martial arts school yet completely unsure of what art form I wanted to train in. I didn’t really want Karate anymore, I wanted to be able to merge Buddhism with martial arts, which thus led me to Shaolin Kung Fu.
A few years later I stumbled upon a famous Shifu who had just setup his own school in London. I did my research and agreed to meet him at his school. I observed a lesson and was absolutely head over heels in love with what I saw. Shifu didn’t speak a word of English yet his teaching methods were completely coherent and his students were so on-point it was like moving powerful poetry, it was practically home away from home. I decided I wanted to join. Two nights later, a man came into my home and assaulted me, smashing my head on a door frame and bruising my brain. I couldn’t train and spent the next 3 months in and out of hospital with this other guy on a restraining order. Another month later, I was beaten up by a man outside my home.
So I moved house, another few years passed and my mental health became pretty low. Again, fuelled with guilt and pretty much a whole bunch of hatred for myself, I started seeing a Psychotherapist again. But that just wasn’t cutting it. I knew Martial Arts would make me better. I knew I had to prove to myself that I can fight, that I have confidence and that I can take on these sorts of people; men who lack self-control, who intimated women, who use their body weight and force themselves upon a woman believing it’s their right to do so. Men who wish to silence women. I had to teach myself that I had every right to protect myself.
Since then, I have moved county completely as I felt my mental health needed to be somewhere that had space, countryside and a kinder community. I found the UK Shaolin Temple had a branch all the way in a tiny community hall in the beautiful countryside, ran by one of the first Western disciples who had become a 35th generation Shaolin monk (pictured above).
Since living in here I’ve been training with my Shifu and it has been quite possibly one of the most life changing experiences I’m going through. There have been lots of tears leaking from eyes, during moments where I suddenly realised how terrified I was of sparring with another man. I happily did it, but the alarm bells in my head were ringing saying “Okay, you can do this now, but what if he was actually trying to harm you?” and to be honest, I had no answer. For days it just swam around in my head. I couldn’t figure out if it was unprofessional of me to speak to my Shifu or to see how it was all going to pan out and hope for the best. Until one day, my Dad visited me and asked the penultimate question, “So, do you think if a man did something again, you could protect yourself?” That was enough for me to know I should speak with my Shifu. And it was quite possibly the most nerve wracking yet relieving thing I’ve done.
I genuinely feel like I’ve had a second chance, and not a single day goes past where I don’t feel grateful for the time and knowledge my Shifu spends with me. I feel understood, and that I am in the most perfectly capable hands, surrounded by other practitioners who believe in compassion yet strength and protection.
My conundrum with the majority of my abusers has been that I do not wish to hurt them. I have been a practicing Buddhist all my life, and I have never wished harm upon those who have abused me simply because I know they are suffering already to have done such a thing in the first place. However I DO wish I was able to protect myself, not disembowel them or murder them, or chop their balls and hands off, but to be able to put a STOP to a situation — to hit them hard, break a leg maybe, but not kill them. All of which I have always been capable of doing, but have never had the belief and inner strength to do it, to save my own life.
I write this because I know I’m not alone out there and there are hundreds upon thousands of women who have been in situations of abuse and have been threatened or made to believe that they are unable to defend themselves as this is usually followed by a god awful consequence upon their life. Or women who have been abused as a child and made to believe that if anyone ever finds out, something very very bad will happen — what that ‘bad’ thing is, is sometimes not said, but you end up growing up living in deep anxiety of never sticking up for yourself, or worse, never physically being able to protect yourself.
Getting the motivation, the encouragement and the hope and strength to be able to say something and learn to defend yourself can take years. I have not been a practicing martial artist for the past 21 years just for self defence, for me, it is different as it has always been a way of life. I have always lived and breathed Buddhism and Martial Arts together. However, as a method of learning about your body, your strength and applying that strength by cultivating your body’s inner energy, then THAT will help you conquer your mental battle and physical battle. I hope that if I ever have to defend myself again in such a way, I will no longer hold back. That I respect myself enough to protect myself and allow myself to let my true strength and ability show.
Overcoming that hidden wall is so difficult, but I honestly urge any woman who has ever thought of taking up martial arts or self defence, that you do, and that you take time learning about yourself, your fears, the breath, your physical and mental strength, and learn to believe in yourself again.
The parents of a six-day-old baby girl thought to have been killed by the family dog have said they will âcherish the little timeâ they had with her.
So my friend received a delightful empty email that contained only a weblink to a BBC news story of an Alaskan Malamute mauling a newborn baby. I’ll go into the details as to why he was sent that later, but anyway, this horrific story went viral. The media went all over it, saying how it’s a tragic loss (which of course, it is) and how the the family need respect during this time (irrespective that the media seem to have lambasted this dog like there’s no tomorrow. However, I want to highlight the point that the mauling is still suspected… It has not been outwardly proven. The mother was overheard by the neighbour shouting ‘THE DOG ATE MY BABY’S HEAD!’ which so kindly got printed on the front page of the insensitive newspaper The Sun, and subsequently got pulled from the shelves in the village the family resides in. The police are keeping quiet, and the dog is being detained.
Now here’s mostly where my beef resides: I’m an owner of a snow dog. I own a beautiful 2 year old husky and I’ve got to say, I’ve never owned a dog like it. Their brains are just next level. The press have likened the Alaskan Malamute in this story to the husky, which I totally get, I understand that, but it’s also caused a rather large knock-on effect.
Given that there has been absolutely NO PROOF whatsoever that this dog has mauled a baby, nor have the media been told or released information as to how the dog got to the baby in the first place (if it did kill the child) and what the hell were the parents thinking for that to even happen? Alaskan Malamutes and Huskies everywhere now have a pretty shitty reputation. It doesn’t help that these beautiful dogs have a particularly wolf-like ‘scary’ appearance. They also play rough and can look more vicious than what they actually are — these dogs are renowned for not having a vicious bone in their body unless threatened. They are not guard dogs and they are the sort of dogs that copy human or other dog behaviour — e.g. if they see you opened the door with a handle, they are smart enough to copy that. So if they constantly saw the mother picking up the baby when it cried (or showed distress), I wouldn’t be too surprised if the dog tried to pick the baby up with its mouth in the same way it would its puppies.
Irrespective of what breed of dog you have, anyone with a brain cell would know not to leave a baby with a dog. Simples. A dog is a creature, as much as we love the fact they are part of our families and we call them our ‘babies’ and treat them like they’re human; they are, very much, wolf creatures. Malamutes and Huskies are closely related to the wolf — well, all dogs are, but these breeds in particular are especially driven by the pack-like mentality and are extremely wilful. They are incredible with humans, their natural gentleness with people is what makes them such beautiful dogs to have within the family. When a Malamute or Husky is happy within the home, they are very calm and quiet and often wish for a degree of independence from humans. For example, if you were all sitting in the living room by the fire keeping warm, the dog would prefer to be outside in the cool air curled up in a tiny ball. They do however, absolutely hate being apart from the pack. They know when you’ve left home, and within seconds they immediately suffer from severe separation anxiety. This can lead to bizarre behaviour such as defecting within the home (trust me, I’ve been down that line with my own dog and found her going a bit nuts), digging, howling, tearing things apart, etc. (NOT aggression though). Leaving the radio on is not the same. Leaving them with a tiny human that can’t interact with them or even acknowledge their existence, is not the same (although they don’t become aggressive and nor will they attempt to kill it). They need to be with other dogs or humans. They also prefer confined spaces — for example, my dog absolutely doesn’t care where you go if she sleeps in the car. She knows you always return, so she chills out. The house on the other hand seems to be another kettle of fish entirely. She will be quiet at first, then begin to howl and get very upset, but then settle down again and sleep — as she’s gotten older, she’s began to understand we always come back home and we do not abandon her. If she had a background of abuse and abandonment, I would never dream of leaving her alone for hours on end, and would let her go through that process over a long period of time (and however long she needs). In relation to the Malamute within the news story, there have been reports that the dog was previously abused and bought during a deal made in the local pub. You have no idea what this dog has been through previously, so the last thing you would think of doing is letting it anywhere near a 6 day old baby.
I’m just pretty pissed because of the amalgamation of shit that has been caused from these reports on this horrifying story. Snow dogs in general are mounting in numbers in rescue centres before a story like this even got released. The Malamute got bought in the pub because its previous owner was about to terminate it.
Malamutes and Huskies are stunning dogs and absolutely adorable puppies, people seem to miss the fundamental point that these snow dogs are super high maintenance and they need to be kept busy and working. They are so intelligent that they get bored easily, so need to be constantly stimulated. They also have ridiculous amounts of energy — they were bred to run 50 miles without food, and they can do this easily. Being kept inside a house without much access to exercise or a garden is not a snow dog lifestyle and you will end up with a pretty frustrated, distressed animal with not much furniture left. As pack animals, they are always trying to get the one up on you, battling all the time with your brain as to who’s the leader. One (or two) family member needs to be the head honcho and show them who’s boss. They need heavy structure and continuity — the leader needs to lead and lead all the time. If you give in, they’re quick to walk all over you. They are also hugely prey driven and are known for their tragic recall. They will come back when you call them, but only on their terms. That’s why you rarely see a husky or malamute off the lead, because once they get running (especially after livestock, NOT humans), they go into tunnel vision and are on a completely different planet to what you’re on. You can stand there calling until the sun goes down and you’ll be lucky to have them come back again. I speak from experience.
The thing is, people just aren’t prepared for these types of breeds. They buy them or adopt them because of their aesthetic beauty and loving kindness, but they need SO much work. That’s why so many snow dogs end up back in rescue again.
And now this.
Now my beautiful husky, thanks to the press, and whatever situation that actually happened to this poor tiny baby, is now banned from my friend seeing his sister. His sister has a year old little girl who has a wonderful but rather over-protective father, who’s been deeply committed to hating snow-dogs since a husky apparently killed a baby a year ago. All I can say is that its entirely subject to circumstance, and that a dog of any breed has no reason to kill a child unless it felt under threat or it had tried to pick it up to calm the child down like it would its own pups. But then, why would the dog be left with a child in the first place, and was it all a freak accident that happened when the parents just happened to have stepped out for 3 seconds. No one knows. I just feel so sad that the dog has no voice of its own to speak out, so we as humans need to take responsibility as dog owners, parents, people working within the judicial system and law.
It gives me a headache.
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