At the Haganah gym I go to, we’re repeatedly taught about compliance. Compliance is when there’s a gun to the side of your head, or pressed into the middle of your back, and you’re trying to calm the attacker, convince him you’re going to be an easy victim. A compliance statement is something like, “Please don’t hurt me, I have two small children, I’ll do anything you want …” You say your compliance statement with hands open and slightly raised, a surrendering position without bringing your hands so high that they’ll see your next move coming. While you’re mid-sentence — “I’ll do anyyyy–” — you strike. That part, and the parts that follow, depends on where the gun is, but the ultimate goal is to disarm the motherfucker and if you maybe de-meat his finger in the process, well, he was kinda asking for it, wasn’t he?

(DE-MEAT. I know, right? The first time I heard a trainer use that term I was like OH MY GOD EW HORK BARF and he was like dude, get a grip. And I was like yeah but not with my Skeletor finger right? OH HO HO HO GOOD ONE, ME.)

I really find myself struggling with those compliance statements. It’s a non-negotiable part of the drill, you have to say it out loud to your partner when they’re playing the attacker, and I always feel like the room has melted away and I’m standing on a giant stage, holding a microphone, lit by a single spotlight, while an attentive audience rustles impatiently in their seats. Somewhere in the very back of the theater, someone coughs. My vision narrows, my heart races, and I can’t think of anything I’m supposed to say. “Line,” I want to hiss to a helpful understudy waiting in the wings. I mean, it’s crazy, it’s not like there’s anything HARD about saying “Please don’t hurt me” and yet every single time I have to fight down a case of nervous giggles. “Please don’t haaaaaaaaaa. I’m sorry. I have two small HEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. Oh god. Sorry. I’ll do HARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.”

Basically I am a super ridiculous person who has trouble with almost every single thing we do in class, from the groin slapping we practiced yesterday (My brain: OH JESUS I HAVE TO BRIEFLY PUT MY HAND ON THIS GUY’S WEINER AREA AHHHH WEINER MAKES ME THINK OF DE-MEATING AHHHHHH) to this weird finger-under-the-nose technique that is surprisingly painful and wildly effective at lifting someone up and away from you but still short-circuits my brain into a panicked fear that I’ll accidentally slip a finger into someone’s nostril and then I would just have to DIE, like INSTANTLY. There’s even a move called a “bump” that’s designed to push an attacker backwards if they’ve grabbed you around the waist from behind and every time I do it I think of this:

[Image removed because you turkeys kept crying fowl. It's here, if you're not too chicken to look.]

ANYWAY. When I was training for the marathon, I remember thinking how spending all that time running past the point where I wanted to stop was good for me in some deep internal way, strengthening non-physical reserves and teaching me, over and over, that I was capable of so much more than I gave myself credit for. Now I have a similar sort of feeling about going to my fight gym — it’s like, being embarrassed isn’t the end of the world. Pushing past all my flinch-y personal space issues is weirdly therapeutic. And above all, it’s okay to completely SUCK at something — in front of other people, even! — and keep coming back, keep trying.

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