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.

Comments

24 Responses to “Complying”

  1. Brenna on April 22nd, 2014 10:12 am

    Speaking of completely sucking at something in front of other people (who are really awesome), I recently started roller derby, and wow. Even when it’s people who are totally uninterested in judging me, and are in fact there to help, it’s still hard for me to be okay with looking foolish. As they say in derby, if you’re not falling, you’re not learning, but I still get up from every fall feeling like a complete dumbass. But like you said, I’ve given up trying to suppress that. It’s not who I am. I will always be easily embarrassed. But I keep going, I do it anyway in spite of the anxiety, and that makes me feel like a badass.

  2. LizScott on April 22nd, 2014 10:24 am

    Yeeeaaaars ago I took a Capoeira class – a brazilian marital arts that was practiced as a dance form, anyway – and one of the main moves is the ability to walk on your hands all handstand like (all while kicking the shit out of someones face) I remember the instructor saying to me when I would go up into a handstand “You can’t be scared to fall over” and I was like “Dude, I *AM* scared to fall over.” I said this, and he goes “Ok, well, show me your handstand”. So I did. And as I was up, he reached out and pushed me over, sending me toppling to the ground.

    “See? Now you’re not scared to fall over”

    … ok, well. Sure. My crippling TRUST ISSUES on the other hand…

  3. Melanie on April 22nd, 2014 10:24 am

    Really, with the Twerking Miley Chicken? REALLY?

  4. Rachel on April 22nd, 2014 10:42 am

    I love you and I have sincerely enjoyed your writing over the years. I will never, ever, forgive you for that image.

    Going to scrub my brain.

  5. Jennifer W on April 22nd, 2014 11:14 am

    I will never be able to eat chicken again…. I need to bleach my brain from that one…

  6. C on April 22nd, 2014 11:30 am

    I’m with Melanie, Rachel, and Jennifer….I wish I could un-see that.

  7. Sande on April 22nd, 2014 3:24 pm

    Loved the twerking Miley-chicken!

  8. Annie on April 22nd, 2014 3:36 pm

    I have laughed and laughed at the images of the de-meating/skeletal finger grip and the slipping finger into nostril. OMG. I needed that. Thank you.

    I’m thinking of joining a gym and taking up kickboxing and I too have issues with always being overly embarrassed by any little normal thing and I don’t know if I can join the class just yet.

    I love your honesty. It’s refreshing. Helps me know I’m not the only one out there with who feels this way.

  9. sooboo on April 22nd, 2014 4:28 pm

    I live in Los Angeles and I probably should take a course like the one you have been describing, but I doubt I could get past my inhibitions. I really, really admire you for doing this.

  10. Clarabella on April 22nd, 2014 7:48 pm

    I have recently started running (for the second attempt) and am actually finally understanding that “push yourself past what you *think* you can do” part. Also, I take kickboxing once a week, and I am the LEAST graceful person alive. No really. So I don’t look in the mirror while I’m flailing. I watch the instructor and try to do the moves just like she does, but I can’t look at myself without thinking I look like a person drowning in mid-air. So I don’t. It’s strangely liberating. All this to say, while I’m not doing the same activity you are, I get the trying/failing/try-again aspect. You go! You are DOING it.

  11. Shawna on April 23rd, 2014 9:08 am

    I admit to being curious to know more about this “weird finger-under-the-nose technique” but googling that is not giving me a lot of info. Does it have a name?

  12. Koa on April 23rd, 2014 1:16 pm

    Your writing about your fight gym is becoming some of my favorite. I’ll admit to not thinking Eugene is cool enough to have such a place. The Miley chicken is rocking my afternoon. The kids seriously just looked in from a playdate and asked me why I laughed. I admitted nothing and quickly slammed my computer shut.

  13. Angella on April 23rd, 2014 4:28 pm

    I love anything you write, friend.

    Also, now I want to take a class like you do. So I can work my moves on my Beavis & Butthead neighbors, should the situation present itself.

    :)

  14. JennyA on April 24th, 2014 9:01 am

    Whatever I was expecting when I clicked through to see the hidden image, it wasn’t that. I think it may have been even funnier that way.

  15. Ali303 on April 25th, 2014 7:43 am

    The combination of ‘de-meating and weiner’ just made me snort-laugh my coffee.

    AWESOME!

  16. Melissa A on April 25th, 2014 11:30 am

    That twurkey rocks.

  17. Danell on April 28th, 2014 1:36 pm

    I am totally in line with the pushing past my limits when it comes to fitness/exercise/running/eating healthy (and the stinking roller coaster that it can be)…but I can only “watch” from afar when you do the stuff that’s about getting over social anxiety/awkwardness/shyness. I can’t do it. I can’t even START to do it. Your posts back when you went and were doing that commercial? Those actually made me physically nauseous. (I mean, not your WRITING, of course! But the THOUGHT of it OMGNONONO! ) I do not recover from anxiety and embarrassment well. I admire you for it!

  18. Runa on April 28th, 2014 9:37 pm

    Crying fowl! Snort.

  19. Melissa T. on May 15th, 2014 2:49 pm

    Love your humor and writing as always, and super-identify with this post. About 6 years ago, I signed up my two darling girls (ages 8 and 11) for an all-ages taekwondo class so they could learn to defend themselves. I signed up, too, with the idea that I would quit after the first session and just be part of the Parent Audience. Oh, the humiliation. The most unflattering outfit EVER, getting up close and personal with total strangers and then. THEN. One day the instructor says, Line up, we’re gonna break some boards! Everyone is milling around and looking panicked, no one wants to go first, and my girls are looking at me with these giant holy-crap-we’re-gonna-do-WHAT?!? eyes. So I walked right up there and went first to show my girls it was no big deal. I broke the board, almost peed my pants, my kids were amazed, and I was hooked. I’m still not graceful and I still look like a tub of lard in the uniform, but my now-teenage girls and I have second degree black belts and a whole bag of dirty tricks. I even think I know the finger/nose move…

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    I can’t stop looking at that picture.

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