Monday, October 03, 2005

Memories of martial arts

When I first enrolled at university, I lived in a residential college and dated a young man who also lived in the college. His main attraction was that he was available. The experience taught me a painful lesson that served me well in the years to come: availability is not enough.

This happened many years ago, long before Lauren Burns won a gold medal for Australia in Taekwondo at the 2000 Olympic games, when there was no public indication that women participated in martial arts. One of the older men at the college was reputed to be a martial arts expert. My boyfriend admired this tremendously, and followed up any mention of this man with the half-joking statement that you'd have to be careful about approaching him at night; with his hair-trigger reflexes, he might accidentally kill you.

It also happened that women did practice martial arts even back then, and a story went around about a woman who was exceptionally skilled. According to this story, a man who didn't believe that a woman could be that good decided to test her. He researched her schedule and waited to ambush her one night on the campus. The story didn't say what he expected to get out of this exercise, perhaps he wanted proof that she was just as vulnerable to male violence as any other woman. What he got was a broken knee.

I remember my boyfriend's comment clearly. "Nervy bitches like that," he said, "shouldn't be allowed to learn martial arts."


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