Occupying my Body. The Occupy Movement.

Sexual assault and harassment have burbled to the crusty surface of society. Again.

I see a couple ways we can all make this a better, more comfortable society:

Talk about sex. Talk about the good stuff. Talk about the less than good stuff and the bad stuff, too. Talk to your partner(s). Talk to your kid(s). Can't talk to them? Talk to your friend(s) until you can talk to you partner(s).

Feel comfortable in your own body. We all have them. Bodies make  noises. They produce lots of substances. Noises are funny and fluids are important.

Move. Move in challenging ways. This may be walking to the mailbox. This may be taking two steps at a time on the way to the bathroom. This may be a yoga class or a martial arts class. This is may be observing either or both and making the movements in your mind. Later, translate them into small, quiet imitations of what you remember, or big, exaggerated gestures.

Or, turn on your favorite music and dance alone in the shower.

Or, skip in the garage on the way to the car.

***

In school, in my life, I was not considered an athletic kid. I was a quiet kid. A sensitive kid. A brainy kid. All true. Yet, I also enjoyed playing outside. Later, I came to love dancing, just for fun. Or, I'd put on my Walkman and blast INXS or the Lost Boys soundtrack and walk around the neighborhood.

In a high school gym class, I watched a softball thunk down into the grass beside me. My teacher berated me. Not so badly, but berated me nevertheless. I'd never been welcomed to put on a baseball mitt before, nor would I be interested in doing this again. As a sassy, punky teen, I hollered back, "How can you expect me to catch anything with you yelling at me?!" He didn't reply. I hope he got it.

I think at some point, my father showed me how to use a baseball mitt. "Catch in the netted part, not the palm area. That protects your hand."

OK, but put me on a badminton court, and I'd turn into a competitive maniac. A novice maniac but still a maniac. We played badminton at home when the gnats weren't too bad. It was fun. In high school, I slammed serves and tried to check the shuttlecock into my opponent's body.

Years later, I got into a depressive funk after college. My father had made me a set of weights years prior. I closed my bedroom door, took those out, turned up the music, and danced and worked out to the A side of a Landed record. Again and again. Good muscles emerged from under my skinny skin.

My one male roommate joked about guys at the gym who admired their muscles in the mirror rather than working out. He worked out. We laughed about those guys, but I was quietly doing the same in my tiny bedroom.

I met Jared. Our movement routine was walking and dancing. We drove around looking for adventures and places to explore. Once we drove out to Sino, a now defunct Asian furniture store in the New Brunswick area. He was inspired and showed me se mun pa kak (hitting the four corners), a form he had learned from his kung fu teacher, Sifu Lim. I was impressed.

Years later, my movement routine was off trail walking. Jared and I planned short walks but would return eight hours later. Then, baby carrying was my movement practice.

In between and amidst years of walking and baby carrying, Jared introduced me again to the Southern short hand style called Ngo Cho Kun (Five Ancestor Fist). We practiced the first form Sam Chien at home. Finally, I felt ready meet Sifu Lim.

There were three students, Jared, Jack, and me. Sifu taught us an incredibly advanced long fist form (think low, wide stances and kicks, lots of kicks). I must have looked awful. I felt awful but awful in a good way. Stiff, worn out. I was hooked on this feeling of being alive.

My sensitive, intellectual body could embrace my physical nature. Both could be strong. And the wonderful thing about martial arts, martial arts done well, is the blending of soft and hard, yin and yang. Learning how to reawaken my sleeping body made for incredible confidence and deepened awareness. Thinking, moving, muscle memory, instincts, and because I don't desire physical conflict, above all, martial arts offers tactics to de-escalate conflict.

Why do I mention all this? Because I think women often shy away from martial arts for a variety of reasons, and many of those reasons make sense. Studies show (remembering back to the raft of books that came out about competitive gymnastics and women's health) women select sports that emphasize beautiful physical movements - ballet and gymnastics, for example.

Finding a good teacher, a good dojo, and a style that works for you is not always easy. What will happen when I walk into that room? Will a bunch of guys stare at me and club me on the head?

Yet, I think it is worthwhile way to develop the internal and external self. Research, talk to the teacher, go to public demonstrations of local martial arts schools. Most reputable schools will allow visitors to take one free class. Doesn't feel right? Well, ask this question: does this feel uncomfortable because it is unfamiliar or because my gut is saying get out of here?

I sometimes feel overwhelmed by fear of potential harassment, and for me, martial arts has been one tool to give me comfort in occupying my very own body and asking myself of situations: does this feel uncomfortable because it is unfamiliar or because my gut is saying get out of here?