The concept was great – using improv theatre exercises to help women test their limits and practice Daring more. And that fact that it was a women-only workshop made it a bit simpler for all of us to take risks.
And though most of the workshop was led by her, and was brilliant, at some point he took over and gave some Self-Defense ‘pointers’.
And the most important piece of advice was definitely not what I had anticipated.
I was expecting tips on how to fight efficiently without wasting energy, or positions to avoid – such as turning your back to your opponent during a fight… Stuff like that.
But instead, he explained, fighting techniques are only 10% of the training.
The main objective of Self-Defense is to Avoid Fighting.
And apparently, one of the most efficient ways to do just that is to dissuade them from looking at you as an ‘attractive’ prey.
In the typical example of You, a woman being pestered by men (it’s Self Defense for women, hence the clich example), you’re basically trying to make yourself as “unattractive” as possible.
In any way.
he gave the example of a student of his who started getting followed by two men one night.
She picked up the phone, and pretended to chat with a friend… about her period, and trying to sound as gross as possible.
“I don’t have a tampon. There is blood everywhere between my legs. It doesn’t stop flowing. It’s sticky”
Noone on the phone, no look towards them.
And, what was even more interesting was what happened next.
Nathan invited us to try it out for ourselves and “rehearse” being repulsive, in case we ever got pestered in the tube, the street, etc…
It could be sniffing loudly, hawking up phlegm (again, the louder the better), picking your nose… One woman scratched her groin (pretty efficient…)
They key was to make it as natural as possible so that it looked like something we did naturally and often.
It was all for fun (kind of… and self-protection…)
But was struck me was how the atmosphere in the room changed.
There you had a room full of women who, probably for the first time ever, were told to be as unattractive as possible.
Don’t invite love in. Be repulsive.
Try Not To Try to be liked.
Where there’d been laughter and banter before, suddenly the room filled up with unease and tension… Noone even dared to look up, so as not to expose the un-ladylike behaviour of others.
In my theatre training, I’ve practiced getting away from the image I normally try to project and getting used to being and looking ‘ridiculous’ … but unattractive, rarely.
That was new.
And even though we were practicing for something that could potentially save our lives, we kind of botched the exercise.
The group wanted to move on.
Years of the unspoken ladies’ training in action:
Be likable – or you won’t survive….