I've been taking martial arts classes for a year and three months now.
I get punched. I get kicked. I have my legs swept out from under me. I get thrown onto the mat. I am put into painful wrist locks. I am pinned to the ground by someone bigger and stronger than me, and no matter how much I struggle, I cannot get up. I am expected to leap over obstacles and fall properly, rolling off my shoulder. When I am thrown down, I practice landing in such a way that I protect my most vulnerable parts and avoid injury. I also must punch, kick, sweep, throw, grapple with and pin other people.
For a 40 year old woman who has never played a sport in her life, I think this has taken some courage.
They say that the way you approach martial arts reflects the way you approach life. And, as in my personal life, I am much more comfortable taking a hit than dishing one out. I roll with it, jump up, and come back for more.
But when it's my turn to hit back? I'm reluctant. "You need to be more aggressive," I am told. "This person is trying to hurt you. You need to fight back. It's okay - (s)he can take it. Hit hard."
This is the part I struggle with most. Standing up for myself and refusing to let someone else hurt me. Leaving the situation and staying away when he or she does. I realize that this is something I need to work on, and that I'm not there yet in my journey as a martial artist, nor as a woman.
And, looking back, there have certainly been times that I have been glad that I have had the capacity to jump up and go back in when the situation called for it.
Right now, that's the brand of courage I do have.
I'm still working on the other kind. And it's not going to come together this week.