Written by Ciara (Beirut volunteer leading the classes)
When I started teaching self-defence with SB I didn’t realise the full extent of the impact it would have on the women and girls. I knew from working with refugee women and children for a long time that teaching self-defence would be really beneficial in terms of providing them with techniques to protect themselves from violence, which is what led me to become a qualified instructor. But I didn’t realise how far beyond physical safety the impact of the courses would have. As women living in a patriarchal society we are brought up to be demure and ‘feminine’ in our behaviours and to always be ‘agreeable’. As a result of our socialization many of us are not inclined to physical or verbal resistance. When many of the women and girls here first came to a class they were shy and embarrassed; they didn’t want to punch with all their strength and would practice the techniques with hesitation and caution. But as the class went on they slowly became more and more confident and assertive. By the end of the course I saw a huge shift in their mentalities. They were putting everything they had into it. They were concentrating so hard on mastering every technique and every strike. They had also found a safe space. A space where they could talk about anything. A space where we could laugh together and be silly but also learn a powerful life skill that has helped give them more confidence in themselves.
The course covers techniques based on survival instincts. We look at how to de-escalate a situation and what to do when someone chokes you, puts you in a headlock, grabs you by the hair, or tries to get on top of you, among other things. These skills and the empowerment that comes with them are something every girl and women can learn and should be able to do so. I am so happy I have had this opportunity with SB to teach self-defence and am looking forward to continue doing so for the next couple of months at the centres in both Beirut and Saida.