To The Future Harvey Weinsteins of the World

To The Future Harvey Weinsteins of the World

The other day, my teen daughter earned her second degree black belt. She’s been going to her dojo for ten years now, so we’ve certainly gotten a sense of the school’s goals and philosophies in training even the youngest of martial artists. What I love about the dojo is its emphasis on respect for oneself and others, kindness, self-control, discipline, and hard work. One of the first lessons the kids learn is that fighting is a last resort. Try working things out in dialogue, walking away, or contacting an adult.

But if all else fails, fight. And fight hard.

Her three-hour belt test included demonstration of advanced techniques, katas (a sequence of moves), and each student’s verbal reflection of their own karate experience as it relates to their world. It’s amazing to see kids who began at the school as wobbly toddlers, now young adults, perform with poise, razor focus, and precision.

Okay, enough of the fluff.

They donned their gear– head gear, mouth guards, gloves, shin guards, and foot pads. Let the sparring begin. As this was her test for her second degree, she had a few additional skills to demonstrate, beyond the sparring needed to earn a first degree black. A technique called “the gauntlet,” where she had to spar one competitor at a time, each for a minute, in rapid sequence for a total of five matches, without a break. She nailed it. The next match was two-, followed by three-, followed by four-on-one. She held her own on that one, too.
Later that afternoon, a visiting sensei remarked on how calm I seemed when she sparred. After all, she was the only girl on the mat. I was nonplussed, however. She’d been the only girl at her level for awhile. In her dojo, about 2% of students who begin karate get to a black belt level. Of that 2%, only 2% are girls. The number of girls who go on to second degree black is close to infinitesimal.

No, the sparring didn’t get to me. But the grappling did.

Oh, the grappling. Grappling is a technique closer to wrestling — being pinned in a vulnerable position while the competitor is on top of you, and your trying to get out. She was paired with a lovely boy– twice her size. Seeing him on top of her got to me. Not this boy– he is a preteen, a young gentlemen, and I know him to be careful. He wouldn’t hurt her. But someone else– a “real” person– would. As I watched her trying with all her might, all her moves, techniques, and skills to extricate herself from his pinning her down, for the first time, the reality of her future vulnerability, even from the “nice guys” set in. Her hair tousled under her head gear, her belt loosened by the struggle, and her face a nice shade of red, she wriggled her way out. She did it. She broke free. But could she do this in the “real” world? In high school or college, when that “nice guy” becomes not so nice? If her future boss asks to meet her in his hotel room, offers her the world, if only she’d join him in his hot tub? The images of Harvey Weinstein with these young, vulnerable, desirable women disgusts me. But sadly, he’s just the beast who’s currently hitting the headlines, followed just weeks later by Kevin Spacey. No surprise to most of us, there are many Harveys and Kevins out there, and there will be more. They are in Hollywood, in college dorms, in board rooms, and operating rooms.

We teach our kids how to behave with others, how to respect themselves, and how speak up when something doesn’t seem right. But we also need to teach them what it feels like to be vulnerable, and, more importantly, how powerful they can feel when they break free.



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