On the 3rd of October we organized the first ever FairFight self-defense seminar. Our primary aim was to raise funds for the Zimbabwe 2016 campaign, but also to raise awareness for our cause and show people why we do what we do. Laurent, our PR and social media manager, interviewed two of the people present that day to get their impressions. Here is what they had to say:
Ashleigh Woodend is a researcher and course coordinator at Erasmus University College. She is of Zimbabwean nationality and will be a part of the 2016 Zimbabwe Study Trip.
Laurent: To start-off, I would like to know the reason why you attended the seminar. Was it to financially support the cause or simply because you wanted to learn the basics of self-defense?
Ashleigh: It was a bit of both. I strongly support what FairFight strives for and have always wanted to learn self-defense but never really got around it, so that was definitely a big motivation for me. Also, I brought a friend with me to the seminar and I know she was really interested in self-defense too.
L: In general, did you like the event?
A: I liked it a lot! It was a well-designed seminar with a very nice atmosphere. We were taught a lot of practical moves that were quite easy to do and thus manageable regardless of your age or experience in martial arts. There was also sufficient support throughout the event to let us know whether we were doing the exercises right or wrong.
L: That’s great to know, thanks! I know that a 3-hour seminar is short, but do you feel that you learned something, which you will possibly think of if ever you find yourself in a dangerous situation in the future?
A: First of all, I learned a lot of practical tricks for when you go out. For example keeping flats [shoes] in your bag so that you can take off your heels when you walk back home. It was also really good that Floris [the assistant trainer] stressed that all the techniques we were taught are only last resort measures and that we should always try to avoid such situations by cooperating first. Additionally, on a personal level I realized that physical strength is quite important to defend yourself and tricks are not always enough.
L: Does all this knowledge help you understand the reason why we believe providing free martial art classes in developing countries lead to empowerment?
A: In developing countries women are not only dominated mentally but also physically. Thus, giving them the means to react in various dangerous situations is, I think, one of the right routes to take in order to reach empowerment. I was able to appreciate this more fully by attending the seminar.
L: Do you think that martial arts provide only physical empowerment?
A: Well, it is hard for me to say because I have only attended one class and never felt physically endangered myself. However, I think that from now on I will walk with more confidence in the street, as I know that I am better able to defend myself.. So I am sure that for girls and women who have had to face physical abuse in their lives, regular martial arts classes can lead to empowerment both on the physical and mental level.
Daan van den Oetelaar is a 26 year old Dutch citizen currently finishing his thesis for a Master in Management. He also works part-time as the Student Life Officer at Erasmus University College.
Laurent: So what did you think of the seminar? Do you feel like you got anything out of it more than just entertainment?
Daan: It was great! A lot of fun to participate in and I think it gives a nice impression of what impact regular trainings could have on the children in developing countries.
L: Did you know about FairFight before joining the seminar or was it first time you got acquainted with it?
D: In a broad sense, yes. As I know the two founders [Ginie and Alex] I already heard the name a few times and was quite familiar with what they wanted to achieve.
L: Has the seminar provided you with more insight on why FairFight uses martial arts to empower young girl in developing countries?
D: Definitely! I thought that there was one thing which was really well transferred to the people attending the seminar. I now understand that it is not an active fighting sport but rather a self-defense one that provides you with a certain mindset.
L: What kind of mindset are you referring to?
D: Well I understand it on two different levels. First, the focus of martial arts is not on beating the other person up, but rather on protecting yourself. Second, you are aware of the fact that you are vulnerable. As we were told during the seminar, in your head you always win the fight, but that rarely is the case. Remaining aware of those two points allows you to assess certain situations more fairly and thanks to that you will be able to avoid plenty of unnecessary dangerous situations. The children in developing countries will be able to use this kind of mindset both in martial arts and throughout their lives, which can help to lead to empowerment.