The Power of Awareness!

USKMA Black Belt, Karissa Walton gave a speech this week at her school entitled The Power of Awareness

The speech is this weeks blog. Thanks, Karissa!

Are you aware that…
– …Phoenix is considered to be the kidnapping capital of America?
It is currently ranked #1 in the US and #2 in the world, next to Mexico City
370 recorded cases last year  on average, at least one victim goes missing each day
– …Phoenix is known as the “largest drug gateway into America”?
In 2013, AZ DPS reported 18,334 drug-related arrests in Maricopa County alone
1 in 4 felons serving drug sentences in US prisons are not US citizens – they are the foot soldiers for the Cartel
– …With drugs comes violence?

Overall crime rate in Phoenix is 45% higher than the national average
I’m not sharing this information to frighten or dishearten you, but rather to make you aware of the harshness of reality. I think that as naturopathic students, it is so easy for us to get caught up in exams, clinic shifts, and trying to live a healthy lifestyle that we often lose sight of what goes on beyond these walls. We become unaware of the world that surrounds us.

About 7 years ago, I began my transition to awareness through a system called Krav Maga. Some of you may be thinking “what did she just say… Kraw McGraw? That must be one of another one of those weird martial arts… That’s just not my thing.” Well, the thing I love most about Krav is that it doesn’t have to be your thing. It is a philosophy-based system that was designed for to be effective for anyone and evolve over time.

Krav Maga was first developed before WWII when the Nazis invaded Poland. The Jews were disarmed and left defenseless. At that time, Imi Lichtenfeld, an Olympic boxer and wrestler, developed a system for the Jews to defend themselves on the streets. When Israel became a country after WWII, Imi was put in charge of the combatives training for the Israeli Defense Force. He was able to refine the system and teach to students from around the world. One of his students, Darren Levine, brought Krav to the US in the early 1980s. He passed the training on to the instructor who eventually passed it down to me.

People often ask me why I practice and teach this “Krav Maga.” Why have I spent countless hours in the gym training to complete exhaustion with nothing in return but some bruises and sore muscles? However, that is not the case at all… In return, I have gained an invaluable gift that I can now share with others – a little something I like to call “awareness.”

In Krav, we train for the worst case scenarios. In doing so, we must accept that the worst can happen. The direct byproduct of this acceptance is awareness. Once you become aware of what is around you and what can happen to you, you begin to carry yourself differently. You begin to prepare. You begin to find strength inside yourself that you never knew you had. This doesn’t mean that I walk around sticking out my chest proudly as if I’m looking for a fight. This also doesn’t mean that I walk around cowering as I anxiously scan every little thing around me. It means that I walk with confidence and mindfulness of my surroundings. I am mentally prepared to defend myself or my loved ones if the need ever arises.

As a Krav Maga practitioner, you are constantly coming up with new ways to exercise techniques under stress. As all of us here are aware, when your body is in a sympathetic state, fine motor skills are one of the first things to go. Knowing this, we train to exhaustion (and beyond) in order to induce a realistic simulation of being attacked. During these “stress drills,” you become aware of the physiological changes that your body experiences. You learn to maximize the effect of your natural responses and find power you didn’t think you had left. The more aware you become, the more you can train your “fight or flight” response to fight if necessary and get away as safely as possible.

Since my journey of awareness began, I have noticed changes in the way others approach me as well. While filling up at a gas station or walking through parking lots, I used to constantly be approached by people who were looking for more than an innocent “hello.” Now, it is a very rare occurrence. If you are alert and observant, you simply don’t look like a target and people will recognize that. This has saved me from many unwanted encounters that could have escalated to a dangerous situation quickly.

Not only have I been able to see this transformation in myself, but I have witnessed it in those I teach as well. It has been so rewarding to see the confident yet humble presence of those who have become aware. I have trained women who were previously unaware and unfortunately became a victim to physical or sexual abuse. With a heightened level of awareness, these women have been released from an unspeakable past. They are now able to maintain their composure under stress, while having a much deeper appreciation for the safety of themselves and loved ones. They are empowered.

As Imi (the founder of Krav Maga) once said, “People respect power, and it comes in many forms, Krav Maga is power, and people will respect you for knowing it.” There are many forms of power, so even if you don’t decide to take up Krav Maga tomorrow… I hope that you find power in standing up for what’s right. Find power in not victimizing yourself. Find power in awareness.

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