I walk onto my apartment’s balcony holding the cordless phone to my ear. “So,” I tell my brother who’s taking his PhD in Agriculture in Manitoba, “I’ve signed up to take a six-week self defense workshop.”
“That’s cool,” he says. “Any particular reason?”
“No, not really. My friend wants to take it, and the self-defense is judo based, which sounds interesting.” I shift the phone to my other ear. “It also includes assertiveness training lessons.”
“It what?” he asks.
“Includes assertiveness training. Forty-five minutes of self defense and another forty-five of a workshop. About empowerment, I think.”
My brother starts laughing. In my family, we find humour everywhere. It can be annoying.
“You know, it’s not that funny.”
“It is,” he says. “I give you two weeks until you’re running the class.”
I adjust my gi and tighten my white belt. Having enjoyed the self defense lessons, I’ve enrolled in an adult judo class. Our belt colours span the rainbow, all brighter and better than my beginning hue.
Halfway through class, after practicing numerous holds and releases, we ground fight in partners. I hold back, unaware both of my strength and where my limbs are. Eventually, our instructor, an nth degree blackbelt who competed for Canada at the Olympics, invites me to ground fight.
I’m no longer hesitant; I can’t hurt him.
I wriggle out of holds, attack, writhe, wrestle.
I sweat. Grunt.
I’m not pretty.
And I don’t care.
Later, seven of us are out for a drink.
“Leanne,” the instructor calls across the table, “I’ll bet this round that you have a big brother.”
“Yup,” I answer, taking a sip of my beer. “A 6’4″ one. How’d you know?”
“Did you used to wrestle with him?”
“All the time. If he pinned me, he’d tickle me until I begged for mercy or cried. I usually lost,” I say. “He’s 8 years older.”
“I knew it,” he says. “You can’t teach ground fighting instinct like that.”
Weeks later, at another post-sweat pub session, I speak about missing the next class because I’m going back to the farm for an extended Christmas vacation.
“You grew up on a farm?” my instructor asks.
“Did you work on it?
“Oh ya,” I say, raising my eyebrows. “No animals, though. Just grain.”
The instructor smiles. “That explains it.”
“Explains what?” I ask.
It isn’t until years later, when I’ve been away from the farm long enough, that I realize this is a compliment.
The farm and an older brother: two formative influences.
Photo credit: Tim Reisdorf
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