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--"Izzy, how did you start dancing?"

--"What got you into martial arts?"

--"What kind of dancer/martial artist/writer are you?

--"How do you deal with brain damage, bodily injury and 

     C-PTSD, yet still dance, write, train, live the way you do?"

--"How do you still find joy and beauty amidst pain and loss?"

--"Wow, you should write your memoirs!" 

    This Is My Story

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  • Bella Dancer

DAMSEL TO DANGEROUS: Journey of a Warrior Princess

Updated: May 7

...Even so, it will take many, many years to undo the damage caused by that rape threat. It will take even longer for me to stop disbelieving that I’m a fighter no matter how many weapons I own, how many hours I train with them, or how many times I rebuild my armor.


Eventually, I will learn that the purpose of my armor is to grow strong and wise beneath it, so I can find all those places where I can take it off.



The Damsel to Dangerous Journey - 1995 to the present:


So there you have it.


Does this mean that--"Ooooh, once I put on armor and became a fighter, I never cried again! Nobody could ever hurt me or take advantage of me again! Once I acquired the Black Belt Almighty, abusers miraculously disappeared from my life because they couldn't get anywhere near me! I magically learned how to discern liars and manipulators at their slightest whiff. Violent predators and head-fuckers became a thing of the past, because I became Invincible! Unstoppable! RAWR! TAKE THAT!


Um...


NO.


It doesn't work like that. It's a process, and when you start out as deep down the damsel hole as I was, it's a long process. It's the forever-kind of process. It's up and down like a toilet seat. For every milestone I achieve, I get my ass handed to me and booted back three steps. So I circumvent. I tunnel under the sidewalk and pop up on the other side like bindweed. Or I learn how to walk through walls.


Only to get my ass kicked again.


But that old adage is old for a reason:

Get knocked down 9 times, get back up 10.


To watch me in sparring, most of the time you'd swear I'm still that clumsy ox-hoof who's only taken one cute little six-week karate class from a notorious McDojo. I'm not a sport fighter. SHE rarely shows up during a tournament or in class exercises, especially if they're designed to make me feel like prey and then deal with it. I still freeze. I still panic. I still flinch. Not always. It's way better than it was.


I mean, sheesh. I was that purple belt who winced every time she had to blast her fist into something with physical mass. I was that cringing blue belt who had to be stopped in the middle of class so my instructor could command me, "No, seriously. Kick me in the junk. Right now." I was that green belt who lost her shit on the punching bag one day trying to force a strong kiyai up her choke-chained throat.


I was also that slippery little chick that certain big guys hated sparring because I couldn't reach their heads so I made mince meat outta their junk. I'm that obsessive nerd who now owns a tall, cylindrical object specifically designed to have the snot blasted out of it, right here in this pretty-pretty dance studio. And kiyai? SO not a problem anymore. Not for the former cheerleader/theater-trained projector. Neither is saying NO.


Except on the days when it is.


I am notorious for holding back my power with the shortest death-grip on the reins because I'm terrified of losing control of it on somebody I want to train with tomorrow. You know, somebody I'd rather not accidentally injure, because it doesn't take much with a bunch of this stuff. I would rather have that problem than the other. So I choke all the time, especially in sparring.


That doesn't really bother me because I didn't get into martial arts for the trophies and medals (which I have won, back when I used to compete--I know, shocker). I also didn't get into martial arts so I could whupp ass.


The greatest benefits I've received from training have been mental, emotional, energetic, and spiritual.


SHE shows up when I'm wrangling a speeding, roaring bullet of metal and burning rubber out of a trajectory that would send me flying off the Uintah Street bridge.


She shows up when I'm in the middle of a campsite in Kansas and a tornado comes out of nowhere. People freak out around me. I become Spock with catlike ninja reflexes, holding hands, guiding, and reminding people to breathe.


She shows up when a 6'5" man won't let me leave my house, and again when a drunk grabs my wrist in Mexico because I've told him, in my broken Spanish, that cornering and harassing my friend is not funny.


She shows up in the wording of my cease-and-desist letters, or when I tell a slimy, underhanded director that I and my troupe are quitting a show and he owes me a thousand dollars.


She shows up when my doctors tell me I'll never be a dancer again after a drunk driver rams me, or when I can't walk for a week after I've torn my meniscus. She shows up to PT. She shows up to cognitive and trauma therapy. She shows up when my alarm goes off to remind me that it's time for daily home PT and I'm tired.


She shows up when big bruisers look at me like I'm the most worthless martial artist they've ever seen because I'm a female. And because I heed my body's NO after it's been injured. And now because I'm over forty. She rides with me the whole way home, too, when their condescending sneers and skeptical side-eyes won't quit poking me in the brain.


They know nothing about the battles I've won.


The wars I have waged.


NOTHING.


Does being a martially obsessed fighter-chick mean that I have such a thick rhino-hide that those sneers and comments and looks don't hurt?


Depends on the day. Depends on the year. Depends on who it's coming from, and if those looks come with a betrayal or if they're from haters I don't know. Depends on the state of my injuries and the current progress of my training and how I feel about it. Depends if I'm tired or brain-fried or hangry or in Neo-Mode or in badass Faerie Queen Mode. (Around here, that means dangerous, not prancing princess. Okay, fine. It means dangerous while prancing around like a glittery princess.)


Like I said, it's up and down. Why? Because I'm not dead yet, and I haven't quit training.




"So, Izzy, what kind of martial arts have you studied?"


This is one of the most common questions that ever gets asked of me. Allow me to answer--no. Allow me to mostly answer. I don't publicly share my full arsenal because I do sometimes receive death threats, rape threats, get cyber-stalked, get stalk-stalked, and experience people attempting to do things to my body that I don't want them doing. If you've been with us for awhile, then you should be starting to get an idea of how consistently violence has infiltrated my life. I actually find it quite astounding and appalling, considering the fact that I'm a white American, I'm not super famous, I've never lived in a war zone or a gang zone, and I didn't grow up getting backhanded from one room into another.


And yet I mark my life by the beats of trajectory-altering violence. Maybe you do, too. I hope you don't. It's pretty bullshit.


When I first started taking karate, I wouldn't talk at all about my martial training for that very reason so...


So this list isn't complete. But it'll give you good idea:

  • Medieval Heavy Weapons Armored Combat

  • Kenpo

  • Kempo

  • Wing Chun

  • A couple awesome classes in Krav Maga

  • Kombatan Arnis

  • Kickboxing

  • Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

  • Kali/Jeet Kun Do

  • 3 amazing days of Judo before my back said NO

  • Weeping Style Jiu Jitsu

  • A Boatload of Weapons

  • Using Household Items as Weapons

  • Transforming Shiny Objects Into Weapons

  • Deflecting with Asshattery

  • Kiss-Assery To Save My Ass

  • The Arts of Cut & Run

  • Leaping Glass Ceilings in a Single Sproing

  • Being Bindweed

  • Replying "Watch Me" to "You Can't/Don't You Dare"

  • Cultivating Mind Over Matter

  • Learning To Say "NO" Like Neo to Bullets

  • Tai Chi

  • Qigong


Yeahhhh...I may have mentioned that I am a multipotentialite in each of my main areas of multipotentiality, haven't I? This is why I require clones. 🤪


I make myself tired.


And I wouldn't have it any other way.


CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE

--UP NEXT: We're about to return to that place where my shield-maiden dreams and being a professional entertainer intertwined with writing about a Gladiatrix, but this is a complicated, touchy topic. So first we need to venture down A YIN-YANG RABBIT HOLE - Straddling the Feminine-Masculine Spectrum.

--OR: I've already written a bunch about my obsession with the Gladiatrix

--OR: You can find all my writing about the Arts of Self-Defense HERE.

--THE NAVIGATION TABLE OF CONTENTS


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