Stand Up Straight and Speak Up!

We have a tradition at our dojo where every student takes the entire class through a warm-up exercise. We make sure that each student can speak loudly and clearly enough to lead the class through the warm-ups which sometimes makes its way to the core exercises of punching and kicking. It’s really important to be able to speak up for one’s boundaries in order to establish one’s needs, wants and personal safety. If one cannot stand up straight and speak up for oneself, then one is only left with the bare-minimum-instinctual reactions of “fight” or “flight”.

We’ve all seen the nature shows depicting a group of lions chasing a herd of gazelles. The lions are not going for the largest gazelle that is leading the pack; the lions make a beeline for the young, the injured, and the old. Similarly, human predators act in the same fashion. No school bully, office bully, nor criminal looks for the toughest person to single out – and for good reason! It takes too much energy to take the tough guy out, so why not go for the weakest link?

The more we look like prey who can’t speak up for our own personal boundaries, the more we are left with having to fight for our space or fleeing from our space. Obviously, avoiding a fight is preferential to fighting. But if we end up in a space that isn’t of our own choosing, which is how predators operate, then it becomes a false choice. In this sense, the choice to define our boundaries is taken away from us and forcibly substituted by the predator. Fighting and fleeing in this situation will require even more energy to execute.

Speaking of energy, when you see someone standing up straight, looking where they are going and confidently speaking, do you think they have low energy? Do the words “incompetence” or “weakness” come to mind? No, you probably don’t. That’s why we take the time to teach our students how to stand up straight and speak up. The best way to remove yourself from the target pool of predators is to not look like prey; because we win all of the fights we avoid.

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