Amy managed, somehow, to make it thru to graduation, kinda just drifted thru her classes without much enthusiasm. Her parents were worried about her apathy, but had no idea what to do about it. They went in and talked to the hospital psychiatrist, but he told them that she would have to ‘get past it’ before she would be able to ‘get better’. He said, “After all, there is nothing wrong with her that time will not cure. Her body is healing and once that is done, she should be fine. Just be patient.” They went away feeling as if they had failed. She was not getting better and they couldn’t fix it. They tried to talk to Amy, but every conversation ended the same way. “I am fine, just let me deal with it in my own way. It’s nothing for you to worry about.” She would say. And they would let it drop. They kept worrying though, that would not stop.
She had not found a boyfriend either, she didn’t have the time or energy for that sort of relationship, and the truth of the matter was, she didn’t really trust males anymore. The rational part of her brain told her that a couple of rotten guys didn’t mean the whole species was rotten, but her fear told her that it did. And her fear was louder then her brain. So she wouldn’t give another guy the chance to hurt her. Either physically or mentally, it didn’t matter, neither was going to happen anytime soon.
Amy was lonely though. She really needed people to help her keep her mind occupied. Every time she had any quiet time the memories would surface again. Would they Never go away? How could she ever get well, or have a normal life if this kept happening over and over again? She was getting desperate. It had been a year and a half since the attack and she was not getting anywhere. She felt like she would never be in control of her life again, and she didn’t like that feeling.
After one particularly bad night, she sat down with Jennie and finally told her how she was feeling. Jennie was shocked, she had known that her best friend was not doing too well, but had no idea just how deep this went. Jennie said “Amy, you should have told me sooner!! We can work this out, let’s make a plan!” “What in the world can a plan do to fix this? All a plan can do is make me Think I am finding a solution, not actually finding one.” Amy retorted hotly. Jennie didn’t let her tone bother her, she knew her too well to let that happen. “No I mean a way to keep yourself safe from now on. How about if we look into a karate class or something? That way maybe you could defend yourself.” Jennie suggested, “Not that I think anything will ever happen again, but if we learned this stuff and it Did happen, we wouldn’t be as helpless.” Amy just sat there and looked at her friend. She didn’t have the energy for anything as strenuous as karate. She told Jennie this and Jennie told it was ok, they would find something else. Amy breathed a little sigh of relief; she wasn’t going to have to do this, good.
Little did Amy know though, that her friend Jennie wasn’t going to let this drop. Now that she knew some of what was bothering her she could possibly find a way to help her. So she went to the phone book for inspiration. She looked under Karate and there turned out to be a dojo not too far from her house. She called and asked if she could come down and talk to someone about taking lessons. The guy that answered the phone said “sure, come on down, but we have never accepted a girl here before and I don’t think we are going to do it now.” Jennie was aghast at that attitude, but took her courage in her hands and went down to talk to the owner. When she got there she was astonished at the look of the place. She had been expecting something like a boxer training area or a men’s locker room or the like. She was surprised at how clean and well kept the dojo was. There were mirrors on the walls and different types of what looked like weapons lined up in racks along one side of the big room. The floors were covered in mats and there was something like a boxer’s heavy bad hanging in the back of the room. As she stood there looking around, a young man in an outfit that looked kinda like pajamas came up to see what she was looking for. She asked to speak to the owner and the young man raised one eyebrow saying “And what, exactly, could you possibly want with Sensei?” This mans attitude was starting to get on Jennie’s nerves and so she was a little less polite then she would normally have been. “That is my business, not yours. And if it’s all the same to you, I’ll speak to the owner now please” She retorted. With a smirk on his face he replied “I’m sure he’s a bit too busy to bother with you, but I’ll ask him.” And he turned his back and walked away with a swagger. As she waited Jennie took a slower, closer look around and she became even more impressed. Every thing seemed to have a place, and was kept in that place. There were no pieces of equipment just lying around and none of it was in bad repair or dirty. She found herself hoping that the..Sensei? would be a heck of a lot nicer then that guy had been. She thought that this would be a nice place to come and learn.
After a couple of minutes a man just a little older then the first one, walked lithely across the mats. He was also wearing the ‘pajamas’ and some really odd looking socks, and he moved like a true athlete. Smoothly and competently, with no excess movements or waste of energy. She liked what she saw. As he walked up to her he smiled, held out his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Brad, I am the owner here as well as the Sensei. How can I help you?” She breathed a very small sigh of relief; he was not going to be as bad as she had thought.
Jennie smiled back and holding out her hand introduced herself. After shaking her hand he asked her into his office which was just to the right of the door. They sat down at his desk and placing his crossed arms on the top of the papers that were laying there, he leaned forward in a posture that invited her to speak freely. Now that she had his complete attention Jennie was feeling a little nervous. She didn’t, after all, have any idea what she was trying to accomplish with this conversation, but she was here and now was her chance to help her friend, so she just started talking and hoped for the best.
Jennie said. “Sir, I am trying to find a way to help my best friend, and I’m hoping that you are the person I need to accomplish this.” He tilted his head to the side and waited. “My friend was attached last year and the men who did it hurt her in ways she won’t even tell me. And she is different now, she has changed and not in a good way. She doesn’t seem to have any joy left in her life and she is always afraid. She tries to not show it, but I know her too well. I see it. Every time someone walks up behind her she jumps out of her skin. If there is a loud noise the same thing happens. She hasn’t any real friends left and is not making any new ones. Her confidence is gone.” She stopped for a breath and then continues “When I suggested to her that she take a karate class, she sorta blew me off, telling me that she didn’t have the energy for anything like that. I think she is wrong.”
Brad waited to see if she was going to say any more. When she didn’t he shook his head slowly, “Jennie, there is nothing I can do to help your friend. She is not in a place that allows anyone to help her.” He said sadly. “I think that if you can get her to come down to speak with me, we could work something out, but if she doesn’t make the first move” his voice trailed off. Jennie was so disappointed, she had just KNOWN that this was the right move to make, but how to get Amy interested.
Suddenly Jennie sat up straight and asked excitedly “How much would it cost for me to take lessons?” Brad frowned slightly and told her the price. She slumped slightly, but then rallied and told him that she was going to see if she could find a way to get the money. What did she need to do to sign up for classes? He smiled a little smile and told her that she would need the proper gear and her and that was it. He gave her a list of the items she would need, but warned her that this was a discipline, not a sport and that it was as much mental as it was physical. He told her that he would want her to come in twice a week for a while, until he could determine what the best training method was for her. “You are going to be the very first female that I have ever taught, and I have a feeling that you are going to teach me almost as much as I am going to teach you.” He stated with a little laugh. She grinned and shook his hand again before she bounded out of his office and headed for home. Now all she had to do was find a way to pay for all of this.
When Jennie got home, she sat down with her mom and explained what she wanted to do and why. Her mom was astonished. This was not an idea that she would have ever come up with, but it sounded interesting and well worth the effort. She also felt that if it worked she could worry a little less about her own daughter as well as her friend. So she agreed to help Jennie talk her dad into helping. As it happened, Jennies dad was all for the idea. He surprised them both with an insight they hadn’t exactly brought to the surface of their minds. “Amy was hurt in many ways that night, not the least of which was physical. The lingering doubts and fears that she has are what are holding her there, instead of here. She feels like she lost all control of her life and does not have any idea of how to get it back. At least not a healthy way, so she has just withdrawn from anything she could, the less there was to control, the better her chances of controlling it.” He said. “I think that Jennie taking these classes and showing Amy how much confidence and control she is gaining, will possibly entice Amy into joining her. We will find a way to afford these classes Jennie. As much for you as for your friend.” “What do you mean, ‘as much for me’?” Jennie asked, not understanding. “I worry about you. I know that you are pretty good at taking care of yourself, but I have often thanked God that you were safe that night. That sounds like I was glad it was Amy and not you, and in a way I guess I was, but when I think about how close you came to being hurt, I cringe” he shook his head as he tried to explain “I know this sounds pretty selfish, but you are my daughter and I love you. I don’t ever want anything bad to happen to you. If you take these lessons, then you will have another tool to protect yourself when I am not there to do it for you.” Jennie nodded her head in understanding, got up from her chair. Walked around the table and gave her dad a big hug. “Thank you daddy, I know that it wasn’t easy for you to admit that you are afraid. And I’m glad that you are on my side.” She said into his hair as she held him. “Now, let me see if I can figure out all these things that Sensei says I need.” She frowned down at the list that Brad had given her. “Any idea what a gi is?”
Jennie took to the lessons like a duck to water. The moves felt right and the mental training was perfect for the way that she thought. She had not realized just how many muscles she had though. After the first week she was so sore she could hardly move. And she thought that she was in shape from swimming! Karate was an all over body training, and she found out where she needed to give extra attention to. After the first couple of weeks, things got easier as far as the soreness went, but the more she learned the harder Sensei made her work. She learned about self discipline, she learned things about ethics she had never thought of before. She learned patience. She learned restraint. And she learned that karate was not the perfect protection she had thought it was. There were a number of ways that she could be hurt, even knowing how to fight. But, she also learned that when someone moved with confidence and awareness, then the chances of them being taken by surprise were minimized, which in turn minimized the chance that they would be hurt. The more she learned the more she knew she didn’t know.
One of the things that she discussed with Sensei was the way that karate was geared to the strengths of a man’s body. There were so many moves that relied on upper body strength, which was something that most women lacked. She asked him if there were any modification they could make that would address this issue. At first he said no, “this is a centuries old discipline Jennie, who am I to change it?” but the more he watched her, the more he saw what she meant. So he paid close attention to how she moved and where her center of gravity was, where her strongest moves came from and how she used different strikes and kicks.
Slowly, Jennie and Brad worked out some moves that, while not precisely karate, seemed to fit her body type better. They practiced the moves until she knew them inside out. Now, Jennie thought, I just need to get Amy to come in here with me.
She spoke to Brad about Amy again. He still said that Amy had to be the one to make the first move, but if she did, he would be happy to teach her, and if she couldn’t afford it, he would train her free, in the new discipline the two of them had just worked out. Jennie was ecstatic! Finally, here was something substantial that she could do for Amy! She couldn’t wait to talk to her and tell her the good news. Brad cautioned her to be patient with her friend. “First off, remember, she doesn’t trust men, and in case you haven’t notice, I’m a man” he smiled, “Secondly, she has to be ready to make a change before we can help her. I will do anything I can Jennie, you just need to get her here.” “Thank you Sensei” Jennie said bowing out of the dojo and running full speed down the street.
Jennie spent the next evening working out exactly how best to approach Amy with this new plan. She was afraid that if she pushed too hard it would just force her further into her shell, but if she didn’t do something, then Amy would never get better. She felt it was totally up to her to fix this, even though she knew it wasn’t. What she finally settled on was asking Jennie to help her and Brad figure out a better way to fight. If Amy felt like she was helping Jennie, instead of doing something for herself, she was more apt to do it.
Amy and Jennie were sitting at the Muggins Café the next day, eating sandwiches a little after one, when Jennie broached the subject. She was nervous, but she had a plan and she stuck with it. “Amy, I really need your help with something” she said to start off with. “Of course Jennie, you know I’ll do anything I can for you.” Amy replied. “Brad and I are developing a new method of fighting. It’s not truly karate, but it is in it’s basic moves. We have modified it a bit to work better for women.” Jennie told her “I like it, and it works really well for me, but we don’t know if it will be as good for anyone else.” Jennie stopped and looked at her friend, then plunged on “I thought that you could come down and help us out. If you could take a few lessons, and let us know if it works for you, I would be SO grateful!” Amy sat as still as a stone, just staring at her friend for the longest time. It was obvious that she was thinking, and that she was right on the edge of saying No, when she sighed and said “Jennie, I know you really don’t need me to help you with this, but you re trying so hard to get me to come in and learn that I am going to come down and try it.” “You are?!?” Jennie exclaimed happily “Oh Amy, I’m so happy! I really want you there with me, and we really DO need your help, this isn’t just me saying it, but if this works for all women, maybe we can make a difference in someone life!”