When someone is trying to attack me, I guess his “privates” are no longer private – they are aimed at harming me and now they are public. Director Mike Buffo, actress Brittney Buffo, my husband Dan and I went to a graduation for IMPACT Bay Area this weekend. The idea of full force is teaching people to fight with the idea of really getting away from harm, not just hoping to get away. IMPACT is a huge part of our film, JANE. In the movie, there are two fight scenes. The first one Jane observes. She throws up. After our crew watched twelve women, all sizes and ages, take on three big men in padded suits, they were all shaking and teary eyed. Brittney said to me, “I get it now, why Jane throws up.” There was so much adrenalin in the room, so much fierce intention.
In JANE’s second scene, she fights. Because I had taken IMPACT (ten years before!), Executive Director Lisa Scheff put a name tag on my shirt and arranged a ‘surprise’ fight for me. The minute I’d walked in the room, I had started crying. The memory body has no sense of time. It shows up at the edges of fear. Lisa just held my hands and said “you are going to be amazed at what your muscle memory does. It’s going to be okay.” So when the big guy in the padded suit invaded my space as an audience member (my planned surprise), I found myself booming in some voice I hardly recognized, “STAY BACK!” (IMPACT’s first aim is to get you away without a fight, working with the understanding that many bullies will back off at the least show of resistance. If they don’t, then we have a right to protect ourselves.) My Big Guy kept coming and I started hitting him. But it wasn’t my deep fear woosie hitting. It was the training I’d had ten years ago – a good strong heel of the hand hit to the head, knee coming up hard in the groin followed by a nice hard stamp to his head. Because I have a bad ankle, they didn’t give me the really hard fight that the rest of the women were going through. But it was enough to remind me that the training was there, that I wouldn’t freeze like I had the first time. What I remember most two days later is the sound of encouragement coming from the women, the sound of freedom. We all left wanting everyone we knew to take the course – to know that you can protect yourself.
I don’t know if this is true for men, but in women’s culture, it is still deeply embedded that a girl is weaker than a guy. IMPACT shatters that belief. We watched 110 pound women come fully even with our amazing men in the suits instructors. I can’t remember the names of the wonderful men from IMPACT who spent their weekend teaching women to fight. Forgive me, guys. I was so frightened I barely remember the fight itself. I remember instructor Nicole who was right by my ear the whole time, helping me move through my terror and create new muscle memory. And my family watching and saying yes. And Lisa beaming.
We all left the graduation with a renewed fierceness to get JANE on the screen. To give girls a real look at how they might be stronger than they think, to have the right to protect themselves. In the movie, we put our main character through all the steps of healing from trauma. She withdraws, then finds great adult help , has a best friend, lives the full range of emotions in a supportive container, fights for herself in court (loses) fights for herself in real life (wins). I left IMPACT clear and strong that JANE will get made, that she has a message that is not just my hopeful ego, but something of real value to the girl I once was and all who follow her.
photo of fight instructor Dan Waters