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The Painful Reality of Self-defense

by Razel Wolf


I grew up an unusual child with a genius IQ and extremely sensitive. The injustice and violence that I read about in the newspaper paralyzed me. I decided at about age 8 that I would never read the newspaper again. I could not bear to hear of the horrors that humans perpetrated against humans. I remember my dad and I had a rip roaring fight about it. But I was adamant. I felt I could do nothing about it and therefore, I did not want to torture myself with reading about it and being helpless.

As I grew older, as a teenager, I began to look for alternatives to what was described as a good life in the U.S. I sought out other teachings, other approaches. My brother put his heart into becoming a C.O. for the Vietnam War. And I favored his choice. I began to study the ways that Mahatma Gandhi proposed - nonviolent action. I found him to be made of steel, a man of absolute conviction, a man of his word, a man unafraid to confront injustice - in a way that was absolutely affective and without the use of violence. I chose this approach as my approach.

When I was 23 I lived in Malibu, CA. My husband was away a lot. I was working as a bookkeeper at a new health food store. We had a phone system to install and had a worker in from the phone company. He and I struck up a conversation. He invited me out. He invited me to go sailing. He invited me to have dinner with him. He invited me to go shopping. He offered me money. I turned down all of these offers, citing that I was a married woman and was not interested in pursuing any type of male/female relations. On the third day of his pursuit of me, he sat before me weeping. Telling me that I was the only person he knew who could tell him about what he really wanted to know - spirit. (I was studying a spiritual path at the time.) Well, BINGO, he hit the one nerve I would respond to. Against my gut feeling, I agreed to go with him for dinner. I clearly defined that the time together would be for talking only about spirit.

We took the car I was driving - it was a car that belonged to a friend of mine - an older model Mercedes Benz (he was driving a company truck). We drove down the PCH into Santa Monica. And as we drove I began to realize what a mistake I had made. He immediately directed the conversation to realms I found uncomfortable. He threatened to throw himself into oncoming traffic if I would not grant him the favors he wanted. He raged like a crazy man.

We never made it to a restaurant. He drove to a motel. Before he strode in to to get a room, he saw my glance at the car keys in the ignition and he snatched them, and said, "You weren't thinking of going any where were you?"

As he got the room key, I was free to leave. Leave the car there (my friend's Mercedes) and run. I had an eternal moment of consideration. Was my safety, my sanctity worth my friend's car? Sadly, I decided no. And I went up to the room with this man.

I am not a woman that is afraid of sexuality. And I was able to negotiate myself and this man inside the space of this rape with very little harm and very little time. The details of the event are still too painful, too embarrassing and too personal to fully recount. As we drove back to Malibu, he forced me to take money. I did not know at the time that this would make him impervious to charges of rape.

The aftermath is another story. The fallout that happened with my husband and me. The crumbling inside of myself of my own sense of my ability to protect myself. The war that raged and the sides that were picked by my "friends." Suffice it to say that I am a strong and resilient woman and did the healing that I needed to do and I moved onward.

Many years later, when I began to study a different spiritual path from the Shamanic Tradition, I encountered a strong man who was adamant about self defense. I took my first self defense weekend taught by Dawn Callan. To graduate from the class, each of the women had to "take down" a man three times successfully. This man was a black belt in five different martial arts and happened to be a twin in his looks to the man that raped me. I don't know if I have ever been so terrified in my life. But I hung in there and I proceeded to take this man down, three times. He was 6'3". I'm 5'5". He weighed 220, I weighed 110. I had never fought a single person in my life - that was his profession. To this day, I give many thanks to this man, who allowed himself to be used as a "punching bag" so that we ladies might discover our hidden strength. He was a sorry sight by the end of the day. All the padding and covering he wore was not protection enough from the rage of the 10 women in that class.... I am sure I was not the only there that had been a victim before.

Over the next few years, I dabbled in martial arts. But despite my successes - something inside of me warred against having to take this kind of approach.

As I continued to study, my teacher spoke again and again ad nauseum about firearms. Finally in 1997, I could no longer stand to hear his ranting about becoming firearm savvy and I signed up for a week long course at GunSite. My teacher insisted that I shoot a 1911A and I borrowed one of his. The gun was too big for my hand. And I spent the week struggling with a firearm that was too big for me - without knowing it.

I remember when we first stepped up to the firing line. I held this .45 in my hands. (I had been shooting a 357 magnum before fairly regularly.) And the instructor had us fire off a round. Bulls Eye! Then he wanted another shot. And I was paralyzed. I could not for the life of me pull that trigger. I stood there on that line and wept, small tears that I hoped noone would see. I was so ashamed of myself for being a wimp. But I could not fire that gun again.

One range officer came to my side, he stood with his mouth right at my ear and he told me that he knew that I could do it. He talked to me until the confidence that he expressed became my own and I was able to shoot again. This man stayed with me for the whole week. Whenever I felt I could not move forward - he was there with words of encouragement.

I had a very hard time that week. I know it was all in my mind. But at every break I would disappear into the bathroom and cry. Somehow - learning how to shoot, taking the authority and responsibility for saying my life was more important than another's was tearing me apart. Then I would return after break and shoot for many more hours.

By the end of the week, we discovered that a major part of my shooting problem was that the gun was too big for my hand and we replaced it with a streamlined grip. From that moment on my shooting became utterly accurate - one shot, one hit. I stunned myself and all my instructors (except for my benefactor of course - he knew somehow all along).

I even had an involuntary discharge on the last day (due to a wardrobe issue) and decided under no uncertain terms that I was going to continue - to finish no matter what. The instructor of the course was more impressed with my nerve and my will to go on - than the fact that my clothing had gotten tangled up in my grip....

I graduated Marksman. I was very surprised and very proud of myself.

How have I carried that into my every day life? I have tested, passed and renewed my CCW license. I have a loaded fire arm under my bed that I am competent to use. I have a fire arm and ammo in a "survival pack" should I need to hit the road for some reason. I have a third firearm that I use for shooting on the range when I go (very infrequently).

But honestly I would have to say that I still struggle with this. This issue of the state of our world today. It is not so much that I am angry that I might have to protect myself. I am angry that we as humans fight with each other. That the only ways we can find to resolve some of our problems with each other is to see who can be the more physically forceful. That is what I am angry about. I feel we are capable of so much more. And I hate that I am forced by the state of affairs amongst us to have to consider killing one of you for my right to live.

I am of the mind now, that if push came to shove, I will stand up for my life or a friend's rather than some "baddy's" life. I have definitely made peace with that. But I am remiss. I do not practice enough. And that is because of my underlying conflict as I have expressed above.

I have many friends who are so adamant about guns, about the right to self protection, about the conviction to take another's life if necessary. I have friends that almost seem to relish in the possibility of such an altercation. I do not judge my friends for this. I am glad for their adamancy, their clarity, their dedication.

But I feel I am another breed of person. I do not know exactly how to balance these two aspects of myself. The side that is fierce and utterly committed to the preservation of our rights. And the side that yearns to see other ways to accomplish this than force.

I am very active in my world in making a good impact on the people around me. I am a teacher, a counselor, a performer. I infuse everything that I do with honesty, commitment and integrity to the best of my ability. Although I may sound like it from what I have written, I am not a wimp. But I am torn.

I continue to face this challenge. I was requested by Angel Shamaya to write an article since last May, 2000. I finally decided after looking at his request every day since May that I could not write an article because of my lack of clarity. He insists that this is exactly the reason why I should write it.

I have acted on his request and sincerity. I do not know if this will reach anyone of you. It is a hard choice to make. But I do continue to make it. I do hold and shoot and own guns. And I will protect myself. I have no doubt of that.

In honor and respect of all that we can truly be as humans, I close.

Following are excerpts from the letter I sent to Razel after reading the above message. She said it was okay if I printed my response if I thought it might help other women who are having similar feelings.  -- Angel Shamaya


Let 'em flow. Sometimes, it hurts to face up to the fact that our world is currently grossly flawed. I honor you for facing and feeling and flowing your tears as needed. Eyes leak for a reason.

A friend of mine once told me something like this, paraphrased:

"The exquisite, gut-wrenching beautiful painful joyful sorrow I feel when I look at the ways of my people makes me want to soar like an eagle, or kill myself -- depending upon what day it is."

Emotions when confronting deep pains are rich, indeed. Good for you for getting in touch with that deep stuff, Razel. Good for you.

The only so-called "weakness" I sense is that in your ability to embrace your current reality, dear. Embrace what is, and let it be... then let it go. I don't know if you read my article called Suicide in the Gun Debate or not, but if you did you likely noticed my willingness to gush out my heartache as needed. My only blood brother killed himself with a gun. The healing was immense. What I learned could be vital for our society as far as that issue goes -- if we can get anti-gun people and especially suicide family survivors to read it. Feel free to give it a glance; it's not that long a read:

I also urge you to remember this: any form of healing is powerful, as long as it is natural and allowed to remain so. Holding back, protecting, defending or hiding/shielding pain is not natural, and it only festers that which Great Spirit would otherwise and instantly love away from you so you can shine.

There is also a biblical passage that comes to mind: "Thy greatest weakness shall become thy greatest strength." I like that one. It takes me to a place of not only embracing my perceived "weaknesses," but also to a place of LIKING THEM. :-) If nothing, life is certainly a big hilarious trip... and we are all fallible in one way or another.

First, please forgive yourself the rest of the way. You deserve that much for all the love you've shown weary travelers, Razel.

Next, please be gentle with yourself about your practice with firearms. Maybe this true story will help you through that process:

There was a story a few months back about an 87 year old San Francisco resident who heard a burglar break into his back door. He grabbed a loaded revolver from underneath his bed and opened his bedroom door to find the man standing right there. He shot him, closed the door, called the cops and waited. They came and found a repeat violent felon dead outside the man's bedroom door.

Razel, the man had had the revolver since 1947, and he hadn't shot it or any other gun in 10 years. Understand that most uses of a gun in a self-defense situation happen within less than 10 yards.

In other words: ease up on yourself, my friend. You're fine. If you get an urge to go shoot up some lead, listen to that urge and go hone your skills. Just love yourself about it, okay? You might also find great strength and comfort in helping a woman get protected and trained. There are women you know and love who do not have a rapist-stopper, nor would they know how to even load one if they did. Love them into being self-determinant sisters, Razel. Pick one, and give yourself -- and her -- that gift.

Your courage in sharing these deep feelings is admirable to the extreme. THANK YOU SO MUCH. I'm sure you will receive a few supportive emails from people who are returning the favor you've shown them by sharing so openly. Take what these good people say to heart, Razel. We're all in this together...


Printer Version

The Brady Bill's only effect will be to desensitize the public to regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation. Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post, April 5, 1996

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