Why I Attacked My Wife Last Weekend

With a baby on the way, my wife and I decided it was about time we got a security system for our home. This wasn’t the result of some alarming incident or deep-seated suspicion, we just wanted something to keep our relatively few valuables (a Care Bear collection and various snow globes) safe for when we’re out of the house at work or shopping, nothing too fancy. Unless of course you’re a tech-savvy burglar browsing the Internet for easy targets… In which case I’d like to disclose that we’ve hired our neighbor’s 8-year-old son as head of security.

I hope you like paint cans motherf*cker.

And he works holidays.

During a conversation with a security salesman at our house, he had an interesting bit of advice for us, “If someone knocks on the door while you’re at home and you don’t recognize them, don’t open the door. But, and this is the important part, make sure to answer through the door and let them know you’re home. Tell them you’re not interested, or that your husband’s asleep after his MMA workout, whatever. Just make sure they know the house isn’t empty. Nefarious characters tend to prefer easy targets, and an empty home is an easy target. Surprising a robber with your presence can turn a bad situation into a terrible situation.”

After the salesman had left, his advice got my wife and I talking. Now, I’m not unreasonably paranoid… I’ll eat a gummy bear well after the five second rule, my first reaction is never to call customer service, and being involved in an assault or robbery strikes me as a highly improbable event. While I understand the likelihood of being the victim of violence certainly exists, it isn’t something that concerns me on an hourly basis.

That this company has three managers for every customer service agent is pretty concerning.

That this company has three managers for every customer service agent is pretty concerning however.

Nonetheless, talk of home invasion got the ugly “what if” questions going… What would my wife do if someone decided to break in while she was home alone? What would she do if she were attacked? What would she do in the event of a sexual assault? As a husband (and not exclusively as a husband) it was a pretty terrifying conversation to have… Especially when the answer to the questions ranged from “I have no idea” to the equally frightening “Nothing.” She’d pretty much just come to the conclusion that as a female, there was basically nothing she could do in the case of violence. My wife, who spends 4-5 days a week at a CrossFit gym getting stronger, faster, and more powerful had pretty much resigned herself to “just kind of submit and hope for the best” in case of assault. The vastly more horrible part was that deep down, I basically agreed that she was powerless should she find herself in a violent situation.

It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later that an opportunity to attend a course by the name of CrossFit Defense cropped up close to home. I had seen the course’s creator, Tony Blauer, in a video describing how to avoid getting mugged at an ATM about 8 months earlier after it had popped up in my Facebook feed. If you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend taking a gander. As a violence averse citizen, it was nice to see a defense expert talk about how to avoid conflict rather than how to five finger death punch an assailant once it’s taken place. At the risk of sounding not very heroic, I’d really prefer to go through life never having to punch or kick my way out of a situation.

Perhaps the one exception.

Perhaps the one exception.

While it was obvious after our conversation that there was plenty of benefit to be gained by attending a personal defense course, my wife and I were still hesitant to pull the trigger. After some conversations at our gym, we found that many of the misgivings we were rolling around were voiced by several of our friends as well. While there was no absence of opinions on the value (or lack of value) we’d get out of CrossFit Defense, there was no actual first person experiences to draw from. That sounded like an opportunity.

So after signing up and attending the CrossFit Defense course, I thought I’d share some of the reservations I had before the course and how I feel about them now after having participated in the program.

1. My wife is a tiny person incapable of defending herself against a stronger male, so why bother?

This, embarrassingly enough, was my actual assessment of my wife’s defensive abilities before attending CrossFit Defense.

Towards the end of the first day, all of the students partnered up for the “Outside 90 Drill,” it’s based on the instinctual flinch you make when someone enters your personal space unannounced… You use your arm to create a space between you and an attacker.

Being the socially inept hermit I am, I asked my wife to partner up. For reference, I’m 5’9″ and 190 pounds. I have a 205 pound shoulder press, I can open almost every jar in my house (the vanilla extract being the one exception), and I can pretty much grab both of my wife’s wrists with a single brutish paw.

My wife on the other hand, weighs about 120 pounds and hits 5’3″ on a warm day. She can almost reach the top shelf of our medicine cabinet and still asks me to get rid of crickets that find their way into our house. Did I mention she’s pregnant? She’s also pregnant.

And feathers. She's made of feathers.

And feathers. She’s made of feathers.

The purpose of the drill was for the defender (my wife) to keep the attacker (me) at arm’s length. I decided far in advance that I’d be attacking with just 10% of my normal ferocity, I didn’t want to hurt my wife or spawn. So I lunged… And she kept me at bay. Quite easily I might add. So I tried to pull her in a bit harder… And she still didn’t budge. It was at this point that I realized in order to break the space she’d created, I’d have to actually try. So I did. Then I tried harder. And harder. And harder.

When Coach Blauer finally told us to switch, I still hadn’t made any progress. I wasn’t assaulting her with the gentle pressure of a husband, I was trying with every ounce of my being to get this woman into a bear hug and I simply couldn’t get any closer. My wife, who screams and runs out of the bathroom when she sees a moth, was able to hold at bay a pretty fit dude that outweighed her by 70 pounds.

The biggest benefit I saw that day wasn’t that my wife learned how to properly execute the “Outside 90 Drill,” it was the realization that she was fully capable of fending off an attacker should god-forbid that day ever come. The decision to fight, to scream, to kick, punch, scratch, to defend yourself could be the difference between being the victim of an attack and being the victim of an attempted attack. The first day of CrossFit Defense, my wife gained the confidence to not allow herself to be an easy target. To me, that experience was beyond value.

But while the drills were awesome exposure to new defensive postures…

2. Two days of punching a medicine ball sounds like something exclusively enjoyed by a 12-year-old.

Based on the videos I’d seen on YouTube and my general preconceptions, I assumed CrossFit Defense was going to be a two-minute lecture followed by hours of holding medicine balls like speed bags and worrying about getting a haymaker in the mouth.

Which, and I can't stress this enough, was basically my childhood dream.

Which, and I can’t stress this enough, was basically my childhood dream.

To my surprise, on the first day of the seminar we didn’t perform any physical drills until six hours in. This wasn’t because Coach Blauer needed to diagram where our fist should land during a falcon punch or the proper body position during Randy Savage’s elbow drop. He used this time to discuss defense in a way that we don’t normally consider it. Whereas I usually think of self-defense as stopping a punch with my teeth, Tony would claim I’ve already skipped over two steps, detect and defuse.

That two-thirds of self-defense is being aware and defusing potential risks was in itself a pretty mind-blowing concept, despite it seeming incredibly obvious. “Detect” wasn’t just looking over your shoulder as you walked up to the ATM… It was not getting on your phone to check Facebook immediately after getting into your car. It was paying attention to that little voice in your head when something doesn’t feel right and acting on it (even if you feel stupid or embarrassed afterwards). It was, as Coach Blauer phrased it, “choosing safety over everything.”

I know... It's far less catchy.

He’s basically the Drake of Personal Defense.

It wasn’t six hours of lecture based on paranoia and scaring the audience. It was learning about situational awareness and trusting your instinct. It was understanding fear management and distinguishing between legitimate and manufactured fears. It was lots and lots of swearing. Lots of it. Tony swears a lot.

I’d love to expand on the lessons learned during the lecture portions of the course, but I’m pretty sure that would be borderline plagiarism and I’m not sure I would do any of it justice. I know that six hours of sitting around talking about personal safety sounds horrendously boring, but believe me when I say it was anything but. At the risk of sounding like an infomercial, Tony is absolutely hilarious and manages to make the content incredibly interesting.

And he even throws in this EggGenie.

And if you order within 30 minutes, he even throws in this second EggGenie.

So the course was a good mix of lecture and drills, which was a welcome surprise. But still…

3. CrossFit is for getting all my grocery bags in one trip, not smashing a guy in the face.

CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program, not a one-stop shop for all my survival needs. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around what could be the benefit of CrossFit brand self-defense.

What I didn’t realize until afterwards was that the same shameless realism that permeates CrossFit finds its way into the specialty programs as well. That brutal honesty that causes Founder Greg Glassman to say that CrossFit “can kill you” is an integral part of CrossFit Defense. Tony Blauer doesn’t make promises about becoming John McLane or defeating end bosses. He doesn’t pretend that defending yourself is a heroic right of passage that we should all go through.

Sunday's practical test was pretty brutal though.

Though Sunday’s practical test was pretty brutal.

Coach Blauer was always honest about the fact that he was teaching us to use fire extinguishers, not to run into a burning building with a firehose. This wasn’t CrossFit MMA. We were learning the most basic and easily understood movements with the broadest benefits. Where CrossFit has “functional fitness”, CrossFit Defense has “functional defense,” the idea that your body’s instinctual flinches are actual defensive measures and that this training helps you leverage those natural reactions.

CrossFit excels at distilling movements to their most basic components, an effort to extract the most benefit with the greatest efficiency. That Tony Blauer’s defense program incorporates that philosophy actually becomes an incredible asset.

So?

The three reasons to avoid CrossFit Defense mentioned above are not an all-inclusive catalog of my hesitations. Similarly, a comprehensive list of benefits I received from the lecture and drills are not included either. While it may feel like this is the one course you hopefully and most likely will never have to use, there are benefits that go far beyond the knowledge or confidence to make yourself a difficult target for an attacker. I’ve found myself incorporating fear management into my workouts as I stare at high volume thrusters, or using those same techniques before I head into an important meeting. I no longer zone out on Facebook as I walk down the street and I’ve stopped trying to figure out what fashion models are staring at when shopping for clothes with my wife.

Is it a bear? It's a bear isn't it? I hope it's a bear.

Is it a bear? It’s a bear isn’t it… I hope it’s a bear.

As a personal recommendation, CrossFit Defense was actually really fun, incredibly informative, and made use of familiar CrossFit movements and vocabulary to drive home the physical aspects of defending yourself. If you’re looking for a personal defense program that focuses on avoiding conflict and not depending on constant training to defend yourself in case it does happen, I’d definitely take a look. Plus, you may even learn some new swear words. Did I mention Tony likes to swear?

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Three Reasons to Get Upset About CrossFit

About 13 months ago, I arrived home for lunch and found that all three elevators were out in my building.

I was living on the 20th floor at the time, so this was not soul crushing news. I grabbed my Hello Kitty lunchbox and plodded up the stairs, thinking that if anything this was an opportunity to burn some calories before gorging myself with mid-day pancakes and jelly beans. What I didn’t count on was months of lethargy and inactivity… I arrived at the front door soaked in sweat and ready to take a nap. I was only 28 years old.

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point in my mid to late 20s I reached a state of general malaise. It was not a conscious decision, I didn’t wake up one morning and decide it was time to stop moving around quickly or throwing things on a field. It was just the result of months and months of stagnation and apathetic decisions.

And ding dongs. SO MANY DING DONGS.

And ding dongs. SO MANY DING DONGS.

Without action, my health was only getting worse. I had a vision of my sweaty, overweight, and out of breath self trying to keep up with my future unborn children and it was disquieting. My vision of the future would be an enormous disappointment to my childhood self, who had always planned on wearing jean jackets with Michael Dudikoff and staring handsomely at the horizon.

He could've snuck right in if just wore a red uniform.

He could’ve snuck right in if just wore a red uniform.

My brother had joined “the CrossFit” a few months previously and seemed to be in pretty awesome shape, so I figured I’d start taking a look at what this newfangled fitness regimen was all about. I knew it had something to do with doing 100 pull ups and throwing up, which was a fancy stretch from my normal 3 month stints of chest & tricep, back & bicep, and shoulders & legs. In the end, I signed up for an Intro course and jumped right in.

Now, I am by no means a trendsetter. I only just started wearing trucker hats; I have the musical taste of an impressionable 13 year old girl; and I did not join CrossFit before it was cool (I don’t even know what “cool” is anymore… Is “twerking” drugs?). Over the past year however, I’ve seen CrossFit mature into a much more mainstream fitness program. With that popularity, I’m starting to see more and more articles and resources popping up in crazy numbers on blogs, news sites, magazines, and newsfeeds. However, I’m also finding it harder and harder to distinguish between fact, opinion, and trolling when it comes to a lot of these pieces, especially when I consume most of my information in the madness that is the digital wild west.

WelcomeToTheInternet

I read articles with titles like “CrossF*cked” and “10 Reasons Why CrossFit is Not a Sport” and I have trouble taking them seriously.  I can’t tell if the authors are confused on the meaning of “edgy” or if they’re just replacing content with provocation. It seems as though the purpose of these articles is less to inform those that are trying to forge an opinion on the subject and more about driving as many shares, likes, and comments to the bathroom stall that is their comments section.

At times, the opposition seems no better… Both sides can tend to paint a very black and white portrait of the subject. The internet is no place for a grey thought.

My greatest fear is that people who are truly concerned with their fitness would read these articles and let them dictate their outlook on CrossFit without ever being exposed to a milder perspective that might shed some light on its value.

I also have an irrational fear of Liam Neeson.

My second, third, and fourth greatest fear.

I’m certainly no authority on the subject, but I’d love to address three of the more common issues and complaints brought up by some of these CrossFit articles and posts from a perspective of relative experience and critical thinking. Feel free to disagree in the stall below.

1. CrossFit Illuminati Serve Kool-Aid via Water Fountains

Let’s get this one out of the way early… Yes, CrossFit can be a bit “culty” at times. Just like owning a Harley Davidson, being a car guy, or having babies can be “culty”. It’s an activity that has its own vocabulary, encourages commitment from its members, and becomes a neighborly gathering place for those with like mind. CrossFit can be a very social activity… And while some members can take it a bit far by revolving everything they do around it, it’s up to you on how far you want to go down the rabbit hole.

TOO FAR.

TOO FAR.

My wife and I both do CrossFit, and we both enjoy it. We talk about WODs during dinner and have been known to be an annoying/overbearing CrossFit couple that posts too many workouts on Facebook (we’re working on it, really). We have tons of friends we’ve made through they gym (far more than I made at the gym during my bench and tricep days) but we’ve still managed to make and keep friends from outside the gym and not drive them off with talk of Heroes and Girls. People get excited about CrossFit just like they get excited about camping, or drinking, or their pets. Anyone can be high handed and overbearing regardless of the interest… Assholes in real life become assholes who like CrossFit, and awesome people in real life become awesome people who like CrossFit. Just be awesome. Always.

The word “cult” should not be used in place of a lack of understanding on why a large group of people are excited to workout together. A “cult” should really refer to a group of authority figures with no accountability, using subservience to force members to cut ties with family members to further their main goal of bringing in new members and money.

Yes. That.

Yeah, like that.

And on that note…

2. CrossFit Wants ALL Your Lunch Money

In a world of 99 cent apps and Walmart discounts, CrossFit can seem outright swanky. Relative to the price of a monthly membership at your local 24 Hour Fitness, we could be looking at a difference of eight fold or more. So yes, CrossFit costs more than a membership at your local gym.  My wife and I pay just short of a combined $300 a month for our current memberships and I find it extremely reasonable for the amount of value we get. On average I’ll spend anywhere from 8-10 hours in the gym per week and not only do I get instruction from highly qualified olympic lifting and strength and conditioning coaches, but I also get to train alongside former college level athletes, games athletes, and a wide array of friends and cohorts that are willing to push me during the workouts far harder than I’d push myself. All for less than $5 per hour. 

You can spend $20 a month on a gym membership and if you’re getting the results you want, awesome (I enjoyed this for years). If you’d prefer to build a garage gym and train by yourself or with a partner and that works for you, fantastic. Personal trainer? Great. I happen to prefer working in a social setting with the oversight and personalized training of my coaches. I don’t mind paying them the equivalent of a couple of fast food tacos per hour for that service either.

Only you can make a decision about what your personal finances can handle and how you’d like to prioritize your expenses.

I've made shrewd decisions on where I've put my money.

I’ve made shrewd decisions on where I’ve put my money.

Just remember that your health functions like any other investment, the earlier you start contributing, the more value and benefit you’ll be able to enjoy later. Siphoning your money into weekend binges or daily dinners is awesome and I’m certainly not one to tell you how to live your life. Just don’t convince yourself that your health is a financial priority that falls well below your cable bill and coffee allowance.

Speaking of health…

3. CrossFit Wants to Rip Out Your Knees and Break Your Back With Them

Before CrossFit, aches and pains were usually the result of “sleeping wrong” or turning my head too quickly. It’s easy to avoid injury when “intense activity” means yelling at 12 year olds when they end my killstreak.

I like to make sure they know Santa Claus is an elaborate lie.

I make sure they know Santa Claus is an elaborate lie.

Yes, you can get injured doing CrossFit. You can also get injured jogging, rock climbing, surfing, skiing, walking, or any other activity in the present progressive tense. While I have yet to have a serious injury, there are certainly days where something is aching abnormally, or I have a pain in a place I normally don’t. I consider this a side effect of being active and pushing myself physically. I take those days as indicators to slow down and let my body rest.

One of the major foundations of CrossFit is “intensity”, the idea of doing “more work in less time (without overdoing it)”. The competitive nature of CrossFit is where I can find myself getting into trouble, losing sight of the real goal of “fitness” and replacing it with “winning”. I’m fortunate to have incredible coaches that know how to teach the movements, but they can’t be by my side every second of every lift. I have to take some personal responsibility and understand my own physical boundaries and limits. If something’s too heavy, no one should know that faster than me. Your ego will get you injured quicker than CrossFit will.

On that same note however, each gym operates completely independently with very flexible standards of quality and training. Like any purchase, there needs to be a certain amount of research done on the background and qualifications of the gym you’re interested in joining. Not all CrossFit affiliates are created equal, so make sure to spend at least as long deciding on which gym is right for you as you do deciding on the right shampoo for your hair type.

Where's scraggly?

Where’s “Receding?”

Injury is a pretty broad subject, so my take is: Make sure your coaches know what they’re talking about. From there, make sure you understand what they’re talking about. Then, make sure you follow through and don’t let your ego get in the way of performing what they’re talking about. And if you’re doing it right, you’ll still get aches and pains.

But what does it all mean?

I’ve found that CrossFit is not for everyone. Just like basketball is not for everyone. Just like skiing is not for everyone. Just like black licorice is the worst candy ever created.

How terrible does your childhood have to be to enjoy black licorice?

Seriously, how terrible does your childhood have to be to enjoy black licorice?

For me, my CrossFit gym is a social gathering place. It’s a venue to enjoy the company of some seriously hilarious and ridiculous folks that I may have never met through any other means. In a world of work relationships and Facebook acquaintances it’s nice to find that kind of opportunity in a common interest.

It’s also a place I go to play around. “Play” is a thing so many of us have lost touch with that we forget how much fun it was when we were kids. Monkey bars are much more difficult than you remember. So is jumping rope, dodgeball, tag, and all the other physical activities we used to do in gym class. And while they’re much more labored than you recall, they’re equally as awesome.

It’s also a challenging environment. It’s a place I go to push myself mentally and physically, to limits I would never choose to go in any other comfortable setting. You quickly find out if you’ve gotten enough sleep or have been paying attention to your nutrition. I never truly understood the value of a good night’s sleep or a well balanced meal until I started recording my performance and quantifying what a weekend of drinking looks like during a workout.

Or a weekend of whatever the hell that is.

Or a weekend of whatever the hell that is.

And while CrossFit may not be right for everyone it may very well be right for you. You’ll never find out if you try and experience it through the twisted pages of the Interweb, so be wary of creating an opinion based solely on the belligerent works of Internet trolls and squabble peddlers. Find a qualified affiliate close to home and give it a shot. If in the end, you’re not a fan and dislike the approach, just make sure to write a combative and venomous post about it (I’d suggest a misleading title like the above). I’ll see you in the comments section.