A self-defense course gave the author some new skills and a major self-esteem boost.
Credit: Corbis Photography

I was dropping off my daughter at our community center when I noticed a poster advertising a self-defense course for women. At the time, I was reading a mystery series featuring a female karate expert, and the idea of getting stronger really appealed to me. But I hadn't taken a class or exercised in the five years since my kids were born. I didn't even own sneakers! Trying something new in front of people scared me. Still, I couldn't stop thinking about that poster and my untapped girl-power. Finally I signed up.

I was so nervous before the first class. And my nervousness didn't let up once I was there. I didn't know anyone, and we had to warm up with the other martial arts students -- including black belts. I could barely touch my toes. "Just get through tonight," I told myself, "then quit."

When we broke into smaller groups, there were more surprises. I had expected to meet other moms, but my classmates were three teenagers whose parents had probably made them sign up. These shy girls brought out my maternal side, and I found myself wanting to set a brave example. I was the first to volunteer to demonstrate moves with the instructor -- not part of my plan to lie low.

Our homework also put me front and center: I had to practice, and for that, I needed my family. I tested my new skills on my husband, Chris, while our kids, Ella and Julian, cheered from the couch. At first, the kids assumed Chris was going easy on me. But when they saw that I could break through his grip like Batman, their eyes lit up. They were proud and impressed, and I felt like a superhero. I couldn't quit after that.

The course ended after four weeks, but its lessons have stayed with me. Though I haven't had to fight off any danger (thank goodness), I carry myself more confidently than I used to. And now I walk to keep fit. I've built up my stamina -- and my courage. My family's positive reaction helped me realize that it's good for all of us when I take risks to grow. I've become stronger in every way.

The author
Credit: Kelly Ugarte and her family live in Fruitland Park, Florida.

Want to try it?

When choosing a self-defense course, look for a program with a certified instructor. Your local police department may be able to provide a list of reputable teachers. Some even offer courses at low or no cost.

Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.

Originally published in the February 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

Family Fun