Some of you know that I teach self-defense classes. I started learning kung fu when in my late 40s, and found that it helped me so much with defining my place in the world (both physically and mentally). So I began offering simple classes to teach people how to protect themselves from unwanted physical contact, and found that I had to stop and scale way back. I know lots of fun and fancy techniques that really do work, but if the person learning them doesn’t feel empowered to use them, then they are useless. So today I’d like to chat with y’all about how to acknowledge and define your space, and how to keep from letting others infringe on that.

How do you feel in your physical place, right now? Are you comfortable in your body? Big question, I know. Let’s just start with some basics. Is your back stiff? Are you energized or tired? How do your clothes/shoes feel? Any itches? Pain?

Now, think about how you feel when you walk down the street, or when you encounter any group of people (friends included). Are you aware of how you feel? Do you feel like you belong there? Do you go out of your way to move out of the way? Ah, here we go again with the Worthiness. Yes, this is a next step toward feeling like you deserve to be yourself. How we define our physical space goes hand in hand with how we define our emotional and psychological space. I will use myself as an example.

Before learning martial arts, I was comfortable with people being about 3-4 feet away from me. “No closer, thanks, unless I really know you well.” Well, that will not fly in kung fu. Up close and personal, baby! Was it comfortable for me? Nope, not at all. Until…suddenly it was. Feeling comfortable with people in “my space” coincided with my increase in general confidence and lack of, what? Fear. I redefined my emotional sense of what OK was through physical activity. At the same time, I created a new paradigm for myself in which I defined my own space rather than letting other people define it for me.

Back to the self-defense classes. What I have found is that people have a greater need to acknowledge themselves and their own space, rather than learning fighting techniques. So I now focus on helping students learn that they are the ones who get to decide what is close enough, what kind of physical contact is OK, and how to move that empowerment into their daily lives. When was the last time you went along with someone just because you didn’t feel that it was Ok for you to say no? Did you ever allow yourself to be pressured to participate in an activity that you knew was not right for you?

You have the right to define your personal space. It is yours, after all! If you often feel that space invaded, that’s a good sign that you might want to make some changes in your life. Are people taking advantage of you, or are you giving your place away? Do a little self-assessment. Be honest with yourself. I know that sometimes when I feel like life is imposing on me, I take a closer look and realize that I’m the one who has gone “hands-off” and lost track of my own place for a moment.

Here’s a little challenge for you to try. The next time you are walking down the sidewalk, do not move out of the way of oncoming people. Don’t go out of your way to be in their way, but don’t automatically step aside, either. You have a right to your space and your path. Claim your place in the world with confidence, like the beautiful Chihuly glass sclupture in the photo, and live your intrepid life!

P.S. Watch for a fun way to practice owning your place, coming super soon!