One of my Jujitsu student is a member of Toastmasters. Her Ice-breaker speech recounts her one and only fighting experience outside of the dojo. The title of her speech is SLOW and STEADY.

About a year ago, during Monday morning rush hour, on a jam-packed Manhattan bound train, a fight broke out. From overhead you would see passengers scatter, leaving a hole around the 2 fighters. Of the fighters, the larger woman stood in the roomier side by the doors, and the smaller woman was in the narrow end, seated in front of a pole.

Ladies and Gentlemen: that morning I found myself in an all-out fight while listening to Dean Martin’s Ain’t That A Kick In The Head. I had never been in a fight before. I didn’t have a chance to remove my earphones. I hadn’t slept enough for at least a week, last thing I wanted was a fight. The entire event happened during a subway stop, between the opening and closing of the doors. As the large woman charged at me I thought to myself, “is she talking to me?” I quickly got up from my seat. Had I remain seated she could have braced herself against the pole and pummeled me.

Years ago, after college, I enrolled in the Laughing River Jujitsu School and trained for a couple of years. I know myself to be weak and physically inapt. My dojo brothers had real-life fighting experience and I had none. The school provided a safe training environment, we had the constant watchful eye and protection of our teacher. My dojo brothers were stronger fighters and had the upper hand. Did they take it easy on me since I was a girl? I imagined being beaten to a pulp if I ever got into a real fight. Since I couldn’t rely on strength, I resolved to focus on technique. At times I doubted myself and wondered if I had learned anything at all.

8 years of hiatus from training and 35 pounds overweight, the same doubts came to mind as the raging woman came at me. She shoved me hard, pushing me back as my calves hit against the seat. I stopped myself from crashing into an older woman to my left. I was glad she ran for cover. I deflected the attack too late, the shove did its damage. I would find my calves completely bruised 3 days later as the pain sets in. Meanwhile, the impact drained me of all upper body strength. I couldn’t move my arms. It felt like I had Jello for arms, they just dangled. A barricade of passengers surrounded us. There was nowhere to run. I was a sitting duck. Then a miracle happened. My left leg automatically shot out and executed a perfect side-kick to her hip. In school, I was trained to kick low. I never kicked above the knees. But, in the narrow space between the seated passengers and the pole of the subway car, there was only room for a hip level kick.

I pulled my leg back waiting for the woman to come to her senses, but she was even more enraged. She came at me again. Still weak, I didn’t want to receive another blow. Without my doing my leg shot out in another side kick. I was dumbfounded. Seeing my heel planted on her hip, I was worried my shoe would leave dirt on her pants. I wanted to brush it off, but luckily I refrained.

At that moment I divided into 2 Tais. Tai the teacher and Tai. . .well the regular me.

Tai Teacher: Snap out of it. What have you learned?
Tai: Defensive maneuvers never win. I must go on the offensive?

The 2 Tais converged. I lunged forward with a punch to the woman’s shoulder. I noted how soft her shoulder was, not at all like my dojo brothers’. I divided back into 2.

Tai Teacher: Stop feeling up the woman’s shoulder, it’s not a vital target. Do you want to walk away, or would you rather be Jello?
Tai: Yes, I need to focus right now.

When the 2 Tais came together again, my mind became unclouded. An energy field engulfed me. It felt protective like a force field. It was buoyant and made me light. I thought I grew at least 20 feet tall and had the strength of 50 of me combined. Never before had I felt so perfect—absolutely content with myself.

The third kick landed on the same spot as the first 2. Only this time, it had the force of an army. The woman fell back. She noticed a man by the doors waving down the conductor. She finally sobered up and ran out of the train. When I sat back down, I noticed the passengers looking at me in awe—as if I came out of a Kung Fu movie. They didn’t see how I was trembling inside. In retrospect, I realize the woman wasn’t all there.

In conclusion, at times I doubt if Toastmasters is improving my speaking abilities just as I doubted the Jujitsu training. If not for the subway fight I wouldn’t know the value of perseverance and I wouldn’t be here tonight.