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  • Writer's pictureYehudit Zicklin-Sidikman

Respecting the Boundaries of Boundaries

Last week, in a conversation with a group of master instructors, somebody brought up the question of “what are the boundaries of respecting boundaries in a self-defense class?”

Honestly, this topic comes up a lot. As it should.

For example, I’m teaching a technique or demonstrating a game, and you say, “Yudit, I don’t want to participate. I’m going to just sit out and watch.”

Is it okay for me to ask you ten minutes later if they’re ready to participate?

Here’s how I see it:

Maybe something has shifted. Maybe watching the rest of the group do the technique or play the game has allowed you to breathe through it and get to a place where you’re ready, but maybe you’re too embarrassed to ask if you can join now.

My job as an instructor is to make sure you have another opportunity if you want it.

One of two things will happen. Either you’ll take that opportunity and join us. Yay! Or you’ll set your boundary. Yay!

Both are okay.

And in both cases, I’m happy to say, “Okay, I hear you.”

And in both cases, I’m happy to say, “Okay, I hear you.”

If you don’t want to join, I’ll probably ask, “Do you want me to ask you again? Or do you want me to let it go?”

I don’t know why you don’t want to participate. And in a classroom, I don’t have time to figure it out. But I also don’t want you to just sit on the sidelines.

You came because you want to be part of this. You chose to come. Do we have some sort of contract where it is my job to push you a little harder? Not by coercing or harassing, but to say, “Okay, I know you said you didn’t want to participate. You’ve now seen the activity. Do you want to try now? Do you want to try one hit? You can stay in your chair.”

It’s complicated. But asking those questions without drawing attention to the student, and then moving on will get you far.

And it will build trust.

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