She was a nurse who lived a few blocks away from the hospital she worked at. She had lived all her life in the city of Toronto. She was single, in her thirties. She had finished her night shift and was walking home to her apartment, as she had done many times before. This time, she didn’t make it home.
I read the newspaper article over and over, searching for details. She was sexually assaulted and then murdered. There was no suspect.
It happened the summer before my last year of high school. After graduation, I was planning to live in Toronto while I attended college there. Now, I was left with a feeling of dread, knowing I wouldn’t have a hope in hell of surviving there.
Up until that point, I had lived a sheltered life. I grew up in a small village, and then later lived in a rural area. There was no internet yet, so what I knew of the world was through reading and the news on television. There wasn’t the opportunity to meet new people, new situations, or new ideas. Also, strangers stuck out like a sore thumb, so crimes weren’t an issue back then.
I thought about it long and hard and decided I needed to learn how to defend myself. I pulled out the phone book and searched the yellow pages for martial arts schools. There was only one listed, a Jiu-Jitsu school. I didn’t know what type of martial art it was. Since it was the only one around, that’s where I went.
The training was difficult at first, as anything new is. Over time, as the newness wore off, I found I enjoyed it more than anything I’d ever done before. It was more than physical exercise. It was learning to move your body in ways that required concentration, controlled effort, and self-discipline. For the first time in my life, I felt comfortable in my own body.
It’s been over four decades since I read the article about her death, and I still feel a sadness in my heart for her. Other than what I’ve written here, I don’t know anything else about her. I don’t even know her name. And yet, learning about the suffering and senseless death of a stranger changed the course of my life. Every time I step onto the dojo floor and rei (bow), I honor her memory.
In this blog, I’ll be sharing many of the lessons I’ve learned, and the experiences I’ve had over the years. The martial arts opened my mind and my life in ways I could have never imagined.
Next week: The Break Fall
© Debra J. Bilton. All rights reserved.