“Every day is Women’s Day for me,” two-time World Champion Adi Rotem told The Jerusalem Post on International Women’s Day Friday.
Rotem, who has been training in martial arts since the age of five, spoke to the Post during a International Women’s Day seminar held by Fight TLV and CrossFit Tel Aviv that promoted strength, confidence and empowerment.
“Personally, I celebrate Women’s Day every day. Every day I examine my limits as a person and then as a woman. But Women’s Day is an excellent opportunity to influence those who only needs the extra push,” said Rotem, who led the self-defense segment of the seminar.
“One a scale of one to 10, the importance of being able to know how to defend yourself is above all ability to survive, just like the ability to run or swim,” she said, adding that martial arts not only helps with one’s physical fitness, coordination, strength and endurance, but also “contributes to improving one’s self-confidence... in coping with challenges as well as social abilities and helps people with attention deficit disorders.”
“I’m glad I could give back and talk about myself at the seminar, where I met strong girls with abilities and a desire to receive information that can help them,” she said.
Courtney Mann and Jillian Goldberg, both of whom are competitive-strength athletes and coaches who lived in the United States, led the strengthening segment of the seminar in which some 20 women from across the globe took part.
Mann, a general strength and conditioning coach, was born in South Africa and grew up in Georgia. While there’s a “certain personality” that is drawn into competitive sports, she said, such activity also gives a much-needed support system to new immigrants.
“I tried competitive weight lifting and I fell in love with it and continued doing it,” Mann said. “At the time, it was my community. And when I was transitioning [from the US to Israel], it was a huge support system at the beginning.
“When it comes to non-Israelis living here, they are a different breed of women. They tend to seem to be a stronger, more independent women. It takes a different breed to handle the stress and not go back to North America where it’s easier.”
Mann said women have to “dare to question” the social and cultural norms imposed on them. “If a man tries to attack me, he will have a really hard time, even though I’m not a fighter,” she said with a smirk.
The human body is a “machine,” according to Mann. “You have to always keep challenging it so that you will get better and reach your goals.”
Jillian Goldberg has been an athlete since she was young. When she moved to Israel in 2015 she began doing CrossFit classes. Like Mann, she said these gave her a support system. Last year, she participated on the first season of Israel’s Ninja Warrior, where she said “there was a lot of talk about how I was extremely muscled.”
“I WAS ALWAYS strong, but I have people saying that my body isn’t feminine. It’s interesting, because even strangers tell me that. But what is feminine? What does it mean?
“Women are in so many ways so much stronger than men, and in the unconventional way,” Goldberg said. “Women’s ability to deal with pain is different than men, who are good with acute pain.
“So often we abuse our bodies because they aren’t meeting the standard defined by someone else. But why should I fight my body’s biology by trying to run and be thin? I appreciate my body for what it can do, not what it looks like. I may not have the smallest thighs, but my legs can squat 120 kilos.
“We have one body. We invest in so many things, so why not invest in your own body? It’s the only home we will ever have,” she said. “Always challenging yourself is important. And you work toward it every day... investing in yourself.”
Bernardo C., originally from Mexico, has served as an active member of Israel’s military and law enforcement establishment for almost 15 years. He served in various infantry and Special Forces units, as well as a senior tactical and hand-to-hand combat instructor.
“The main elements of survival are spirit, mind, body – in that order,” he told the Post
“Without a strong fighting spirit and will to survive, you probably won’t make it. You will freeze and let your attacker do whatever they want.... If you choose to fight, however, you stand a chance,” he said.
“Your mind is your strongest weapon, but your body is the machine and you need to take care of it. You also need to train it in order to become dangerous and powerful. This is the difference between bringing an old French campaign cannon to a fight or a modern-day battle tank.”
While he didn’t participate in the seminar, he has extensive experience in women’s self-defense.
“Recently, a student asked me if it’s normal that her hands hurt after punching some pads without gloves on,” he said. “Of course this is natural, because her hands are not used to hitting anything without protection. In real life, your hands will most likely be hurt.... One of the biggest advantages of martial artists, and karate practitioners specifically, is that their hands, bodies and shins are conditioned for fighting. They condition their skin, muscles, connective tissue and bones to be hard upon impact and receive the pain.”
While martial arts is common in Israel, “I wish it would be more common, and supported by the Ministry of Education,” said Rotem, who served as a Krav Maga instructor in the IDF, teaching martial arts in middle schools and high schools.
“This was part of the Ministry of Education’s plan to integrate martial arts into the army,” she said. “At this time, I gave the right tools to cope with emergencies and surprising situations. Several years after I finished my service, I met some of the girls I taught, and they thanked me. They said they used what I taught them and it saved them from dangerous situations.”
All proceeds from the seminar went to Ruach Nashit, an organization that has helped thousands of women victims of violence to develop financial independence and occupational security.
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