Surviving Abuse – My Lifeline

To continue the recent post about karate being my lifeline,  I need to go back in time slightly.  I was on the verge of just beginning the process of surviving abuse.  Here’s how my lifeline found me.


My Mom was part of a group of women who were spiritual. They not only meditated and searched for the meaning of life, but they were there for each other.  It was a sisterhood. 

During some of my darkest moments, this group of women  gathered around me and helped pull me back to reality. I can only describe them as being similar to,  but more spiritual than the women in the movie, The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood.  They were there no matter what. 

This is how I opened up to accepting support.  This is where I started realizing that something needed to change.  I began to meditate and to attend the gatherings of these women.  And of course I received grief from my husband, but my strength was slowly coming back.

Open to Help

I have found over the years that once we open ourselves up to the universe and once we ask for help,  it comes to us in very subtle ways.  If we aren’t aware, these signs could pass us by.

I was working part time in a frame shop.  One day this very large, African American man came in to have a newspaper article framed.  We talked for awhile and then he left. But there was this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that something in my life had just shifted. I was instantly drawn to this man’s eyes. I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling that something significant had just happened.

Master Cowan

While framing the article, something caught my eye. It was an article about the man I had just met.  Chuck Cowan was his name.  Master Cowan to those of us who became his students.  The article was about his background working with the FBI and creating a safe place in the worst part of the city for kids and teens to come learn karate or just run to for safely.

He taught them out of his home. Some of the roughest kids in the city came to him for a place to live or just to learn how to protect themselves on the streets.  The amazing thing is that the gangs and criminals in the area knew to stay away from any of his “children”.   At the bottom of the article it mentioned that he was starting a karate class at the nearby Community College.


Reaching Out

When he picked up his item a few days later, I asked him about the class. I will never forget that moment.  It was like a door suddenly opened up wide, allowing me to calmly walk through it. He smiled very subtly (almost as though he knew I would ask) and pulled out a sign up form from his jacket.  Never said another word. He paid for his item and left.

My First Class

Two weeks later I arrived at the Community College for my first class.  Yes, my husband and kids were all there as well, but that’s okay.  This was about ME, and my heart knew it.

Master Cowan was not easy on me just because I was the only female in the class. He expected strength and perseverance.  I found out years later that he had made it his mission to help make me whole again. I would leave that class sobbing.

He would put me in a sparring match with 5 men who were bigger than I was. He would tell them not to be easy on me. I would be in the middle of this circle of men and I could hear him yelling, “Woman, are you going to allow them to rape you?”  And then he would again tell the men to NOT BACK DOWN.   This went on for months.


The Next Level

Finally at the end, the only way to pass the class and go on to the next level was to go through a series of exercises.  I was very good at sparring by then. My form was perfect. I knew I was doing really well.  And then came the breaking of the boards.  The final exercise.  I saw all of the men (including my small stepsons) break the boards.  Easy!  I’ve got this!   I hit the board and NOTHING.  I tried again and NOTHING.  Nothing but a bruise on my hand.  He told me to kick it instead.  NOTHING!

I gave up and started to cry.   Master Cowan grabbed me by the arm and took me across the hall to another classroom.  At first he didn’t say a word.  He stood in front of me, staring directly into my eyes. I stopped crying and felt a warmth go through my entire body.

You Can Do This

Almost as though my insides were boiling. Then he very quietly said “You are strong. You can do this Shannon. Don’t you ever give up again, do you hear me?   Dig deep and find your strength”  And then he walked away.

I went back into the karate hall and noticed that the boards were set up again, waiting for me.  I walked up to them and immediately broke through both boards and then turned to kick the others in half almost as though they were butter.

THAT was the beginning of the end of my lifeless existence.

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