Avital Zeisler on turning women into Weapons of Fitness

in Non-Fiction by

In the wake of her darkest moment, Avital Zeisler became a living weapon. Through the study of self-defense, she transformed her body and herself, while at the same time conquering fear and reclaiming her life.

coverNow, Zeisler is sharing her methods in her book, Weapons of Fitness: The Woman’s Ultimate Guide to Fitness, Self-Defense, and Empowerment (Penguin, 2015).

Zeisler was a ballerina in Canada when one night she was brutally beaten and raped by a man she had been seeing. While the physical damage took time to heal, the emotional trauma was even deeper and more painful.

“Every aspect of positivity and daily enjoyment in life had vanished. I felt nothing but negativity—toward everything and everyone.”

In search of a way to, in her words, bring herself “back to life,” Zeisler took a class in Krav Maga, a self-defense system developed by the Israeli military.

“Having experienced an attack, I recognized that as a woman it was my responsibility to take my safety into my own hands,” Zeisler told BookTrib. “I wanted to learn everything I could about self-defense. And it actually became a tool for healing for me, because when I had my first class, I actually learned some of the defenses against the attack I had experienced. I felt like, for the first time, I was attacking my attacker back in a positive way. For the first time since the incident, I began to feel the sense of empowerment and confidence I was longing for.

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She immersed herself in self-defense training and began to examine ways that smaller women could defend themselves against much larger and stronger male attackers. She adds:

“I had an epiphany. I realized that the perceived disadvantages of being a woman could actually work to the advantage of a female defender.”

Zeisler dedicated herself to finding the most effective physical and emotional tactics for women’s self-defense, and when they all came together, she named it the Soteria Method, after the Greek goddess of safety.

In the beginning, though, there was one element of her training that she hadn’t expected. “When I started to train in self-defense, I didn’t like the way it was changing my body,” she said. “I thought I was losing my femininity. I was following a lot of the guy’s training drill, and I thought I was losing who I was as a woman. Then I figured out my own way of how to get my condition level and endurance up so that I could handle the training session, but actually sculpt my own feminine figure.”

Soteria Method logoIn Weapons of Fitness, Zeisler provides readers with ways to both defend themselves and become more physically fit while doing so. The book includes a six-week program that gets readers in great shape while teaching them self-defense moves that work in any situation. The book also features an explanation of the principles of street fighting, along with an introduction to tools that allow readers to raise their “situational awareness” without living in fear or paranoia, allowing them to live confident, empowered lives.

Empowerment is key to Zeisler’s teaching. She finished:

“I recognized that this first step is to really accept the fact that you can be targeted, but not let it affect your life in a negative way. You can take that responsibility and initiative—and this is why I wrote this book. I want to start a conversation with women that says it’s possible. You can actually embrace it. You can break through the barriers that are holding you back, and it can give you the tools to create the life you want.”

Michael Ruscoe is a writer, teacher, and musician living in Southern Connecticut. He is the author of the novel, "From the Stray Cat Files: You’ll Do Anything," the anthology, "Baseball: A Treasury of Art and Literature," and numerous educational texts. An instructor at Southern Connecticut State University, Ruscoe is also lead singer and songwriter for the indie band Save the Androids! In his spare time he earns karma for his next life by ardently following the New York Mets. The proud father of two children, Ruscoe also cares for and supports a pair of goldfish, who, in all honesty, are not very good conversationalists.

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