Home » What My Daughter’s Self-Defense Class Taught Me About Debt

What My Daughter’s Self-Defense Class Taught Me About Debt


Even though we’re on a very strict budget right now, there is one thing we started paying for in October of 2013 that, although it’s not a need, is very important to us. We signed our (at the time) 14-year-old daughter up for self-defense classes.

Maddie’s self defense class isn’t the usual Tae Kwon Do or Karate.  Instead, it’s a lesser-known form of self-defense called Krav Maga.  Krav Maga originated in Israel and, in my best description, is what I would call a more organized form of street-fighting or Ultimate Fighting (as if I knew anything about either of those two 🙂 ).  Students are taught both physical and psychological tactics for getting out of dangerous situations, and to watch people learning and practicing Krav Maga is fascinating.

So, every once in awhile I stay and watch Maddie in class.  The other night, as I walked in to class, I came upon an intimidating scene: Maddie and her class of 15 or so, (10 adult males, three teen boys, and Maddie and one other teen girl) were having a drill.  One student would get onto the floor, while the other 14 would surround them, knees on the floor, pads in hand, ready to force them to the floor as each individual worked to get free from the crowd of attackers.    When it came time for Maddie to be the “victim”, I have to admit I was worried.  My 5’6, 115-pound girl is the lightest in the class, and lest you think the instructor goes easy on her, think again.  When Maddie was doing a gauntlet style exercise recently (where students punch through 6 rows of pairs of students with pads who are working to block them from getting through), the instructor noticed that the guys were going easy on her, and he immediately chastised his students and made Maddie do the drill again.

So there was my little girl, laying face down on the floor with 14 students – most who were grown men – ready to pummel her as she tried to escape from the crowd.  For the first 15 or 20 seconds, her struggles to break freak amounted to nothing, and I have to admit that at that point, I was scared.  All of the adult men had escaped from the crowd in 20 to 30 seconds, and here Maddie hadn’t made one bit of progress at that point.  It wasn’t looking good.  Suddenly, though, there was chaos breaking out from below the crowd, and Maddie managed to flip herself over onto her back.  I saw her as she got her head out in the open, and her cute little porcelain-skinned face was as red as her strawberry blonde hair, but she wasn’t giving up.  Suddenly, she started kicking in all directions and knocking people down with brute force.  At the 62-second mark she had wiggled her way out of the still-attacking crowd, free from their grasp.

It took everything in me not to start bawling in front of all of her classmates.  What Maddie had accomplished was nothing short of a miracle.  When I asked her on the way home what was going through her head, here’s what she said:

“Well, at first, I thought ‘There’s no way I’m gonna be able to do this.’  I felt like all of my attempts were pointless.  Then I realized that Jon (the instructor) wasn’t going to let me get out of this, and I knew that I had no choice but to fight my way free.  This fire rose up inside of me and I just started fighting back, until I was free.” 

My friends, when you think about your debt, do you feel as if all of your attempts to reach debt freedom are pointless?  I know we do.  Our hundred dollars here and there that we are able to put toward our debt feels like we are fighting The Incredible Hulk with a toothpick.

But the truth is that no one is going to “let you get out of” your debt – you’re going to have to fight your way out.  You’re going to have to let that fire rise up inside of you, and kick the crap out of your debt until it can no longer hold you down.  And despite how much stronger your debt seems than you are, you can do this.

Just like Maddie learned to fight her way out of a crowd of grown men, you can, step by step, fight your way out of debt.  So hang on, start kicking, and don’t stop until every red cent of your debt is under your feet.


  1. Whoa, Krav Maga is intense stuff 🙂 I can tell how proud you are if your daughter for going up against them and getting free. Yes it took her a bit longer, but that isn’t the point – she kept going and didn’t give in… she fought!

    I need to make sure I keep that tenacity for my debt repayment journey. I will not succumb!

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks, Alicia!! The whole experience reminded me so much of our battle with debt, and gave me the courage and strength to keep fighting!

  2. Oh my gosh, that does sound scary! Sounds like a good class, though. We are definitely going to need that kind of intensity to get out from underneath our pile of debt; it is going to be a long road…

  3. Liz says:

    I think it’s great you are teaching your daughter self defense-hopefully she will never actually need to use it. We had a self defense seminar in college at my dorm for women and it was really eye opening. Again, hope I never have to use what I’ve learned (and now probably forgotten).

    As far as debt goes, it is definitely best to have a fighting spirit rather than feel sad. Although it definitely gets rough sometimes we are definitely fighting our way out. Great post Laurie

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks, Liz. Yes, we feel it’s an important skill for the kids to have, especially being that we have three girls. Right now with our debt, I feel much like Maddie did as she kicked and fought her way out of that crowd, but we’re determined, so that’s good. 🙂

  4. Matt Becker says:

    That is such an awesome story!!! I can only imagine being in your situation, both watching and hearing her talk about it later on. What a strong young woman you’ve raised!

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, we’ve got great kids, that’s for sure. Maddie is shy and timid on one hand, then on the other, she’ll take you to task if you mess with her. It’s fun to watch her balance those traits. 🙂 Thanks, Matt!

  5. Brian says:

    Congrats to Maddie for not giving up! I think there is a lot of fear at the beginning of the debt repayment journey, but as you make your way it gets easier and easier!

  6. Wow, that’s crazy intense Laurie! But, good for you and hopefully she’ll never have to use it. 🙂 That said, GREAT comparison to paying off debt! I love Maddie’s comment about having no choice but to fight, that’s so huge in relation to paying off debt (and so many other things really) and once you get that mindset you’ve accomplished half the battle.

    • Laurie says:

      Agreed, John! Her wisdom in that situation really did amaze me. She just bucked up and did what needed to be done. Why is it that so often kids are so much smarter than their parents? 🙂

  7. WOW!! I am SO impressed with Maddie and have no idea how you were able to watch it as a mom. I had a tough time reading it. Her story is a great analogy for tackling debt in your life. It truly is a fight where you will get bruised and battered, but if you don’t give up, the reward is so much more meaningful for the effort you put into it.

    • Laurie says:

      You’re right, Shannon; it was tough! I love what you said about the reward being so much more meaningful when you know you’ve put real effort into it. Isn’t that the truth!

    • Laurie says:

      I would imagine it felt much the same way, Stefanie! I think about your marathon journey often as we run our own marathon toward debt freedom – it was inspiring!

  8. Hi Laurie!

    What an awesome tale and a great analogy!! God forbid Maddie ever gets into a similar real life situation, but at least you know that if she does, there will be a bunch of very sorry and bruised individuals attackers 🙂

    Also, I think you should start teaching a class of Krav Maga debt reduction. Your tag line could read:”Kicking the s**t out of debt, one dollar at a time!” 🙂

    Take care Laurie and give Maddie a high-five from me for not backing down.

    My best to all.


  9. Michelle @fitisthenewpoor says:

    Wow! Your daughter is amazing! It’s great that she’s learning those self defense skills and is apparently gaining confidence. I am so impressed!

    • Laurie says:

      Krav Maga has been very good for her, both physically, and from a self-confidence standpoint. It’s amazing to see such a tiny thing kick the crap out of people much bigger than her. Rick and I have always loved to wrestle with and tickle our kids, but now we know we need to watch it with Maddie, because she can whoop us big time. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks, Anthony. 🙂 Yeah, it was awesome. I was an extra proud mama bear that day, after I got over my fear of her being pummeled, anyway. 😉

  10. Awesome story, Laurie – your girl has a lot of fight in her. Just like she struggled, and seemingly made no progress for quite a period of time, she kept pushing and worked her way free. Consistency, determination, and the willingness to work harder and longer than ANYBODY ELSE will take you anywhere you want to go – including out of debt.

  11. Great analogy Laurie, for many they succumb to their debt as they keep taking hits. Depending the size of their debt is how hard they’ll have to fight. Hopefully everyone can succeed as it is sad when their debts overwhelm them.

    • Laurie says:

      It is sad, but as we talk about so much, most of the battle is psychological. If we can get our mind under control, our chances of success are much higher.

  12. What a great story – and indeed it’s a perfect analogy with debt. But I really like what you’re doing with Maddie. I know about Krav Maga and I consider it way more useful than Karate or any other form of Martial Arts because, as you said, it’s as close to street fighting as possible and if something is to happen, your opponent won’t wait for you to bow and get into the correct stance. Better be prepared than sorry, and it seems that your daughter has all that it takes to become a real champ.

    • Laurie says:

      It’s a terrific form of self-defense for that reason, C. You are taught to fight and defend yourself from random attacks, which, like you said, is very valuable from a life skills standpoint.

  13. Excellent story Laurie. And totally true when it comes to debt. It’s a lot easier to lie down and say you won’t be able to get out from under it, than it is to gather up all that grit and determination to make it happen. But, like your daughter proved, if you try hard enough, you’ll end up on top.

    • Laurie says:

      Love the way you put that, Ryan. It’s not always easy to fight your way out, but everyone I’ve met who’s reached that victory says it’s been worth it.

  14. Wow! Go Maddie! I bet it was hard for you not to jump in and save your daughter when she was being pummeled. It would have been for me! “I knew that I had no choice but to fight my way free. This fire rose up inside of me and I just started fighting back, until I was free.” You have a very wise girl, Laurie.

  15. E.M. says:

    Aw, that’s awesome Maddie was able to channel such determination and break through! I can’t imagine how nerve wracking that was to watch. Great analogy!

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, it was powerful. Like Shannon talked about, I totally wanted to jump in and save her, but I knew she’d be so much more blessed if I let her do it herself.

  16. What a cool story, and a tough kid you’ve got there! I’m impressed.

    I love the conclusion she drew, too: once failure is no longer an option, success seems more attainable.

  17. Go Maddie! We have tons of those classes around here. You come up with such good analogies Laurie. I think too often people roll over and play victim or expect someone else to come rescue them, but you might be waiting a long time. Time to fight.

    • Laurie says:

      SO, so true, Tonya!!!! We give up too soon, and then say “It doesn’t work”, when in reality we should be saying “I really didn’t give it my all”. Great comment!

  18. Wow, well done Maddie for getting out of that, I’m not surprised that was hard for you to watch Laurie! Great story Laurie and very true when you apply this theory to the debts. Fighting is the only way to break free, it’s so important not to give up!

  19. anna says:

    WOW, GO Maddie!!! You must have had the best proud mama moment! I agree that you need some fire/desire/motivation in you to get your way out of debt, and that you definitely have to get into ‘fight’ instead of ‘flight’ mode. Great analogy, Laurie!

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, it was pretty cool. 🙂 Watching her fight her way out of that crowd really helped me to get back into fight mode with our debt – YAY for that!

  20. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Krav Maga. It sounds like the classes provide really great self-defense and life training. I love your analogy! Too often people just give up and accept defeat or think someone will help them out. It is so much better when you fight your way through and accomplish the goals on your own.

    • Laurie says:

      Andrew, it’s really amazing. You should check it out – I’m sure there are classes where you guys live, and you’re right about the life training; it’s exponential. And bonus, it’s helped us to get that attitude about fighting our way out of debt. 🙂

  21. Wow, another reason to admire Maddie!

    That’s a great analogy, and I think when you make that first move and get a little breathing room, it all starts falling into place, even if it takes a little while to get going. Great stuff.

    • Laurie says:

      🙂 She’s a good girl. You’re right about the breathing room too, Kim. I was just mentioning that to somebody today, about how nice it is to have a plan in place that is allowing things to loosen up each and every month – yay!

  22. Pingback: Women's Power Wednesday #1 | Girl Meets Debt
  23. A journey of one thousand miles starts with a single step! I really like your analogy – debt is 99% mental. Having the right mindset and knowing that it is all up to you and no one is going to “let you out of it” is the key to getting control.

  24. Such a cool story, Laurie! I fell for an Israeli girl and followed her out to San Diego back when I was 19, and the way she described Krav Maga, the two years all citizens serve in the military, it all just made Israeli culture seem badass.

    Your daughter’s insight applies to so much. No one’s going to give you anything. If you want it, it’s up to you and you alone.

  25. Kate says:

    Wow, that post was awesome. I just love this analogy. This is what I call a debt mindset changing moment. This one point alone can transform a readers mind and give hope and encouragement. Renewing courage and strength within to move forward and kick debt out of there life.
    Thanks Laurie

  26. I love this! What a great lesson. “I felt like all of my attempts were pointless. Then I realized … that I had no choice but to fight my way free. This fire rose up inside of me and I just started fighting back, until I was free.” I want some of that fire! You must be crazy proud, Laurie : )

    • Laurie says:

      I feel so relieved knowing we’re equipping our kids to be able to have super usable skills to defend themselves – it’s good stuff!

  27. Kelly says:

    Good for you Laurie. Getting out of debt is like a process and when you have a plan on how to get out of it, it becomes easier. We just have to never ever lose the biggest picture during the process.

  28. James says:

    Laurie, I never ever let myself to be in the rut of great amount of debt. Having some debt is fine with me as long as it is manageable. It’s part of my life, but I am always after having a debt-free life.

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