Lou Panteli Sempai
I recognised the value of self-defence as young as ten years old when I escaped from the hands of a paedophile. My Greek parents believed sports were for boys. But remarkably viewed self-defence as a valuable life skill that every young woman should possess. They signed me up at a young age to a local Ju jitsu club in Stoke Newington. They hoped it would protect me from bullies at school and the rough Hackney estate I grew up on. It turned out to be lifesaving.
I went on to practise Judo at my local comprehensive school. My tiny stature but tall confidence earnt me the nickname, “Mighty Mouse” as I eradicated school bullies with my fighting skills. At the age of sixteen, my father had heart surgery. I had to get a part-time job to support my mother. I was heart-broken that I was unable to join a club to continue my journey into martial arts. But the skills I had learnt so far were a toolbox I always carried with me.
Twenty-three years later I found myself returning to Ju Jitsu. When I stepped into Borehamwood Dojo for the first time, I realised how much I had missed martial arts. When I first met Kevin Pell, I remember the look of surprise on his face as I effortlessly executed five Palm Heel Strikes. The skills that I had been taught as a child had never left me.
Over many years, I dedicated myself to Ju jitsu. I trained at Borehamwood Dojo twice per week. Absorbed as much knowledge as I could. Regularly trained at other Ishin Ryu dojos. Stayed strong and fit outside of the dojo. The reward was that I never missed or failed a grading. When I successfully attained my Sho Dan Ho, it was an honour to be able to officially share all that I had learnt to other students.
As a female instructor, I am on a mission to empower other women to take up self-defence. Sexual harassment, domestic violence and violent attacks on women are not going away. It’s a myth if you think that these crimes are only committed by strangers or an assailant larger or stronger than you. I train with male and female partners of all sizes and strengths. I am not naïve; self-defence may not save me from being assaulted. But Ju jitsu has taught me awareness and potential life-saving combat skills. It has made me feel powerful and strong.
I can only speak for myself. But for me, the greatest benefit is the physical confidence it has given me. Confidence that certainly helped me as a child when I needed it most.