top of page

Surviving and Thriving: A Black Belt's Triumph Over Domestic Abuse

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

In honor of October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I am going to share my story of the hell I went through in a toxic and abusive relationship at 22 years old; how I got out and the red flags you can look for to stop abuse before it starts. It is my goal to provide my story as a cautionary tale of how even the strongest of women, even the black belts that can physically fight, are still vulnerable at times to abuse. Abuser's practice and hone their skills of manipulation and coercion the same way we practice putting on make-up. A woman may open her bag to choose a lipstick, but an abuser is opening that same bag to find a weakness and exploit it.

Women ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 generally experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence.

From 1994-2010, approximately 4 in 5 victims of intimate partner violence were female.

(2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report.


TRIGGER WARNING: THIS POST DESCRIBES SEXUAL AND PHYSICAL ABUSE AND MAY BE HARD TO READ. I will have resources listed below if you choose to continue and need help or support.


First, a little backstory. I am a lifelong martial artist and have been practicing various styles since the age of 6. I earned my black belt and began instructing at 12 years old. By 18, I was a professional martial arts instructor living in Southern California. My dream was to open my own martial arts school, but that dreamed was shattered just before I turned 21, when my life went into chaos. I broke up with my boyfriend, lost my instructor job, lost my friends, lost my community and had to move from Southern California to my hometown in the Central Valley. For the first time in my life I had no responsibilities, no goals, no ambition and no identity, I went wild.

If you would like to read more about my healing journey finding Empowerment Self-Defense, click here.

21st birthday party
Elicia's 21st Birthday

On my 21st birthday I bought a pack of cigarettes, got a tattoo and began a yearlong party binge. I was on a mission to forget. I had officially gone from respected karate girl to party girl complete with the short dresses, high heels, and fueled by alcohol and shenanigans. I was also single for the first time in several years, and navigating the dating scene with the boys I went to high school with who were now men I went to the bar with was awkward. Although I liked that attention the outfits and make-up brought, I had no idea how to talk to men outside a rigid martial arts etiquette. Men would offer to buy me a drink and I would

say, "Yes, Sir." I couldn't walk in heels, I more stumbled than

Group of girls dressed up to celebrate
Elicia celebrating a friend's birthday

strutted around the bar like a baby giraffe learning to walk. I lacked any conversational input because all I had done to this point was martial arts and to speak about it was just too painful. I desperately wanted to fit in and be like my friends who navigated these situations with confidence and ease. The beautiful women that were the life of the party, knew everyone, and everyone loved. This was a time in my life that I was bitter, angry, jealous and petty. Entrenched in the circle of toxic gossip and alcohol that happens when your life is in shambles with nothing to focus on.

3 young women smiling and drinking
A Girls Night Out

One year into my new party girl persona, I met a man that swept me off my feet. That type of tall, dark and handsome you read about in the fairy tales. He was the bad boy with all the right words. Showing only me his sensitive side, his understanding and empathetic side, but always down for a good time. I fell fast and within a month we were living together. For the first time since leaving martial arts, I felt happy and ecstatic that I had found acceptance and love. Here was a man that loved me for me, without the expectations and pressure I had felt in previous relationships. Blissfully happy that I had found a true partner that understood and accepted everything about me, my flaws be damned. I was on cloud nine and living my happily ever after. But that happiness was short-lived, and once he had me isolated from everyone close to me and financially dependent on him, our relationship turned abusive fast. The love and acceptance quickly turned to criticism, insults and physical abuse; all shrouded in a haze of drugs and alcohol. For 18 months I lived in a prison of fear and violence disguised as a beautiful 3-bedroom house in a cul-de-sac. I constantly second guessed myself, my decisions, and what was happening to me. I truly felt like I was going crazy, and couldn't understand why everything was going so wrong. Toxic relationship is an understatement, he was physically, emotionally, sexually and financially abusive toward me. By the time I left him, I was a broken woman and shell of the bright-eyed, feisty, and spirited karate girl I had once been.

The night I left my abuser was also the first night I fought back and defended myself against him. Up until this point, I had not defended myself from the physical abuse or any of the other abuses inflicted. The first few times he hit me I was in utter shock that he would hurt me at all, he would quickly apologize, and explain what I had done to make him so mad, or we were drinking, and I was overexaggerating. If there was an actual physical bruise, he would bring me flowers, make me dinner and buy Betty Boop collectibles while promising to never do it again. By the end I was in such a dark place mentally, I was easily convinced I deserved it, I had done something wrong and it was my fault. If only I was a better girlfriend, homemaker, cook and woman; I could be what he wanted. The weight of my previous failures only added to my need to make him happy. I didn't feel like I was worth defending, like my life mattered, or like I was strong enough to leave. But this was the night everything changed, my fight or flight kicked in and my body instinctively chose to fight.

Man screaming with aggressive posture

The assault started like all our fights, I caught him texting other women, and just like the other fights he attacked me from behind as I was walking the way; grabbing me by my hair and throwing me down the hallway so hard my head busted into the drywall. He wanted complete control, so he would always wait until I turned away or was asleep to make sure he had every possible advantage when assaulting me. He never attacked me to my face. Grabbing my hair and yanking me up the wall, my abuser had his hands around my throat while holding me a foot off the ground. I could feel his body weight pinning me to the wall while he squeezed my throat closed. Spitting as, he screamed in my face that he was going to kill me before he would let me leave him. Yelling all the cruel insults he had spewed since we moved in together. "You're a worthless bitch that can't do anything one will ever love one would even look for your're pathetic.....just f*cking die." He knew his 6'3 construction build vs my 5'2 petite110lb build already gave him an advantage of height and muscle. My anorexia had come back, so I was very thin with a diet of vodka and marijuana. His hazel eyes and beautiful smile I had fallen in love with all those months ago were now evil and filled with hate, his jaw clenched tightly in between the insults. At that moment I knew he wanted me dead, the mask had fallen and all that was left was disdain and hatred in his face.

Small Chiweenie puppy
Elicia's puppy Rocky Balboa

I could hear my puppy, my Chi Weenie named Rocky Balboa, barking distantly. Then like whiplash I heard my little puppy yelp, he had kicked my dog, and my body instinctively fought. The spark of life ignited with the yelp of my Rocky and I reacted with ferocity. I fought with everything I had, palm striking his nose and grabbing his Adam’s apple and trying to rip it out. Punching, kicking and not stopping until he hit the ground. I fought with the vigor of a Honey badger trying to be put in a cage. I fought for myself, for my family, for my friends, and I knew at that moment I would never let someone put their hands on me again. When the police showed up, I was standing over him while he held his nose to stop the bleeding from when I had broken it. I had survived, and yet I was terrified to leave. But I knew he would kill me next time if given the chance. I left that night broken, not just physically, but financially, and mentally broken. It took three weeks for my body to heal and the bruises around my neck to fade, but it took over a decade to even understand I was an abuse victim. I spent years quietly blaming myself for the abuse and trauma I endured at the hands of my abuser. I felt because I was a black belt that I should not have been gullible enough to fall for the lies he told. That some how I should have known it was all a facade to ultimately gain control of my life.I now understand how anyone can fall victim to abuse if they are not given the knowledge of what to look for or in a time a great vulnerability.

5 women posing for the camera
Taken 3 weeks after Elicia left her abuser

So many victims do not make it out alive. I am one of the lucky survivors that was able to leave with no real attachment and no children involved. This made my circumstances much easier than most victims that are married with children. There are resources and people to help you if you need to get out of an abusive situation. Personal protection is knowing to leave at the first sign of abuse, and understanding the steps to take if an assault happens. For this reason, I am sharing my story to help others see the signs and have the confidence to walk

away before the physical abuse starts. There are always signs. I had spent many months believing my abuser over my own intuition and knowledge.

Women's self-defense instructor black belt wearing pink uniform standing in front of american flag

Pretty Hands, Hard Punches was developed by me to teach others the mental skills needed to recognize abusive behaviors that I did not know or understand as a young woman. It is my goal to give every woman the knowldge of a black belt who fell victim to and ultimately triumphed over domestic abuse. If you are a victim of abuse, you are not alone and you have help.

List of red flags that are signs of abusive behaviors.
Red Flags of Abusive Behaviors

You do not need a black belt to triumph over domestic abuse, but you need to know where to go for help.

It is important to recognize the red flags amongst the excitement and thrill of a new relationship. Unfortunately, while you are falling in love, an abuser is using this time to gain as much information on you as possible to use against you later. Here is a list of red flags you can be mindful of as you get to know a new love interest.

Almost half of all women (48.4%) and men (48.8%) in the US have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner.

2011. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report.


These resources are here to help and support individuals who have experienced abuse.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger or experiencing an emergency, please call 911 or your local emergency services.

National Resources

1. National Domestic Violence Hotline: The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides confidential support and resources for individuals experiencing domestic violence, including safety planning and referrals to local organizations.

2. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network): RAINN offers support for survivors of sexual assault and abuse. They can connect you to local resources and provide guidance.

Local Resources in Southern California

74 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page