The preschool teacher who loves defying and destroying stereotypes
For Veronica Douglas, the quest to become a Sheepdog started when she asked herself the question, “How can I be better?” Douglas, a preschool teacher, and former merchant mariner wanted to push her limits. While she had some experience with firearms and martial arts, she knew there was a self-defense skills and knowledge gap that she wanted to close. She also wanted to learn from the best so she enrolled in a Sheepdog Response Level I course.
What made you want to take the class?
I’ve followed Tim Kennedy on Instagram and was fascinated by his commitment. He’s crazy but in a good way. He really wants to help people and doesn’t believe women should be victims. That being said, I was still nervous about taking the class. I didn’t want to the lone woman surrounded by a bunch of savage idiots who live in their little tactical bubbles and don’t know what the real world is like. Let’s face it, shooting is a male-dominated activity. I was prepared to deal with being outnumbered in the class. I’ve worked in a male-dominated world for most of my life and I’ve gotten used to it.
Fortunately, the moment I walked in the door where the class was being held, I was immediately put at ease. This wasn’t a room full of jacked-up guys acting like lunatics. It was a room full of professionals who made it clear they were there to help me succeed. Plus, it wasn’t even close to a boot camp experience. Tim was a teddy bear. OK, a lunatic teddy bear, but a lunatic in the most fantastic way. With Tim, there are no excuses. You just get it done. I appreciate that mindset and approach to solving problems.
Some women are hesitant to enroll in a self-defense course that involves grappling and firearms. By all appearances, it can be a testosterone-laden experience. Did you feel that way in your class?
I’ve always been a confident person who has worked in male-dominated fields, so I wasn’t necessarily worried about that. But, to be honest, it was still a concern. You see, it’s the hundreds of little things that men do to question women’s abilities that make classes like these annoying. Like the guy at the car dealer who always asks me if I want to call someone to ask about the oil filters before I get my oil changed. Or the guy who refused to listen when I explained that I could tie the knots to keep the mattress I just bought on the roof of my car. His system of more knots was not better. I graduated from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and worked on ships. I think I know how to tie stuff down. Or, the number of men who informed me they’d never let their wife cut their hair short like mine.
As a woman, it’s just something you find yourself constantly dealing with. That’s why Tim Kennedy’s message about empowering women resonated with me. He’s been saying that women should stop being portrayed as weak. They don’t need men to protect them. They are just as capable as men and can kick your ass.
What about the other women in the class?
There were about five other women, and we were ridiculously diverse. You could not have come up with five more different human beings if you tried. But we all got along, enjoyed ourselves, and the instructors helped each of us make tremendous progress. Like I said earlier, there are a hundred little things that men do to convey the message they don’t think women can handle themselves. It’s like you always have to prove that you can do something.
The Sheepdog Response instructors were the opposite. They assumed I could do what they asked of me. They were almost dismissive in their assumption that I would do what they said…regardless of the difficulty. Throughout the weekend, the instructors’ mantra was “You can do that. Just do it.” And they were right.
What was your favorite part of the class?
The end of day two where we had to put together everything we had learned. It was a grappling session with street clothes and weapons. I wasn’t expecting to beat Tim or (instructor) Dennis Jones. And I didn’t. But I wanted to get that one moment where I had to make them work for it. And I did. While that may not sound like much on the surface, it’s a huge accomplishment. Here’s a preschool teacher who’s taken what she’s learned in two days and could make professional soldiers and MMA champions pause or alter their attack plans.
It’s a very humbling experience. But also very empowering. That’s a testament to the training. While I have done some grappling, the way Travis Joyner broke the instruction down to little digestible bites was amazing. We learned about six months of very effective grappling in an hour. Plus, the instructors were continually reinforcing the need to keep learning. As I got to know them, I discovered they were always taking classes. Always striving to get better. Be stronger. Move faster. Think smarter. That attitude of always being a student is essential. I don’t want to learn from someone who thinks their shit doesn’t stink.
Any advice for other students — female or male — who want to take the Level 1 course?
For Pete’s sake, go! Have fun! Just don’t look at Tim’s Instagram. You can’t keep up with him. He’s just not human. But, don’t worry about that. You only need to keep up with yourself. Tim and the other instructors are so encouraging and supportive. There was not a single moment where I thought I couldn’t absorb what they were teaching me. The instructors believed in us. That was the mantra for the weekend: “You’ve got this.”
When I signed up for the class, I figured the worst case scenario was that I’d spend two days making an ass of myself. I’d go home, lick my wounds, and have great stories to share. That was so far from the truth. I still have great stories to share, but I was definitely more of a badass by the end of the class. I just didn’t want the weekend to end. I was hoping it would last for a month!
Sheepdogs come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and genders. They have different backgrounds and a variety of life experiences. The one thing they share in common, however, is a desire to discover their limits and go beyond. Like Veronica Douglas, they want to be better human beings in protecting themselves, their families, and to be an asset to their community.