Monday, October 31, 2011

Enlighten, Don't Frighten

Have you ever received one of those fear-based alarmist emails that periodically circulate? IMPACT Chicago recommends you delete it or before you forward it:

1. Check it out on
Snopes keeps track of myths about violence and other things. If they have found it to be false, just delete.

2. Even if it appears that the message is accurate, ask yourself if the message is based on fear and terror or on power, strength, nurturing, and support.

Fear and terror-based communications generate helplessness and powerlessness--at odds with the IMPACT Chicago mission. So even if you decide the alert has value don't just forward, but instead translate it into a message that encourages people's power and efficacy or frame it in a way that educates and enlightens rather than frightens.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Female Instructors Wear Many Hats

The public and the media often focus on the dedicated men who wear the IMPACT body armor that allows women to use their verbal and physical self-defense skills with full-power. Often the female instructor role is unnoticed. This makes some sense since students are frequently stunned by the male instructors' strong commitment to our mission – equal to that of the female staff members. Women's commitment is taken-for-granted. It is not a surprise. We expect them to "get it." We expect them to understand and empathize with our fears and firsthand experiences with sexual assault and other forms of violence. While understandable, the invisibility of the female instructor role occurs within a society that often places women’s work, no matter how crucial or important, secondary to men’s work. For this reason, it is important that we give due credit and recognition to our extraordinary female instructors: Margaret Vimont and Martha Thompson; our instructors-in-training: Molly Norris and Katie Skibbe, and our instructor emeritus: Dianne Costanzo.

An IMPACT female instructor wears many hats, each reflecting a complex set of skills. She (1) is the team-leader who plans, organizes and oversees every element of the course; (2) creates an emotional and physically safe class environment for the students, the suited instructors, and class assistants (3) demonstrates the role of the defender when attacked prior to students learning new techniques; (4) breaks down, demystifies, and teaches the techniques that women learn in IMPACT; (5) is a coach and support in every scenario for each women while also managing the safety of the student, suited instructor, the line, and herself; (6) takes the lead on addressing women’s emotional or trauma issues; (7) has knowledge of research on sexual assault, violence against women, and how gender affects sexual assault and self-defense; and (8) supports and inspires individual women and girls to embrace their own power and wisdom. As a class assistant for many years, many years back, I saw the female instructors wear all of these hats – frequently more than one at a time – with grace, expertise, and wisdom. Not just any person could do this work and do it so well! 

I know that many graduates share in my next sentiment: Hats off to these amazing, dedicated, and competent women. Your powerful presence is seen and appreciated. Thank you.

Lisa Amoroso, 1991 graduate of the Core Program
Secretary, IMPACT Chicago Board

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rob Babcock: I want to right the wrong

At the start of every class I enter, and often times when I talk about teaching women’s self-defense, I am asked, “Why do you do it?”  Sometimes the question is asked with genuine sincerity; often with curiosity; and occasionally with a smug, dismissive attitude that says ‘you’re just a fear-monger; women don’t really need that…”

Regardless of who asks or when in class I give the answer, it is often some version of this story…early on in life, I realized I was left of center in most political, social, and philosophical discussions.  And when it came to women’s issues, I kind of thought I got it.  I would hold the door open, put the toilet seat down, and send my mother flowers on Mother’s Day (never late either!).

But when I was in graduate school, a friend suggested I read Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth.  After reading this book, I had what can best be described as ‘a moment of clarity’ in my life.  I thought it was good enough for me to just not be a part of the problem of victimizing women.  It wasn’t.  I had to be a part of the solution.

I moved to Chicago shortly after that.  I worked on a college campus, and became the faculty/staff advisor for the feminist student group.  From that, I did some volunteer work for Rape Victim Advocates.  RVA is a group that trains women to be sexual assault responders to certain Chicago area hospitals – they send a 56-hour trained advocate to the emergency room to be with a rape survivor, and advocate for her/his needs.  One of the things I identified with most with RVA was they were on the ‘front lines’ so to speak of the anti-rape movement.

Being male, that was not an option.  So I did some outreach and education for them, going to several schools to educate on rape and rape issues.  I then got connected to IMPACT Chicago.  It was a perfect opportunity for me to blend my interest in the physical arts (I was a martial artist at the time) in my interest of reducing the number of rapes perpetrated.

Since joining IMPACT, I have had my reasons both reinforced and expanded…After I started working with IMPACT, I once had a co-worker who, at the end of a long day, was bemoaning the fact that she had to drive to far off mall to buy a certain gift for a bridal shower.  She was tired, and really not looking forward to the drive, but it had to be done that night since the party was in a day or two.  After finding out what store she had to go to, I suggested she go to the mall that was significantly closer to her work and home – only about 15 minutes away from either.  She appreciated the suggestion, but said she didn’t want to go there at night because she didn’t feel comfortable there.

I thought to myself how horrible this is…my co-worker has to significantly inconvenience herself because she doesn’t feel safe.  As a man, I very seldom have to make decisions about my safety when I decide to go places, but for her it was a regular, almost daily, occurrence.  This is terribly unfair – and I want to do what I can to right this wrong.  For far too long women have traded freedom for safety –it’s time for that to end.

So I do IMPACT for many reasons – and it continues to give me more than I give it.   

Thanks for reading my story.

Monday, October 10, 2011

More Than “Muggers”

By Bree S.

After leaving class yesterday and really processing the course, I felt the need to share my sincerest gratitude again. Counting my blessings is very important to me, and IMPACT is now on that list.  My experience the past few days truly exceeded all expectations I had in what a self-defense course was like. I often heard that although self-defense skills can be helpful, they can also give you a false sense of security. I believe anyone who goes through an IMPACT Core training would never think this. I now have the ability to protect and defend myself against any man, no matter how much taller and bigger he is than me.. My last fight in graduation made me realize this. Ready for the mugger crossing me from the front, I was completely caught off guard by the mugger who came from behind. Being able to take him down after being so surprised, as it would be in real life, I believe I can truly be in the moment for whatever situation arises, although I hope I never have to. So thank you both for challenging me and making me rise to the occasion.
You have given me the gift of power, knowledge and peace of mind, a gift I will never be able to re-pay you for. I have to commend you both for how well you play your role in the class. I was so impressed! Being able to play all three roles from the leader (someone I trusted, whom I wanted to open up to because I could feel how much you believe in your purpose to make the world a more peaceful place, not only for the women in your life, but for all women), to the role of the instructor (making sure each of us individually understood every move, when to use it and insure execution with utmost power), to the role of the mugger (challenging me to dig deeper than I thought I could, to experience that moment of fear and use it as fuel to set myself free) was just awesome. Each of these roles is something most men could never take on, let alone all three. The heart and passion of IMPACT Chicago suited instructors is truly moving. Knowing there are such great guys like them out there fighting the good fight is a comforting feeling.
You have made me a stronger, more vocal person and I won't think twice about asking for the respect I deserve from now on. IMPACT is such a necessary and empowering program, I truly believe it should be a life skills course required by young women in high school. Maybe one day this can be a reality. Thank you so much again and know that you are making a real difference in the lives of women, but also the world. 

Male instructors pictured from left to right backrow: Ben, Rob, Tjuan, Nat, Mark
Also pictured: Margaret, Workshop Instructor Naomi, and Martha

Monday, October 3, 2011

These are Life Skills

By Bree S.
Although my motivation in taking this class came from the opportunity to work with The Girls Fight Back organization, it is something I've always wanted to do. Saturday morning I realized that whether or not this course results in my partnership with GFB or not, I was absolutely meant to take this class. I now know it is a necessity for me to be the best "me" I can be. I never in a million years would've expected it to be so intense, informational, useful and empowering. I truly feel like I've reached a milestone in my life without intending to do so. 

I left class today full of energy and excitement to spread the word to my friends and family about this amazing organization and how I've found my new "team." In fact, the first conversation I had proceeding class was with my mother; I told her if I have anything to do with it, her and my sister will be in the next IMPACT CORE Program class.   I truly feel these are life skills that should be required by every female. I'm so blessed to have the opportunity to take this class. The emotional and physical journey I took this weekend is indescribable and something I will always be grateful for. It was so inspiring to see my sisters gain strength and confidence they probably never knew they had, and to find a voice I've often struggled to express in day to day situations, let alone feeling completely confident knowing I have the skills that can save my life if I ever have to use them.