Monday, June 25, 2012

From the IMPACT Chicago Archives: Building an Organization, 1988-1990

 Martha Thompson
IMPACT Chicago Director and Instructor

November 1988 through November 1990 was a time of building an organization with a mission and infrastructure.  For more about the founding period, see the May 21, 2012 blog: The Beginning. I prepared the overview of the founding period and for building an organization for the first SEG conference in 1990. I also documented the timeline of development. In 1990, I circulated the document for additions, feedback,  and collective wisdom.

Key Groups
There were three key groups during this organizational building period: Core Group of Volunteers, Long Range Planning Committee, and Interim Board.

Key Individuals
Susan Andrews, Joe Connelly, Dianne Costanzo, Debborah Harp, Linda Jedrzejek, Anne Mason-Guthrie, Theo Pintzuk, Martha Thompson, Joel Winograd, and Becky Yane.

Main Activities
·         Building an instructor team, with regular meetings, in-service trainings, and an instructor training plan.
      Instructor training for Defense Against an Armed Assailant (Martha, Lonna, and Joe trained in Boston with Matt Thomas and then trained the other Chicago instructors).
·         Building a volunteer organization to support all the work that needed to be done. This included monthly meetings.
·         Offering a regular and expanded class schedule, including a review class, defense against an armed assailant workshop, and a boundaries workshop.
·         Offered 18 basics courses, 2 defense against an armed assailant, 1 boundaries, 1 sexual harassment, 2 review, and 1 class assistant training.

·         How to build an organization consistent with the empowerment principles of the program?
Related issues: decision-making process, division of labor, accountability, communication, language, and problem-solving.
·         What kind of leadership model do we want to support?
Related issues: recognizing the invisible work and the people who do it, avoiding burnout, figuring out the instructor-volunteer relationship (what role will instructors play and how to transform instructor-student relationship to a peer relationship)?
·         How do we determine and evaluate our success?
Do we focus on process or product?
Do we focus on program (women served) or organizational (office, number of paid people, career lines)?

Key Decisions
·         Martha Thompson became the official coordinator of the organization in 1988.
·         A joint committee of volunteers and instructors was created to guide the organization in 1989.
·         The Board of Directors was established as a membership based group in 1990.
            The organization was formally established on principles of empowerment and personal growth.

November 1988
Martha organized the first meeting of the Core Group of volunteers. A class schedule was set for 1989, Dee organized a recruitment committee (Susan Andrews, and Janice Guerriero), and other volunteers worked on t-shirts, stationery, and mailings.

Martha organized the first local instructor retreat. Dee, Lonna, Carole, Joe, and Martha attended. Martha began negotiations with MMOM to send an Instructor Trainer to support Dee and Martha in their next stages of training.

December 1988
Second National Model Mugging Instructor Retreat was held in Santa Cruz CA. Martha attended. Major disagreements among Model Mugging leadership came out into the open. Irene resigned and PEC dissolved.

Core Group held its second meeting with members making specific commitments. Core Group members were Martha (coordinator), Dee, Susan Andrews, Anne Guthrie Mason, Debborah Harp, Theo Pintzuk, and Becky Yane.

Martha was recognized as the Coordinator of the Self-Empowerment Group. Her work also included being Instructor Coordinator.

January 1989
Two classes were held with Sarah Longaker in from California to oversee Dee’s and Martha’s training. Joe was the main instructor for both classes and Bill the guest. Lynn Fernandez assisted in Dee’s class, supervised by Sarah) and Sue Albertson assisted the class Martha and Sarah co-taught. Lonna observed. Ken Olson attended a graduation, the first step for a suited instructor candidate. Dee was certified and Martha successfully completed her second phase of training.

The first Boundary Setting Workshop was held in Chicago, led by Sarah with Dee, Martha, Joe, and Bill assisting. Twenty women, mostly graduates, attended.

Anne Mason-Guthrie took over organizational finances.

Martha presented a proposal for a volunteer structure and process to the Core Group of Volunteers. The first long range planning meeting was held.

February 1989
A review class was co-taught by Lonna, Martha, Joe, and Bill.
Core Group meeting

March 1989
Dee, Joe, and Bill taught a Basics course at North Park College. Martha was an assisting instructor and Anne Mason a class assistant. Ken Olson observed the course as part of his training process.

With the dissolution of PEC, Martha had to find an alternative to finish her training. With the support of Mary Tesoro, Judith Roth, Sarah Longaker, and the Chicago instructor team, she designed the final stages of her training. She assisted with April, June, and July classes, each time taking on different instructor responsibilities.

Core Group meeting. In addition to regular business, the group considered a proposal from Becky Yane for getting the most out of meetings and a proposal from Martha, Theo Pintzuk, and Sue Albertson for organizational structure and process.

April/May 1989
Lonna, Joe and Mark Frear (Rocky Mountain Model Mugging) taught with Martha as an assisting instructor. Ken Olson observed.

Core Group meeting. In addition to regular business, Becky, Martha, and Sharon Bromberg presented a proposal for Core Group Membership.

June 1989
Dee, Joe, and Bill taught a course with Martha as an assisting instructor. Merry Beth Pietila was the class assistant.

Lonna, Joe, and Martha went to Boston for intensive training in defense against an armed assailant.
Core group meeting.

July 1989
Lonna, Joe, and Bill taught a basics course at Mundelein College. Martha was an  assisting instructor and Margaret Vimont, a class assistant. Martha finished her instructor training.

Final plans for fall courses—2 two-week intensives and one 5 week course.

Core group meeting. In addition to regular business, Becky presented a fundraising plan.

August 1989
Review course was offered, co-taught by Dee, Martha, Joe, and Bill

Core group meeting—in addition to regular business, Susan Andrews presented guidelines for a raffle.

September 1989
A basics course at Northeastern Illinois University with Martha, Joe, and Bill with Dee as an assisting instructor and Anne Mason as the class assistant. Martha arranged for the course to be offered for one-hour credit and over 5 weeks (our first 5 week course).
Core Group meeting. In addition to regular business, Marjorie Trytten presented a proposal for core group voting and attendance.

October 1989
Theo Pintzuk and Marjorie Trytten organized a demonstration and presentation for therapists offered by Martha and Joe.

Joe built Ken’s groin protector and Ken put together the rest of his armor. Joe and Anne worked with Ken for his initial training.

Core group meeting

November 1989
First class canceled in two years. Another offered with Dee,  Joe, and Bill with Ken in training, and Anne assisting. Joel Winograd observed.

Lonna, Joe, and Martha trained Bill, Ken, and Dee in defense against an armed assailant.

Core group meeting. Linda Jedrzejek became the Recruitment Coordinator. With assistance from Susan Andrews and Janice Guerriero, she started to recruit for the January class. Becky presented a monthly workplan for the Core Group.

December 1989
The first defense against an armed assailants workshop was held in Chicago. Seventeen women attended. Dee, Lonna, Martha, Bill, Joe, and Ken taught.

Bill retired as an instructor.

Core group meeting—in addition to regular business, Martha provided an overview of the 1989 accomplishments. Susan Andrews hosted a holiday party for volunteers and instructors.

January 1990
The first class assistants training was held with 12 women attending. Anne facilitated with help from Martha, Dee, Lonna, and Joe.

Martha, Joe, Ken, with Joel in training offered a basics course at Northeastern Illinois University. Theo and Becky Fitzpatrick assisted. The first time we ever had a waiting list

Lonna, Ken, and Joe taught a basics course at Mundelein. Bill Kratoska (from Minneapolis Model Mugging) was in training. Joe supervised Bill and Ken. Anne and Debborah Harp assisted. Martha came in for the final three classes to assist with coaching. Anne became a lead instructor candidate.

Core group meeting

February 1990
Core group meeting. In addition to regular business, Becky proposed a core group handbook and guidelines for working with student interns. Susan Andrews went on maternity leave.

March/April 1990
Dee, Joe, and Ken taught a course at Mundelein. Steve Johnson from Minneapolis Model Mugging was in training under Joe’s supervision. Anne and Lynn assisted.

Martha, Dee, Joe, and Ken with Anne assisting taught Defense Against an Armed Assailant.

Martha and Joe developed a sexual harassment workshop which Martha and Bill offered at the Midwest Sociological Society meetings. 16 women attended.

Third National Instructor Retreat was held in Washington D.C., hosted by Carol Middleton. Joe and Martha attended. The possibility of a national organization to replace PEC was discussed.

Lonna went on maternity leave.

Core group meeting.

May 1990
Dee went to Minneapolis to teach their first course with their suited instructors.

Martha, Joe, and Joel taught a basics course at Northeastern with Anne as an assisting instructor. Linda J assisted. 

Core group meeting

June 1990
Dee, Ken, and Joe taught a basics course at Mundelein. Lynn and Linda J. assisted.

Martha, Joe, and Ken taught the first course in Indianapolis. Suzi Newnum assisted.

Core group meeting. In addition to regular business, Susan Andrews presented a proposal for a Self-Empowerment Group convention.

July 1990
Martha, Joe, and Joel taught at Mundelein with Margaret Vimont assisting. Marcus Martin and Mike Kratoska observed.

Core Group picnic to celebrate the work of the Core Group, to mark its ending, and the transition to a Board of Directors.

Anne attended Instructor Training in Kansas City.

August 1990
Joe participated as an instructor in the LA Instructor Training. Mike Kratoska attended the Instructor Training.

September 1990
Lonna resigned.

First SEG convention coordinated by Susan Andrews and Margaret Vimont with assistance from committee members: Dori Conn, Debborah Harp, Cathy Sneider, Maria Wolchanski.
Over 70 women attended the day-long conference which included a keynote address by Pauline Bart, co-author of Stopping Rape: Successful Survival Strategies as well as workshops, films, speakers, informal discussions, and more.

Instructor representatives to the Board were elected: Joe, Dee, and Ken. Martha stepped down as Instructor Coordinator (remained as SEG Coordinator) and Joe took on the position. In addition to instructor board members, others elected were Dori Conn, Demetria Iazzetto, Linda Jedrzejek, Cathy Sneider, Margaret Vimont, and Becky Yane.

Two basics courses were offered. One at College of DuPage with Dee, Ken, and Joe Tammy DeBoer and Debborah Harp assisted. Another at Northeastern Illinois University with Martha, Joe, and Ken and Anne, Joel, and Mike in training.

October 1990
Three courses were offered: at Niles College, Northwestern, and University of Chicago. Instructors Dee, Joe, Martha Ken. Anne in training. Becky, Dori, Julie (didn’t record last name) and Margaret assisted. Marcus observed.

The first meeting of the new SEG Board was held, facilitated by Becky Yane.


·         An expanded instructor team and class offerings: In 1989-90, 18 basics courses, 2 defense against an armed assailant, 2 review, 1 boundary setting course, 1 sexual harassment workshop, first class assistants training
·         A large group of volunteers responsible for running the organization
·         Board
·         Conference
·         Offered 2 courses out-of-state (Indiana and Minneapolis)
With the launching of the SEG Board a new phase began.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Emma Goldman-Sherman

Step catch-up eye strike
Step catch-up knee to groin
Step catch-up heel of hand to jaw
Step catch-up knee to groin
we are dancing forward for a change
I can back you up to the edge of the world

when you go down I have knee to head
if you take me down I have hand slap to balls
shake and bake, elbow to face, pivot to load
I can straight kick and side kick
pull close for the ax-kick
I can switch legs and do it again

you are not padded
all my blows land in your soft flesh
you are not expecting me to fight
I can flip you out of me with a hip thrust
or a bicycle kick.  I can move through you
ghostly father of my dreams
incarnate assholes of my past

we are dancing forward 
and when we dance
I change the dream 
with the tools I've learned 
how to shout not scream
I now recognize manipulation, warning signs
I can breathe, reset, protect myself

I can say what I want
I can make myself heard
and if you can't adjust to that
then I can walk away,
or I can dance you backward 
to the edge of the world
and show you the stars. 

2012 copyright Emma Goldman-Sherman

Thanks to Emma and Prepare (IMPACT New York)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Currents in the IMPACT classroom: Where the river takes us

Margaret Vimont couples her dedication to the women going through IMPACT Self-Defense training with a respect for  each student’s flow. Margaret took her first class in 1988, which was the third class offered in Chicago. Margaret obtained her certification to teach IMPACT Self-Defense in 1992 and has led many of us through our Core Program and graduate classes. She talked about her early days as an IMPACT instructor, and her experience from that side of the mat.

What was your purpose for taking the training? 
My martial arts teacher suggested we take IMPACT training. Much faster than with martial arts, I felt how powerful I was. That was transformative.  I was a physically powerful person. A lot flowed out of it. I started to live from within my own skin. I got my Masters in Social Work. I came back, and jumped in the assistant role. I knew something about helping people in crisis. I knew something about IMPACT. I liked the women involved in IMPACT and wanted to be like them, like Dee and Martha, defining themselves and living their lives in a big way. IMPACT allowed me to develop the balance to be attuned with an other person yet be grounded in myself. It built my confidence. As I felt success creating classes, I was less critical of myself. I was more in the moment with the student.

How do you create an environment in which women succeed?
The attention we pay to a supportive environment in class allows a woman to take her first risk. The staff assumes every woman will be successful. It’s taught in an accessible way for women of all abilities. We support them and help them notice what they’ve done before they even realize they’ve done it.  The experience starts to have its own momentum.  The class begins to flow.
We learn not to flail or freeze, because we are at that edge in class, with support from others. We enter knowing what we can do, and add a new ending on it. Other things happen too, but that’s individual. Many things can happen: We face memories, we re-experience moments,  we face limits of who we thought we were. But for all of us, we come up against the limits of where we would have stopped or what we would have usually done, and relearn that, and go further.
That’s why we get stories of women using what they’ve learned after eight years, where the knowledge has gotten in deep. The construct of the class always pushes women to their limits to find that they have more in them than they thought, without pushing them over into defeat.

What’s the line between flow and tension?
We want the student to be immersed in her own experience. Each woman finds her own way through this. She creates something that’s very much hers. We can’t dictate what a woman’s experience will be. The metaphor I use is what they call the “Lazy River” at a water park. Those “rivers” create a current on which we drift in an inner tube. We as instructors create a current, but we don’t tow them in a specific direction. Women choose to enter the current that takes them to a destination that could have many wonderful things for them. But we don’t make anyone do anything. At minimum, the women will have knowledge of how to defend themselves that will be embedded in them even if their minds have forgotten everything we taught them. But their bodies will know how to fight, that’s our measure of success.
Then women can find much more than that, such as emotional gifts, or the experience of learning that they are physically powerful that might help them take up more room in their lives in other ways. They might also feel more assertive and less apologetic about who they are, and knowing what to do when their boundaries are violated. If you don’t know what you’d do if your boundaries are violated, then it’s harder to even set boundaries. It’s a scary place. But if you know how to defend them, then you feel more entitled to have some.
The instructors don’t have to have a plan for each woman. You set something in motion, you know what important things to insist on, the current to have, and you pace the current. When you’ve mastered those parameters, you can let it happen. It’s just like a lazy river at the waterpark.

You talk about teaching being intuitive and that it brings joy. It’s a meditation.
I’ve heard this described as a state of flow, when we’re attuned to the moment and lose a sense of ourselves. When I’m in the state of mindfulness in teaching, I’m in the moment completely but part of the moment is to create an environment with the right tension for women to learn. The process is so familiar to me now that I can be in a state of flow even when we’re teaching something as emotionally demanding as reversals. The emotional challenge is not happening to me. I’m the friendly guide. I’m telling them they can do it. We’re in that part of the river.
It’s an advantage of doing this so long. It’s a joyous thing to teach, you find the sweet spot. There is a privilege of being present to powerful moments in people’s lives. Women face previous traumas on the mat and come through it. It’s not my moment, but I create an environment. It’s like what midwifing might be like. I nurture and celebrate a woman through it. It never gets old, it never gets less potent. Every time, it happens. Every time, it’s powerful. How can I do something multiple times a year for fifteen, twenty years and still have it be powerful? But it is!

Interview by AC Racette, IMPACT Chicago Assistant Director.

Monday, June 4, 2012

I Stopped a Break-In

Lisa Amoroso, IMPACT graduate 1991 and Board Member

My IMPACT training helped me deal with a situation when someone recently tried to break into my backdoor while I was home. I had lots of adrenaline, but I was able to quickly assess the situation and my options. I assessed that he thought the house was empty and was not looking to sexually assault me. My decision was to yell 9-1-1 loudly and hold up the phone, the robber was about as surprised as I was and left, quickly. What I appreciated was that IMPACT had already given me opportunities to consider my options and react in an adrenalized state.

For me, the IMPACT training was transformative, which is why I have volunteered for IMPACT for over two decades. What I gained from IMPACT went well beyond effective, physical fighting skills. I increased my ability and confidence to set boundaries and make positive changes, to express my preferences, and to live with less fear. IMPACT training helped me keep in check some of the anxiety that comes along with being female in certain situations (e.g., a vacant parking garage). IMPACT helped me by giving me the tools I needed to handle potential volatile situations constructively. And now, it helped me stop a break-in.