Monday, August 20, 2012

I Found My Voice and Stood Up For Myself

Interview with Leslie Eto, IMPACT Chicago Registration and Workshop Director

AC Racette, IMPACT Chicago Assistant Director interviewed Leslie. She says: Catching Leslie
Eto is no easy feat. She works nighttimes in the River North area in futures trading and comes
home mid-morning. Her bedtime is when most of us are starting to wrap up our workday. She
flips her schedule to be with friends, family, and IMPACT on weekends. She had studied Aikido,
seriously, before taking her first IMPACT Core Program in 1990.

AC: What makes you still believe in IMPACT’s methodology?

It really helped me at work. At the time, I had been on the trading floor 12 years. In the
beginning, I once went home crying because it was a very abusive environment. I couldn’t take
it. I’d hide and do my work and leave. But after I did the IMPACT training, it was different. I
remember this broker screaming at me and I was really angry inside. It turned out that one of
his guys had made an error and he was trying to pin the blame on me. Later, I saw him walking
around the pit and he looked at me, saw that I was staring at him and he looked away really
fast. I yelled “Apology accepted!” Everyone looked up. At the end of the trading session he did
apologize. I was amazed. This was after taking IMPACT. I was able to find my voice and really
stand up for myself.

A woman from my Aikido class, who took IMPACT, was later involved in a carjacking and
her first instinct was what you learn in IMPACT... not from years and years of martial arts
training. There’s a real difference. With IMPACT, the use of muscle memory is so good and the
techniques are simple and direct.

On the website, we say any woman can do this, as long as you can walk up a flight of stairs
with a bag of groceries. The techniques are easy to remember; once you do them, they stay with
you. In the workshops I lead, I like seeing people learn one or two techniques, learn how to
yell and learn about proper distance. Students challenge their own ideas of what self-defense
is. We’re talking about real life situations and the things you can do with your own body—no

I’ve seen women with chronic conditions, like arthritis, take the class and succeed. They might
be less inclined to go full speed but they learn the techniques and deliver a knockout blow. The
instructors aren’t going to let anyone finish without doing that. A woman in her 60s called, who
had a condition where her joints were loose and she couldn’t lock her knees, ankles, wrists. I
referred her to Martha and Margaret because this was pretty serious. They told her if she was
uncomfortable with anything, she could sit to the side and observe. The instructors would be
cautious and tell her what she could realistically do and not do. She had to back off with the
palm-heel, but everything else she could do, especially the ground techniques.

I’ve had people in my own workshops with deep-seated doubts who were very resistant. They
doubted the techniques but, in the end, they came through and embraced both IMPACT’s
techniques and basic premise that women are fully capable of defending themselves. It’s
the support that they get. Some people just doubt that anyone will care about or value a
woman's understandable fears about sexual assault. In IMPACT classes, the staff creates a safe
environment where students can support one another.

That’s the main thing I loved about my class. Martha and the other  instructors were so supportive; I’ve
never seen anything like it.

If you know someone who needs IMPACT in their lives, if you’ve been meaning to take the class
and haven’t gotten around to it, do it now! Our next Core Program is offered at Belle Plaine
Studio, September 22, 23, 29, & 30. Check out our website at

Monday, August 13, 2012

More Than a Self-Defense Course

Danuta K July 2012

I am so grateful for taking the [IMPACT Chicago Core Program]. This was one of the best choices I have ever made. It surpassed all of my expectations. The staff was so very well trained in the technique and at the same time so very insightful, caring, and supportive, encouraging and committed to what they do and making the world a better place one group of women at a time. Being with [the lead instructor] and the other women in a group felt like being part of a huge supportive family. I saw the big commitment that the suited instructors were making – thank you. I attend a domestic violence support group for women and I will recommend it to every woman in that group.

This was an exceptional experience to stand up for myself, say NO!, use everything that I have to fight for myself and for what I believe in. It gave me self-confidence, more insight into who I am, showed me how to set boundaries, connected me spiritually with all the other women in the group and gave me courage, a sense of belonging and empowerment.

I feel so grateful to all of you - Thank you. This was much more than a self-defense course for me. It was getting back in touch with who I really am and a step forward in my life. I will never forget it.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back in the day

Back in the Day: Reflections on the first IMPACT/Model Mugging Class

Dianne (Dee) Costanzo

The world cracked open for me in August 1987 in a way that would leave me forever changed; I was one of the fourteen women who took a self-defense class called Model Mugging. No, we did not mug models. We changed the world just a bit. While I cannot speak for the other women, I do believe most would agree that those five evenings on the mat shifted our way of being in the world.

It certainly changed the direction of my life, so much so that I knew I needed to be a part of what would become IMPACT, so much so that I became the first certified female instructor in Chicago and probably east of the Rocky Mountains, so much so that I had the honor of walking with countless numbers of strong women who signed up for classes, workshops, or informational talks for the first twenty-two years of IMPACT’s existence in the Chicago land area.

For those who have taken the class, I do not need to discuss its transformative power, but I can share what the class meant to me. It shook me to the core and when the shaking stopped enough, I saw myself differently. It helped me integrate body, mind, and spirit and called me very clearly to help others come to their own truth, their own life in their own way. As an instructor, I always believed that every woman speaks the truth of her life and has the right to speak it clearly, strongly, and with a non-negotiable sense of dignity. I should like to think that I helped provide the space for women to do their inner and outer work.

Over the years, I was known for coming up with phrases that might put things in perspective: “Love those hips!” “Strong women can fight and cry at the same time!” “Different mugger, different day!” “You can put a new ending to an old story.” And my favorite, “GET UP!” At a visceral level, I knew the fear and doubt many women felt during a difficult scenario, and I always felt blessed to be a witness to a woman so willing to step into the unknown and come out the other side.

 Many times after a class, I would go home and cry—not because a woman couldn’t learn how to protect herself, quite the opposite. I would cry because a woman found the strength, however tentative, to say “no.” And that little “no” became a big “No,” and that big “No” joined the “No” of all the other women in class, and at graduation, when graduates of previous classes came to support the women graduating that day, the “No” would represent circles within circles of all the women who stood up one at a time to make a community of warrior women who simply want to walk in the world on their own terms.

I have always believed that we have the responsibility to make the world better than we found it, and it has been my honor and privilege to “lay down the mats” and have women come to their own truth. Twenty-five years in some way is a long time to support such an effort, but in truth we are just beginning.