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Monday, March 11, 2013

Martha Thompson Receives Peacemaker Award

Nancy Lanoue, Co-Executive Director,*
Thousand Waves Martial Arts & Self-Defense Center

Martha and Nancy

One of the riskiest decisions I ever made was in 1991, when I offered to coordinate the annual conference of the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation here in Chicago at Loyola University. I had had no experience to prepare me for such a task and was a relative newcomer to the organization, but I was driven to the challenge.

Fortunately, the conference didn’t fail and even earned enough money for us to buy our first computer for Thousand Waves. But the most valuable thing I got from it was not the boost to my reputation or a financial windfall. It was an amazing new member, Martha Thompson, who had heard that the conference was offering a self-defense track and decided to check it out. She shortly, thereafter, made the leap into studying martial arts.

At this time, Martha had already been teaching self-defense for several years. She was slowly and steadily building the capacity of the organization, IMPACT Chicago, and extending its reach across Chicago as a provider of feminist, empowerment-oriented self-defense. As many of you know, what IMPACT offers that we at Thousand Waves do not, is the opportunity to work with armored male co-instructors to practice full contact strikes in an adrenalized condition.

Martha has been an inspiring teacher of IMPACT Chicago self-defense for 25 years and, in this capacity, has touched the lives of literally thousands of students, giving them the tools they need to be safe and to heal from whatever violence they have experienced.

Over the years, I have been fortunate to work collaboratively with Martha on many projects. She, Marie O’Brien and I decided to try to articulate our shared vision of what a Feminist Empowerment Model of Self-Defense looks like. Once we captured it on paper, we took it to our colleagues in the NWMAF and got them to adopt it as the standard pedagogic model for their certification program.

Martha’s leadership, in this and countless other projects that she has volunteered for, is a demonstration, in and of itself, of the feminist empowerment model we sought to articulate.  It comes naturally to her to make a place for everyone, respect diverse points of view, draw on the expertise participants bring to the table, bring out the best in everyone, inspire respectful debate and work towards consensus.

One of the reasons Martha is able to so skillfully apply the feminist empowerment model in her self-defense teaching, and to help other teachers like me do it as well, is that this topic has been a major focus of her academic scholarship, as well as her self-defense teaching. Since her retirement from Northeastern Illinois University’s Sociology and Women’s Studies Departments, she has begun a new type of teaching at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she works on preparing future faculty by teaching them her pedagogic methods

I could go on much longer singing the praises of my friend, my martial arts student and my self-defense colleague, but with no further delay, I would like to award the Thousand Waves Peacemaker Award to Martha Thompson.

We honor you, Martha, for your contributions to the development of a Feminist Empowerment Model of teaching and for many years of creative, principled leadership in local, national, and international Women’s Self-Defense work.

Through your academic scholarship and 25 years of inspired teaching with IMPACT Chicago, you have set thousands of positive waves in motion. Thank you for inspiring us to follow in your footsteps.

*Remarks made on the occasion of Dr. Martha Thompson’s Peacemaker Award, February 9, 2013

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