Monday, August 31, 2015

Creating Safer Spaces in IMPACT

IMPACT participants often tell us that our programs feel “safe” even though a focus of the course is defending oneself in realistic attack scenarios. Our programs are an example of empowerment self-defense practices which include a commitment to creating safer spaces.
A safer place is where each participant

  • is treated as an important part of the classroom community and members of marginalized groups do not face mainstream stereotypes or are marginalized
  • can freely and fully participate 

  • is welcomed regardless of gender identity or expression, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, cultural background, religious affiliation, age, or physical or mental ability
  • is treated with respect and dignity.

Elements of a safer self-defense training space
·         Introductions of instructors establish competence and compassion, such as  providing information, word choices, and storytelling to convey:
ü  Skills to teach self-defense
ü  Classroom management skills
ü  Ability to support a range of emotions and issues that may arise
ü  Flexibility
ü  Compassion for and acceptance of others
·         Ground rules that make expectations public and clear, such as
ü  Confidentiality
ü  Treat self and others with respect
ü  This is a community where no one is isolated, told what to do ignored or judged
ü  Being fully present
ü  Active and nonjudgmental listening
·         Introductions of participants establish that we are creating a community that supports each person having a voice and choices about how to express themselves within specific guidelines, such as participants:
ü  have options and choices about how to present themselves, not a free-for-all or no options
ü  have options and avenues about how to express their concerns
ü  are asked to speak from one’s own experience, not expressing their opinions (serial testimony)
·         Establish violence as a social issue, not an individual problem, such as
ü  Reference to ways that cultural values and norms support violence, inequalities in experiences of violence and responses to self-defense
ü  Making it clear that responsibility for violence is the responsibility of perpetrators and those who ignore it; not the responsibility of targets of violence
ü  Making it clear that there are no absolutes or formulas for self-defense or only one way to respond to any situation because violence arises in a social context and people are targeted differently as are their efforts at self-defense
ü  People will not be blamed or belittled for choices they have made or will make
Martha Thompson & Alena Schaim
2015 NWMAF Empowerment Self-Defense Model Course


  1. This is fantastic.
    My experience with the course reaffirms that the classroom felt like a place where it was ok to be myself, express my life experiences, be respected and supported, and learn things it turned out I could do even though I was unsure that I could at first.