Monday, December 25, 2017

The Kindness Curriculum for Kids

The Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has designed a "kindness curriculum" for preschoolers.

Joanna McClanahan, writing for Scary Mommy, in "This Kindness Curriculum is Free and Should be Used in Every Classroom" says that participating in the Kindness activities supports kids in learning to manage their emotions and using empathy to develop their awareness of others' emotions.

For more about the Kindness Curriculum

Monday, December 18, 2017

IMPACT Chicago View of Empowerment Self-Defense

Empowerment Self-Defense (ESD) refers to an approach to both “What” and “How” we teach.
1. The “What” includes:
  1. establishing violence as a social, not an individual, problem and understanding violence as a means of maintaining inequalities and injustice*;
  2. holding perpetrators, not victims, accountable for violence;
  3. prioritizing using our bodies effectively (no matter our age, gender, ability, or size);
  4. valuing a range of tools (e.g. awareness, assessment, intuition, verbal, and physical) to address a continuum ranging from violence to disrespect, with strikes and kicks seen as tools of last resort.

2.  The “How” includes:
  1. creating emotionally and physically safe environments.
  2. infusing our curricula and pedagogy with the latest research on trauma, violence, and self-defense. For instance,researchers Hollander (2014), Senn (2015), and Sinclair (2013) have documented the effectiveness of ESD and resistance training.
  3. being mindful of the complexities and nuances of diversity and inclusion and being open to change.Some examples include: addressing women's leadership, addressing pronoun usage, avoiding gender binary language, recognizing gender non-conformity and fluidity; recognizing differences in risk (e.g. the higher rates of sexual abuse of young people, people with disabilities, and trans people) and the unjust criminalization of African Americans and trans people for defending themselves.**
  4. establishing and maintaining clear boundaries throughout our programs and in our relationships with students and other staff.
  5. incorporating new material as new issues become pressing (e.g. bystander support).

You can find more about the IMPACT Chicago approach to ESD by friending us on Facebook or checking out our blog where we regularly address issues relevant to empowerment self-defense. If you are interested in an IMPACT program for yourself, someone else, or an organization, please visit our website or contact Tara Brinkman, Registration and Workshop Coordinator.
* On a self-defense discussion Facebook page, Lisa Scheff, Paradox Self-Defense, asked:  "Do you think that self-defense classes must hit this [violence as a social problem and a means of maintaining inequalities] as part of their instruction to students to be considered ESD, or just that the instructor/organization needs to be informed by this perspective?"

My response on the FB page: "For me, ideally the idea of violence as a social problem and as a means of maintaining inequality will be both directly conveyed and also part of the framework. How an ESD instructor can convey these ideas will vary depending on a lot of factors. Some instructors use statistics to reveal patterns and variations, others create space for participants to share their own stories, others may explicitly state that violence is a social problem and that violence is used to maintain inequalities, and some may do all of the above and more. People are inundated with messages that violence is an individual problem and that mask ways that violence is used to maintain inequalities, so it can be powerful for us to create an environment where people can hear/experience/think about violence and self-defense in a bigger picture way."

**On the same FB page, Nadia Telsey, author of Self-Defense from the Inside Out and so much more, encouraged me to say more about intersectionality. Her request was followed by a statement from Melissa Soalt, Founder of Fierce & Female Self-Defense Training & Consultancy, questioning Nadia's connection of racism and sexual assault. My response on the FB page: "Melissa, your comment underscores why Nadia's request that I be more explicit in addressing intersectionality is important. Without more detail, its meaning can be misunderstood. Intersectionality is not equivalent to a focus on race but addressing race is critical to our understanding of sexual assault. Experience and statistics demonstrate that women as a group are at risk of sexual violence and they also demonstrate that how women are likely to be attacked (e.g. number of attackers, type of attack, location of attack) and how self-defense is framed and explained varies by age, class, disability, gender expression/identity, race, sexual orientation. It is extremely important in our work that we are prepared to address differences in attack & framing of self-defense. Addressing intersectionality does not diminish respect for or value of any woman’s experience but moves us toward offering effective tools and a framework that addresses the realities of all women’s lives. 

Martha Thompson
IMPACT Chicago Instructor
NWMAF certified self-defense instructor
Member, Empowerment Self-Defense Alliance
Participant, ESD Global Incubator 

Thank you to Lisa Amoroso, IMPACT Chicago Board Chair and Admin Team Co-Leader, and Tara Brinkman, Registration and Workshop Coordinator, for their comments on an earlier version of this blog.

Monday, December 11, 2017

IMPACT Online Survey: Help Shape IMPACT Chicago's Future

2018 marks the nine year anniversary of IMPACT’s social media presence. Think about that – in 2007 Facebook was just four years and Twitter was just one year old! Since then thousands of IMPACT graduates and supporters have engaged with IMPACT and it has been amazing to see how these sites have enabled us to share, connect, inspire, educate and grow.

But it’s been nearly a decade and a decade is a long time to keep doing the same thing. That’s why we want to start finding ways to improve our content and better connect with you. But in order to do that, we need to hear from you.

An IMPACT graduate has donated services from her consulting company, Cascade Reaction Consulting. They have put together a short 5 questions survey to help us learn more about your thoughts on IMPACT online.

It will only take a minute (maybe less!) but your answers will help shape the future of IMPACT.
Click here to take the short survey!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Being a Still Presence

Today I had to use the 5 Fingers of Self Defense, but in defense of another person.

I got on the train home and just after a few minutes a man became angry and started shouting obscenities at a woman sitting alone and encumbered with boxes directly across from him. His threats were violent and his body language suggested to me he was about to snap. She was stunned and terrified. One man spoke up, was shouted down by the angry man and he fled at the next stop.

I got up and walked to the woman and asked if I could join her in the empty seat next to her. She said "yes" and I sat down. Another man near me thanked me under his breath and also fled at the next stop. I said nothing to the angry man and made no threatening move towards him. I kept my bag loose and ready to use as a shield and prepared myself to intervene if the angry man continued his tirade and jerky movements. I made sure to say nothing to the man and keep myself neutral but alert and confident.

Once I sat he became still and quiet, glaring at me and then left after a few more stops before the train left the Loop. It took all my self-control to stay calm and loose but ready.

I made small talk with the woman after the angry man left and we discussed what happened. She wanted to scream and run from the man, and I don't blame her, his aggression was genuinely terrifying. But she said she thought that if she ran he would follow her and continued his abuse and possibly attack. I agreed, I felt that if I could inject my presence, a large man, as a buffer or a complication to whatever was on the man's mind I could stop whatever horrible story was about to unfold before me.

Sometimes that's enough to stop violence. Just being a still presence. Not threatening, no displays of power, just be there and support.

As to the other fingers, I "thought" by being aware of my surroundings and observing events unfolding before me. The other man tried to "yell" but that didn't work. She couldn't "run" but I could "run" to her aid, so I did. The fight never happened, and everybody is probably relieved about that. And this story is my "tell."

Christopher Lamitie
Advanced Green Belt
Thousand Waves Martial Art and Self-Defense Center

Monday, November 27, 2017

"Rape Culture" and Empowerment Self-Defense

In August, I had the honor of participating in a week-long strategy discussion concerning the development of the field of Empowerment Self-Defense. One of my contributions was to talk about rape culture – what it is, and how Empowerment Self-Defense works to change it. This is an adaptation of those remarks.
Rape culture refers to the ways that sexual violence is normalized and trivialized in our culture – from scantily-clad backup dancers to rape jokes. A recent, infamous example is the recording of then-candidate Trump’s comments to Billy Bush that was released in 2016.
I don’t personally love the term ‘rape culture’, because I think when people first hear it, they think about a culture of rapists, and it’s more subtle than that. Rape culture is insidious because it is largely invisible – it’s like the old saying, “A fish doesn’t know what water is.”
Empowerment self-defense recognizes a rape joke as a form of violence. It’s not overt physical violence, and it doesn’t warrant an overt physical response, but nonetheless it is something that causes harm, and can be defended against. And ESD teaches that small forms of violence can build into overt physical violence, so those small forms can function as an early warning system. Physical and sexual violence doesn’t erupt out of nowhere; even strangers will go through a testing process before aggressing on a victim. And of course we know that the vast majority of sexual violence is perpetrated by someone known to the victim – which would be terrifying if it meant that one day someone can be perfectly normal and the next day they’re a rapist.
Fortunately that’s not how it works. Empowerment self-defense teaches people to notice and respond to small forms of violence – rape jokes, for example, or seemingly minor boundary violations. Someone who texts me 300 times a day may just be overly enthusiastic and clueless, but if I tell them to stop and they don’t, I now know that they’re not very good at respecting limits that someone sets for them. Someone who tells a rape joke may just be going for shock value and the cheap laugh, but if I tell them it makes me uncomfortable and they react with defensiveness or dismissal, I know that they care more about their own agenda than respecting my wishes – and that therefore they’re not a safe person for me to spend time with.
And the really powerful aspect of empowerment self-defense is that it teaches people to attend to the meta-conversations – to notice when someone is trying to manipulate them rather than just responding to the manipulation; to notice who is in charge of the energy in an interaction, and to take charge of that energy as a way of increasing their safety.
And yes, sometimes it doesn’t work. Nothing works 100% of the time. So ESD also teaches easy ways to hurt people who are bigger and stronger than you enough for you to get away from them.
One of the realities that ESD contends with is that, because so many assaults come from known attackers, defenders can be unwilling to use physical defense because they aren’t willing to hurt their attacker. So ESD reminds them that strategic compliance is a valid option, and nothing that they do or don’t do makes it their fault that someone else chose to attack them. Increasing options and increasing choices also increases resilience. Maybe the most important thing empowerment self-defense does is to teach that no matter what happens, we have choices in how we respond.
Amy Jones, Violence Prevention and Self-Defense Program Manager at Thousand Waves Martial Arts and Self-Defense Center. Self-Defense is Not About Eliminating Risk was originally published 9/15/2017 in tyrft: Thousand Waves' Blog/Newsletter. Reprinted with permission.

From Amy's presentation for an ESD Global webinar organized by IMPACT Chicago Instructor Martha Thompson and produced by Yudit Sidikman: "Three Reasons for Feminists to Advocate for Empowerment Self-Defense." Amy addressed Reason #3: ESD Challenges Rape Culture. Look for an ESD-related blog the last Monday of each month.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Supporting a Friend Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted

In "How to be a Good Friend to a Sexual Assault Survivor" in Teen Vogue, Alisa Zipursky says:

Validate a survivor's feelings

Respect a survivor's choices about healing from the trauma

Stand with a survivor during dark and scary moments

Make it easier to give and receive support

Celebrate good moments in healing
                                                      Check in about what works best for your friendship

Read here for Zipursky's article in Teen Vogue

Monday, November 13, 2017

10 Ways to Change the Culture after #MeToo

Photo: Change from Within
In "USM Educator Offers 10 ways to change the culture after #MeToo," Kathryn Skelton writes about the work of University of Maine educator Kimberly Simmons. Here are highlights from Simmons. Read the full article here.

1) Believe yourself; believe others. 
2) Acknowledge the ways that sexual violence intertwines with racism.
3) Learn more about campus sexual assault and Title IX. 
4) Interrupt rape culture and address “toxic masculinity.” 
5) Protest the sexualization of childhood and be a savvy consumer. 
6) Learn about powerful resistance and activism. 
7) Know your civil, workplace and educational rights.
8) Include LGBTQ people in conversations about sexual assault and gender-based violence. 
9) Support comprehensive sexuality education and reshape rape culture into a culture of consent.
10) Consider training in Empowerment Self Defense.
Katherine Skelton. 2017. "USM Educator Offers 10 ways to change the culture after #MeToo." Sun Journal.

Monday, November 6, 2017

How Could I Not Intervene?

Margarita Saona
I am a bit shaken. No physical harm was done, but a lot of verbal abuse and I am not sure if I made matters worse by intervening...but I don't see how could I not...

I was walking to the grocery store and thinking how cool it was to see all these kids coming home from school on such a beautiful afternoon. I thought, "This is a nice neighborhood. These kids can walk home feeling safe." But as soon as I thought that, only half a block further, I saw an older woman standing by a car yelling at a teenage girl. The girl was standing against the fence of a building listening to her phone. The lady was getting into her car, but kept yelling at the girl. 

I was going to just keep walking when I did a double take and asked the girl if she was okay. She nodded imperceptibly but looked clearly afraid. I asked her if she was waiting for somebody and she said yes, her sister. I asked her if she wanted me to wait with her and she nodded emphatically. In the meantime the angry woman kept yelling at her all this vile stuff that started with saying "It says no trespassing! Can't you read!" The tirade included things like "You animals!" She basically accused the girl of being a prostitute. 

The girl looked to me like a young teen, maybe fourteen. She was African American or African (there are many African immigrants in my neighborhood). The angry woman was white. I am Latina, light skinned, with a clearly foreign accent. A couple of times I said calmly "We are not trespassing. We are on the sidewalk." She yelled at me to mind my own business and asked if I was the girl's mother, to which I replied that I was her friend. Finally, a school bus arrived, a girl stepped out of it and scurried away with the girl I had been keeping company. They did not look back. I stuck my head in the bus and told the driver what had happened and asked him to watch out for the girls the next day. As I walked away the lady yelled to me again to mind my own business. By now it was clear to me that this lady was mentally disturbed. I also talked to the crossing guard. This happened just a little bit further away from the area she would be watching as kids crossed the streets. She promised to be on the lookout. 

The angry woman had gotten in and out of her car several times during the incident and I have to say that there was a moment when I thought "What if she has a gun in the car????" Luckily nothing else happened, but I keep thinking of those girls and wonder if this interaction had happened before or if it would happen again. I wonder if I might have made the woman angrier by making her feel disrespected. (But of course, she was violently disrespectful to the girl). 

When I came back from the store I noticed that the woman was still in the car. Then I saw that the car had a "No trespassing sign." She was not referring to the building! She was referring to the car! It also had several plastic bags all over. I realized that I had read part of the story wrong. I thought the woman lived in the building on which fence the girl was leaning. My impression now is that the woman is probably homeless and lives in her car. I remembered that when my husband's grandmother had dementia one of her delusions was that there were kids doing drugs by her window. I feel all heartbroken: on the one hand I realize that this old woman must have a hard life and that she was not acting rationally. On the other hand, the kid was being terribly harassed and, I still believe, terrorized. In self-defense I have often heard that the mentally ill are more often victims than aggressors. But fear can also lead to violence. And things like dementia can also bring up deep anger and prejudices. I'm sad and still a bit afraid thinking the girl might need to wait there again tomorrow.

Days later: The event haunts me. I drive often down the street where it happened and I am always on the lookout for both the woman’s car and the girl and I wonder if they are okay….

Margarita Saona
Second Degree Black Belt
Thousand Waves Martial Arts and Self-Defense Center
Author of Corazon de hojalata: Tin Heart
Professor and Head of the Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies
University of Illinois Chicago

Monday, October 30, 2017

What do Empowerment Self-Defense Students Learn?

Mona MacDonald, Lioness Martial Arts
For some people, “self-defense” brings to mind images of Bruce Lee kicking and punching (and spinning and flying!) to get out of a dangerous situation. No wonder people can feel intimidated!

By contrast, Empowerment Self-Defense (ESD) is designed for everyone. The skills are accessible to people of all abilities, and they’re designed to keep us safe in everyday situations, not just in violent ones. Consider some of the many ways our safety and wellbeing may be threatened – harassment, bullying, boundary violations, unwanted attention, sexual coercion, emotional abuse, physical assault.

ESD students learn a range of skills and strategies — giving them a range of options — to successfully deal with different kinds of unwanted situations. Students are empowered to choose for themselves what actions will be best for them in whatever situation they face. Students take home many tools from ESD classes including:

Accurate information increases our understanding of violence and our ability to assess safety risks and possible actions. In ESD classes, we address threats to personal safety, the many forms of violence in our culture, and how gender socialization, racism and classism impact safety. Common myths and misperceptions about violence and perpetrators are also dispelled using current research and statistics.

Awareness Skills
In addition to being mindful of the external environment and assessing the situation they are in, ESD students learn to understand and trust their intuitive feelings. Reading body language, recognizing when boundaries are being ignored or challenged, and projecting confidence are some of the skills students learn to use in their daily lives to help stay safe and in control.

One of the most powerful and versatile safety tools we have is our voice. In ESD classes, students learn to use their voices to stop or interrupt unwanted and potentially dangerous behavior. Skills include de-escalation, setting and defending boundaries, speaking assertively and YELLING. Students also use their voices to add power to their physical techniques.

Physical Skills
ESD teaches fighting as a last resort. The goal is to respond with sufficient force to get away to safety (rather than prolonging the fight to win or to punish). Students learn simple but effective physical skills, targeting the most vulnerable points on an assailant’s body. Unlike martial arts techniques, these skills do not require years of study and practice; instead, they are fairly easy to learn in a limited amount of time.

Resources for Healing and Support

ESD instructors can be a valuable source of information and referral to those seeking help with personal safety and trauma recovery. Students are provided current information about organizations and services available in their local communities such as hotlines, crisis centers and shelters.

Mona McDonald
Lioness Martial Arts
NWMAF certified self-defense instructor
Member of ESD Global Incubator

From Mona's presentation for an ESD Global webinar organized by IMPACT Chicago Instructor Martha Thompson: "Three Reasons for Feminists to Advocate for Empowerment Self-Defense." Mona addressed Reason #1: ESD Works to Stop Sexual Violence. Thank you to producer Yudit Sidikman. Look for an ESD-related blog the last Monday of each month.

Monday, October 23, 2017

No and Yes

September 2017 Core Program Graduate
Making myself small
Looking away
Telling you my name
Holding back
Walking scared

Setting boundaries
Taking up space
Supporting each other
Holding the line

Monday, October 16, 2017

IMPACT Chicago Lead Instructor Molly Norris Retires

Molly, IMPACT Chicago Lead Instructor 2012-2017

we all move forward when
we recognize how resilient
and striking the women
around us are 
-rupi kaur

IMPACT changes us. That’s why we are here, that’s why we stay, and that’s why we come back to give back. When I first took the Core Program in 2009 (upon the suggestion of suited instructor Nat Wilson), I had no idea what I was opening inside of myself. I called him after the first weekend (fully adrenalized and hypervigilant, I might add), and told him “I had no idea THIS is what you do.” It takes a unique collection of skills to teach with IMPACT and I had no idea at the time that my unique collection would fit.

Life has taken a hard left for me since 2009. I became an instructor in 2012, got married, bought a house, sold a house, earned a doctorate, gave birth to a future IMPACT grad; through it all, IMPACT has been a touchpoint. Something to rely upon. Something that gave me the courage and strength to make all of those difficult and necessary changes. Somewhere I knew that no matter what, we were doing good.

It is ironic that IMPACT has prepared me so well for the next hardest step: leaving IMPACT. At this point in time, I have had to make the choice to put a few of the spinning plates away and focus on new endeavors as a clinical audiologist (Side note: wouldn’t have become a Doctor of Audiology without IMPACT either).

This post is to say thank you to the IMPACT community. You have been my home for the last 8 years in one way or another, and I wouldn’t be who I am without you.
Passing it on…

Molly Norris
IMPACT Chicago Lead Instructor 2012-2017

Monday, October 9, 2017

Taking Up Space in the World: Robin Mina

Robin Mina, IMPACT Chicago Board Member
Photographer: Ricky Lee Barnes
Meet Robin Mina, new IMPACT Chicago Board Member.

What work do you do?
I am an itinerant teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing. I work in 10 different schools supporting children with hearing loss and the staff who work with them.

What is other volunteer work that you do?
I volunteer with the Illinois Choice Action Team. I help escort patients into women's health clinics past the anti-choice protestors who are attempting to stop and/or harass them.

What are hobbies or other interests?
I have been a yoga teacher since 2014, and I also am an actress on the side. I recently went to Scotland to perform in the 70th Fringe Festival.

Why do you volunteer for IMPACT?
I volunteer for IMPACT because the work that is being done there is so very important. I took the CORE program in February 2016 and it changed my life. I feel comfortable taking up the space in the world that I so deserve, and I want to support other female-identifying individuals in accessing the confidence to do so as well.

Monday, October 2, 2017

IMPACT, Diva Remix

At the end of the September Core Program, one participant shared her IMPACT, Diva Remix of artists: Aretha Franklin, Cardi B, No Doubt, Beyonce, Tay Cellblock C, Demi Lovato, and Christina Aguilera.

Takes longer than Aretha’s spelling to find out what it means to me
R E S P E C T , that you wouldn’t from go is Bananas
Hey, you’re mistaken, you can’t fuck with me,
I talk hard like Cardi B. No Doubt
I’ll hit harder too, don’t cross my drawn line.
I walk with a power of the Queen Beyonce,
Hurt me, and you only hurt yourself. Dumbass don’t.
Now smarter, harder in the knick of time like Tay
Cellbock C tango, dance asshole I’m in formation.
Paybacks a bad bitch Demi says I’m baddest in the game
Far too nice of me to take it easy nuh uh, no way.
He had it coming, only his crossing my boundaries to blame.
Look what you made me do back at you, oh, dipshit it’s on you.
Christina preached I wouldn’t know what I could pull through
If it wasn’t for all you tried, capital T, tried to do.
No shouldv’e been enough, but we had to go another route.
Cuz you won’t pull a full stop I pulled a safe drop and you're out.
Until the days my muscles don’t need to remember
IMPACT, Thanks for making us fighters this September.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Principles of Empowerment Self-Defense

Julie Harmon IMPACT Safety Columbus Ohio
All self-defense is not created equal. The desired outcomes may be similar–proving tools for people and their communities to feel safer. Empowerment Self Defense, which is a distinct types of self-defense, is based, not just on desired outcomes, but rests firmly  on key principles in which all aspects of teaching and learning are built. These principles guide curriculum development, implementation decisions, and instruction methodology.

1. Sexual violence as well as other types of violence, like harassment, stalking, and threats are social problems. 
This means that specific responses to these situations are considered based on context and individual choice – there is no one size fits all; no one right answer. For example, at a party, a response to an unwanted hug from someone you know, may elicit a different response, than a hug from a stranger at that same party. Or, if someone is bothering you and will not be dissuaded – the choice of responses could be an assertive verbal strategy, a very loud – attract attention verbal response, (depending on where this is happening: dorm room, street, store, walking path) or entering a safer place.

2. The aggressor is the one responsible for any and all acts of violence
The aggressor is responsible for harassment, verbal threats, to unwanted touch – every single act on the continuum of violence. Victim blaming or excuse giving has no place in ESD.

3. ESD is well researched and informed
80% of all assaults on women are perpetrated by someone familiar.  Most often that is a friend, a friend of a friend, a co -worker, boss – someone we would generally not expect to cross our boundaries. Programming is based on research and data, about who are the likely perpetrators, how these assaults begin and progress, and what strategies have been proven to be effective in addressing these situations.

4. ESD is trauma-informed
What that means is that programs are implemented through a trauma lens, which includes not only individual incidents of trauma, but also systems of oppression and the intersection of race, gender, and class. The impact of trauma and oppression are understood and considered as curriculum is implemented. Individuals are not singled out or isolated, rather the curriculum as a whole is developed based on this principle.

5.  ESD programs explicitly utilize a peer support methodology
Participants experience with others concerns about "being alone in their fears” or "being the only one"  or "worried about doing it right." Peer support methodology is intentional. It is not an accident that ESD program participant experience support for trying new things, for having a voice, for making difficult choices, for taking charge of their life, or for facing their fears. The support is felt – energetically and in new relationships that often become part of participants’ lives.

These five principles are foundational to ESD programs – they guide curricula decisions, instructor training, and programming options. The ability for participants to experience connection, belonging, safety and dignity is possible because of the adherence to these principles. ESD is based on more than outcomes – the processes and the intersection of  many disciplines  and areas, combine to make ESD programs as relevant, customizable, fun and empowering as they are.

Julie Harmon
Member, ESD Global and IMPACT International
Director and Instructor of IMPACT Safety, Life Care Alliance
Columbus, Ohio

From Julie's presentation for an ESD Global webinar organized by IMPACT Chicago Instructor Martha Thompson: "Three Reasons for Feminists to Advocate for Empowerment Self-Defense." Julie addressed Reason #1: ESD Works to Stop Sexual Violence. Thank you to producer Yudit Sidikman. Look for an ESD-related blog the last Monday of each month.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Taking Our Bodies Back

Q: Are you suggesting that fighting back is the solution to violence against women? Why should this onus be on women and not men?
A: Of course it's not the sole solution. To suggest this would not only be naive but insulting to all those past and present who have suffered violence, rape, atrocity and indignities at the hands of men—and who have done everything "right," as individuals or en masse: rape, for example, is still used as a weapon of war to instill maximum shame and despoilment of a people, and as a "bonding ritual" among soldiers.
The roots of men's violent entitlements, the taking and using of the female body, are deeply entrenched. Combating this is akin to fighting a war; it needs to be fought on all fronts, requiring multi-pronged strategies and sustained efforts spanning cultural, social, legal, political and educational reform. The training of women in hardcore self defense is a vital front, yet for too long it's been minimized—its role downplayed as a viable and effective means of combating and stopping assaults against women. This learning has been viewed more as a side dish--rarely the main course; afforded the "little sister" status to more important efforts.
Frankly, the notion that we shouldn't have to learn, that this is merely 'blaming the victim' is not only foolhardy and dangerous, undermining the cause of women, but it misses this crucial point: the reclamation of our female-animal capacity, the desire and know-how to fight to protect life, dignity, and that which we hold sacred, and learning to wield physical power is fundamental to a wholesome robust life. (And it just plain feels good.)
Learning to fight back also stirs deep desires; the wants that lie below fear, that have been kept "on hold," are lured to the fore, called out of hiding. So at its bedrock core, it's connected to larger Life Forces and Desire.
Minimizing the raw power of learning to fight is akin to diminishing women's sexual (or other) appetites, or the pleasure of reveling in bodily prowess. Not to mention the fact that fighting back in self defense IS (often) effective!
I take aim at this not only because it's insidious but because any view that subverts the training of our vital aggressive nature is dangerous, further disconnecting women from our survival instincts, the readied ability to defend boundaries, and to stand in power without floods of fear.
The benefits and applications of self defense are long and mighty.
Here's my final calling and shout: Until women are perceived—and more importantly perceive themselves—as being capable and competent at wielding the tools of aggression, we will NEVER be safe or whole. As long as men are the agents of violence and women are the casualties of their actions, the spoils of war, victims on the pointy end of male aggression, there will NEVER be balance of power between sexes: we will remain relegated to a lesser-than-status, too powerless or simply too fearful to resist brutalities, limited by social contract in the ways in which we express our own yearnings, ferocities and fighting spirit—and above all, in how we protect the sovereignty of our bodies and souls.
This sounds like a bum deal to me.
Upending violence against women and girls requires a global en masse effort. But it will not be accomplished until we also TAKE our bodies back and rally our oldest primal forces.
Author Natalie Angier's foretelling words come to mind: "The next phase of the revolution needs an infusion of Old World monkey sorority."
Say it sistah!
Melissa Soalt

Originally posted 9/11/2017 on Fierce and Female Self Defense Training and Consultancy. Reprinted with permission.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Muscle Memory works for Bystander Intervention

In case anyone ever wonders, apparently adrenalized muscle memory works on bystander intervention as well.

I was walking with my partner downtown during Lalapalooza and we were walking behind a female and male (they seemed like tourists) when an intoxicated guy started moving toward the female, mumbling something and then reached out to touch her. She kept trying to shrink away toward the male she was with who was staring in shock and confusion.  I honestly don't know how I responded so fast and without thinking.  I started yelling at the guy reaching for her and got in between him and her and got rid of him.  She was scared and thanked me.  

I was surprised at how without thinking I started yelling at him to move away and not touch her. I was just so angry that he thought he could attempt that. So, adrenalized muscle memory works for bystander intervention.  And I hope she could see there were other options to her in the future as well.

I know one of the options for bystander intervention for harassment to decrease violence is to begin to talk to the person being harassed and deprive the person of attention so they go away.  There just wasn't time when he was already reaching for her.  

Sarah Grove
IMPACT graduate 

Monday, September 4, 2017

How IMPACT got its name

From Mark Morris’ “Making IMPACT” in A History of Model Mugging
In July 1990, Carol Middleton of  then DC Model Mugging organized a meeting with chapter heads from Boston, LA, DC, Chicago, and the Bay Area to meet with Matt Thomas to come up with a plan to pay him for the rights to use the name Model Mugging, even though he had not taken any steps to protect the trademark. Negotiations broke down and some chapters decided to explore a national organization with a new name.
The Chicago Meeting
On March 12 and 13, 1991, [what Mark called] the Organization Faction met in Chicago.* This meeting was attended by Melissa Soalt, Model Mugging (MM) of Boston; Al Potash and Lisa Gaeta, IMPACT Personal Safety in Los Angeles; Carol Middleton; DC Model Mugging;  Sheryl Doran. Bay Area Model Mugging (BAMM); Martha Thompson and Joe Connelly, Self-Empowerment Group of Chicago (SEG). I was there too -- however I no longer represented a Chapter. Bill Kratoska (MM of Minneapolis) was very supportive of our efforts, but he was unable to attend. We were joined by Laine Jastram and her husband, Jeff Evans, representing MM of New York, and Rick Gibbons from MM of Kansas City….
We approved an idealistic Mission Statement that focused on the public good. I pointed out that we were also working together for our own benefit. Failure to keep this agenda out in the open would lead us directly to the same sort of self-serving self-righteousness we all resented so much in Matt Thomas. After this good start, we quickly got bogged down in a debate over a name for the proposed association. There was a deeper question underneath this surface issue. Were we trying to create a strong association built around a new trademark or a weak association with a generic name? Most of us agreed that IMPACT was the best sounding of the suggested names.  Al said he was willing to yield the IMPACT name to the national organization. However, concerns were expressed about giving undue influence to the LA Chapter.**
Sheryl Doran Tips the Scales
In May, Sheryl [Doran] opted to support "IMPACT" as the trademark for the national organization. [Sheryl’s support was critical because she was “the mother” of Model Mugging. She created and defined the female instructor role. She was technically skilled, professional, empathetic, and a skilled facilitator. Sheryl’s combination of networking, word of mouth, and ability to connect with people brought women into the courses. Her business and marketing skills were key to the success of Model Mugging]. At our next meeting, a phone conference on May 16, 1991, we settled on Impact International Inc. (III)…. A majority (the Chapters in LA, the Bay Area, Chicago, and D.C.) now supported a strong association and the III name….
May to October 1991
From June until the December 1991 National Retreat, we held III meetings on a monthly basis through phone conferences….Martha Thompson played an important role (beginning with the March conference) by facilitating our meetings. Through her leadership, we were able to move forward, if only at a crawling pace, through even the thorniest issues…
Impact Personal Safety organized a National Model Mugging Staff Retreat for December…By the time of the Retreat, III consisted of an association between the [former] Model Mugging Chapters in the Bay Area, LA, Chicago and DC….Carol Middleton from D.C. was the first President of IMPACT International, Inc.
*this group is who Mark called the Organization Faction, chapter leaders who wanted to form a national organization. Mark identified two other factions: the Owners (some of the founders who developed Model Mugging into a full-fledged program—Matt Thomas, Julio Toribo, Danielle Evans) and the Community Faction (people who did not want to go either way, but wanted to maintain relationships).
**According to Mark’s chapter The Dust Settles, in 1989, Irene van der Zande , Al Potash, and Lisa Gaeta decided to establish a new organization. They all wanted a new name for the organization that did not involve the name Model Mugging. In 1989, Al came up with the name IMPACT, the IMPACT Foundation was incorporated, and Model Mugging of Los Angeles began a transition to the IMPACT name. 

Martha Thompson selected the above excerpts and has inserted some explanatory notes. To read the full history as written by Mark, contact Martha (