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:

Knowledge
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.

Voice
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.

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