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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.

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