Monday, November 26, 2018

Yuko Uchikawa: Empowerment Self-Defense, Conflict Resolution, and Peacemaking

Yuko Uchikawa
"I came into self-defense through martial arts. In 1992, I took a five-minute self-defense class at a women's festival: how to use your voice, do a power yell and a palm heel strike, where you strike the nose with the palm of your hand. It had never occurred to me that I could protect myself because I'm a woman and I'm small and not that strong. The next day I signed up for a class. In 1993 some Asian women friends and I started RUCKUS." 
Yuko Uchikawa as told to Rinku Sen "Saving Yourself" in ColorLines, Winter 2004.

About the time that the ColorLines article came out, a self-defense student in Japan asked me, “How do I defend myself verbally and work things out?” That began my transition from Empowerment Self-Defense into conflict resolution and peacemaking. I went back to school to become a mediator and trainer in conflict resolution. Similar to self-defense, empowerment is at the heart of mediation and the process is designed to guide people in making their own decisions. It is effective in addressing immediate needs, put out the fire, and resolve disputes, but it does not change the culture. 

Shifting culture requires building community and creating a sense of belonging. But a sense of belonging is not always positive. For example, white supremacy can be “belonging," so it is key to look at what kind of belonging we are creating. I found Restorative Justice (RJ) to be a process that builds community and works toward social and specifically, racial justice. Justice is when the causes of inequities are addressed and systemic barriers are dismantled. RJ in schools looks at the disproportionality of suspension of Black and Brown students to interrupt the school to prison pipeline. RJ provides a way to bring the harmer and harmed together to dialogue. RJ holds the harmer accountable and at the same time, gives a lot of support so that the harmer could make amends and we all heal as a community. My work in the past five years has been to create restorative justice practices in schools, communities, and organizations. 
Yuko Uchikawa
Open Talk
Ruckus Safety Awareness
New York Center for Interpersonal Development (NYCID)

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