Monday, July 29, 2013

Women Who Know Self-Defense Are Safer

Women who took a self-defense course reported significantly less unwanted sexual contact one year later than women in a control group who did not take a self-defense course (Cascade 2013).

You can find a summary of the research of Jocelyn Hollander, University of Oregon sociologist, in “Are Women Safer When They Learn Self-Defense?” (Cascade 2013).

The answer is YES!

The next IMPACT program for adults is September 20, 21, and 22 at Tribe, 1819 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL 60657. Visit,, or 773-561-9000.

Monday, July 22, 2013

IMPACT is Also for Veterans!

Slowly but steadily, Felicia is getting her life back. She’d always struggled with low self-confidence. When she signed up for the US Navy, she thought she would finally feel safe. And then a horrible thing happened, something that she still can’t name. “When I was 19 years old, two of my battle buddies took something from me,” she says.

With Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey’s mid-May resolve to address this scourge, the United States Military is finally recognizing the extent of the sexual crimes being committed within its institution. The US House of Representatives has gone further by approving an additional 2-year mandatory prison sentence for sexual offenders in the military. These changes will be top-down mandates to punish offenders, protect whistle-blowers, and assist victims. There is yet another solution—one where women learn to defend themselves. The military doesn’t make “combatives” a priority [the army’s way of teaching hand-to-hand combat].

In contrast, IMPACT Chicago creates a safe environment to practice realistic, full-force self-defense techniques in simulated scenarios with a padded attacker and a personal coach. Women and girls report that IMPACT programs enhance personal freedom and safety and increase confidence in making peaceful choices for dealing with violence. Imagine if all women learned these skills as a matter of course in middle- and high school?

IMPACT is based on an understanding of violence, particularly gender-based violence, as a widespread social problem perpetuated by imbalances of power and disrespect for others. Since 1987, IMPACT Chicago has taught thousands of women how to use the voices and bodies they have to set boundaries and create a safer world for themselves, other women, and all people.

Underlying the IMPACT Chicago approach is an understanding of gender-based violence in institutionalized settings such as the military and why violence against women is prevalent yet under-reported; the importance of grass-roots approaches to changing the incidence of violence against women; and how women have used self-defense training to heal from past experiences.

The next IMPACT program for adults is September 20, 21, and 22 at Tribe, 1819 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL 60657. Visit,, or 773-561-9000.

AC Racette, IMPACT grad and IMPACT Administrative Team

Monday, July 15, 2013

From survivor to fighter

Once the feeling of safety is lost to trauma and violence, it can be a life-long journey to regain it. My safety is not dependent on another person. I walked the journey of victim to survivor, with the help of coaching, counseling and supportive family and friends. Martial arts helped me become strong physically, mentally and in spirit. Yet, I had a heightened level of empowerment to discover; I embraced this with IMPACT Chicago in September 2012.

I heard about IMPACT Chicago at the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation Summer Camp. I learned that IMPACT Chicago taught self-defense that was supportive of, yet different from, traditional martial arts. The IMPACT focus is on “application”. Techniques are simple, focused and effective. I learned language to discuss and let go of the paralyzing, horrifying experience of adrenaline when under assault. Training in the IMPACT Chicago Core Program taught me how I can use this human response to save my life. I learned to use my voice and energy to work through the freeze response. I have awoken options and choices I did not have before. I am more aware and I am present in the moment more often – self-defense is about being present. Amidst all these affirmations, a magical realization was happening unconsciously throughout the Core Program and that I realized upon graduation in our final circle. My great gift is I realized that not only I moved from victim to survivor, I moved from victim to survivor to fighter. I can and will fight for my better good now and for the better good of others.

I believe in IMPACT Chicago and tell friends about my experience. This past winter, my dear friend and neighbor Cathy joined me as we traveled from Canada to IMPACT Chicago. Cathy experienced the Core Program and I had the opportunity to volunteer as a Class Assistant. Even though it had been several months since my Core Program, I fought. My body remembered everything I had learned. I was stronger. It was a privilege to share this trip with my dear friend and we grew closer. I am very proud of Cathy and she, too, experienced new levels of empowerment! We have unique memories to share. I was very curious and open to learn from Martha, Rob and Bruce – I learned so much from this sensitive and professional instructing circle. I look forward to coming to IMPACT Chicago with my friend as we take the Multiple Assailants Class together.

Through my journey with IMPACT Chicago, I found a community of inspiring, knowledgeable and supportive people. I have strengthened an already strong friendship with my dear friend Cathy. I have options and choices that keep me safe. I live with a stronger sense of daily safety. I have skills and knowledge to share with my daughters and with others. I no longer internalize the feeling of powerlessness -- I internalize safety; I internalize My Power!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Choosing an Effective Self-defense Course for Middle School and Teen Girls

Are you looking for an effective self-defense course for your middle school or teen daughter, niece, sister, or other loved one? All self-defense programs are different. To find the best one for a young woman in your life, find out how a particular program stacks up by observing a course and assessing it for yourself.

Do instructors demonstrate sensitivity to participants?

Do instructors project calmness and centeredness, offer clear instructions & guidelines, use positive & non-judgmental language, project compassion for each girl, demonstrate patience & competence and project confidence in the participants & a commitment to their success?

Is a supportive and emotionally safe environment created for the participants?

Do instructors establish ground rules for expected behavior in the class (e.g. treating others with respect)? Do instructors give participants a chance to introduce themselves? Are calming and centering techniques taught? Are limits placed and maintained on who can come into the class (e.g. are minimum and maximum age limits established)?

Is a physically safe environment created for the participants?

Are participants asked to identify injured or vulnerable areas to reduce chance of re-injury? Are participants given guidelines in how to use their bodies safely and powerfully? Do instructors guide participants through warm-up exercises? Do instructors pay attention to creating a safe physical space: such as, free from obstruction, safe distance between participants when practicing, access to water and bathrooms, privacy from onlookers, monitored entrance? If offered as a padded-attacker course, does the padding allow participants to use full-power strikes to vulnerable areas (e.g. groin and head) ? For instance, some programs use padding that provides protection from “controlled” strikes and/or allows strikes to the chest or abdomen but not the groin. This kind of padding is inadequate for teaching girls to defend themselves with full power against vulnerable targets.

Do the instructors have a clear pedagogical approach and well-organized class plan?

For instance, do the instructors set a beginning and ending time? Do they have a plan for teaching whereby one thing builds on another? Do they have an opening and closing to the class? Do instructors demonstrate tools and skills slowly so that participants can see what is happening, use clear and measured language and body movement to teach tools and skills and give participants an opportunity to practice and receive constructive feedback? Do instructors create the opportunity for participants to ask questions?

Do participants learn and practice more than physical techniques?

For instance, do instructors offer a big picture of safety issues for girls and self-defense and teach self and environmental awareness, assessment skills, verbal boundary setting, de-escalation and physical tools?

Do instructors demonstrate an understanding of the challenges faced by pre-teens and teens?

For instance, do instructors offer recommendations that are consistent with self-defense laws and with advice by advocacy groups, schools and service providers? Do instructors use language that emphasizes getting to safety, rather than expressing revenge or hatred?

Are instructors certified women’s self-defense instructors?

Are the instructors certified by a nationally recognized women’s self-defense organization, such as the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation Self-Defense Group or IMPACT International? Do the instructors have professional knowledge concerning violence against girls?

Developed by Martha Thompson, IMPACT Chicago Instructor, with input from Jennifer Caruso and Elizabeth Vitell, Rogers Park Community Council. For recommended philosophical underpinnings and FAQs about women’s self-defense, refer to the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault Guidelines for Choosing a Self-Defense course 

June 2013

Monday, July 1, 2013

That Next Woman Taking a Stand for a Cat Needs to Be Me

My friend Suzie measured just under five feet. She referred to her size often and joked about it. When we talked about the limitations and advantages of her height, she told me she had been anxious about it most of her life until she took IMPACT. IMPACT? That was the first time I heard mention of it.  Suzie cared about me and hoped I’d sign up for the class, but I had many reasons not to at the time: I was a cash-strapped student; I struggled to make ends meet after college; I worked on weekends.

One day, Suzie and I were out walking and talking. We heard a yowl and a yell, and some expletives. I shrank back. But Suzie became super alert. Her eyes searched the block. She seemed even more present and physical than usual.

We spotted the source of the commotion in the next front yard: someone was holding down a cat on its back, by its neck. “HEY! STOP THAT” This surprising voice, this call to interrupt came from Suzie. A force stood next to me! “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?” Suzie wasn’t letting up. Shocked, the assailant paused to look at us. His fist hovered mid-air. He complained that the cat had bit and scratched him and someone had to teach it a lesson, and told us to mind our own business. Did I mention that Suzie never lets up? “Let the cat go” she calmly and firmly ordered. Sheepishly, the assailant sputtered one more excuse, then slowly got up. Suzie and the cat had prevailed.

I took note of what I’d seen: vigilance, a strong voice, absolute determination and that all beings deserve to live free of violence. I also learned that any woman can make a difference, no matter her size.  I wanted that next woman to be me. I let Suzie talk me into making IMPACT my next priority. Do you know a woman who wants to take a stand? Is the time right for you?

--AC Racette, 1995 Core Program graduate