Monday, December 29, 2014

The IMPACT Chicago 2015 Program Schedule

Core Programs
  • Fri/Sat/Sun February 20, 21, 22; Fri 5:30-9:30; Sat/Sun 9-6; Knapp Center, 3145 W. Pratt Blvd Chicago
  • Sat/Sun April 18, 19, 25, 26; 11 am – 5 pm; Lin Shook Studio, 4057 N. Damen Ave Chicago
  • Fri/Sat/Sun June 26, 27, 28; Fri 5:30-9:30; Sat/Sun 9-6; Hull House, 800 S. Halsted Chicago
  • Fri/Sat/Sun July 10, 11, 12; Fri 5:30-9:30; Sat/Sun 9-6; Des Plaines Park District 
  • Fri/Sat/Sun September 25, 26, 27; Fri 5:30-9:30; Sat/Sun 9-6; Knapp Center, 3145 W. Pratt Blvd Chicago 
  • Sat/Sun October 31, November 1, 7, 8; 11 am – 5 pm; Lin Shook Studio, 4057 N. Damen Ave Chicago

IMPACT for Girls
  • Sat/Sun March 21 and 22; 10 am – 2 pm; Knapp Center, 3145 W. Pratt Blvd. Chicago
  • Sat/Sun August 1 and 2; 10 am-2 pm; Lin Shook, 4057 N. Damen Ave Chicago

  • Reconnect and Review; Sat May 16, 11 am – 2 pm; Lin Shook, 4057 N. Damen Ave Chicago
  • Defense Against Multiple Assailants; October 17 and 18; 11 am – 5 pm; Knapp Center, 3145 W. Pratt Blvd Chicago

For more information about our programs, visit or contact

Monday, December 22, 2014

Do's and Don'ts

Check out this great post by Kidpower Founder and Executive Director Irene van der Zande on how negative prevention advice (don’ts) differs from empowerment-based safety strategies (dos).

Monday, December 15, 2014

Does self-defense increase a woman’s risk of injury?

Excerpt from Jocelyn Hollander, Ph.D. University of Oregon
“Women’s Self-Defense Frequently Asked Questions,” September 15, 2014. 

No. There is an association between resistance and injury, in that women who resist a sexual assault are also more likely to be injured. But research that looks at the sequence of events has found that in general, the injury precedes the resistance. In other words, women resist because they are being injured, rather than being injured because they resist. On average, resistance does not increase the risk of injury.

Ullman, Sarah E., and R. A. Knight. 1992. “Fighting Back: Women’s Resistance to Rape.”Journal of Interpersonal Violence 7:31–43.

Ullman, Sarah E, and Raymond A Knight. 1993. “The efficacy of women’s resistance strategies in rape situations.” Psychology of Women Quarterly17(1):23–38.

Monday, December 8, 2014

I acted upon my assessment: A Self-Defense Story

I am pretty sure I averted a robbery last night in the Mexico City metro. My family and I were about as ridiculously conspicuous as could be, the only people dressed in formal wear on the train platform (we were here because my spouse was to officiate at a wedding and we were on our way there).

A group of three people standing about 10 feet away from us went from speaking quietly with one another to one person tilting their head towards my husband, and then moved to within 2 feet of us on an otherwise not crowded platform. I told my spouse and son to move down as the train arrived, so we could just get on another car (hoping this was all in my head and would just be over once we moved), so as the train arrived, we moved down about 20 feet to get on one car down.

The three people ran to get on the same car as us (neither car was crowded when the train arrived) and split up, entering the car behind us through both doors and sitting spread out from one another across the car. I made very solid, uncomfortably long and serious eye contact with the individual sitting nearest to me (while I stood with my back against the doors). Scanning the train, I also saw that a train security officer was in our car. I made eye contact with him as well.

When we left the train, I was prepared to make noise, and the security officer held up the train, making eye contact again with us (I nodded and said in Spanish that we were okay) before the train pulled off with the three people still on it.

I'll never know whether they intended to rob or otherwise harm us, and I am fine with that. It was an uncomfortable situation where my first benefit-of-the-doubt assessment revealed that something was not right about the situation, and I acted upon that assessment. We've ridden the metro several times since then with increased awareness and have encountered nothing but grace from our fellow riders.

Thank you to everyone who has taught and practiced self-defense with me for helping me manage this situation, whatever it was, and helping me develop tools to make myself and others around me safe in the places where I want to be. Thank you Sei Shihan Nancy Lanoue, for having us practice physical self-defense last Wednesday in black belt class!

Kate, Thousand Waves Martial Arts and Self-Defense Center

Monday, December 1, 2014

What if Every Woman and Girl Had Self-Defense Tools?

“IMPACT is not about ‘kicking butt.’ It’s about learning to ‘look’ at my surroundings, ‘assess’ my situation and take appropriate action. This makes the world a safer place for me and for all those I encounter.” Tess
Imagine if every girl and woman had self-defense tools and the confidence to act upon their assessment of situations in which they found themselves!

Your Donation Matters!

If you've been around, you know the drill. If you’re new to IMPACT, here's the drill: IMPACT asks for financial support once per year. Donations of all sizes matter! They have allowed us to move to a Sliding Scale for the Core Program this year. Also, we have been able to offer free or reduced workshops to organizations serving lower income women and girls. Please donate today.

Self-Defense Training Empowers!
Women who have had self-defense training are more likely to stop rape and sexual assault than women who have not. Learning self-defense is not victim-blaming or shaming — it is empowerment and increases women’s options.

Word of Mouth Works!
Sharing your experience is one of the best ways to help IMPACT fulfill its mission to bring self-defense to all women and girls. Our new Referral Program recognizes you for encouraging other women to take IMPACT by giving you 25% off an Advanced Program.

For more information about IMPACT Chicago:
Web | Facebook | Twitter | E-mail 

Monday, November 24, 2014

FAQ: What is women’s self-defense?

Over the next few months, the IMPACT Chicago blog will feature a section each month from Women’s Self-Defense Frequently Asked Questions. Jocelyn A. Hollander, Ph.D. University of Oregon, September 15, 2014. First up:

  • Perhaps the most common stereotype of women’s self-defense is a woman—probably young, white, and fit—karate-kicking a stranger in a dark alley or parking garage. However, self-defense is far more than just physical fighting and it is accessible to all women, regardless of their age, race, level of fitness, or physical ability. It also addresses far more than just assaults by strangers.
  • There are many types of self-defense training. The kind that has been most frequently studied by researchers is empowerment self-defense. These classes:
    • Focus on the full range of violence against women, especially acquaintance assaults, which are the most common type of sexual assault.
    • Include awareness and verbal self-defense strategies as well as physical techniques. These skills empower women to stop assaults in their early stages, before they escalate to physical danger.
    • Teach effective physical tactics that build on the strengths of women’s bodies and require minutes or hours rather than years to master.
    • Offer a toolbox of strategies for avoiding and interrupting violence, and, rather than teaching a single “best” way to respond to violence, empower women to choose the options that are appropriate for their own situations.
    • Address the social conditions that facilitate sexual assault and the psychological barriers to self-defense that women face as a result of gender socialization.
Further resource

Thompson, Martha E. 2014. “Empowering Self-Defense Training.” Violence Against Women 20 (3): 351-359.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Top Five Self-Defense Techniques Most People Don’t Know They Already Have

Tagg Magazine recently published an article about what Defend Yourself in Washington D.C. says are “5 self-defense techniques you didn’t know you could use.” 
IMPACT grads know these, but not everyone does:  loud voice, foot stomp, use what’s around you, size doesn’t matter, power of a strike to the groin.
See the full article for details and videos.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Gun Control and Women’s Self-Defense

In her article "From Gun Politics to Self -Defense Politics: A Feminist Critique of the Great Gun Debate," Jennifer D. Carlson takes a hard look at how the issues of self-defense are often confused with general issues around gun rights.  She points out that debates about self-defense are often presented as a false choice, what she refers to as "self-protection with a gun or no protection at all."
She points out that on the pro gun rights side, owning a gun and having the right to use it is the only effective means of self-defense.  On the pro gun control side, targets of violence should rely only on the police and non-violent methods of protection. In terms of self-defense for women and sexual violence, Carlson argues advocates on both sides of the debate are failing to present realistic solutions - that women need options for "effective, physical unarmed resistance" that fall in-between the two extremes. 

One problem however is that our culture does not accept the idea that women can, and should, defend themselves.  Take for example the case of Marissa Alexander.   She is currently on trial in Florida for firing a warning shot to protect herself from her abusive husband who had strangled her and threatened to kill her.  She originally lost her case and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but her case is now being appealed and she is now under house arrest.  Even though she had a gun, had cause to use it and showed restraint in how she used it, she is still being punished for protecting herself. 

Alexander's case is one of many illustrating that self-defense is more than simply a matter of superior firepower; issues of gender, race and class all limit the ways women can keep themselves safe.  Guns will continue to be one method of self protection, but women should have access to a wide variety of options for defense, as well as the legal right to act.    

Nat Wilson, IMPACT Chicago Suited Instructor

Monday, November 3, 2014

Bringing IMPACT to More Women and Girls: Laura M. Dini, IMPACT Chicago Referral/Outreach Coordinator

Laura M. Dini is new Referral/Outreach Coordinator for IMPACT Chicago. Laura works with graduates from the Core Program and with Workshop participants as well as their supporters. She also nurtures contacts with female-focused support organizations, such as rape-crisis centers and social services organization to promote the benefits to their members of IMPACT’s Core Program. Key among her responsibilities is collaborating with Core Program graduates for referrals, as well as increasing  social media and press contacts.
Another focus is to increase the number of schools, universities, nonprofit organizations, and businesses contacting IMPACT for workshops from graduates and their supporters. In the first 1½ months at the job, Laura has increased the number of participants in one  Core Program by 50% through collaboration with Chicago’s largest provider of supportive housing exclusively for women, researched new locations, reached out to recent graduates & collaborated on the annual fund drive. Laura works closely with Lisa Amoroso, Board Chair, Martha Thompson, Director Emeritus & IMPACT Instructor and Tara Brinkman, Registration and Workshop Coordinator.

Laura received her B.A. from UMKC and her Master of Arts in Applied Professional Studies from DePaul with a focus on Project Management, Knowledge-sharing and Cross-Cultural Integration for International Nonprofits.

Throughout Laura’s working career, she has brought strong analytical, planning and organizational skills to the successful execution of numerous projects, focusing on cooperation and efficiency. Moreover, her public relations and marketing experience, particularly in the nonprofit sector, has provided her with strong communications and networking skills. Much of this experience was devoted to building support for, and increasing participation in the programs at the continuing education school at the University of Chicago. “Networking and outreach are traits that come naturally to me. When I believe in an organization, it is second nature for me to promote it!”

She also has a variety of volunteer experiences such as as a volunteer fundraiser for the
Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, volunteer fundraiser for Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and Member/Facilitator/Volunteer for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
Laura has a broad cross-cultural perspective, strong work ethic, and personal initiative and knows the value of establishing and nurturing a network of support resources and professional relationships.

Laura has just recently finished her first IMPACT Core Program and has the utmost respect and admiration for the instructors and volunteers who run the program. “I have seen all the hard-work and organizing that it takes to plan these programs and workshops but to then see the dedicated and energetic instructors and volunteers who guide the participants through this incredible program has been thoroughly inspiring!”

You can reach Laura at

Monday, October 27, 2014

Advocating for Better Health and More Effective Communication: Kelsey Smith, IMPACT Chicago Office Coordinator

My name is Kelsey Smith and I am the new IMPACT Chicago Office Coordinator. In this position, I will be coordinating the office and related program work to support IMPACT Chicago, including maintaining databases, website updates, scheduling, and working with volunteers.

My interest in IMPACT was sparked three years ago when Kaytea, then an IMPACT instructor with IMPACT Personal Safety of Colorado, and Sarah, Co-Director of IMPACT Personal Safety of Colorado, stayed in my apartment as guests of my roommate while they took the IMPACT Defense Against Multiple Assailants course. After their first day, we had dinner and began discussing IMPACT and its mission. The women invited my other roommates and me to their IMPACT ceremony the next day. I attended and it surely made an impact on my life. I truly believe that all people deserve to live a healthy and happy life. I immediately saw that IMPACT gives women the tools to do so in a world that challenges this right every day.

With the influence of IMPACT, I chose a psychology and gender studies degree while focusing my independent research on boundaries and assertiveness. In January 2013, when given the opportunity to create my own independent study, I found myself in San Francisco for a month and took the opportunity to integrate IMPACT Bay Area’s Basics course (similar to the IMPACT Chicago Core Program) with research on boundary setting. I continued this work for the next year and a half, writing my honor’s thesis on assertiveness, health, and gender socialization. Earlier this year, I received my B.A. in psychology from New College of Florida. My academic work has given me a deeper understanding of assertiveness, health, and gender socialization, a perspective I look forward to bringing to the work I will be doing with IMPACT Chicago.

In addition to my dedication to the IMPACT mission, I am also bringing skills that I have developed as a consistent volunteer over the past 12 years with Kamp Dovetail, an organization and camp for kids with disabilities. I have been organizing and communicating with campers, families, and potential donors for years, including managing the Facebook page, developing databases, and organizing fundraisers. I have extensive experience using Google Drive and teaching others how to use it. I am currently working with Planned Parenthood of Illinois and have prior experience as an intern with Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida and Manatee County Health Department and a volunteer with the Chicago Women’s Health Center. My commitment is to continue to work in collaboration with people and organizations striving for better health and more effective communication.

Kelsey Smith, IMPACT Chicago Office Coordinator

Monday, October 20, 2014

Resistance Stops Sexual Assault and Does Not Increase Risk of Injury

Recent research confirms that fighting back against an assailant does not increase the likelihood of injury, but it does increase the likelihood of preventing sexual assault.

Jongyeon Tark and Gary Kleck published a study in Violence Against Women on “Resisting Rape: The Effects of Victim Self-Protection on Rape Completion and Injury.” Their research used data from the National Crime Victimization Survey to answer two questions, ““Are you more likely to be injured when being assaulted if you protect yourself?” and “What self-protection actions are effective in reducing rape completion?”

This study specifically focused on the sequence of self-protective actions and injury: whether injuries were inflicted prior to victims taking self-protective actions (and therefore irrelevant to the question, “Are you more likely to be injured when being assaulted if you try to protect yourself?”) or after taking self-protective actions. The researchers looked at a variety of situations including those in which the victim was attacked or threatened with a gun, attacked or threatened with other weapons (including knives), attacked without a weapon (hit or kicked), and threatened without a weapon.

The results showed that while it is not uncommon for victims of rape or attempted rape suffer injuries, few of these injuries were inflicted after the victim took protective actions. Resistance was rarely followed by the assailant inflicting further injury on the victim.

The researchers also studied specific self-protection actions to determine which actions are most effective. Some of the self-protection actions included were: victim attacked offender with gun, victim attacked offender with other weapons such as a knife, victim attacked without a weapon (hit, kicked, etc.), victim struggled, victim yelled at offender, victim ran away, victim called police, victim tried to attract attention, and victim cooperated or pretended to.

The results found that, “no form of victim resistance was associated with significantly higher risk of rape completion than non-resistance.” The most effective tactics for avoiding rape completion were:

a) Running or driving away/hiding/locking door

b) Attracting attention/calling for help

c) Physically struggling

d) Unarmed attacks on the rapist

This is very much in line with what we teach at IMPACT; if you can safely leave the situation, do so (prevention), if you can’t safely leave, use verbal techniques first (use your voice), and use physical skills as a last resort. These self-protective actions reduce the risk of rape by 86%.

Katie Skibbe, IMPACT Chicago Instructor-in-training

Monday, October 13, 2014

Interrupting Creepy Behavior

I entered the subway and saw a well-dressed young man, white shirt, tie, dark pants, with a small backpack, who would not have caught my attention, except he looked like he was going to speak to me, then thought better of it (maybe he wanted directions). I sat down on a bench nearby and then saw him engage a pretty, young woman. I heard him ask her name, she answered, he stuck out his hand, which she shook briefly, and he started asking her personal questions. My senses went on high alert and I stared hard at the young woman (his back was now to me). She widened her eyes at me in panic mode and I instantly stood up and said in a loud voice: “Hey Sue! [the name I heard her give him] Come over and sit by me!" She hurried over, while he stayed where he was, a few yards from us. I whispered my name to her, and we proceeded to talk as if we were old friends. When the train arrived, he stayed on the platform. As benign as it sounds, the whole episode felt creepy. Sue, (not her actual name) was shaken, said she usually felt helpless in situations like that and was glad that I intervened. I told her I was a self-defense teacher and recommended a self-defense course at Center for Anti-Violence Education, which helps people set strong verbal boundaries, among other skills.

Ryn Hodes, Brooklyn NY, Trained as a self-defense teacher at Center for Anti-Violence Education and certified by NWMAF

Monday, October 6, 2014

IMPACT Chicago launches new website!

Check out the new IMPACT Chicago website!

  • More photos
  • Easier to navigate
  • Direct link to our blog
  • Now includes self-defense news and twitter feed
Thanks to Lisa Amoroso and Nate Tracy-Amoroso for creating the new website. Thanks to Martha Thompson for her continuing work on website content. And a big thanks to Amy Winston who developed the original website and kept it going for 15 years! To see more, go to

Monday, September 29, 2014

This is what I was put here to do

I joined IMPACT Chicago in 1990 or 1991 and am pretty certain that getting hit in the head a lot has nothing to do with not being able to remember which.  I attended a National Instructor Training in LA in the summer of 1992 and finished my certification as a suited instructor in the late fall of 1992.

In the past 22 years I have taught extensively in Chicago, and have done a lot of work in curriculum development as well.  I have traveled to San Francisco, Boston, DC, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Jerusalem (and some other places as well) teaching IMPACT courses.  I am also very much in demand as a suited instructor trainer, and spends much of my mat time nowadays traveling to other chapters either training new instructors or doing follow up training for experienced instructors.
I have many years of martial arts training, competitive fighting experience, and many years of experience doing security work.  

A martial arts student of mine that worked for IMPACT Chicago recruited me into IMPACT.  I already had some years’ experience as a professional self-defense instructor, but saw the value of the IMPACT Full Force self-defense approach and signed on immediately after seeing my first graduation. The moment I first saw IMPACT at work I knew that this is what I was put here to do. I’ve known it every moment that I’ve been on the mat since.

I live in Madison, Wisconsin where, in my day job, I work in management at the University of Wisconsin Division of Information Technology (my staff call me the nerd herder but I’d never call myself that). I am married to Kate Washabaugh, a veterinarian in Madison, and an IMPACT Chicago graduate.  We have two young children.

In my free time, I am an excellent cook and a mediocre guitar player, and play ice hockey every chance I can get.

Mark Nessel, IMPACT Chicago Suited Instructor

Monday, September 22, 2014

Violence & Self-Defense in the Media

Media tells us who "the bad guy" is. He's the sinister stranger lurking in the shadows. He's the person who looks out of place, who is somehow different from us. He's the guy whom you can just look at and know he's up to no good. At least that's what popular media would have us believe.

In reality, these images and ideas have less to do with crime and more to do with our cultural beliefs about race, class, and gender. In our modern society, we are constantly swimming in a river of misleading media messages about who is dangerous, how they plan to attack us, and finally how few options we have to protect ourselves. As a result of this constant stream of misinformation, conversations about safety and self-defense have frequently been used to reinforce stereotypes about violence and both racial and class biases.

The truth about violence is that it usually originates closer to home. It's most often perpetuated by people we know, who usually build up to horrible behaviors one small step at a time in predictable patterns of escalation. Not every terrible thing can be prevented, but much of it can. The first step will be to educate ourselves about who "the bad guy" really is. Then we can learn strategies for keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe.

We are pleased to announce that IMPACT has already begun taking that first step. IMPACT has a 25+ year history of working with young women, teaching them the skills of self-defense and emotional resilience. Now we've expanded our interpersonal safety programming to include more focus on rape culture, media literacy, and messaging. Collectively, across all chapters, we have been speaking out about these issues at the following conferences:

• Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Assault Statewide Conference • The National Women's Martial Arts Self-Defense Instruction Conference • New Mexico Advocacy in Action • Vera Institute of Justice on Child Sexual Abuse and Children with Disabilities •

We know that in order to change the prevalence of intimidation, harassment, bullying, rape, domestic violence, and all the other horrors and tragedies that saturate our news outlets—that we must work together to change the conversations we have with our families, friends, and co-workers. As individuals shift language, perception, and behaviors, then the larger change will happen, too.

For thought provoking resources about shifting the dialogue:
Reframing the Conversation Around Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse by @EVB_NOW

"An Empowered View of Media": IMPACT Chicago blog post 8/4/2014

"Unsafe and Harassed in Public Spaces: A National Street Harassment Report" by Holly Kearl 

 "The Language of Persuasion" by The Media Literacy Project
From IMPACT Safety, Columbus Ohio with content adapted from Alena Schaim, Executive
Director, Impact Personal Safety New Mexico