Self-Defense Day at Camp Kokoro

9.9.2017 by Erin Epperson



The energetic voices of 32 kids filled the room.  It was Self-Defense Day at Camp Kokoro Session 1, and I was excited.  As a teacher in the kids’ karate program, I already had a senpai-student relationship with most of the kids. But for the first time, I had the opportunity to focus on self-defense skills: how they can best use their body and their powerful voice to stay safe.

The way we approach self-defense at Thousand Waves – through the preventative and empowerment-based lens that emphasizes assertive verbal communication and non-violent conflict resolution – has always permeated our karate programs. From day one, karate students are taught to say what they need in partnerships, and to respect the needs of others. When students have conflicts, the teachers will step in to mediate, and meet with students outside of class when necessary to best enable each student to feel safe, strong, and respected.

In karate classes we don’t always have time to explore all the safety topics kids (and their adults) need and want. To fully address these topics, we offer special self-defense workshops. Our Teen and Adult training members have the opportunity (and in fact, a rank requirement!) to take one of our 12-hour Self-Defense courses, in addition to various shorter workshops. For the kids in our Youth program, we have been offering our annual “Back to School Safety” workshop, held most recently on September 9. Our inclusion of Self-Defense Day for this first time as a formal part of Camp Kokoro initiates the expansion of our self-defense offerings for our younger students.

Kids as young as six, and as old as the 12-13-year-old CIT’s (Counselors-in-Training ) sat together as we talked about the importance of listening to your ‘gut’ – that intuition is an important tool we already possess. We practiced using our voices and body language to set strong boundaries with other kids when they are being mean or trying to make us do something we don’t want to do (“Leave me alone!” or “No, I don’t want to!”). We also talked about the right to decide who touches you for affection, which we know is an important way to keep kids emotionally and physically safe (“No thank you. I don’t want a hug right now.” Or “Please don’t touch me.”). And, of course, we practiced ways to defend yourself physically: to escape or hit until you can escape. The favorite activity of most was the escape from a stranger grabbing your wrist, which I called “Drop, flail, and Yell” (parents, ask your children for a demo at your own risk!).

Overall Self-Defense Day at Camp Kokoro was a fun time for all and I look forward to doing more self-defense programming for our Thousand Waves kids.  

Senpai Erin Epperson is a self-defense instructor at TW and a 1st Degree Black Belt.

Violence is Contagious

9.9.2017 by Ryan Libel

Violence is Contagious

Many Kiai! readers will be familiar with Cure Violence, the organization formerly known as CeaseFire, which works to deploy violence Interrupters in situations of conflict in urban environments the world over.   Recently, I attended a training presented by the founder of that organization, Gary Slutkin, MD, on how to speak about violence as a public health issue.

Slutkin’s background is in epidemiology – his work with diseases such as AIDS and Cholera and Tuberculosis have led him to an innovative understanding of violence.  He believes, as does a growing community of anti-violence and public health experts, that violence can best be understood as a public health problem, one that well-exhibits the characteristics of a disease – most notably its infectious nature.

The training, provided as part of an ongoing project of Lurie Children’s Hospital – Strengthening Chicago’s Youth (SCY) – aimed to inform people working in the community about ways we can bring an understanding of violence as a public health problem into our work.  Slutkin believes it’s vital that we “change the tape” regarding the way we talk about violence.  He points to research indicating that violence carries all the hallmarks of disease, and notes that the most successful ways of treating diseases do not come from tactics devised by the criminal justice system, rather they are best addressed through public health remedies.

Much of the training centered on ways we can frame our discussions on violence – by using words like epidemic, trauma, resilience, preventable, behavior, and transmission. These words stand in contrast to others, to be avoided.  These include criminal, good/bad, felon, victim/perpetrator, and gang.  Many believe that the criminal justice system’s reactive approach to violence has not been successful at preventing the types of violence that impact the most people.  Slutkin wants to broaden the public health sector’s involvement in curing the disease of violence.

Lurie Children’s Hospital is a ready partner in understanding the problem of violence in the way Slutkin advocates.  Along with partners at the University of Chicago and elsewhere, staff there are utilizing data-based approaches to violence, seeking to predict violent behaviors and hot spots and mount real-time interventions.  Their predictions are based on data gathered in emergency rooms, schools, and community groups across Chicago.

Seeing violence as a problem of perpetrators and victims and crime and punishment – the approach of the criminal justice system – does not address the root causes of violence.  Many argue that poverty and inequity are primary culprits.  Slutkin himself says that, just as a virus is self-perpetuating, the root cause of violence is violence – he points to information that clearly shows violence in an environment is the best predictor of more violence in an environment.  As such, he advocates for a broader awareness of violence as a disease.  For more information and resources, visit the website

Senpai Ryan Libel is TW’s Executive Director and a 3rd Degree Black Belt.

Karate – Fun for the Whole Family

9.9.2017 by Erin Epperson


We sat down with the Danzig family recently to ask them questions about their experience training together as a family at Thousand Waves. Ezra is 13 and a member of the Teen program, Simone is a 9-year-old in the Youth program, and their parents Adrian and Leslie – ages 52 and 49 respectively – both train in the Adult program.

Ezra, currently an Advanced Brown Belt, was the first in the family to start training, in 2012. As I discovered through our conversation, the Danzigs were first introduced to Thousand Waves through friends of the family, Junior Black Belt Willa Marie O’Donnell and her mother, Jessica Thebus (who now also trains). Ezra – then 7 or 8 – had started to experience bullying in school. As the families talked, they learned that our head instructors Sei Shihan Nancy and Jun Shihan Sarah – colloquially referred to here as “the Shihans” – offer free bullying counseling:

How has karate expanded the dimensions of the Danzig family relationships?


Ezra: The bullying had started several months before I started taking karate...

Adrian: We actually came in because we were talking to Jessica Thebus about it, and she was like ‘You should talk to the Shihans about this.’ And we were like, ‘All right, who are they?’ [Everyone laughs] And we came in and we actually sat in this office. Jun Shihan Sarah sat us down in this office and said, ‘Ok Dad, let me tell you about bullying.’ And she laid out a kind of history of bullying since the 70s and how people have been dealing with it. And Ezra was here. It took probably about 40 minutes to an hour….

The bullying happened everywhere Ezra went. There was a guy who was kind of waiting for him every day at recess and would just punch him and push him and I was like ‘If you punch him once, he will stop.’ And Jun Shihan was like, ‘Well… [makes a face],’ you know, she gave us this outline where it’s like, bullying abhors being seen. And so we can use all sorts of ways to draw attention to it. One is your voice. And just having the courage to say loudly, ‘I don’t like it when you do that!’ Or ‘Stop that!’… or whatever. … Two weeks later the problem had disappeared. So Ezra totally just digested that information and without any violence the problem ceased to exist. And that was when we were like, ‘Oh, This is pretty cool.’

The Danzig family also talked about their experiences as a family learning from each other – how it has impacted their communication and what it’s like for adults to learn from their own children! As Adrian and Ezra shared:

Ezra: It’s been a little bit more extreme for me, but being my parents’ senior has been really… interesting. I’m not sure if there’s another way to describe it – it’s been hard and it’s been enjoyable and it’s been engaging – it’s been a lot of things.

Adrian: It’s definitely broadened how we interact... Ezra just straight up knows more… but it’s very unusual to have an area which is so multifaceted. Like I’m, whatever, 50 years ahead on social interacting. And there’s parts of the senpai relationship which aren’t applicable. But Ezra has an exacting sense of what it means to learn something.  I’m like “Oh, this is something I’m doing in my free time as a grown-up.”... No actually, kids are sponges; they’re learning. They’re like if we’re gonna learn this Japanese, let’s learn it. Let’s learn it all!

Three of the four Danzigs participated in the performance event of Spirit Challenge 2017. That’s Senpai Aileen standing in for Leslie.

Simone talked to us about her process when she helps her Dad (Adrian) learn kata. She shared that typically she watches from a chair and counts, standing up to demonstrate when he makes a mistake. The family shared that this has modeled a way for Simone and Ezra to be senpai to their parents in ways that are respectful and ultimately strengthen their relationships as family. 

As Simone shared,

Simone: I’ve also noticed a couple different changes since I started karate. … When my Dad would ask me to garden, I didn’t know how to say no to that, so I would always garden. I hate gardening! ... It’s just the wrong thing for me to do. When he asks me now I can say no to him easier.

As the Danzigs shared, training in karate has also been instrumental for family conversations around dealing with stress and with communication more generally.

Leslie: This past spring we ran into some challenging days at Simone’s school. Just some very understandable frustrations with peers and with the environment, and we had a lot of language from this place to draw from. It didn’t warrant a sit-down meeting with the Shihans. It’s just kind of tapping into breathing, and feeling other kind of sources of strength not to get so frustrated. So that was an example of a tool we’ve learned from here.

Ezra: I think having karate as part of – or having the language there that comes from this place has opened up a lot of wiggle room in the kind of set structure of our family.

Leslie: This is the place that gives us a language of values. A language of the kind of community I think that gets generated through these kind of places where you’re not necessarily hanging out all the time, but you walk in and it’s a kind of a home. There are ways each of us differently can grow older here and come and go.

Thank you to the Danzig family for your time and your thoughts!

Are you a parent of a karate kid? Consider giving karate a try! We offer beginner adult classes seven days a week.

Senpai Erin Epperson is TW’s Community Outreach Coordinator and a 1st Degree Black Belt.

Thousand Waves Summer 2017 in Review

9.9.2017 by Katherine Nichols

The summer of 2017 had much to offer for Thousand Waves members of all ages. From our participation in the Pride Parade, through Camp Kokoro and July promotion tests, to Beach Training, with lots of self-defense trainings sprinkled throughout, it was a busy summer for those who were in town to enjoy it.

Thousand Waves participated in the Pride Parade.

View more photos of Summer 2017.


Camp Kokoro

Camp Kokoro friendships.
Camp Kokoro performance.
Board breaking during Camp Kokoro.

Promotion Tests

July 8 Adult promotion test.
July 15 Youth promotion test.


Corporate outreach program.
Outreach program for Esperanza Health Center.
12-hour Self-Defense course for young Teens.

Beach Training

Kids’ Beach Training.
Adult Beach Training sunrise meditation.
Adult Beach Training.

See entire albums of photos on the TW Facebook page.

Ten Questions for Jackie Seijo

9.9.2017 by Thousand Waves

Jackie Seijo is the Administrative Coordinator of Thousand Waves, and an Advanced Yellow Belt training member.

Briefly, how did you come to train in Seido Karate at Thousand Waves?  
When I moved to the city after graduating college, I realized how much more sedentary my life had become. I wasn’t feeling great physically or emotionally, and I had studied stage combat a lot in college and I loved partnering with people and just the pure physical activity of it. I knew I always wanted to study a martial art so I decided to just Google it one day and the first place that popped up was Thousand Waves. I booked my trial class and fell in love from day one.

What is one thing you’d like to change about the world?  
Oh boy that’s a loaded question! I would like humanity to be a little less selfish? Hard question!

What is one thing you do well? 
I’m really good at reading. Ever since I could read I have always been able to lose myself in a story, and I think that’s always been the back bone of my imagination and why I studied acting in college.

What is one thing you do not do so well? 
I have very selective hearing. My girlfriend will tell you that if I’m distracted in any way while you were talking to me, I probably didn’t hear what you said.

Who from history do you admire, and why? 
This isn’t really historical but I admire my family, specifically my grandparents. I’m very lucky having been born in America but they weren’t and I think that’s something worth celebrating and remembering, and I admire their journey a lot.

Other than Chicago, where have you most enjoyed spending time? 
My college town! Muncie, Indiana will always have a special place in my heart.

What quotation have you found inspiring or interesting?  
“Never, ever, ever give up.” – Michael Scott. I’m currently re-watching all of The Office. I think it speaks for itself.

What foods do you like best? 
Anything my girlfriend makes me because that means I didn’t cook it myself.

What is a book that has been significant to you?  
Most recently I’ve really enjoyed novels by Sarah Waters. But, the Harry Potter series is what got me through my adolescence.

What are your musical favorites?  
Literally anything but country music.

“Thousand Waves Member Spotlight: Ten Questions for…” is a regular feature of Kiai!
In the next issue, David Dioron will answer these same ten questions.

Congratulations to our July 2017 Promotees

9.9.2017 by Thousand Waves

Our students have been busy learning their material and testing for their next belt level – it’s been a busy couple of months. Congratulations to all of our dedicated students who achieved a new rank.

Youth & Teen Color Belts

July 15, 2017

See everyone who was promoted recently.


Junior Color Belts

July 15, 2017

Adult Color Belts

July 8, 2017

To 2nd Kyu
Brown Belt

John Cusick

To 5th Kyu
Advanced Yellow Belt

Maya Mills

To 6th Kyu
Yellow Belt

Xachary Lightner
Lisa Matznick
Marti Mendoza-Schommer
Olivia Mulcahy

To 7th Kyu
Advanced Blue Belt

Cely Garcia
Davora Sides
Bo Sun
Xiaomeng Wang
Edmund Wright

To 8th Kyu
Blue Belt

Kristen Castelloni
Amy Janchenko
Ryan Koch
Jonathan Meyer
Hannah Overstreet

July 14, 2017

To 7th Kyu
Advanced Blue Belt

Dustin Spence

To 8th Kyu
Blue Belt

Amy Frazzini