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Self-Defense in the News: Two Women Who Defended Themselves Against Harvey Weinstein

10.18.17 by Amy Jones

I’m always annoyed when people gain fame by behaving badly, and I really don’t want to spend much time on Harvey Weinstein at all. But there are two women who have come forward and told the world about both his detestable actions and their courageous defense against him. Those are the people I want to talk about.  Their names are Ambra Battilana Gutierrez and Katherine Kendall, and they deserve to be remembered and celebrated.

Before I get into their stories, I want to make a couple of points that are at the heart of the empowerment model of self-defense.  First of all, the fact that these two women were able to defend themselves against assault (or rather, further assault) in no way changes the truth that Weinstein’s behavior was his choice and that he is solely responsible for his actions.  Nor does it imply that what they did was ‘right’ and what other women who were targeted and victimized by Weinstein did was ‘wrong.’  When someone like Weinstein makes the choice to commit an assault against a woman, she does what she can in that moment to protect herself.  Right and wrong are meaingless concepts in this context, and imply a level of responsibility that just doesn’t exist.  It’s also a fallacy to assume that if other women had done what Ms. Gutierrez or Ms. Kendall did, they would have experienced the same results.  Every situation is different, and there isn’t a rulebook for these kinds of encounters.

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“I’m 6’6″ and 300 pounds. Why do I need self-defense?” A male student’s perspective

07.28.17 by Thomas Cosgrove

Tom Cosgrove is a training member at Thousand Waves

I have been studying karate at TW for about a year and a half now and I was promoted to advanced yellow belt in mid-May. Shortly after I advanced, Amy Jones approached me and reminded me that the 12-hour self-defense course is a requirement for my next step, advancement to green belt. She also reminded me that the next self-defense class just so happened to be that very weekend and would not be offered again until mid-October. I had seen the self-defense courses being offered before and I had always thought, ”What do I need that for? I’m 6’6” and weigh 300 pounds. I was a Chicago police officer. I played football and wrestled in both high school and college. “What am I going to learn there?” But, I needed the class to advance. I signed up.

First, a little background. Many people I talk to are surprised to find out that when I was growing up, I was a victim of bullying. My physical appearance was that of a boy two or three years older than I but my maturity and intelligence were age appropriate. To the older kids, I appeared about their age but when they found I was much more immature, the bullying began. Any complaints to an authority figure were met with something along the lines of “You’re big, you can take it.” “Who would pick on you?” Times were different then but not so much. These are phrases I still hear today and I need to be very careful when I stand up for myself because it is automatically assumed that I am the aggressor.

Eventually, as I grew older and began playing sports I learned what my body could do, the bullying stopped. It didn’t stop immediately — there were some times when I had to defend myself physically, and my newfound abilities served me well in those times.  All through high school, when I would see bullying, whoever the victim, I would intervene. I liked the feeling of helping someone who couldn’t help themselves. It’s probably why I became a police officer and certainly why I became a lawyer. I wish I had someone who would’ve helped me. As I had more and more encounters, I learned that I did not need to engage in a physical altercation to intervene. My appearance, coupled with some strong words of deterrence was enough. This was very effective and has become my strategy for self-defense.

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Verbal Self-Defense in The Princess Bride

09.07.16 by Amy Jones

As a teen and even young adult, The Princess Bride was one of my favorite movies, so much so that even today I know most of the lines. It’s a classic fairy tale — nothing resembling feminism in it, but if you’re willing to overlook the more or less complete lack of women’s empowerment (and 20-year-old me barely even noticed, which probably deserves its own post), it’s a lot of fun.

I haven’t seen it in years, but for some reason was thinking about it the other day as I rode into work.
Specifically, it occurred to me that the 45 seconds linked here constitute a lovely example of verbal self-defense. Our hero (Wesley) is the next thing to bed-ridden.  He’s been mostly dead all day. He is definitely not capable of defending himself physically, and the villain (Prince Humperdink) knows it. All seems lost. Then, using the Yell finger of safety, Wesley makes Prince Humperdink question what he thinks he knows, and convinces him to surrender. Our hero doesn’t even lie, even though –as we tell our students — it’s totally fair game to do so in the name of safety. He just tells a truth, and using his tone and choice of words, manages to imply a different truth.
The music swells as our Wesley laboriously/dramatically stands. The command is given, the sword is dropped, and the villain is vanquished.

 

Check it out:

 

Staying Safe on Mexico City’s Public Transit

06.25.16 by Amy Jones

One of our training members at Thousand Waves recently related this a tale of successful self-defense  to us.  At the time of the incident, she was a second-degree black belt, but the skills she used to avert a potentially violent (and certainly unpleasant) altercation were all non-physical self-defense techniques.  Here’s the 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 are here for my partner, D, to officiate at a wedding and 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 D, and then moved to within 2 feet of us on an otherwise not-crowded platform. I told him and my 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 D and me (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.

Once You Know You Are Strong, You Can You Be Peaceful

10.29.14 by Amy Jones

Strides for Peace, a new foundation set up to combat gun violence in Chicago, held its first 5K/10K/2 mile walk in 2014. Thousand Waves was an inaugural sponsor, and as Nancy and I walked into Soldier Field on the cold and rainy morning of October 2nd, I was musing on the connections between martial arts and self-defense – and peacemaking more generally. I muttered to myself, “Once you know you are strong, you can be peaceful.” “What did you say?” asked Nancy, and I repeated myself. “Where does it say that?” she asked. “Oh – nowhere,” I said. But even though it’s not often written, it’s something that we at Thousand Waves know intuitively.

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