Empowerment-based Self-Defense

Our work at NorthShore University Health System

04.25.17 by Amy Jones

At the end of 2016, we were approached by the Learning and Development team at NorthShore University Health System.  They wanted us to create an in-person de-escalation training to supplement the online training they had already offered to their staff working in their high-risk areas, starting with the Emergency Departments.

It’s no wonder they were concerned – OSHA has identified healthcare facilities (along with social service agencies) as the workplaces that experience the highest level of workplace violence.   Workplace violence accounts for as many as 10% of serious workplace violence injuries in the healthcare industry (it’s closer to 3% in other large industries).   OSHA recommends both self-defense training and de-escalation training for healthcare staff.  This is a little bit of a head-scratcher for us at Thousand Waves, since we see de-escalation as part of self-defense.  Nonetheless, we were happy to work with NorthShore to develop training.

In December, we did a pilot session with staff from Learning and Development and stakeholders in the Emergency Department, and throughout the month of February, we rolled out the training to the first of 4 hospitals in the NorthShore system.  The trainings begin with a reminder of the content of the online modules, and some basic practice scenarios.  Then, working with professional actors who portray the escalated patients, staff participants role play common situations and practice the verbal and positioning skills of de-escalation.  Next, participants learn non-injurious emergency physical self-defense skills  they can use to keep themselves safe until Public Safety personnel arrive.  Finally, staff are encouraged to report incidents and access help to allow them to heal in the aftermath of violence.

All staff fill out evaluations at the end of each 2-hour training, and feedback has been very positive.  We look forward to continuing to work with NorthShore to deliver this programming to other hospitals.

Great article in the Washingtonian about ESD

11.08.16 by Amy Jones

The Washingtonian, a magazine for residents of the Washington, DC area, has an excellent article about Empowerment Self-Defense.  Go read it!

We’ve Been Teaching Women to Defend Themselves All Wrong

A summary of the evidence supporting Empowerment Self-Defense as violence prevention on college campuses (and one study about bystander intervention)

10.05.16 by Amy Jones

Empowerment self-defense is the umbrella term for the approach to self-defense that we teach at Thousand Waves. Other “empowerment self-defense” (or ESD) programs include IMPACT Chicago (and other IMPACT chapters), the programs that the Center for Anti-Violence Education runs in Brooklyn, the programs run by sister school Sun Dragon Martial Arts & Self-Defense in Austin, Texas, Hand to Hand Kajukenbo Self-Defense in Oakland, and many others across the country. Basically, it’s the idea that self-defense should help participants live with more confidence and less fear by helping them identify and strengthen their self-defense skills, giving them accurate information about violence, and supporting them in making choices that make sense for their life.

We teachers of ESD have felt strongly for years that it’s a great way to empower our participants to reduce violence in their own lives and communities. While there have been articles on the efficacy of self-defense generally in the academic literature for quite a while, it has only been in the past few years that we’ve started to see academic studies that look carefully at empowerment self-defense courses specifically.

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Is Self-Defense Helpful for People in Abusive Relationships?

10.05.16 by Amy Jones

Recently, I had a conversation with Andrea Stein, Violence Recovery Project Coordinator at Howard Brown Health Center.   Andrea works with LGBT folks who are affected by intimate partner violence, and she was concerned that our self-defense programming would be inappropriate for someone in an physically abusive relationship.  Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness month,  I thought I’d take the opportunity to share what I told her – which are the ways self-defense training can help people in abusive relationships.

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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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How important is physical fitness to effective self-defense?

10.05.14 by Amy Jones

Not long after I started working full-time as Thousand Waves’ program manager for self-defense, we got a call from a student reporter who was working on an article about self-defense. I didn’t take the call — it was literally my first or second day, I didn’t feel ready to dive in and talk to the press quite yet. So our founder and co-executive director, Nancy Lanoue, spoke to him. Apparently one of his questions was, “What is the optimal level of physical fitness you need in order to defend yourself?”

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