What do women need in 2018? A response to the Trib

01.24.18 by Amy Jones

I was very glad to read an article published in the Chicago Tribune earlier this week (“Locking panties and man-repelling bracelets: Is this what the women of 2018 need?”). I found the critique of the Invi bracelet right on target and I emphatically agree with almost everything Ms. Ramanathan wrote in her piece. In fact, the very same day it was published, I and my fellow instructor Ryan were talking to the participants of our 12-hour Empowerment Self-Defense course about the ramifications of relying on a commercial device for self-protection vs relying on one’s own natural weapons.

Perhaps that makes it obvious what my quibble will be (and regular readers can surely guess), but I’ll lay it out: I don’t think “the self-defense movement” belongs in Ms. Ramanathan’s list.

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IMPACT Chicago celebrates 30 years with Film Screening: Beauty Bites Beast

10.18.17 by Martha Thompson

Martha Thompson is a fifth-degree black belt training member at Thousand Waves. She is also a lead self-defense instructor at IMPACT Chicago. Martha has been teaching IMPACT since 1988. She is also an Instructor Trainer, Director Emeritus, and Instructor and Curriculum Coordinator. She is the IMPACT Chicago representative to the international IMPACT community.

2017 is the IMPACT Chicago Self-Defense 30-year anniversary. Earlier this year, IMPACT celebrated the board, instructors, staff, students, and volunteers who have kept IMPACT going for 30 years. Now IMPACT is ready to launch the next 30 years of providing people with tools to prevent, minimize, and stop violence and to expand its participation in the empowerment self-defense movement to end violence and build a non-violent world in which all people can live safely and with dignity.

IMPACT Chicago is kicking off its next 30 years with filmmaker and self-defense advocate Ellen Snortland and a screening of her documentary film, Beauty Bites Beast: The Missing Conversation About Ending Violence. While bystander intervention, consent, and changing rape culture are very much part of the conversation about ending sexual violence (and deservedly so), what is missing in the conversation is the transformational experience of learning verbal, emotional, and physical empowerment self-defense. Ellen’s film (and book of the same name) makes the case for the importance of including empowerment self-defense in conversations about ending violence.

As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is hosting the event and providing snacks and beverages. Vanille Patisserie is donating specialty macaroons and Goddess and Grocer is donating a Cookies, Bars, and Brownies Platter. Please RSVP to make sure you can quickly check through campus security and that we have a seat for you.

Beauty Bites Beast: The Missing Conversation about Ending Violence
Free Documentary Film Screening and Q & A with Filmmaker Ellen Snortland
The Neiman Center, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 37 S. Wabash, Chicago
October 24, 4-6:30 pm RSVP


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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Final Two Self-Defense Programs of 2017 are coming up!

10.15.17 by Amy Jones

There are two self-defense programs still on the calendar for 2017. This will be your last chance to take self-defense before the new year, and ring in 2018 with strategies to feel safer, stronger, and more respected. Our last workshop is Saturday, October 28th, from 1:30 – 4:30. It’s open to people of all genders ages 15 and up. You can register online, and choose your own price between $30 and $50, or choose to waive the fee.

In November, we have a 12-hour course over two weekends — November 11 & 12 and 18 & 19. This is open to people of all genders ages 12 and up. Each session runs from 1:30 – 4:30. Full price is $200, with a student rate of $150. You can also sign yourself and a friend up for $175 each (a total of $350, you pay for both at once). If finances are a barrier, contact us at to request a scholarship.  Online registration is open now.

Call for Applicants: Safe, Strong & Respected Program

09.21.17 by Amy Jones

Thousand Waves is soliciting partner organizations to work with us to provide 12-hour trainings to their constituents (who can be students, staff, or clients).  Scheduled to launch in 2018, this program will be modeled on the 12-hour trainings we’ve been doing here at our Center for years, but will have a specific population focus of young women and/or young members of the LGBTQ community.

We are also soliciting program evaluators for the same project.  The RFP is here.

The program overview and application is here.

Please distribute far and wide!  We will continue taking applications until we reach program capacity or through the end of 2017.

Self-Defense is Not About Eliminating Risk

09.15.17 by Amy Jones

When we talk about our approach to self-defense, one of the ways we explain it is to say that we don’t give people a bunch of rules to follow. Today I’m going to unpack that idea a little bit.

First of all, if I were to give you a rule, the chances of it being applicable to your life are pretty small. For example, one of the “rules” that well-meaning people will often tell you is to be careful getting into your car – make sure there’s nobody lurking in the back seat, or under the car.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t currently own a car. So that’s a rule that’s useless to me. read more >

“Rape Culture” and Empowerment Self-Defense

09.15.17 by Amy Jones

In August, I had the honor of participating in a week-long strategy discussion concerning the development of the field of Empowerment Self-Defense. One of my contributions was to talk about rape culture – what it is, and how Empowerment Self-Defense works to change it. This is an adaptation of those remarks.

Rape culture refers to the ways that sexual violence is normalized and trivialized in our culture – from scantily-clad backup dancers to rape jokes. A recent, infamous example is the recording of then-candidate Trump’s comments to Billy Bush that was released in 2016. read more >

“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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Excerpts from Apprentice Essays on The Gift of Fear

07.26.17 by Jackie Seijo and Cyrus Sethna

Jackie and Cyrus are an apprentices in the self-defense teacher training program. For their final written assignment, they were asked to read and respond to The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker. This is excerpted from reflections they wrote as part of their preparation to be self-defense teachers.


Generally speaking, I very much agree with what De Becker has to say about safety. In fact, I not only read The Gift of Fear within a few days of buying it, I also bought another one of his books called Fear Less and even spent a little time researching how one might gain employment at Gavin De Becker and Associates. To me, a lot of what he says just seems to be common sense –but so much so that people tend to forget it. At times, De Becker’s “I’m the expert” attitude borders on unkind.

But, truly, he stresses these ideas to empower us, as individuals in society, to take charge of our own safety rather than believing that the police or the government is going to take care of everything and protect us from all harm. That is the furthest thing from the truth. Literally the TSA has never prevented a hijacking of an aircraft; passengers have. I think what he has to say is a wake-up call and whether or not we listen is now our choice.

Of course, there are problems. De Becker really only talks about violence from stranger to stranger and barely mentions domestic violence or the kind of violence most people experience from their loved ones/friends, which is so much more common. He does include significant information comparing the number of deaths in war to the amount of women who will be killed by their boyfriends or husbands. I felt that this was extremely effective. Is it the most effective way to fight domestic violence? No. But, at least he mentions it, and maybe others will become aware as a result of this book (or a self-defense class). If it is possible to ease this fear of “stranger danger,” we can use the rest of our brain power on other, more frequent kinds of violence that need our attention.

I recommend this reading to anybody who wants to learn more about the value of listening to instincts. No, it’s not the end-all be-all, but I think it can be very effective.

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How (and Why) Thousand Waves Started Teaching Men and Boys

07.26.17 by Nancy Lanoue

Nancy Lanoue is one of the founders of Thousand Waves and began the self-defense program here.  She is currently one of two head instructors of the karate program, and continues to advise on curricular issues in the self-defense program.

A Little History

After training two years in a small women-only dojo in New York City, I switched styles, started over, and trained from white to black belt at a large, mixed gender dojo with significant numbers of women, but none in key leadership positions. When I got my black belt, I moved to Chicago and opened an explicitly feminist dojo for women only in a women’s gym. I envisioned it as a place where women who would never have felt comfortable in my teacher’s dojo could train and empower themselves. Five years later, I opened the dojo to children, both girls and boys. Eventually, one of our male teenagers “outgrew” our kids program and had to leave to study with one of my senior students who had opened an affiliated co-ed branch. My partner and I took this loss hard, and started searching for a new space that could accommodate both women and men. In 1995, we moved into our current space and began inviting men to join our martial arts program.

I had studied self-defense at my first dojo and the classes I took (and later taught) there were for women only. When I switched to Seido, it offered and I studied self-defense in a co-ed self-defense program that taught hard core physical skills, similar in some ways to what Krav Maga offers today. A few years later, two other women and I started a self-defense organization called SAFE, and until we went bankrupt a few years later, SAFE offered women-only workshops and courses; LGBT workshops and courses; co-ed workshops and courses, and workplace and school programs that were sometimes gender-specific and other times mixed.

Since I’ve been in Chicago, I have always worked with both women and men as self-defense students. The three teachers I have trained and hired as directors of our self-defense/violence prevention work have all been women, but we have had men in our instructor corps since around 2000 when the first of our male students reached black belt. Incidentally, from the beginning, our male population has included significant numbers of gay men; and today they are a major leadership group at our Center.

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