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.
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.
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 you, but I don’t currently own a car. So that’s a rule that’s useless to me. read more >
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 >
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.
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.
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.
06.27.17 by Amy Jones
The Chicago Tribune has an article (dated June 25, 2017) about a woman who used her wits, communication skills, and some strategic positioning positions (what we would call the Think, Yell, and Run fingers) to escape a man who sexually assaulted her. Of course, to hear the Trib tell it, “her ordeal eventually ended early Thursday when a ‘good Samaritan’ Uber driver came to the woman’s rescue as she ran from her attacker [. . .].” Reading further, though, it’s clear that the woman had called the Uber driver from the perpetrator’s bathroom, so it sounds to me like she saved herself.
My intent is not to cast aspersions on the Uber driver, at all — I’m very glad he helped her in the final phase of her escape. Still, it’s a little irritating that the article highlights his ‘good Samaritan-hood’ of responding to a fare, but doesn’t frame the woman’s own actions — which, according to the article, include a) calling an Uber once it became clear that the assailant was ignoring her wish to go home, b) setting a clear verbal boundary during the assault, c) noticing that it wasn’t working and switching strategies to stalling by insisting the perpetrator use a condom, and d) escaping his grab attempt — as self-defense. In other words, it’d be nice if the Trib gave the survivor a little more credit for her own self-protective actions. Still, I applaud the Tribune for publishing the article, and including the survivor’s actions in the narrative.
05.16.17 by Amy Jones
Our friends at IMPACT Chicago have just posted a great article written by Tabitha Olson, one of the amazing assistants in our self-defense program. In the article, Tabitha writes about two recent incidents of sexual harassment she experienced, and how she was able to face them down. It’s not the first time she’s written about how her self-defense skills have aided her — she’s also the author of The Power of Posture. I’m delighted that Tabitha has become more active in the self-defense program here, even though I hate the incidents that motivated it. Kind of like the way I love the work I do, even as my greatest hope is that one day my work will become unnecessary.
Since that happy day hasn’t yet arrived, I’ll take the opportunity to remind you about our May workshop, just for women and girls ages 15 and up. It’s this Sunday, May 21st, from 1:30 – 3:30 PM, and the fee is sliding scale between $20 and $40. If $20 presents a financial barrier, just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll waive the fee.
04.25.17 by Amy Jones
Starting In December of 2016, Thousand Waves has been offering free 3-hour community workshops entitled “Self-Defense and Bystander Intervention.” To date, we’ve offered three workshops, and more than 75 people have participated. We’re excited to announce two more of these workshops, on Sunday, July 9, and Saturday, October 7. Both workshops are from 1:30 – 4:30 PM, and are open to people of all genders ages 15 and up. Registration is open now!
The workshop teaches the same basic skills as our standard Five Fingers of Self-Defense workshops, but with expanded content that specifically addresses intervening when someone else is the target of harassment or violence. Alongside role play practice using verbal assertiveness to interrupt harassment and prevent physical violence, workshop participants practice delivering physical strikes designed to be effective against larger, stronger assailants. The techniques use “natural weapons” – the heels of the palm and the foot, the side of the fist – that are easy to learn and naturally strong; students are trained to target vulnerable areas on an assailant’s body. “Taking out the knee creates mechanical compliance,” says Becky Kidd, by way of example. “If you injure the knee, they’re not running after you. They can’t.” Becky has been the instructor or co-instructor for all 3 workshops.
In cases of identity-based harassment, students are coached to first consider the environment and their own safety, and to consider various options for intervening –by calling authorities, allying with the intended target, or directly confronting the attacker.
Thousand Waves was moved to offer this workshop, and to offer it for free, because of an increase in inquiries following the November 9th election. “People are concerned,” says staff instructor Erin Epperson, Ph.D. “They want to know what to do if they see someone being targeted for harassment.” Erin cites a Southern Poverty Law Center report of more than 400 incidents of hate-based harassment in the weeks following the election.
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.