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July 2017

“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.

Jackie:

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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