In This IssueApril 2015

Mother/Daughter Self-Defense is April 17 – Sign Up Now!

Our Mother/Daughter Self-Defense Intensive Weekend is April 17 - 19. Register now to reserve your spot! It's open to all women and girls at least 12 years old. Full (non-student) price is $200, and the student price is $150. You don't need to have your daughter (or your mother) with you to attend, but moms and daughters can register together for a $25 discount each. Use the discount code NEWS for an additional $15.00 off of any registration! We have a strong committment to affordability, and offer scholarships when cost is an issue. Just reply to this email to request a scholarship application.

The courses are 12 hours – 6-9 PM on Friday, and Saturday and Sunday from 1:30 - 6:00 PM. Over those 12 hours we cover:

Three Kinds of Violence

As someone whose job it is to teach people how to stay safe, I think a lot about the motivations of violence, and the implications for preventing it or, failing that, defending oneself against it. Recently, I developed a taxonomy that (so far) includes three kinds of violence, categorized by its motivations. These all speak to interpersonal violence – one person intentionally hurting another person, as opposed to situations like war or other violence that isn’t necessarily motivated by the person who is committing it. I’m sure there are more categories, so I hope to add to this as time goes on.

Predator-Based Violence: This includes what we often think of as ‘gender-based violence,’ though of course it’s not quite that simple. Predator-based violence includes anything where Person A sees Person B as weaker than they are, and therefore feels that they can take what they want from them without consequences. Sexual assault is an obvious example of this, and so is a lot of ‘low-level’ violence, such as street and workplace harassment.

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Our Week at McAuley

On the last weekend of February, self-defense instructors from Thousand Waves returned to Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School at 99th and Pulaski to repeat our week of self-defense classes for all of the P.E. and CPR classes. Mother McAuley is the largest Catholic girls' school in the entire country. We were back after our inaugural self-defense week last fall. Then we taught around 240 girls, this time around the total was even higher – more than 280!

McAuley students practice their defender's stance.

All week long we worked with the girls on their physical self-defense skills, and each day we also led discussions and exercises on ways to use verbal and mental defenses. One day we talked about dealing with harassment at school, and on another day we talked about staying safe in dating relationships.

The girls watched a short video published by Love Is Respect that showed a girl about their age who had survived an abusive relationship. Watch the video we used.

As the week went on, the girls gradually opened up to us, and by Friday when we asked them for stories of dealing with harassment in public places, we were gratified to hear many, many success stories of how girls had found ways to defend themselves verbally from catcalls and all sorts of street harassment.

It was a great experience for us and the girls both, and we look forward to repeating the programming in the 2015-2016 year. Know of a school or other group that could benefit from self-defense training like Mother McAuley’s students did? Respond to this email and ask about our self-defense for organizations.

The Difference Between Self-Defense and Karate

When you’re a self-defense instructor, it can be easy to forget that the difference between martial arts and self-defense isn’t clear to everyone. After all, plenty of people start training in the martial arts because they want to know how to defend themselves. Some martial arts school owners take advantage of this and even call their schools self-defense schools. Others don’t go that far, but they do promote “free self-defense classes” that are, in actuality, an introduction to their martial art. For that reason, I make a point of telling my students that the self-defense we teach is at once larger and smaller than martial arts. It’s larger, because we spend a lot of time thinking about the kinds of violence people actually face, and the skills we can teach that will help prevent it.

These are not self-defense kicks

Because we’re trying to prevent the fight in the first place, a lot of what we teach has nothing to do with physical skills at all. Instead, we identify assertive responses – whether they be observational, postural, or verbal – that signal to others that we are strong enough that we would make a poor victim, or controlled enough that we won’t be pulled into a fight against our will, or calm enough that we won’t pose a threat to them. We also teach awareness strategies and positioning strategies that can help people physically avoid dangerous situations.

One of our training members (I’ll call her Jane) recently provided us an excellent example of this. She was traveling in Central America, and noticed two people who were behaving in ways that set off her internal alarms. Jane was on the platform of a city train system, so after using her awareness to notice that the people were behaving suspiciously, she used the positioning strategy of moving further down the platform and getting into a different car when the train arrived. Unfortunately, the couple followed her.

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Book Review: Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

Is the world a more violent place than ever? Common sense would suggest that yes, it is – watching the news makes it seem that people are constantly finding new and creative ways to hurt each other, in higher numbers than ever before. Steven Pinker, however, asserts that we are living in the most peaceful era ever. And he has the data to prove it.

The Better Angels of Our Nature is quite a tome, checking in at over 600 pages of text and charts, followed by probably 100 pages of end notes, and it’s not exactly a page turner. It probably took me close to a year to get through it. I’m very glad I did, though - Pinker makes a compelling argument, and it’s nothing if not well-researched and meticulously laid out. The cheat code is that his introduction and concluding chapters neatly sum up his entire argument – the rest of the book goes into more detail, of course, and also lays out the evidence, but one can get a pretty thorough sense of Pinker’s argument by reading just those. I have enough of an obsessive nature that reading just the beginning and the end wouldn’t have been satisfying for me, but it’s certainly a valid approach.

Keep Reading Book Review: Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature