Campus Activities Magazine features the Ownership Transition of Girls Fight Back in this month’s edition

The New Girls Fight Back!

images1

There are many purposes for our system of student programming and campus activities, dollars that all students pay in their tuitions that are meant to entertain yes, but even more importantly, to enlighten. What’s really fortunate is when a program can do both and even still take it a step further. We’re talking about a program that can not only give your students something to do, but it can teach them what to do, and make your campus and surrounding community a safer place.

Girls Fight Back! was founded by Erin Weed in 2001, after she was inspired to take other women on the same journey of self-discovery and self-empowerment she had herself taken after the violent death of a close friend. “I had recently graduated college and was living in New York City working as a television producer when I found out one of my best friends, Shannon Mc- Namara who was two years younger than me and still in school, had been murdered in her campus apartment at Eastern Illinois University. Learning that for me, was almost like a ‘Matrix’ moment, where all of a sudden I realized that this ‘program’ I had been living in of a safe and secure world was just that, a program…an illusion. The real world is gritty and dark and scary and that is how I compare the change of my perspective in that moment, learning about the violence that can fall on any one of us. When I went home for the week of the funeral, I realized it wasn’t just me, everyone I knew was scared and very unnerved.” Erin started to process more and more what this fear was not only rooted in, but its greater effect on her life as well. “I started to wonder what that fear was holding me back from. I was hearing my friends saying ‘the worst part of my day is when I have to walk to my car in the parking lot, or leave my night class, or go to work at night.’ They didn’t want to live alone, or travel and I realized this fundamental fear of being murdered or raped or attacked is really holding us back in so many ways.”

Image: Erin Weed, Founder

So, Erin decided to do something about it. She began taking extensive self defense courses and training herself to master her fear and live the life she wanted unconfined by the worries of constant physical danger; not turning a blind eye to it or ignoring the dangers, but by being prepared for the possibility of them. “At that time, it was something I was doing more for myself than anything else. I didn’t have any sort of grandiose plan, but I began to realize that if this was affecting me so deeply, it must be doing the same for women all over the country. I realized on of the best tributes that I could give to Shannon would be to become proactive in my own life and make sure the same thing never happened to me.”

It wasn’t long before Erin realized that she could do more than just put her own mind at ease, she could make a real difference by spreading this message and teaching the techniques she had learned, not only in the basics of self defense, but in the attitude and confidence that came with knowing she was no longer a shrinking violet or easy pushover to would-be attackers.

“Girls Fight Back! is a 90 minute seminar that is given at colleges across the nation,” she says. “We have been presenting it since 2001 and in that time have reached over a million people. It has been a really transformational time and experience in my life over the past 12 years, and has acted as my hope and healing.”

Image: Amy Hong, Speaker in Training and Gina Kirkland, President

More than just delivering hope, it has been a way for millions of people to stake a claim on their own lives. “People have been able to claim their power, which is what I think the program is really all about. It’s not just self defense, or learning how to fight bad guys, it’s about owning your power in so many different types of situations, whether that be physically, verbally or socially. It is about owning your own decisions and becoming a unique, independent and strong person in every facet of someone’s life. That’s really what Girls Fight Back! is and we’ve had a lot of success with it, and it has been a lot of fun.”

There is a variation of the program called Students Fight Back!, which encompasses both men and women into one program, but the flagship program of GFB! is focused on the female population of your student body, a specific population that could have certain fears as they move onto or around campus and on their own, often for the first time.

Image: Heather Maggs, Senior National Speaker

Gina Kirkland, of Kirkland Productions, motivated by some personal circumstances (check out Gina’s article on stalking in this issue), recently made the decision to acquire the GFB! franchise from Erin, who with two children and other projects commanding her attention, has decided it’s time to pass on the torch. “Girls Fight Back! is designed for women, and if you look statistically at addressing violence in our culture, violence against women is a very big issue,” Gina says. “That is not to say that men are not an important part of the answer; we do have men that come to the program and that works out great as well, but we are primarily speaking to the women on campus. Students Fight Back! still has all of the same core information that is important to everyone, but also includes a piece on bystander behavior that is very important so that men can be part of the solution.”

More than self defense, more than kicking bad guy butt, more than just feeling more comfortable about the fear of bodily harm, GFB! is about something more. “It’s an idea,” Erin says. “It’s much bigger than just me, or even Shannon’s story, as important as it is. We hope we can convey the information and make it relatable, but the idea is that one should NEVER make decisions stemming from fear…we should all live the life that we have always wanted to, no regrets, no holding back, no reservations with nothing standing in our way. That is what Girls Fight Back! is all about and I knew that concept had legs and was something that we could scale.”

Image: Leah Bonnema, Speaker in Training

Erin realized that if she wanted to spread this message in a truly effective manner, she couldn’t do it alone, so she trained a team of speakers to go out and help her propagate this new way of thinking. Now with Gina and Kirkland Productions stepping in to take the program to the next level, the GFB! team hopes to expose many, many more students to the valuable and lifechanging lessons they are teaching.

“Gina has been able to continue to train even more speakers to keep up with demand, and they have done a phenomenal job. They are better speakers than I am at this point, and it just goes to show you that when there is an idea that people need and want to hear, almost anything is possible.”

Gina leaves us with a profound thought: “I wanted to share a quote, that has been really powerful to me, from the wonderful Gavin de Becker and his book, ‘The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence.’ I think this really cuts to the heart of things. ‘Most men fear getting laughed at or humiliated by romantic prospects, while most women fear rape and death.’ That is quite a different fear, and when you put into that perspective and start to compare those things, it speaks to exactly why a program like Girls Fight Back! can be such a powerful and empowering tool for a campus.”

For more information on bringing Girls Fight Back! Or Students Fight Back! To your campus, contact Gina at Kirkland Productions at 866-769-9037 or booking@ kirklandproductions.com.

Read the full story here online : http://bit.ly/girlsfightback

And check out http://www.campusactivitiesmagazine.com/

Fired up for a safer world

Robert Martin is Vice President of Gavin de Becker & Associates, and is widely regarded as one of the Nation’s leading experts in assessing and managing violently inclined situations.

Happy Birthday Girls Fight Back.  I remember when you were a new-born, only ten years ago.  My, how you have grown – and grown – touching many lives along the way.

In December of 2001, I sent an email to a friend in New Jersey who was looking for top notch safety programs, and my comments included the following:

“…and there is a young woman in Hoboken who teaches what is shaping up to be a very successful women’s self-defense program.  Her name is Erin Weed and she founded a program called Girls Fight Back at www.GirlsFightBack.com.”

“Success” is not always an easy term to define, but presenting to over one million people in ten years has to be on the list somewhere.

A week later, in December of 2001, Erin’s response to a pending conference call spoke volumes about her, she said: “Since I’m relatively new to the game, I’ll probably need someone to take me up to speed…but as Bob can assure you, I’m FIRED up about combating crime, assault, etc….”

And I am FIRED up about watching where the next ten years takes you.

Note from Erin: How in the world did I get someone as amazing and experienced as Bob Martin to drink our GFB kool-aid? Seriously, read his bio and you’ll understand my amazement. Bob has been my friend, advisor, expert and coach, since day one…and somewhere along the line, he also became family. Thanks for being one of our and biggest fans for the longest time…

The greatest oak was once a little nut…

Lee Paiva-Sinclair is based in San Francisco with 3 teenagers, a husband, dogs– in love with all. She is Founder of NO MEANS NO Worldwide, a global rape prevention program, and established the first organized women’s self-defense program in Kenya.

I first met Erin at a summer self defense conference where we were both speakers. I was actually quite new to the self defense world and had a lot to learn. Erin and I hit it off right from the start – even to the point where the next morning we came out from our respective dorm rooms with the exact same hairdo!

Through Erin and Girls Fight Back I found a whole world of light and positivity being directed at two of the darkest issues we could ever face – rape and murder. Erin found a way to shift that horror into a prism of empowerment and even humor. From where I stand, this is no small feat. Girls Fight Back is a breath of fresh air in what is typically the least popular topic on the planet. I secretly believe she is some kind of superwoman for getting girls to engage on this subject and feel cool for doing so.

Check this GFB list and judge for yourself if something supernatural is taking place:

  • GFB rose from the ashes of a horrific tragedy
  • Founded and run by a woman
  • Delivers impactful rape prevention presentations like a female Chris Rock
  • Uses bright, youthful, blackness-busting colors to re-brand the self defense movement
  • Networks with like minded people and orgs like Zuckerberg on steroids
  • Flies to colleges and businesses all over the country – with a baby sometimes – to deliver the good news about personal safety
  • Constantly gives generously of GFB time,  resources and expertise for FREE
  • Wrote an amazing book for college bound girls (the BEST gift you can give a graduating senior)
  • Trail blazes the use of social networking to keep women and girls connected and active in the cause
  • Creates a healthy non egoic work environment that improves and empowers her staff, not just the message
  • Is not pushing a proprietary information lock down. Her safety strategies, business, marketing, promotion and media expertise are shared fearlessly. ‘If it’s useful to you and your cause – have at it.’ (Those are her exact words.)
  • Calls me up and says “I was thinking about what you said and I had an idea ….” and it’s mind blowingly brilliant every time.

Girls Fight Back is a living, breathing expression of what it means to practice with purity of purpose. This is not a flowery note tacked to the end of my letter, this is my true and honest experience of Erin and the program she has created.  So, HAPPY BIRTHDAY GFB! Ten years is a long time in any business and the sky is apparently the limit for you. I leave with a quote that reminds me so much of the testament and temperament of Erin and the GFB dynamic:

“The greatest oak was once a little nut who held its ground.”

Glad we get we all get to be a little nuts together!

Note from Erin: On the day I met Lee, we sat under a tree for about 5 hours talking. It was like a time machine, that tree. Since then, Lee has become more like a sister, and she is the first person that challenged me to take GFB global. That happened, and I’m forever grateful to her for pushing the limits that only our minds seem to put on what’s possible…

Breaking Social Taboos in Pakistan

Khalida Brohi is a social entrepreneur leading the Sughar Women Program which is an initiative of PDI, a national organization in Pakistan. Sughar aims at ending the custom of honor killing by promoting beautiful traditions and by providing socio-economic empowerment to tribal women. At the age of 22, Khalida is a dedicated entrepreneur and winner of the Young Champion Award by University of Singapore, an Unreasonable Institute Fellow and the winner of the fellowship award by YouthActionNet®

Last year in summer I was in Boulder, Colorado for the Unreasonable Institute, a ten week institute also called a crash course for social entrepreneurs. For the initial weeks I was still trying to get over my cultural-shock + anxiety and confusion of being away from my home, away in America! The name of this country sometimes didn’t fit properly in our mouths back from where I am, where girls need to whisper names like these in each other’s ears because talking about or going to a foreign country is a social taboo for a girl.

My anxiousness hadn’t last much when after one of introductory community pitches of Unreasonable Institute I met Erin Weed. Handing me a copy of the GFB book she with great energy and enthusiasm said, “Hey! I would love to get to know more about you, we should hang out sometime!” In that very moment, I wasn’t exactly thinking about what she was saying…I was just awed at her poise, at her confidence and how she controlled herself. And once again waves of images flooded my mind of my friends back home and of my cousins who wouldn’t speak looking someone in the eye, who were supposed to be lean, shy and modest to be called good woman and who weren’t at all supposed to decide on meeting with someone may it be a female or a male. It was another social taboo.

All at once I figured that my cultural shocks aren’t finished yet, there is more to come and when one day Erin came zooming in her car and took me and Trina (another Unreasonable Fellow from India, doing some awesome work at Kranti) to the Flat Irons for a quick lunch and discussion about what we do and what she does at Girls Fight Back.

Finding out more about Girls Fight Back was like opening up doors for me to a new world, where women and girls weren’t objects, they were “human”, real tough humans and where they could defend themselves from violence and abuse! I was excited! I was actually overjoyed and had exclaimed that very moment, “I want to join you as a speaker”! For a while, with my silk Pakistani pink frock and bead-laced scarf around my head I felt my cheeks flush with the idea of kicking butt. But Erin had known that I could, and with her belief and my passion to bring back to Pakistan a part of Girls Fight Back for women and girls in local communities facing violence, abuse and harassment not only at homes but in public places, public transport, at workplaces and at recreational places.

My plans for bringing GFB to Pakistan integrated well with what we do at Sughar (English translation: Skilled and Confident Woman) where we provide women socio-economic empowerment via entrepreneurship, and social empowerment is the name of being able to defend oneself from violence!

So at this fantastic occasion of GFB 10th birthday, I thank Erin and GFB for helping us bring GFB to Pakistan and for giving us an opportunity to reach out to other girls and women in Pakistan which need to become girls who do fight back!  Happy Birthday!

Note from Erin: Khalida is the human embodiment of optimism. I often think of her contagious laugh as we drove around in my Beetle convertible last summer, with her gorgeous scarf blowing in the breeze! She will be a famous international leader someday, mark my words…oh wait, too late, she already is! Seriously Khalida, thank you and Trina for bringing our mission to women across the world. It’s a dream come true…

From darkness, awareness & education

Jess Weiner is an author, self-esteem expert, consultant and media personality. She is founder of Talk to Jess, LLC and the Actionist Network.

We want to send a huge shout out to Erin Weed and the amazing team over at Girls Fight Back. This month marks the 10-year anniversary of this groundbreaking organization.

I met Erin years ago and her story and passion for helping women and girls find the power to protect themselves was born out of a real life changing experience. Now the GFB team carries the message of how we can be our own best protectors, how to trust our intuition, how to reduce the risk of violence in the first place, and how to physically fight back.

Erin is one of our original Actionists®. Not only is she a world changer and impressive business leader, she is a friend and her loyalty and commitment to empowerment is a recurring inspiration in my life.

Happy Anniversary Erin and Girls Fight Back! From darkness, you have brought awareness and action into the lives of so many women and girls.

Note from Erin: Jess and I have known each other for years, and always seem to show up in each other’s lives when we need a pick-me-up. Thank you Jess for all your advice and wisdom, not to mention empowering millions of girls around the world!

True success = Rendering service to others

Greg Walker is a business coach and President of PCS Systems Inc. He has advised the national and global expansion of Girls Fight Back since 2007.

It was almost exactly four years ago to the day (May 31, 2007) on a beautiful late spring afternoon that I truly began to understand the power and breadth of the Girls Fight Back mission. After working with CEOs of various size companies throughout North America for nearly 30 years, I thought I had encountered just about every personality type and intellect there was to discover. I was wrong.

Erin Weed made a singular impression on me that day. It was an impression of energy, excellence and vision. We had met a couple of weeks earlier at a briefing for CEOs. At that time Erin had already touched literally hundreds of thousands, and by extension through word of mouth, millions of lives. We both were to find out later that we each made a private decision that day to somehow work together to make her continuing campaign for Girls Fight Back an even larger reality than it already was after 6 years.
We have been on that journey ever since.

One of the most interesting things that I have discovered repeatedly over these years is that Erin is a veritable fountain of ideas and humor. If you’re not comfortable in the fast lane with possible sudden sharp turns, you just can’t hang with Erin in a business sense. It is absolutely refreshing to find someone so young who is never satisfied with the status quo. She has over the years infused her enthusiastic spirit and uncompromising commitment to excellence in the staff, speakers, agents, friends, and partners of Girls Fight Back.

Girls fight back has over its 10 year history received nearly daily communication from women who have been impacted in a positive way by its message. Lives have been changed. Devastating outcomes have been avoided. Men have been educated and women have been empowered. Countless women have reported that the fear and vulnerability they had experienced so often in the past has been replaced with courage and the knowledge of not being helpless in the face of potential assault. This legacy will continue for generations, indeed it could not be stopped under any circumstances. It will be passed down like the oral histories of old… mother to daughter, sister to sister, friend to friend.

We all have had dreams at some point of having an impact on our world, of having something to show for having occupied this small planet for the length of our years. Few endeavors, especially born out of such tragic beginnings, are destined to have the global impact of Girls Fight Back.

So what of the next 10 years? Erin and the Girls Fight Back team are already hard at work in countless ways to expand this legacy to the corners of the world where it is needed most.

The true measure of success in life, indeed in any endeavor, is the rendering of service to others. On this one measure Girls Fight Back, from its humble beginnings 10 years ago, to its global reach now and in the future stands as an example to us all. So happy birthday GFB!! You are the most vibrant and relevant pre-teen I have ever known. I wish you every continued success in the future, and pray that I can continue to have some small part in assisting your success.

Note from Erin: When I first started thinking about training other speakers to give the GFB presentation, I was terrified of letting go, of some speaker tainting Shannon’s legacy somehow…not to mention leery it would even work. But Greg told me this: “If you do not believe this is possible, I do. Borrow my belief.” Since then, I have borrowed Greg’s belief in me, my team and this mission many, many times and have paid it forward by lending my own belief to other people when they needed it most. Greg, you are more than a consultant or a coach to me and my crew…you are family. Thank you for being able to see the vision of GFB’s purpose often clearer than I do…

Not everyone must be a victim

Gavin de Becker is our Nation’s best-known expert on the prediction and management of violence. His work has earned him three Presidential appointments and a position on a congressional committee. He is the author of The Gift of Fear, Protecting the Gift and Fear Less. Visit his company website at http://gavindebecker.com

This anniversary reminds us all of how quickly ten years passes.  I reflect on all the things we have experienced in this decade that Shannon did not get to experience.  That part feels sad.  And I also reflect on all the things and all the contributions that were possible because of what happened, because of your love, Erin, and because many other people joined you in working to reduce victimization.

Your work reminds me of this important truth: Everyone might be a target at times, but not everyone must be a victim.

The important anniversary to me today is not one of loss – but rather the anniversary of the formation of Girls Fight Back.  I’m honored to be part of what you do.

gavin

Note from Erin: There are a lot of rock stars sending birthday wishes to GFB this month, but the fact one of the busiest men and thought leaders in violence prevention would take the time for this…well, I’m beyond humbled and grateful. Gavin’s book, The Gift of Fear, changed my life at a time I was riddled with emotional pain from losing Shannon, and has saved countless lives with its wisdom. It taught me about fear and anxiety, and how to know the difference. Gavin’s work not only inspired the intuition section of the GFB presentation, but also served as a guide on my journey to get my peace back. Watch him on Oprah talking about the ‘power of no’ and see why GFB loves Gavin and everyone at his company so much. Also check out the free assessment tool you can use, to see if you or someone you know may be in a violent relationship. Thank you Gavin, and also thanks to your incredible team at GdBA…it is an honor to be part of what you do as well.

10th Anniversary e-Party

Ten years ago, this month, I lost one of my dearest friends to homicide, but amidst the sadness, a light flickered in the distance. Gradually, yet deliberately, a silver lining began to sparkle around a very dark cloud, and from it emerged Girls Fight Back. The storm of June 12, 2001 was over, but not forgotten. The rainbow afterwards has been glorious–and thanks to the many people who have believed in our mission along the way, it has shone brightly for an entire decade.

How do we properly celebrate 10 years of changing lives…even saving lives? How do we begin to pay tribute to the gentle soul of Shannon McNamara, who inspired this entire campaign? Especially a movement that is global in scope, reaching women of all ages? Thanks to a little thing called the Internet, I think we can pull off this celebration quite swimmingly and include our friends across the world. How? We’re gonna throw an e-party!

What is an e-party, you ask? Well for us, it has four different dimensions…

1. BLOG: Throughout the month of June, we will be featuring our greatest influencers on the GFB blog. They will be sharing their thoughts, memories and insights from our adventures since 2001, as well as their ideas and hopes for the decade ahead. These people have deep insight into why this movement has worked and maybe even some embarrassing/fun/random tales for your enjoyment. (Note: all hilariously humiliating posts will likely feature me…) The folks blogging this month will be friends, fans, business comrades and super-fans. All of whom have contributed so much to GFB. Without their influence, GFB would not be what it is today. To all of them, I say THANK YOU.

2. TWITTER:  If you’re a tweetin’ kind, be sure to search and save the hashtag #GFB10. It you tweet a happy birthday message to GFB this month, be sure to use that hashtag so we can re-tweet you!

3. FACEBOOK: We’ll also be posting the blog posts on the GFB Facebook page, as well as having fun giveaways and contests throughout the month. If you’re not already a fan, please come hang with us at our digital domicile.

4. ONLINE STORE: We’re offering 10% off for all orders placed at the GFB online store during the month of June. I especially recommend the GFB book and/or DVD as a graduation present for young women. At checkout, use discount code: GFB10

Hope you join us for this world wide web fiesta, and big thanks for your continued support. Cheers to the next ten years…

Strong. Resilient. Spirited. Unified.
Erin Weed

A new website for Girls Fight Back

Today I am very happy to announce the launch of our new Girls Fight Back website! Located at http://girlsfightback.com, the site strives to be easy to navigate, easy to learn about personal safety online and easy to bring the GFB program (keynotes or workshops) to your school, college or business.  We hope it simplifies the process of learning to defend yourself without stress or confusion. Since we just launched, we anticipate a few glitches here and there. If you find any errors on the site, let us know via the contact form and I’ll personally send you a free, autographed copy of my book! (Girls Fight Back! The College Girl’s Guide to Protecting Herself.)

Probably my favorite feature on the website is the entire Girls Fight Back presentation is viewable online.  And guess what? It’s FREE. You don’t even have to give us your e-mail address. (Pop some popcorn, then click here to enjoy.) Many of my professional speaker friends think I’m a nut for doing this. After all, the presentation IS our business, so why make it free? Well in addition to it being my business, it’s also my mission. And we get LOTS of e-mail from women living in fear or in crisis with no ability to access to a self-defense class. Sometimes these notes arrive from faraway places like Egypt and Bahrain! While I don’t claim the GFB program is a substitute for taking a live class, I do think it’s a good first step and I’m delighted to make it available to women who so desperately seek it.

I have to thank my friend David Meerman Scott (a rock star author and professional speaker – not to mention an amazing guy and father) who inspired me to make the presentation free and accessible to anyone. He actually blogged about our new website, so click here to read it. Someone once told me, “If you love something, set it free.” Besides all the amazing people in my life, I couldn’t love anything more than Girls Fight Back…so have a nice flight, little birdie! Mama loves you!

You’ll also notice on the home page and the partners page, we announce some exciting sponsors for the GFB Fall Tour – which is now underway. (Heather spoke at University of Memphis last night. Yee haw!) We’d like to give a big thank you to SELF magazine, FORSSE and CampusTshirt.com for backing our tour this season. Also mentioned on the partners page are two awesome speakers bureaus that book all our college programs, Bass Schuler Entertainment and CAMPUSPEAK. We’re really psyched to be working with both of them.

Another big feature on the new website is our two new speakers, who have made Girls Fight Back a GLOBAL movement of peace and girl power. I extend a very warm welcome to Khalida from Pakistan and Trina from India – both of whom I spent this past summer training in public speaking and self-defense. They are incredible warriors in their own battles, with Khalida working to end honor killing across Pakistan and Trina working to end sex trafficking in Mumbai. When I first met them, I was so excited by the idea of GFB going global…I had no idea that training them would also to give me 2 more sisters. (BTW: Trina & Khalida will be using all money earned from programs they give in their countries to create revenue for their non-profits. They keep 100% of what they earn. This is the first major initiative of the Girls Fight Back Foundation – training women from other countries to be speakers on the topic of peace and safety, and how to make money doing it. Then use that income to fund social change.)

If you enjoy the new website, please tell us by visiting our Facebook fan page and leave a comment. Even better, send the link to 3 of your friends. Or blog about it, tweet it or post a link on Facebook. Our mission is to make women’s safety education as widely available as possible, and we thank you in advance for helping us out. We can’t do it alone – making women see that WE can be our own best protectors takes an army of women and men who love women.

Before I scamper off, I’d like to thank the following people for making contributions to this new website: Photographer Sean Savitt, graphic designer Jenn Doe, web designer Peter Lacis, GFB Program Director Cheryl Goff, t-shirt guru Jim Levy, Morgan Jelling at SELF, Liz Meitus at FORSSE, all our past and future clients and my incredible GFB speakers.

People often tell me and my team that Shannon McNamara is very proud up in heaven. In the past, I’ve always said “I hope so.” But now that any woman, anywhere, can learn some basic skills that could save her life – “I know so.”

A GFB Week in Review

One week ago, I was in sunny Orlando preparing to present Women Fight Back to a group of awesome gals at Siemens Energy. No surprise that they were full of energy and spunk. I loved the brief time I got to spend there and they seemed to love kicking butt! One of the comments I received on our feedback forms read, “OMG!!! This was the most amazing class – I Loved Her!! Thank You” and another said it was the best presentation they had ever had! So I felt pretty good. :-)

I spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with incredible college peer educators at the Bacchus and GAMMA National Peer Education Conference. Bacchus and GAMMA is a non-profit which trains college students to educate their fellow students about various health issues from drugs and alcohol to STIs and HIV to good nutrition and overall wellness. It is a personal favorite of mine because I was a peer educator at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro every single semester and I attended four national conferences during my years there. It was at the B &G conference that I first saw Girls Fight Back! and that I first met Erin Weed. I met some really cool people from all over the country and saw some great programs. The theme this year was Super Heroes of Peer Education and although I had to leave before the themed costume contest on Saturday night, I am sure there were some pretty amazing costumes just because us peer educators are dedicated like that!

And that, my friends, wrapped up my portion of the fall tour! I was grateful to get back home and start resting up for our January training academy and, of course, our upcoming Spring tour. I didn’t think about all the things I had put off doing at home while I was jet-setting across the country teaching people to be their own best protectors. Not only are there piles of laundry and tons of holiday preparations to be done, but I also remembered that I signed up for a RAD class at my alma mater! Tuesday was my first class and it covered some basics about safety and awareness. We learned some of the primary moves (ready position, palm strikes, etc.), but the real meat of the program started last night when we learned tons of basic strikes and started practicing on the punching pads. Next Tuesday, we’ll be working on ground defense and next Thursday we’ll be doing simulations. I’m excited to learn about another system of self-defense and you can look out for a full review after our last class next week.

Wednesday was the highlight of my week because I got to have coffee with a dear friend of the GFB family, Andrea Cooper. She was speaking at Wake Forest University and I had the opportunity to chat with her and see her speak. Andrea travels the country telling the story of her beautiful daughter Kristin. Early in her sophomore year of college, Kristin was raped by a friend…someone she knew and trusted and on New Year’s Eve of that same year, Kristin killed herself in her parent’s home while they were out at a holiday party. Even typing that statement makes me tear up. The pain that Andrea has experienced following her daughter’s death is something I can hardly imagine and I admire her more that I can possibly express. Having just a simple cup of coffee with her was such a blessing and to see her presentation Wednesday night was so touching. I could tell from the way that students surrounded her following her talk that they were touched as well. Andrea also gave a blatant plug to GFB! She pulled me up out of the audience, introduced me, and said that they simply must book me at their school. Luckily, I had brought along some GFB materials because several groups from the school approached me afterwards for info! One good favor deserves another, so if you are interested in learning more about bringing Andrea Cooper to your school, check out www.kristinsstory.com. If your school has an Alpha Chi Omega chapter, partner with them! Kristin was an Alpha Chi and the national AChiO chapter offers grants to bring Andrea to your campus! Her program is a great way to break the ice about rape, depression, and suicide – issues that students on your campus unfortunately deal with every single day.

I heard that yesterday’s Dr. Phil had safety and self-defense tips for kids! Did anyone watch? What did you think?

Denver Self-Defense Classes

Girls Fight Back started in Hoboken, New Jersey in 2001 at a place called The Bar at 10th and Willow. Why a bar, you ask? Because the manager – a guy named Mario – had 7 sisters, believed in what I was doing and gave me the space for free. After getting certified by the American Women’s Self Defense Association as an instructor, I began holding weekend classes in the bar, and women all over the tri-state area attended. I remember banging on Mario’s apartment door at 10 am, so he’d let me into the bar to start class. (He went to bed at 6 am on weekends, so he probably cursed my name a lot those mornings…)

Today I’m excited to announce a new partnership with Denver’s coolest yoga hot spot, Spiral Yoga & Wellness. Starting November 21st, I will be teaching a 2-hour women’s self-defense workshop at Spiral once a month. (Normally the workshops will take place on the 2nd Saturday of each month – except for the first one in November, which is the 3rd Saturday.) Then in January 2010 I’ll start teaching an ongoing self-defense class every Wednesday night from 7 – 8:30 pm. (Whoop-Ass Wednesdays) These weekly classes are structured like yoga. Pay as you go, $15 per class, come every week or just once a month…no contracts, so you decide! (Note: You must attend one of our 2-hour workshops as a pre-requisite before starting weekly classes with me in January. This way, all students will begin the classes with an understanding of verbal self-defense, prevention strategies and other basic fundamentals. If you can’t make the Nov. 21 workshop, be sure to attend the one on December 12.)

Teaching again is very exciting for me. For the past few years I’ve been mostly speaking, writing and traveling. My average crowd size tends to be in the hundreds, sometimes even more than a thousand. But getting back to the basics, teaching a small group of spirited women and girls…well, I find this invigorating. I hope you’ll join me…please spread the word. Space is limited! Here are details for the first workshop:

Saturday, Nov. 21, 2009
2:00 – 4:00 pm
@ Spiral Yoga & Wellness
4106 Tejon Street
Denver, CO 80211
$20 per person (women/girls ages 12 and up)
Click here for details and registration

Urbana University

I always tend to start the program with a story, or sometimes a question about the area I’m in. Urbana was easy, because it is in OH and somewhat close to Cleveland. I remember as a kid we would always go to Sea World of Cleveland…I couldn’t get enough of it!

As an adult I look back at that and think…Sea World in CA? Yep- makes sense. FL? Absolutely! Texas – yes, right on the Coast! But Sea World of Cleveland!!???  Ummm…ok?

Sea World of Cleveland (shockingly)is no longer open…but we got a good laugh.

I had a really fun night here. The SAC members were really helpful getting everything set up and it’s clear they work hard to put together some really great programs for their campus. I loved the advertising that had been done for Girls Fight Back. I got to campus early and answered a few emails in the student union. The table I was at had a little cut out of a boxing glove with an invite to the program. Then again in the ladies room…it was kinda funny to see Erin Weed’s smiling face on the door of every stall.

The students were awesome. They asked some great questions and got really involved. Pete Floyd, a self defense instructor from the community also attended. He wanted to learn a bit more about GFB and how he too could help the students. I always appreciate that and enjoyed having him there.

Urbana was a wonderful school, with equally wonderful students.  All of us at Fight Back Productions were so very sorry to hear of the loss of fellow student Andia Shisler. Our thoughts continue to be with you all and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet you.

IMG_1681