Way to Go, California!

Super excited to see California taking some strong steps to make self-defense education a required part of a public school education!  Check out this link!

“You’ll have to kill me”

I read this article yesterday about John Gardner, who murdered Chelsea King and Amber Dubois. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot I hear about this case that surprises me. He was a predator. A repeat sex offender who had attempted to take the lives of other young women as well. After years of hearing all the horrible things people do to each other, I think I finally understand that in order to be effective in making things better I can’t let all that bad have so much power over me. So I am choosing to find some good in the bad.

There were two key points that struck me in this article. The first was about the woman who got away. She told authorities she was on a hiking trail and a man walked past her. She said hello, as did he. He then tackled her to the ground. She began screaming and kicking and when he told her to “shut up” her response was “you’ll have to kill me”. She continued to struggle and was able to sit up and strike him in the nose with her elbow. He was injured and she was able to get away.

I’m not in any way intending to say the other victims did anything wrong, but for this particular woman who did fight back and did get away – it shows me that self defense can and does work.

The second point was with another young girl Gardner was likely intending to harm. The girl told police that Gardner’s vehicle drove past her and then parked about 30 feet in front of her. Gardner stayed in the vehicle and did not attempt to speak to her. Then a woman pulled up next to the girl and told her the person in the vehicle “seemed very suspicious” and offered to follow her home.  She watched over her for the remaining two blocks.

That’s a wonderful testament to the goodness in people and why it’s so important to make it your business! I’m very hopeful about all of the people we can empower to fight back and to be good bystanders.

Self-Defense Class at Krav Maga Portland

On April 3, I had the opportunity to take a self-defense class taught at Portland Krav Maga with Renee Jenkins. It was a padded attacker class, with krav staff helping with instruction and volunteers from the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office as the padded attackers, aka, the guys who are graciously willing to take a beating. 🙂

It was overall an awesome class full of supportive students and instructors and we all learned some valuable lessons in self-defense and how strong we really are. I also really liked that I got to share the experience with my friend Alana, who was awesome enough to come with me. I really love when my friends participate in and support the movement.

Like any class there were pros and cons . . . Here they are!

•Very supportive staff and students. Nobody utilized fear-based tactics and everybody kept it empowering;
•They taught simple and effective techniques that people of any size can utilize successfully;
•Cost effective. The class was only $40 and all proceeds went to the Clackamas County Women’s Shelter;
•Repetition. We got to practice multiple strikes against pads before going at it with the padded attackers.

•The verbal boundary section could have been more organized with instructors running through scenarios with each student;
•The padded suits our awesome volunteer attackers wore were not completely effective. As an illustration, I delivered a knee strike and bloodied someone’s nose . . . Don’t judge me; I was in the moment and it was an attack scenario.  However, after that happened, I wasn’t comfortable utilizing full force.

Overall, it was awesome. You may have noticed I love the word “awesome,” but rest assured, I don’t just give it away and this class definitely earned the distinction. I left feeling empowered and prepared. Big thanks to Renee and Krav Maga Portland for putting on such a stellar event!

I Met a Maverick . . .

Actually, I met a lot of Mavericks. Yesterday, I got to bring Students Fight Back! to the University of Nebraska at Omaha, home of the Mavericks . . . and they are AWESOME! I arrived in Omaha and it was sunny and 70 without a cloud in the sky. In case you are wondering, that is a sure fire sign of a great event to come. While my hotel reminded me a little bit of The Shining (a possibly bad omen), I had a feeling that the Mavericks would be a lively and enthusiastic crowd. As it turns out, my intuition was right on. The organizers and the crowd were so welcoming and engaging and everybody really embraced the palm-knee-knee, even our “Scary Bad Guy,” David. Thanks for being such a great sport!


Wild Times in Wisconsin

At first I thought it was a little weird that the only lactose intolerant speaker was being sent to University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, which is firmly situated in the land famous for its cheese. Several friends told me that I “simply have to try the cheese curds,” which painted a picture in my head that I would be surrounded by only cheese all the time, which is pretty much my worst nightmare. Luckily, while Wisconsin seems to be famous for its cheese, I was at no time fully surrounded.

Getting to the important stuff, the ladies at UWisconsin Eau Claire were phenomenal and we had a great Girls Fight Back! program. The crowd had a great energy and everyone was so eager to become their best protectors . . . Basically, it was awesome! I always love a program where I get feedback saying we need to bring our program to Oprah and Colbert! To this awesome anonymous feedback giver, I thank you! Oprah and Colbert, please put yourselves on notice that we would love to grace your stages. Big thanks to the events committee for bringing Girls Fight Back to their awesome university! You were a stellar crowd.

Making it Our Business

On January 28, 2010 Aiesha Steward-Baker was attacked in the Seattle tunnel. She was punched, stomped, and kicked by another 15 year old girl acting with a larger group. These facts alone are scary enough. However, the story gets worse. Aiesha was shopping in Macy’s when a boy from the group moved closer to her with his fists balled. She asked the Seattle police for help several times before leaving the store. The police told the boy and the rest of the group to leave the store but ignored Aiesha when she insisted they would be waiting outside the store for her. In an interview, Aiesha stated that “I was trying to explain that the kids were following and threatening me, which both officers witnessed, but the police officer just wasn’t listening.”

Aiesha was attacked after exiting the store into the Seattle tunnel. She was attacked in front of three security guards and multiple other citizens. You’re probably wondering how many people helped her. The answer is zero. Nobody helped Aiesha. Apparently there is a policy for security personnel in the tunnel that they can call for help but cannot intervene. This makes me wonder about some things. At what point does the gravity of the situation unfolding in front of you trump the policy at your job? At what point did policymakers feel it was a good idea to enact such a policy?

Unfortunately, nobody can change what happened to Aiesha. What we can do is focus on what we will do going forward, how we will live our lives, and how we will treat other people. I genuinely believe that we are all here to look out for each other and that should be reflected in our behavior and policies. Think how much safer we would all be if everyone decided to have each other’s backs. Think of Aiesha and how different her situation could have been if the policies in the Seattle tunnel reflected that attitude. Going forward, when we see a serious situation that could benefit from our intervention, I say we make that situation our business and lend a helping hand to keep each other safe.

To view the full story, including video follow this link.

GFB at the YWCA of Warren Saves My Weekend!

The Warrior Women of Warren.

A few of the Warrior Women of Warren.

The first half of my Saturday was excellent. I laughed and talked self-defense with an incredible crowd of young women at the YWCA of Warren, Ohio. The event was completely seamless, the crowd was pumped and my Scary Bad Guy, Cory, might have been the best SBG on record. All in all, a fantastic morning.

But all good things must come to an end. A three-hour flight delay in Cleveland Saturday afternoon caused this road warrior to miss her connecting flight from Baltimore to Nashville. After being informed by a less than sympathetic airline desk agent that “it is not airline policy to put passengers up in hotels, even when airline error causes them to miss the last flight home of the day,” I came about as close to a complete nervous breakdown in BWI airport as I ever want to. I mean, have you ever tried to sleep on those airport chairs? Not exactly an appealing option.

Luckily for my back and my nerves, the passengers on my flight quickly turned into an angry mob (not really – but close!). Heated words were exchanged (not by me!), supervisors were called and, to make a long story short (too late!), hotel vouchers were reluctantly issued.

The aloft hotel turned out to be charming, even if there was a BUMPIN’ party in the lobby. My sixth-floor room offered reasonable quiet (except for the part when the birthday girl stumbled out of the hotel screaming, and I could hear her and her posse through the window), which was crucial since I had roughly five hours before it was time to rise and shine for the flight home. A quick sleep, to be sure, but it beat stretching out in front of the Cinnabon. Hands down.

The moral of the story, friends, is that travel is an adventure. BUT my time in Warren with those wonderful girls made everything worth it. I want to thank Toni and the rest of the staff for putting on a completely enjoyable event. Cory – you really were a wonderful (and memorable) Scary Bad Guy. And to everyone who came out on a Saturday morning, laughed at my jokes and opened your very own can of whoop-ass: thank YOU for being the absolute highlight of my weekend. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend it any other way!

Scottsdale Community College Fights Back!

I just finished bringing Girls Fight Back! to Scottsdale Community College. Everything was great from the crowd to the weather. I have to confess that I was a little nervous about being the most ghostly pale person in Arizona so I did some extra preparation for this gig. I am, of course, referring the airbrushed tan I am currently sporting. This was a first for me but I decided to just make my appointment and cross my fingers I didn’t come out looking like Snooki from Jersey Shore when all was said and done. FYI- I am thankfully sporting a nice bronze glow.

This seminar was so interactive and fun that I wish I could do it all over again. The crowd had really great, insightful questions and comments. Thanks for proving my job rocks!

Fierceness in Fargo

First things first. People in Fargo have sweet accents. OK, that just had to be said and now we can move on. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to bring Students Fight Back to North Dakota State University and it was all kinds of awesome! I have to give a quick a quick shout out to Jordan from Campus Attractions for bringing me and Andy for being my Scary Bad Guy even though he was afraid I would go Miss Congeniality on him.

As an added bonus, the people in Fargo are some of the nicest and most welcoming people I have ever met. Even the gentleman at Hertz was very nice and accommodating when I absolutely insisted I get something other than a minivan for a rental. Yes, Hertz really tried to give me a minivan. I would have been fine with a creepy, windowless cargo van but a minivan is absolutely out of the question. 🙂

Thanks for having me NDSU!

Self-Defense in High Schools, It’s Time for a Change

Chelsea King was by all accounts a beautiful, smart, and talented young lady still growing up in San Diego. Tragically, her life full of promise was cut short and the man arrested in connection with this horrible crime is a registered sex offender, released against the advice of a psychiatrist.

This has made think about predominately two questions. First, why is self-defense not a mandatory part of middle school and high school curriculums? There has been a lot of buzz about sex-offender law reform in the wake this tragedy. I fully support harsher punishment for sex-offenders and more stringent restrictions once released. However, I am convinced that this is not enough because the bottom line is that, no matter what the law says, we cannot control the actions of others but we can control what we do about it. That is why it is so important that each and every person on this planet knows how to protect themselves. I think we need to start focusing more on what we can control, which is our actions and our knowledge.

The second question that is currently nagging me is this: Why am I not doing anything to make self-defense mandatory? The answer is that I have no idea but I do know that I am going to change that. We, as a society, need to be proactive about our own safety and the safety of the people we care about. It is time to call on our legislators and tell them what we need to happen to be safe and what we need to prevent senseless tragedies such as what happened to Chelsea. Why was I forced to play kickball and soccer in high school gym class but never once learned how to set a boundary, how to trust my intuition, or how to defend myself if those things didn’t work? It is time to change that.

I am going to start in Oregon, my home state, and I invite everyone to join me.

“Be the change you want to see in this world.” Mahatma Gandhi

Monmouth = Awesome!

Yesterday, I got to bring Students Fight Back! to Monmouth College in Monmouth, IL. To put it simply, they were awesome. The campus was adorable and the building they had me speaking in was absolutely gorgeous. To put the icing on an already delicious cake, I had the best scary bad guy ever . . . EVER!

Big thanks to my “Scary Bad Guy,” Matthew . Matthew, I think you have a future in drama if you want it. To top it off, I got to meet with Weed for lunch before taking for Seattle/Portland. Thanks to Danielle Tucker from ASAP who organized a great student event and to all the students who made it rock.

Stay Dangerous. 😛

Guerillas and Girl Fights!

Let it never be said that Everett Community College does not think outside the box when publicizing events. When I arrived on campus, I saw dozens of absolutely adorable posters publicizing the Girls Fight Back! seminar. Now, I know what you are thinking . . . that sounds awesome but not necessarily innovative. Well, let me tell you what else EVCC did. First, they wrote the words “Girls Fight” and drew arrows leading all the way to the seminar room. They also had a dancing guerilla directing student traffic to the seminar. This is what I call creative advertising and I LOVE it!

The crowd at EVCC was awesome and pretty much completely fierce. I had a blast and want to give a big thanks to Kelsey Burke for bringing me to EVCC and coordinating such an amazing event. You rock, ladies.

Niceness vs. Intuition

“He seemed so nice at first.” This is a statement I think we all hear frequently in many different contexts. You might hear a friend say it after going on a second date with someone who was so nice on the first date but turned out to be a big jerk on the second. You might hear a victim of sexual assault saying this about her assailant. It begs the question, what is happening to these nice people?

Here’s the deal. Being nice is a choice, not a personality trait and anyone can chose to be nice for a period of time to get something they want from you even if they are the furthest thing from nice. To put it bluntly, people can use niceness to manipulate you. Now, I’m not saying that you should stop trusting all the nice people in the world, because many people chose to be nice and are genuinely good people. However, if your intuition is giving you a signal that the seemingly nice person you are dealing with is a bad news, trust your intuition.

Your intuition will steer you toward the people you want in your life and away from the people you would rather keep out. Trust it and let it work for you.

Peace and Hope.

Last weekend, the Girls Fight Back team reunited in Denver, CO for a weekend of training, strategic planning, and some fun times thrown in for good measure. While we were deep in a brainstorming session, we started talking about what Girls Fight Back, and self-defense in general, was really about. Now, when a person hears “self-defense” and “Girls Fight Back,” the things that may jump immediately to mind are words, such as kicking butt, taking names, etc.

However, as we discussed this weekend, that is not really accurate. At Girls Fight Back, we definitely believe that we all have the right and responsibility to be our own best protectors. We also very firmly believe that everyone is worth fighting for. However, I think that, at their core, Girls Fight Back and self-defense are really about peace and hope. The ultimate goal of a self-defense program is to teach people how to lead a peaceful and safe life, reminding people that the best fight is the fight never fought. It is about valuing yourself, coming from a place of self-respect, and ultimately knowing that you can protect yourself and you are worth it.

During the weekend, I watched of part Megan’s, one of the GFB Speakers, videotaped seminars. Megan told the story of her childhood babysitter, Lisa who was killed by husband. For me, what really stood out about this story were Lisa’s parents. Losing a child must be the most devastating experience but Lisa’s parents turned tragedy into hope for people in Lisa’s situation. They founded Lisa’s House, a safe haven for women in abusive relationships. Stories like this make me realize that, while we cannot always stop tragedy, we can and should always hope and strive for a better, more peaceful future. We can turn tragedy into hope and inspire others to take action.

Strong. Resilient. Spirited. Unified.

Prepare Portland Delivers a Great Self-Defense Program

I recently attended a really great self-defense program in the Portland area. It was Prepare Portland’s class and they teach Impact-style self-defense. It was a fun-filled weekend of learning full contact, all-out, empowering self-defense skills. These are my thoughts and a general review of the program but remember, you should research any program before attending.

Prepare Portland delivered a very well-rounded program focusing on setting physical and verbal boundaries and how to fight back from different holds and positions. We started on Friday evening with introductions and background about the program, and then we warmed up and went straight into it. We started with physical fighting and, as the night and weekend progressed, we layered verbal assault and self-defense into the fights. There was a good variety of ground fighting, fighting standing up, surprise attacks from behind, and verbal attacks. Plus, each new scenario built upon skills taught in the previous scenarios so the confidence of the class grew with each scenario.

The program was also incredibly empowering. Each instructor was encouraging, positive and had valuable insights to share. The instructors gave us each the opportunity to give them an index card with scenarios we either wanted to try or avoid. This tailoring gave the students the opportunity to either tackle a scenario they wanted to conquer or avoid a situation they were not quite ready to take on. In general, I think the male, padded instructor is crucial to the success of a full-contact self-defense program. They have to be able to make the switch from being compassionate and your biggest supporter when out of the suit and a creepy weirdo/your worst nightmare when in the suit.  I have to say that our padded instructor played both roles extremely well and I am amazed at his ability to, seemingly simultaneously, attack and encourage.

The one thing that might be a drawback to this program is cost. For 20 hours of training, the full cost is $495.00. However, the bright side (and I’m all about the bright side) is that there are scholarships available based on your income and the staff is really good about working out payment plans. 

To sum up, Prepare Portland delivered a highly empowering, practical self-defense course that I hope more of my fellow Oregonians take advantage of. Great program, great staff, great times.

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?

Girls Fight Back! at Northern Arizona University

NAUWell, the Girls Fight Back! Fall Tour is coming a to a close and I have to say that Northern Arizona University was a GREAT way for me to close out my first Girls Fight Back! tour. First, let me just a give a shout out to the fantastic Arizona weather. I was greeted in Flagstaff by sunny skies and 70 degrees. The fun just kept coming and I cannot say enough good things about NAU or its students.

The NAU crowd was so energetic and I left feeling truly inspired and lucky to have my job. One thing this job has taught me is that, while there is violence in this world and it can seem senseless and pervasive, there are also hope and success stories. I think that focusing on those two things and making an effort to make them more common is a better focus and I feel so blessed to be a part of an company that does that. After every seminar, people came up to me and told me how dangerous they felt or that they felt more prepared should they encounter a violent situation. I have also had people share stories of how violence has affected them and then thank me for making them feel empowered.

However, I think it’s more appropriate for me to thank all of the wonderful people who brought Girls Fight Back! to their school or company and all the inspirational people who sat in the audience and learned how to lead a safer life and fight back. Thank you for welcoming me, being open to our mission and helping spread that mission. You have made our fall tour amazing and I can’t wait to see what spring has in store for Girls Fight Back!

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.


Salt Lake City – From KJZZ to SLCC!

I was recently lucky enough to bring Fight Back to Utah and I had an insanely great time, despite my trip starting off with a somewhat awkward encounter at the Portland Airport. As a side note, thank you to my unnamed family member who decided to store his giant screwdrivers in one of my carry on bags causing a “situation” at the airport. That aside, the rest of the trip was great. KJZZ News at Nine was very generous to have me on their morning show and share the Girls Fight Back Message with their viewers. Their anchors were so enthusiastic about our mission and the segment was fun, informative and such a positive step in spreading our message.

Luckily for me, the fun did not end there! Right after KJZZ, I hopped in my car and drove over to Salt Lake City Community College for a Students Fight Back seminar. The students and staff at SLCC are amazing and a very enthusiastic, welcoming crowd. We had a great seminar with great participation and questions from the audience. There really is no comparison to seeing staff and students yell, “Stop! Leave me alone! I don’t want any problems” at each other and then practice the badass ballet and call each other “creepy weirdos.” It is just plain awesome!

In short, Utah was great. KJZZ was amazing and SLCC was an absolute blast. Thanks for the memories! Watch the first part of my KJZZ interview at:

The Bystander Effect – As many as 20 people witness gang rape & fail to report

A dear friend sent me a link to this very sad story.  Basically, a 15 year old girl was gang raped outside a school dance for over two hours while as many as 20 people watched or participated in the attack.  No one called 9-1-1 or reported the crime.  My friend sent me the link with a note attached that read, “why isn’t self-defense mandatory in high schools?”  I don’t have an answer.  I don’t know.

I also don’t know why so many kids stood by and allowed this to happen.  There are already dozen of articles out there hypothesizing about what happened here.  Was it a bystander effect (which is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when a large group of people witness a crime and diffuse responsiblity among the group)?  Did they fear retaliation from the group?  Have they been desensitized by the violent and sexual media that surround us? I could go on and on listing the theories that abound on this topic.

I recently took a CPR re-certification class.  We had already learned half of the skills that the class teaches when one young girl in the back raised her hand and said, “ok, I understand how to do this, but how do I know when to do it?”  It is an excellent question.

We teach our children about 9-1-1 from a young age, but do we tell them when to use it?  Do we have them practice dialing the number (with the phone unplugged, of course) and teach them how to answer basic questions that an emergency dispatcher might ask?  When we get in new situations, we often freeze and witnessing a violent crime is no different.  When will we begin to teach our children the basic skills they need to survive and thrive in this world?  Violence happens.  We can’t ignore it or deny it.  We must take responsiblity for teaching our children these skills.  And we must learn to help each other.  Afterall, if we weren’t put on this planet to help each other out, then what are we here for?

Our thoughts and prayers are with this girl, her family, and her community.