All posts in November 2009

Relationship Etiquette

There is a scene in “Pretty Woman” where Richard Gere is icing Julia’s Robert’s face after Jason Alexander’s character hits her. She says to him “How do guys always know where to hit a woman? I mean, do they pull you aside in school and show you?”  I always thought that was an interesting question and in a broad sense, the answer is yes.

We learn behaviors and what is and is not appropriate from the people around us. If they are all fighting and hitting women across the face- then I will learn just that. I’m not going to argue that lessons of how to treat people appropriately should begin at home, but what if we added to that?

I recently read this article about teaching relationship etiquette in schools. Can you imagine the heartache that could be sparred if people were taught from a young age that if you say you will call, you should in fact call? Or that it’s not polite to lead someone on if you are not interested? Jack Berger broke up with Carrie Bradshaw on a post-it. A POST-IT! He clearly could have benefited from a little relationship etiquette. 

We teach sex education in school. As the article points out and as my own personal history can attest, this usually just involves a quick lesson about condoms. Wouldn’t students be better served to learn about self worth, how having sex will make them feel emotionally and what it could do to their relationships?

Not every child learns about healthy interaction at home.  Unfortunately, the statistics about domestic violence are staggering. The husband who is hitting his wife is likely not sitting down with his son to discuss how he should never hit a woman. The woman who is being abused might not have the strength to talk to her daughter about setting boundaries or how to say no and be firm. I didn’t “officially” learn about domestic violence until college. Even then, it was just statistics and the legalities of restraining orders. Those statistics told me that if someone in my class was going to abuse another person, at that point they had likely already started.

As I said, these lessons should begin at home but unfortunately that’s not always the case. I’m sure many parents would take issue with these lessons being taught to their children. I however, believe that lessons of human decency are and should be universal. It’s not an argument about teachers talking to our children about religious or political beliefs. I believe it would be adding to their overall character and teaching basic lessons of how to treat our fellow human beings.


In the grand tradition of this wonderful holiday weekend I was spending some quality time recovering on my couch, next to the fire, sifting through decorations. I was hoping someone had started to air “A Christmas Story” and was flipping through the channels when I came across the show “I Survived”. The episode featured a young lawyer named Jennifer Morey.

Jennifer lived alone and chose her apartment complex, in part, because of the protection provided by on site security guards. She was just starting her career, working long and late hours and always felt safe knowing a guard was there.

That safety was tested on April 15, 1995 when she awoke to find a man on top of her. She realized she was going to be raped and began to fight her attacker, a man who used her first name, but whom she did not recognize. During the struggle her attacker cut her throat almost from ear to ear. He then pulled her off the bed and threw her in the bathroom. Likely believing she would bleed to death, he told her to stay in there. Even after putting up such a fight and losing blood quickly, Jennifer was still able to use her lower body strength to keep the door closed with her feet until she believed her attacker had left and would not come for her again. She then ran from the bathroom and called 911.

Richard Everett was the dispatcher who picked up the line and together they began to try to save Jennifer’s life. He told her to add pressure to the wound, that help was on the way and tried to keep her calm. During the call, Jennifer heard a knock at the door. The man identified himself as Bryan Gibson, the security guard on duty. Jennifer told Richard that it was security and asked if she should open the door. The advice he gave her at that moment, based on intuition, was likely the most crucial thing he did that saved her life that night…DO NOT open the door.

Fortunately, Jennifer did not have to wait too long as police and ambulance arrived shortly after. They were greeted by the on duty security guard Bryan Gibson, who told them that he too had fought off the attacker after he escaped from Jennifer’s apartment. After reviewing the crime scene and Gibson’s injuries it wasn’t long before police realized that it was Gibson who was the attacker. He had left behind some crucial items at the scene. It’s believed he went back to Jennifer’s apartment when he realized this. To this day, Jennifer believes she would have been killed had she opened that door.

This may not have been the wonderful holiday movie I was searching for, but this story really stuck with me. Richard Beckett had no reason to think that the man at the door, whose job it was to protect the complex, was there to cause any harm. His intuition and quick thinking kept Jennifer safe.

Jennifer survived and began to rebuild her life. She won a civil lawsuit against the security company Gibson, who had twice been re-assigned because of behavior issues, worked for. In fact, from 1991- 1995 this security firm employed 130 guards that had felony records ( I’ll spend a little time on that in a future post). She is now a successful lawyer with her own practice. She met and married the man of her dreams a few years after the attack.

 Richard Beckett was at her wedding and they remain close friends to this day…

RAD Self-defense Systems Review

HPIM3154Last night was my last official RAD class at my alma mater and I thought I would share my experience with those of you who might be looking for a self-defense class to take.  Just remember that these are only my thoughts and programs will vary at different locations.  So, check out the RAD Systems website to find a class near you so that you can form your own opinion.

First, RAD is an incredibly popular program with a presence on virtually every college campus in the US and Canada.  It is usually free or very low cost to attend and once you graduate, you are given a certificate to return to any class throughout the US or Canada without any additional charge.  They also require that all men involved be law enforcement officers or submit to a thorough background screening.

Because RAD is typically offered on college campuses, you can expect to have a lot of young, enthusiastic gals in your class and the one I attended was no exception.  Over four short training sessions, we bonded and cheer each other on through various scenarios.  The instructors were friendly and not the least bit intimidating or egotistical.

While I general found the class to be simple and easy to follow, I wasn’t totally impressed with the amount of practice time we were given or the time spent on teaching ground defense.  There were also some scenarios that were “off-limits” during the full-contact portion of the final night.  I found that frustrating since several of us wanted to practice ground techniques.

All-in-all I would list the pro and cons as follows:

Pros –

  • Easy to find classes and large network of instructors all over the US and Canada
  • Free or low cost to attend with the option to return to any class, any time, any where without additional charge
  • Very simple techniques that are similar to other systems


  • Not a lot of practice time esp on ground defense
  • Not a lot of time with padded attackers to practice various scenarios
  • Some scenarios were “off limits” and could not be practiced with the padded attackers.

Personally, I really enjoyed learning this new system.  It is very similar to other approaches and I will definitely be checking out other RAD programs in my area.  If you have taken a RAD class at your college or in your community, please feel free to leave a comment!  Was my experience similar to yours or did you have a totally different opinion about the classes you took?HPIM3155

If you are in the Denver area, be sure to sign-up for the new Girls Fight Back workshop being held at Spiral Yoga and Wellness tomorrow.  For more details, check out Erin’s post below!

Making Self-Defense Fun

Lately I’ve been talking to women’s safety instructors about low class attendance for a skill that can save a person’s life.  It’s a common frustration among most self-defense instructors, even those who are internationally known, when it comes to marketing safety and self-defense education to everyday women.  Despite the excellent education that so many instructors offer, in many cases these classes are duds, with only a few people in attendance.

I believe there are many reasons for this, one of the biggies being that women are flat-out SCARED of something bad happening to them…and consequently are afraid of confronting that possible reality in a self-defense class.  As a result, many class attendees who actually show up have put off taking a class for years, are nervous to be there, recently survived an attack or “close call” or are forced to attend. (Often the case with moms making their daughters go…while ironically, those same moms often never take a class themselves.)  This can be a tough crowd in regards to helping them relax, opening their minds and filling their brains and bodies with new ideas of what they are capable of.

This begs the question…what if we got this education to women in other ways, with less pressure?  What if we made self-defense classes like swim lessons?  The lessons are fun, but the goal is teaching young people to not drown. (Scary outcome, fun process learning to avoid it.)  What if we looked at models like Jazzercize?  It was created after Judy Sheppard Missett saw the high turnover rate of dance classes, so she threw in a fitness component and some crazy humor.  The idea? Have fun while getting fit.  Why is fun so taboo when it comes to self-defense?  Is it possible for the education to be even MORE effective if people are relaxed while they hear our message of safety?

When people are laughing, they are listening.  And when they are listening, they’re learning.  And when they are learning, they become empowered.  And that’s when change happens.

I’d like to pose this question to all women: What would make the idea of taking a self-defense class or martial arts less scary to you?  A clean, pretty studio? Women only?  More “friendly” marketing materials?  Or shouldn’t self-defense be fun at all?  Please comment…

Fight Back Fall Tour Wraps Up at Loyola

Well, folks, that’s all she wrote. The Fight Back Productions 2009 Fall Tour has come to an end. And I can’t think a more perfect place to sign off than on the shores of beautiful lake Michigan at Loyola University in Chicago, hometown of our esteemed founder, Erin Weed.

I brought Students Fight Back to an enthusiastic group of men and women who sacrificed part of their valuable Saturday night learning to be their own best protectors. A big thanks to the rock stars of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, which sponsored the event. Their eagerness to help spread this important message is truly inspiring. And I must say, they’ve got a natural knack for laying the smack down.

OK, ass kicking aside, I have to ask an honest question. Is it completely and totally lame that it’s 10:01 on a Saturday night, I’m in possibly the most fun city in the country, and I’m alone in a hotel room bed in flannel pajamas? Could I morph into my grandmother a little faster please? But I gotta tell ya, speaking really takes it out of you. It was all I could do to drag my ass into Chipotle (I know – a real Chicago original), snarf down a burrito and then crawl into bed. I’m so ashamed.

But tomorrow! Oh tomorrow, Chi-town, you and I will spend some quality time together. After I’ve had a good night’s sleep. And possibly another burrito.

Michaela Jackson, reporting from the GFB ’09 Fall Tour, over and out.

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 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

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!

Mass Shootings in TX and FL

I struggle being someone who wants to gather the facts and background of crimes while at the same time wanting to focus solely on the victims and their family. I’ve been told you can’t really have it both ways. You know, kind of like on “Grey’s Anatomy”, when they tell the doctors not to get too involved in the lives of their patients because it interferes with them doing their job. I understand that there are some parts of yourself that you might need to tone down every once in a while to be effective at your work, but I hope compassion is not one of those things.

For this reason, I found myself feeling badly when I heard about the mass shootings in Texas and Florida  last week. I felt badly because while, of course, I was shocked and sad for the victims the thing that I was most intrigued about was the shooters…because they are both still alive.

This is extremely rare in mass shootings. Most people who perpetrate crimes such as this do so with no out plan and we are left to wonder and ask questions.

The Texas shooting on a military base has so many degrees do it. It involves a war, deployments, workplace violence and unfortunately ethnic /religious discrimination.  The FL shooting appears to be more of a disgruntled former employee situation.  However, unlike so many cases before we will have the opportunity to talk to the shooters and ask the questions that we want so badly answered. Why here? Why these people? What could have been done to change this?

When I learned of the FL shooting, so soon after TX my first thought was that it was a copycat effect. It’s common after an attack highly publicized in the media to have many that follow afterward. They just don’t all make the news. Did that have something to do with FL shooting?

What I don’t question, as I have posted about before, is that these were random or the acts of people who simply snapped. Violence is a process and I hope these individuals will be able to walk us through that so that we can learn how to prevent such cases in the future. I’ve read the same things about these 2 individuals as I have with other cases in the past. There were warning signs. There were people that knew.

 There are so many victims when someone walks into a building and starts shooting. It’s not just those who are killed. It’s the people who have to miss them every day, the ones that survived and the ones that tried to help.  It’s the families of the shooters who will wonder what they could have done differently. It’s the people who watched on TV and felt a little less safe.

 I shouldn’t feel badly about my interest towards the shooters. I’ve also spent a fair amount of time learning about the victims of these crimes. I think it’s ok to struggle with the need for knowledge and education in violence as well as the need to focus and feel compassion for its victims.  Perhaps finding balance between the two will make me better at both.

Rihanna speaks out about domestic violence.

Rihanna with Dianna SawyerOn Friday night, Rihanna was interviewed for the first time about her assault by former boyfriend Chris Brown. The police report describes the assault in detail, but I’ll do my best to summarize. The assault occurred in the car after the couple left the Grammy’s last February, when Rihanna noticed a message on Brown’s cell phone from a former girlfriend. When she confronted him about it, he became angry and an argument ensued.  Brown, who was driving, pulled the car over and tried to force Rihanna out, but she was wearing her seatbelt. He pushed her, causing her to hit her head on the window. Brown then continued driving while punching Rihanna repeatedly in with his right hand. She made several attempts to use her cell phone to contact her personal assistant, but Brown would not let her and tossed it out the window. The assault lasted for several minutes, while Brown continued punching her, put her in a headlock, and at some point even bit her. He finally stopped the car in front of Rihanna’s house and she grabbed the key from the ignition and sat on it. He continued the assault until police arrived after being called by a neighbor who heard Rihanna’s screams.

According to a CNN article, Brown was sentenced last week to serve five years probation and to spend more than 1,400 hours in “labor-oriented service”. He will also be required to complete Domestic Violence counseling and cannot come within 50 yards of Rihanna (10 yards at industry events) until 2014.

I have to say I admire Rihanna’s bravery in speaking out so publicly about this assault and how it has affected her. Soon after the assault, a police photo of her swollen face was released by TMZ . In the 20/20 interview, Rihanna talks about how embarrassing it is for her to see that photo. Having something like this become public so quickly must be difficult to handle, but it also forced this incident to be talked about. Rihanna describes the relationship between her and Brown as being almost obsessive at times. They were so young at the time that they feel in love, they fell hard and fast. When this assault occurred, it was a major wake up call for her, but after the wounds healed, she gave him another chance. The couple got back together just weeks after the assault, but it didn’t last long. Rihanna describes being annoyed by everything he during this time because she was so angry. She discusses the history of abuse in her own family, and describes watching her father beat her mother. This type of behavior was so normal to her, that when it began happening in her own relationship, she hardly recognized how wrong it was. Once she realized that her actions influenced young women around the world, her attitude changed. By speaking publicly about something that no woman wants to admit happened to her, she hopes to help others see the importance of leaving, and I believe that she has.

Several of the comments Rihanna made rang true to me in regards to my own experience with domestic violence. Women who are in abusive relationships often have a hard time understanding the situation they are in. The emotional abuse that many women experience makes them feel so worthless that when violence occurs, a common response is to sit back and take it. Rihanna described not wanting to fight back because she didn’t wan to hurt Brown. This is a feeling I can relate to all to well, and it makes me realize how the dynamics of domestic violence differ from many other types of violence. Choosing to fight back against someone who you loves abd trust is a difficult decision, especially if the person being abused doesn’t see themselves as worth fighting for.

Rihanna’s ends the interview by explaining that sometimes it takes stepping away from a situation to see it for what it really is. She will likely be remembered for this quote, “f love. Love is so blind.”

Brown has come out on multiple occasions to publicly apologize for his actions, citing his own history of abuse and saying he wishes he could have acted differently. Rihanna admits that she believes he is sorry, but doesn’t think he truly understands the severity of the situation and how much it has affected her emotionally. The frequency of domestic violence saddens me terribly, but I think one of the best things we can do is talk about it and I’m glad that Rihanna chose to do just that.

Culver-Stockton via St. Louis – Sans the Pizza

Helllooo Weekend! Am I the only one here who’s glad it’s Friday? As excited as I am about the weekend, though, it hasn’t been all that bad. How could it be when I started out my Monday giving the Girls Fight Back! presentation at Culver-Stockton College in Missouri?

And what a presentation it was. We laughed, we cried, we were moved. In particular, our scary bad guy, Lance, was LITERALLY moved as he graciously allowed me to demonstrate the “badass ballet” and pretend to take him down. Such a good sport!

Overall, the event was fantastic – a special thanks goes out to Bob Dudolski, a personal friend of GFB founder Erin Weed and Greek advisor at Eastern Illinois University at the time of the event that started this movement.

My only regret about my otherwise fabulous trip to Missouri this week is that I didn’t have time to jump out of my car in St. Louis and wolf down a few of those fantastic square pieces of pizza and a plate of toasted ravioli. Oh, Imo’s, wait for me – I promise I’ll be back.

Culver-Stockton College – proximity to perhaps the best pizza EVER…a pack of girls with a fighting spirit…what could be better? I can’t think of a single thing.

Girls Fight Back at Quinnipiac (Hey! I’m a Poet!)

Can I just start out by indulging my inner child and saying that I just really enjoy the word “Quinnipiac”? I’m sorry. It’s just a fun word. And don’t judge me for having so much fun with it – life’s a whole lot more fun when you can appreciate the little things, right?

Great. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let me say that bringing Girls Fight Back to Quinnipiac (I’m sorry but that little rhyme will never get old!) University last Wednesday was even more fun than saying Quinnipiac 10 times fast. The women were fantastic – several groups partnered to make the program possible, and the spirit of collective excitement was almost tangible.

The “Can O’Whoopass” portion of the program was particularly funtastic. I was blown away by the enthusiasm in the crowd – and so were our scary bad guys (count not one, but THREE altruistic male volunteers!).

On top of the program itself, which could not have gone better, I really enjoyed visiting New England for the first time. I couldn’t have asked for a better time of year to make the acquaintance of the Northeast. It was cold and rainy and gray, and it seemed just perfect. Idyllic. I figure I’ll probably own several houses there someday, when I’m rich and famous. And I’ll have a private chef to prepare delicious clam chowder and lobster for my enjoyment every day. And I’ll think of the girls at Quinnipiac University, who helped to kindle my love for the region with their overwhelming exuberance and first-rate kick-ass-ery.

And now, because I’m trying to hit critical mass of cheese in this post, a haiku for you:

New England aflame
with color and girl power
Quinnipiac fight!