Empowerment Self-Defense is Kicking Ass – and Much More

Written by Lynne Marie Wanamaker. Posted in Defend Yourself!, Featured Posts

The first time I drove my fist through a pine board I learned something about physical power that is almost indescribable. It stood stark against two decades of socialization telling me that, as a female, I was inherently weak and incapable. And it profoundly countered the repeated victimization I endured as an adolescent. Sexual violation, and a culture that objectifies women and dismisses our sexual agency, told me my body existed for the use or misuse of others. Self-defense taught me my body–my strong, capable, powerful body–was my own.

self defense empowerment feminist women

The Self-Defense Paradox

Written by Lynne Marie Wanamaker. Posted in Defend Yourself!, Featured Posts, Think Features

Empowerment, Victim Blaming, and Feminist Models of Self-Defense

self-defense, feminism

Sometime in 1988, I found my way to a bare-bones studio over a discount store in Brooklyn and the practice of empowerment-model self-defense. I was a women’s studies undergrad at the time and—although I didn’t yet identify as such—a survivor of sexual trauma. Falling in with that sweaty group of feminists saved my life.

Self-defense was feminist theory come to life. An embodied practice, it introduced me to physical and emotional power—my own, and that of other women. It invited me to diverse community, to learn from and alongside women whose backgrounds were different from my own but who shared a common vision: a world free of violence and oppression.

You Can’t Yell at a Flower to Grow: Cultivating Self-Compassion

Written by Lynne Marie Wanamaker. Posted in Defend Yourself!, Featured Posts, Think Features

Each week at my Unitarian Universalist church, the minister shares a “Story for All Ages.” This is the time that my daughter and the other children move to the front of the Great Hall to see the pictures and I let my head drop onto my wife’s shoulder at the exhale of another long week.

A few Sundays ago, the minister told a story about a man who’d passed on from this life and was given the choice to be reincarnated as any creature he wished. He observed animals of the earth, sea and sky before his eyes lit on the humans. “I want to be that kind of creature,” he said. “They are so beautiful.”

self-compassion, self-love

That observation penetrated my Sunday morning sleepiness. At best, I’m inclined to think of the human animal as ridiculously adorable—more baby hedgehog than magnificent peacock. I tend toward a functional, “feed-the-machine” perspective, celebrating the corporeal capacity for doing. I practice gratitude for my body’s gifts: sensuality and sexuality, movement, strength, and power; and more than anything, the child that grew inside me. But beautiful?

Survivor on the Mat: Trauma-Aware Training for Survivors of Sexual Violence

Written by Lynne Marie Wanamaker. Posted in Body, Defend Yourself!, Featured Posts, Martial Arts

Halfway through our personal training session my client became disoriented, unfocused, and weepy. Before we began working together she told me that she was a trauma survivor. We were stretching in a peaceful studio when she became overwhelmed with emotion.

Image 9 Survivor

“I don’t understand why this is happening now,” she said.

“You brought your body with you,” I reminded her.

Strong Voices, Safe Bodies

Written by Lynne Marie Wanamaker. Posted in Defend Yourself!, Featured Posts, Ms. Fit Momma

Self-Defense Skills in the Family Environment

Defense girl 2

When I say “self-defense” do you imagine that you should train your 18-month-old to be the next Bruce Lee? Holistic self-defense means more than physically fighting back. The core mental, verbal and relationship skills can be taught in developmentally appropriate ways throughout your child’s life, starting at a very young age.

We teach our kids lots of skills before they are really expected to use them. My daughter “brushed her teeth” for many years before we entrusted her with her own dental care. Self-defense is the same. We don’t expect our littlest ones to keep themselves safe; that’s a job for grown-ups. But we can embed violence-prevention behaviors into our family cultures in the same way we cultivate health-promoting (“eat your broccoli”), pro-social (“say ‘thank you’”) or ethical (“tell the truth”) conduct.

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