Seattle Police Chief Diaz

Seattle’s Police Chief Diaz (right) mingles with the community.

Last week I participated in Seattle’s Chinatown – International District’s National Night Out event.  There was a good turnout, and lots of food.  The Fire Department brought in trucks, and excited kids swarmed around them as hoses and ladders and other gear come out.  The Police Department also had officers present, and Chief Diaz mingled with the crowd.  I conducted a short interactive demo on some self-defense physical skills and using your voice.  There were booths with info on recycling, public spaces cleanup, assistance for those affected by the COVID pandemic, and personal safety.  The most popular booth by far was the personal safety one, they were giving out safety accessories.  Flashlights, whistles, and alarms.  These were so popular that people were allowed to choose only ONE device to take home.  Most popular device?  Personal alarm.

Chinatown - International District National Night Out Safety Booth

This safety booth was giving out flashlights, whistles, and personal alarms.

I already have a flashlight (in fact, I have multiple flashlights), and a couple of whistles, but not a personal alarm.  So I picked one up to play with.  Pretty easy to work, just pull the pin and voila!  loudness.  At least if you are right next to it.  Not so much if you’re a few yards away.  Down the block, not really.  Its effectiveness is mainly on the person(s) right in arms’ length.  You turn it off by re-inserting the pin, which you hopefully you would not have dropped.  Or you can pop the battery.  It’s plastic, probably not particularly durable, and if you don’t use it for a while you’ll want to check to make sure the battery’s not dead.  I spent a few minutes working with it to see if I could operate it with one hand, that was a bit awkward.

Any time you consider carrying a personal safety accessory, please learn how to use it, and practice.  Even something so simple as a personal alarm or a whistle can be surprisingly difficult to wrangle when you are under stress.  Will you remember which end to pull on this alarm?  How strongly do you have to blow to get sound from the whistle?  Where’s the flashlight’s on switch?  And sometimes, under duress, people even forget what they have in their hands.

At this Night Out event there was a definite emotional undercurrent.  You probably have heard, and everyone at the gathering had this on the top of their minds, in the last year and a half Asians in the United States have experienced an increased number of street assaults and hate crimes.  Many in the Asian communities are alarmed about not only these assaults, but also that there seems to be little concern from the greater Seattle community.  One local activist, Jolene Jang, is organizing allies to be more effective in bringing not only attention but solutions to anti-Asian hate crime.  Can you participate?  Check out her Facebook group.

I’ve got my fall class schedule up, lots of new offerings for both the six-week course and single-session classes.  Some of these classes include de-escalation and bystander intervention.  Most people don’t help because they don’t quite know how, and you can get to practice some skills and get more comfortable with the idea of actively creating a safer city.  Contact me if you want to know which classes will have more of this content.

As always, stay safe and live life.

#StopAsianHate #BlackLivesMatter

using your voice LOUDGood morning, today is Wednesday July 21, 2021.  Another nice, if hazy, morning in the Emerald City.  And I’m quite happy that most classes this month have been in-person.  

In these classes we cover recognizing when someone bumps into one of your boundaries, and how you can fix that boundary.  Most of the time, when we set boundaries, we talk in conversational tones.  That is, at the volume you normally use when having a conversation with another person.  But sometimes you want to get louder.  I’ve been asking my students WHEN they want to get loud.  The answers are interesting, but usually are in response to a different but related question.

Students tend to reply:

  • When they’re getting angry
  • When they think someone isn’t listening
  • When too many people are talking
  • When frustrated with someone else
  • When they feel they’re not being heard
  • Or when they feel they’re not being taken seriously

I think the question they are hearing is “when DO you get louder,” rather than “when do you WANT TO get louder.”  They’re thinking about what others do to that trigger their LOUD response.  Given that the question is in the context of a self-defense class (students are assuming a stressful interaction, rather than a fun party or celebration), it’s not surprising they’d look to emotions that center around anger.  The question I’m trying to ask is more strategic.  When do you WANT to get loud?  When do you think getting loud is a USEFUL response?

See, if you get loud when you get angry, you risk being played.  Someone just has to figure out your hot buttons, and WHAM! they can get the reaction THEY want.  People who are manipulative do this all the time.  It’s one of the easiest ways to shift “responsibility” for a bad interaction from them to you.  And when your knee-jerk reactions are triggered, your safety decisions are usually less sound.

I think there are these three situations when you may WANT to get loud:

  • When you want to attract attention, you want other people around to look.  Most perpetrators want to commit assault without interference, in relative isolation
  • When you believe the perpetrator thinks you’ll be easy to intimidate, or have been intimidated.  
  • And when you need to get physical and hit the perpetrator, when you need to use physical self-defense skills to disable the perpetrator so that you can safely escape. 

And in our self-defense classes we do practice various strike to vulnerable targets.  It’s a LOT easier done in-person, more challenging in the virtual world.  

And when we practice our strikes, we always use our voices.  LOUDLY.

Going forward, most classes will be in-person.  Those through Seattle Central College and Bellevue College may still be virtual this Fall, we’re just not sure right now about available space on campus.  My Fall schedule should be rolling out in the next week or so.

And that’s it for today.  Stay safe, life life.

Good morning again, today is Friday, July 16, 2021, coming to you from the glorious Emerald City that is Seattle, WA.  This month we’ve been teaching in-person classes, and it’s been so good to get back to working with students in the same room.  Classes are still small, masks are still required, because COVID cases are again on the rise.  I’m asking that all students who are eligible be vaccinated, and guess what, you have been!  Sure it’s been a small, self-selected sample, and yet it seems that everyone has been eagerly forthright about their vaccination status.  You’ve been considerate of the needs of, and risks to, all class participants (that includes yourself).

And that brings us to RESPECT.  Not just a great Aretha Franklin song.  The word does have a range of nuance, like most meaningful words, and these nuances and contexts make a difference.

You can respect a position.  Someone’s job title, station in life, authority.  You don’t have to like that person, you don’t have to agree with that person, you don’t have to know that person, and you can still respect their authority.  Teachers, pastors, coaches, law enforcement, those are some of the typical positions that expect their authority will be respected.

You can respect a person who has a position of authority.  You can hold that individual in high esteem, you can admire them, even revere them.  You may consider them an expert.  You may not know much about them as a person, but you hold their public persona or accomplishments in high regard.  Dr. Anthony Fauci fills that roll for many today.

Or maybe someone you know personally has earned your respect, via their actions and behavior, their honesty and integrity and even expertise.
Dictionary definition - expecting respect as deference
According to my pocket dictionary/thesaurus, one expectation of this kind of respect can be deference.  A yielding to someone else’s authority.  

Showing respect as consideration of othersAccording to this same dictionary, here’s another aspect to respect.  Consideration for others’ rights and wishes.  This is how you show respect.  On one side, there’s the respect coming to you, on the other there’s you showing respect for someone.

And then there’s the respect of treating someone like, well, another human.  Not dependent on status or position or wealth.  A basic level of respect, due to the fact that all humans are created equal.

So, what does this have to do with your personal safety?  I’ll bet you can see where this is going.  There can be conflict when a person has status or a job title or accomplishments and they assume they’re owed respect, but their personal behavior is less than respectable.  And maybe they feel you’re not showing enough deference.  They may say, or imply, something like since you’re not respecting them, they won’t respect you either.  Meaning if you don’t defer to them, they will cease treating you like a human.  But these two aspects of respect are neither equivalent nor interchangeable.  This is becomes a power dynamic.  

In our self-defense classes we talk a lot about recognizing “red flags,” which are boundary violations, often showing up as these power dynamics.  Manipulation of respect in this way is a red flag, poking a boundary to see how compliant you could be when confronted with a claim of authority and need for respect.  Know your rights, find your allies, and consider how you can limit your contact with that person.

That’s it for today.

We’re continuing in-person self-defense classes through August and September, probably the whole fall.  Hopefully ongoing.  There will still be a couple of virtual classes.  Masks probably will still be required for a while.  We want our students and staff to be safe.

So stay safe, live life. 

fireworksWelcome to July!  When I think of July, fireworks and BBQ are on the top of my brain.  We celebrate July 4th, and the founding of America about 245 years ago.  We celebrate independence and freedom.  Today we live in unusual times. And we are confronted with competing visions of independence and freedom.
 
Independence and freedom are two of our most revered American values, our most celebrated virtues. And two that, in these uncertain time, seem to more and more divide us as a nation.
 
As an emPOWERment self-defense teacher, I hold these truths to be self-evident: That all people are equally human. That we all have rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That we are entitled to a representative government to safeguard and enforce these rights. And we are entitled to organize and advocate for change when our elected officials fall short.
 
As an emPOWERment self-defense teacher, I very strongly believe that any “information” that encourages you to make someone else’s life smaller, based on their race/gender expression/ethnicity/sexual orientation/nationality/etc., is neither useful nor empowering to you, nor to anyone else.
 
As an emPOWERment self-defense teacher, I very strongly believe that everyone deserves safety, regardless of their political beliefs. But the harm that has been codified, institutionalized, and currently enforced upon broad swaths of our people, is not in keeping with our foundational values.
 
And, as an emPOWERment self-defense teacher, I say you do not have to relinquish your power. You do have power. Alice Walker has said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Keep in mind that nobody will give you power — you need to take it (I believe Frederick Douglass said something like that).  (We can help you practice and hone many of these skills.)
 
Please continue contacting your elected officials, singularly or en masse, to ask them to use the power we entrusted to them to end these policies of purposefully traumatizing and harming our communities. Protest. Donate. Participate.
 
You may need to remind your fellow citizens too, on occasion, that you have the right to live in peace and dignity. Sad, but unusual times brings out the best in some people and the worst in others.
 
Independence isn’t a once-and-done deal, sealed with the signing of a piece of parchment. It wasn’t perfect then, it’s not perfect now, it probably never will be perfect.  We are a work in progress, we are not absolved from working on progress. And we have a long way to go. 
 
Stay safe, live life.
#StopAsianHate #BlackLivesMatter