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Today, Wednesday Sept 29, 2021, is fine if somewhat overcast fall day.  The leaves on my mini maple trees are turning their fall colors, and it’s just about time to sow the fall cover crop in the garden.  Seasonal rituals, so to speak.

I have a few rituals of my own.  One is reading the comic section of the Sunday paper.  That’s the first section I go for.  A couple of weeks ago, more specifically Sept 19, this strip of Between Friends appeared.  It certainly felt familiar.  As a self-defense teacher for over a quarter of a century, I’ve heard stuff like this.  A lot. 

the fine art of just saying no

And we go over this in class.

This strip depicts the same character, at different ages, declining an invitation.  The teen girl is characterized as not quite getting out a NO and stumbling into acquiescence.  The young adult woman is saying that NO, trying to make it more credible with the words “sorry” and “but” as well as an excuse (she has a whole list of possible excuses ready, just for these occasions).  The verging-on-middle-age woman has dispensed with “sorry” as well as with using a specific excuse.  And the older, wiser woman is just saying NO, because NO is a complete sentence.  

There will be times in your life where you mess up, and you should say sorry.  Declining an invitation, indeed setting any boundary, should not be such an occasion.

I also generally try to get rid of the BUTs in the middle.  BUT is a minimizer — it says you’re not really all that sorry, or that you really would NOT love to.  

NO is a complete sentence.  Is it too brusque?  Consider the relationship with whom you’re having this conversation. Often you really don’t owe them an explanation, and if not please do not feel that you’re being rude by not offering one.  Many people feel compelled to have to explain themselves, when they don’t.  Explaining yourself to another can indicate a close relationship.  Or wanting to be heard and understood by someone you see on a regular basis.  Or it can manifest a power imbalance.  

A good all-around decline could be: 

  • Thank you for inviting me, I can’t make it
  • That’s so kind of you, and no thanks
  • I appreciate your offer of help, and no thanks

If the person presses you on why, try repeating the second clause of the decline.  “I just can’t make it.”  “No thanks.”  “I said no thanks.”   Trying to push past your boundary is itself a boundary violation.

In just about all of our classes we cover the fine art of Just Saying No.  And, for younger tweens and teens, we have classes more finely tuned to those age group precisely because at different stages they will have different understandings of and skill-sets for boundaries, as well as more built-in power imbalances, as well as enhanced self-consciousness.

Speaking of which, we have a full schedule of in-person classes for the Fall, and I’ve even begun looking at my winter calendar.  Classes for tweens, younger teens, older teens.  And, of course, classes for those more independent and still seeing more maturity.

What do you think?  How well does this comic strip characterize the declining skills of the age groups, in your experience?  How do you decline invitations, and how’s that changed over your life so far?

Stay safe, live life.

Today is Wednesday, Sept 22, 2021.  The first day of Autumn!  It’s like a week or so ago someone flipped a switch, and virtually overnight we went from Summer to Fall.  That’s just the way seasons change in the Emerald City.

In last week’s class a participant shared a bystander intervention success story.  She has this neighbor who, when he sees young kids or smallish older women walking by on the street, aggressively approaches them.  He would yell profanities, gesticulate menacingly, and try to get uncomfortably close.  Those targeted, their reactions were — not surprisingly — fearful; they’d try to make themselves smaller, sometimes even apologize, and try to back away as quickly as possible.  Angry yelling dude

This student had had enough of the spectacle.  One recent day the neighbor had begun his rant on yet another older woman walking her small dog.  My student strode near to him (keeping distance of course) and told him to leave, to stop harassing people.  Yes she did raise her voice.  The neighbor was taken aback, and he left.  And, ever since then, whenever he sees my student, he retreats back to the safety of his own abode.

We had been doing more work with bystander intervention since the beginning of the pandemic in our virtual classes.  It is a valuable skill so I’ll be bringing it more into my longer classes (those would be the 5 hour Self-Defense Seminar and the 6 week Self-Defense 101).

A lot of us envision bystander intervention as something scary we would do with angry strangers on the street, or bus, or grocery store.  And those instances are important.  Most opportunities, however, will arise in more familiar settings, and involve people we know.  People with whom we’ve some history, and can often guess their reactions.  And it’s great to learn and practice some skills to make your day-to-day living smoother and more peaceful.  I’ve got a full range of classes coming up this fall, and I’m slowly getting my winter offering up online.

Do you have a bystander intervention success story you’d like to share?

Stay safe, live life.

Good morning, today is Wednesday Sept 15, 2021.  It’s another pleasant late summer morning in the glorious Emerald City.  Tonight begins Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, the most significant of all Jewish holidays.  A time for reflections, on forgiveness, on atonement, on resolving to do better this coming year, to be a better person this coming year.

One approach to becoming a better person could be how we handle the “oopsies and ouchies” that sometimes pop up in interactions.  For instance, one person uses a phrase that perhaps they’ve heard all their lives and never really thought about what it meant, and it contains words that negatively reference the identity of someone else — a friend, a co-worker, family member — who is standing right there.  In an ideal world, that would not have happened, but we don’t live in that ideal world.  In my next-best world, the listener would be comfortable pointing out the phrase as derogatory, and the person who uttered it would be amenable to upgrading their language, in part because both listener’s and speaker’s intent would be to maintain a good relationship.  Because, in my next-best world, acknowledging oopsies and ouchies is what people would do, with the hope of creating a healthier community together.  

I used to hear the phrase “that’s so gay!” to refer to something considered stupid.  Rarely do I hear that these days.  A lot of people are good with asking others to upgrade their language in certain situations.

This notion is fundamental to understanding communication.  True communication is not just what is said, it is also what is heard.  Yes intent is important, and so is the impact on the listener.

For this to work, participants actually have to agree that they want to get along and make an effort.  That the impact of one’s actions, even well-intentioned actions, can adversely affect someone else.  Are you willing to consider that?

We look at these issues and skills in some of our classes, esp the six-week Self-Defense 101 course.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and fulfilling New Year!  Stay safe, live life.

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.

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