Tag: empowerment

Episode #79: Mentoring, Empowerment, and Mental Health Warrior

IT expert, author, writer, and mental health advocate Marisa Jones returns to the show for another uplifting and action packed interview regarding the power of mentoring and establishing strong relationships. She talks about how a onetime perceived antagonist became a mentor, advisor, and dear friend, empowering her to take action which changed the trajectory of her professional and personal life forever

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Episode #73: Unleash Your Inner Diva

Andrea Spoor is a Certified Professional Coach, author, and self-proclaimed bully buster. Her passion is empowering teen aged girls to access their inner Diva to live a life of confidence, compassion, and self-love. She explains that while the word Diva gets a bad rap, means Goddess, and should be embraced as a source of wisdom, grace, strength, and power.

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Teaching Bullies Better Manners

I detest bullies. In my humble opinion they are sniveling little cowards with no manners or sense of human decency. They pick on those they perceive as weak, vulnerable, or helpless. If only we could teach bullies better manners, I do believe that the world would be a better place. And I believe we can.

I recently taught a self-defense class for women and girls. There were several grown women as well as two petite and quiet teen-aged girls attending the class. Well, at least one of the girls were quiet. The other one was a lot more verbose and outgoing. They were sisters, and they were adorable. They were in the class accompanied by their grandmother, who thought it would be a beneficial experience for all of them. She was right about that!

Although it usually takes awhile for ladies to get comfortable in a self-defense class, this group quickly got into the spirit of the class, and started to have some fun with it. However, I noticed that the quiet teenager hung back and silently watched the rest of us as we played with a few techniques and walked through several different scenarios. I thought she was just shy, so I decided to engage with her and make her feel more comfortable.

I caught her eye and made an effort to draw her into the class. I usually don’t focus on bullies or anti-bullying in women’s self defense classes, since we focus more on random attacks and “what-if” situations. But, for some reason, I said to her, “Let’s pretend that someone is picking on you at school…” Before I could finish, she shot a look at her grandmother. After a few moments of silence, her grandmother said, “That’s exactly what’s happening.”

I thought blood was going to shoot out of my eyes. Just the thought that a bully (or bullies) were picking on this adorable young girl enraged me. I wished I could go to school with her the next day, stand in front of her, and make them go through me before they could get to her. Instead, I continued teaching from a slightly different perspective, making sure that I kept this girl front and center.

Pretty soon, something remarkable happened. She began standing taller (all five feet of her), and started looking us all in the eye. She paid closer attention to what we were doing and got a lot more talkative, although not nearly as loquacious as her sister. Eventually I slid up beside her and whispered, “You’re getting it now, aren’t you?”

I wish you could have seen the look she gave me. She had a gleam in her eye and a knowing smile on her beautiful face. As a matter of fact, she actually glowed with a wisdom well beyond her years. She nodded her head and replied, “Oh, yeah. I get it.” I wanted to weep with joy.

For the next several days I could not get this girl and the bullies out of my head. I wondered if the lessons she learned that evening had any impact on her and her situation at school. Two weeks later I finally got my answer.

Her grandmother sent me a beautiful email thanking me for teaching the class. She also wanted me to know her grand-daughter told her that one single class changed her life forever. She was no longer having problems with bullies and was enjoying going to school again. Or at least, as much as any teenager enjoys school.

I cried when I read the email. As a matter of fact, to this day I cannot tell the story without crying. It’s a little embarrassing, because as a rule I do not cry in public, although I seem to be getting pretty good at it lately. Especially when I repeat the story of the petite and precious teenager who was being picked on in school, but found her strength and confidence in one two-hour long self-defense class.

The one thing I would love to know, but probably never will, was how the whole thing went down. I would have giving anything to see how she stood her ground. I really would have loved to see how her tormenter responded. Especially since I know it was done in a non-violent manner.

Like I said, bullies are cowards. All you have to do is look them in the eye, stand your ground, and walk tall. Even if you are only five feet tall, you look like a giant. And you get to teach them better manners, which not only changes your life, but changes theirs as well. It’s a beautiful thing, don’t you agree?

There’s a Warrior in All of Us

I began my journey into the world of martial arts twelve years ago at the tender young age of 47. I guess this means I am admitting how old I am, even though I know that a lady never tells her age. However, no one has ever accused me of being a lady. Actually, someone once did a long time ago, but that’s a story for another day.

Anyway, it takes a tremendous amount of courage for a woman to walk into a testosterone-infested, male-dominated dojo and give strange men permission to attack them. It also requires an enormous amount of trust. I had neither, and there are still times when I have issues with both. However, what I lack in courage and trust, I have always been able to compensate with humor and false bravado.

When I began training, there wasn’t a high ranking female student at the dojo that could show me the ropes, be my role model, and teach me how to deal with a room full of Neanderthals. Even though all of the guys were very respectful and supportive, it didn’t keep me from being terrified and feeling like I was in a room full of Fred Flintstone and his bowling buddies.

They would take turns teaching me the secrets of the art of the Ninja, and there were even days when they actually argued over who would “get” to work with me. I thought they were just trying to impress me while they taught me the basic skills of a white belt. It didn’t take long for me to recognize that even on my worst day, I looked prettier and smelled better than any of the men they were used to rolling around with on the mat. Besides, I washed my gi after every class.

Since I didn’t have an upper ranking female student to emulate, I had to fend for myself and make up the rules as I went along. I told the guys that they were permitted to grab me, punch me, kick me, sweep me, throw me, and pin me to the ground. But under no circumstances were they allowed to mess up my make-up or chip my nail polish. After all, a girl’s got to set some boundaries, and that would just make me mad. Besides, it would be uncivilized.

Eventually, they got used to having me around the dojo, and I seemed to take on a role that was a combination of mascot, little sister, wise woman and awesome sex goddess. However, I still wasn’t in it for the long haul. I figured I would take a few classes, learn a few techniques and move on with my life.

But, something funny happened along the way. I fell in love with the art and I fell in love with the training. And I really, really fell in love with the sense of strength, grace, and confidence that I developed from training. With every milestone I achieved, there was another one waiting to be accomplished. Every time I felt I had reached my limit and wanted to quit, something kept drawing me back.

Every so often I have a test of faith, even at this point in my training. I’ll hear a voice in my head saying “Quit. Just quit.” But the truth is I can’t quit, and I won’t. Because martial arts isn’t just something I do; it’s something I am. So, I tell that little voice to shut up and mind its own business. It’s not that I have anything to prove, except for a point. And that point is, there is a Warrior in all of us.

 

The Delicate Dojo: The stories begin….

I got a fantastic text message from one of my Delicate Dojo students a few days ago. If you’ve been following me, you already know that I am a black belt in the ancient Japanese martial art of Ninpo Tai Jutsu, and I recently began teaching self defense classes for women only. I knew that eventually I would hear stories about how the classes came in handy in a real life situation, but I didn’t expect them so soon. Here is her story.

She and her 3 children (two girls aged 7 and 9 and a son aged 5) were sitting together outside an ice cream store enjoying their treats when a strange man suddenly approached them. He came right up to them, and without a word began picking lint off of her son’s shirt. She was in a corner with her son sitting on her lap and her daughters on each side. He literally had them backed into a corner. Instead of panicking, she looked him directly in the eye. Calmly but firmly, she said, “Don’t touch him.”

Incredibly, the stranger began to argue with her, and the situation became more threatening. Without taking her eyes off of his, she said, “Give him his space.” She continued to look directly at him and kept her focus on his eyes. He immediately changed his demeanor, backed off,  then turned and walked away.

How creepy. And what a creep! My student referred to him as “deranged.” I’d have to agree with her, because I can think of no situation where it would be appropriate for a perfect stranger to approach a woman with her children and starting touching one of them. I don’t know what his intention was, but I’m guessing it wasn’t good. However, she was able to clearly communicate that she was the one in charge and in control of the situation.

My student is very petite and looks like a kid herself. Maybe he figured she would be an easy target. She wasn’t. She told me that during the encounter she was as calm as could be, and admitted that she would have gone into full blown panic mode prior to taking the classes. By the way, she’s only taken two classes. So far. My petite student was able to react calmly from a position of power and strength. She also taught her children a valuable lesson. If she had responded with fear, they would have as well. The entire family would have been traumatized. She would have lost her power, and the “deranged man” may have become emboldened. Instead, she effectively defused the situation and empowered herself.

I love stories like this. I love hearing about positive outcomes. Most of all, I love hearing about women being able to find their power, strength, grace and confidence. I especially love it when the bullies lose. And that is why I started The Delicate Dojo, and began teaching women the art of self defense.

Be healthy! Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP