IMPACT Self-Defense and Assertiveness Training
April 21, 2012 § Leave a comment
My personal feminist journey has taken me to some very cool places and fostered a huge amount of spiritual growth, more than almost any other catalyst. To me, being feminist does not only mean experiencing a shift in consciousness but a transformation in how we engage with our everyday lives on numerous levels. Not only does it change how we see and make meaning in the world, but how we view ourselves and our behavior and chose to reshape how we act.
One of the things my personal journey as a feminist led me to was IMPACT self-defense and assertiveness training. I came across references to IMPACT in two books within a very short time, Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Empowerment and a World Without Rape and When Food is Love: Exploring the Relationship Between Eating and Intimacy. The writers in both talked about IMPACT as an experience that helped them process trauma and regain a sense of self and safety and a confidence in their ability to set boundaries and protect themselves. They were talking about huge shifts in how they related to the world, healing the breaking down of boundaries and crippling of self-efficacy inflicted by both individual perpetrators and broader society. So I had high expectations mingled with my skepticism staring out.
I looked into taking a class, and a brand new LGBTQ course with a sliding scale fee was being held in my city. I didn’t realize it, but it was their first all-gender LGBTQ class in the Boston chapter (not sure about elsewhere). Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday all day, and Monday evening, I went to my classes. And I can say, IMPACT is super intense. After being pinned down by a two-hundred pound man who was queer bashing and threatening me and fighting my way out of it four days in a row, I was amazed by how much pride I had in myself on a deep level. I suppose I thought I would not get as much out of the class as some because I am not particularly meek or conflict avoidant and I feel strong and physically well most of the time. That was silly.
IMPACT classes intentionally put you in a real state of adrenaline so that your fight, flight, or freeze mechanisms kick in, then bring you through making choices and taking care of yourself in the situation. They retrain your muscle memory to self-defend. At one point in the class you are invited to create a custom situation for yourself, physical or verbal or both, that particularly terrifies you. You can face off with an abuser from the past, create your nightmare situation, or teach someone to mirror the attacking voices in your head. And win. Watching other students’ customs, I was struck by how similar our fears are. Not one person got up whose experience did not seem to resonate with mine, and whose victory I did not feel as my own personal triumph. It was awesome.
I was amazed by how much the coaches led us through and how skilled they were. The course was beyond trauma informed, it was trauma confronting. In my view, what IMPACT doing is crafting a context in which people have enough support to willingly take on their fear. Little could excite me more considering how I see the world and conceive of a love ethic. They can’t do everything, of course, and it is only one class. But this class is a transformative experience for a lot of people and was for me. I met my friend and lover Valerie in the class (probably why I was bold enough to go up and give her my number), and after the course we both had IMPACT informed dreams. I had recurring dreams involving family members that turned out differently from usual, in which I defended myself or others.
I found out at the end of the class that my coach, Meg, had been coached in her first class by Jaclyn Friedman. Which I thought was pretty cool. I made up this joke after where I would say, “My coach was trained by Jaclyn Friedman. Who was trained by Susan B. Anthony.” But for serious, those who have recognized their own worth against societal messages and had the fierceness to defend their own rights in the midst of unjust culture’s that threaten and attack nonconformity have a certain spirit about them. And I think I was lucky enough to get a dose of that spirit when I was at IMPACT.
If you want to check out IMPACT you might start here: http://www.impactselfdefense.org/