Purple! Dog! Underpants!
It’s a classroom, but children are being encouraged to shout random, silly words, and learn to love the power of their voices.
They’re also being encouraged to run around and play.
And, more often than not, the children are the ones calling the shots. You’ll likely see them standing in assertive positions, across from the adults, controlling their every move.
In other words, the kids are doing pretty much everything they’re not allowed to do during the regular school day.
This is what a children’s self-defense class looks like, and is a scene we’d love to become more common in classrooms all over the world.
Why Do Kids Need Self-Defense?
“Children need to learn to self-empower as soon as they understand they have a ‘self’ to empower and protect. Developmentally, that is very young. Then it's just a matter of teaching the right skills at the right time.”
~ Sheila Watson, Sandalwood Martial Arts
It is our firm belief that learning to prevent and cope with sexual violence, bullying, and peer pressure is one of the most basic and crucial skills a society must teach its children.
And the younger the better, especially for girls, who often become disconnected from their voices at around age twelve.
Helping girls reconnect to and reclaim their voices is no easy task, which is why keeping the connection intact is so important.
No child gets through life without having their cheeks pinched, being forced to give somebody a hug, or being picked up without permission. All children are vulnerable to abuse, and studies have shown that one in four children will experience some form of abuse or neglect in their lifetime.
Which is why they all deserve to learn skills that will help them learn to protect their emotional and physical well-being.
Why Are Classes CoEd?
"We work with our girls to realize their inner and outer strength and with our boys to understand the strength that lives in vulnerability. We have seen a huge sustainable difference in our students over the years as a result."
~ Liz Cat Fitzgerald, Assert Empowerment and Self-Defense
Erin Morrison-Fortunato, a blogger at “Scary Mommy,” tells a story about a four year old boy who went up to girls and forcibly hugged and kissed them. The boy’s intentions were good. He was full of love and truly wanted to show affection. His behavior was also reinforced when adults oohed and ahhed and told him how cute he was.
Then, one day, one of his female classmates, who had had enough, punched him in the nose.
Had these children learned boundary setting skills, the boy would have known how to ask for consent, and the girl might have been able to stop the kiss without needing to use any physical moves.
Children, regardless of gender, need to be taught that no means no. They need to learn to respect the word when they hear it, and they need to learn to demand respect when they say it.
In addition, girls need to see that they are just as physically capable as the boys, and boys need to have opportunities to see girls embracing their physical power.
Most importantly, all children, regardless of gender, deserve to learn to protect their emotional and physical well-being.
Why Are Parents Invited to Participate?
"The shared experience with my child gave us both a sense of strength and empowerment, and left us an with an understanding of what we will and will not tolerate.”
~ Parent Participant
Having their parents with them helps children open up and feel more relaxed.
But the biggest reason it’s important for parents to be involved is that children’s self-defense classes are only temporary, but they provide the building blocks for a whole new way of life that parents and children need to create together.
To help parents learn how to build this new way of life, many children’s self-defense workshops begin with a session just for parents.
The parent sessions are an opportunity for parents to ask questions, to get to know the instructors, and to get rid of any wild misconceptions they might have about what children’s self-defense might look like.
Doesn’t It Terrify Them?
“What makes you think they’re not already frightened?”
~ Irene van de Zande,