With April being Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month, we’ve enlisted the help of two amazing females: Erin Weed of Girls Fight Back and Eve Torres of the Gracie’s Women Empowered Program. Please pass these interviews on via Facebook, Twitter or other social media outlets. Thank you.
Interview with Erin Weed of Girls Fight Back
Tell us briefly how you became the teacher and lecturer you are today?
I got certified to teach self-defense shortly after my friend from college was murdered, and created a self-defense educational seminar to connect with young women in high school and college. It’s borderline stand-up comedy, instead of scaring the be-jesus out of them!
After you decided to start, Girls Fight Back, what steps did you go through to get “the ball rolling”?
First step was getting certified in a few different self-defense systems. Next it was teaching the content in a small class setting, followed by creating the GFB seminar and branding it. Then it was a matter of just doing it! I spoke for free at first, but after a bit reached out to a speakers bureau to help with getting paid for the engagements, and actually making it my living. After 8 years of speaking and living on airplanes, I trained a team of speakers in the USA – then one in Pakistan and India – to give the presentation as well. I believe our ideas and our content should be scalable to reach more people.
In your opinion, what is the best way to “light the fire” of awareness to rape, assault, abuse etc?
Frankly, I think people teaching any sort of tough issue like violence need to understand marketing and how to connect with their audience. Meaning, you try to match the tone and content you’re delivering for the people you are trying to connect with. So if you’re talking to corporate women about rape, then really understand – what are their fears, their concerns and the crimes most likely to be committed against them? And on the flip side, how do they WANT to feel? (Note: This is the opposite of how most self-defense programs market themselves. They use fear as their marketing, which is a big mistake when people really WANT to feel at ease! Do you buy toothpaste because it uses the fear of tooth decay as their strategy? Probably not – you buy the Crest brand that only uses pictures of sparkly, white, desirable teeth.) Once you really know your audience, meet them where they are by motivating in a way that doesn’t cause resistance.
In teaching self-defense, what’s one essential lesson you hope all your students walk out with?
To believe in themselves and what they are capable of. I know some teachers call this “false confidence” but I think without confidence (fake or not!), any self-defense skills a woman has will be useless because she won’t have the conviction to execute. Many women and girls struggle with permission in all areas of their lives. If a teacher gives them permission to fight, and permission to believe they are worth fighting for – well that’s when the success stories start rolling in.
Is there one specific technique that you wish all women knew? What is it and why?
If all women trusted their intuition the moment it spoke to them, I think our statistics would plummet. Once it gets physical, the attack is on – and I’d always rather we use techniques that aren’t physical if possible. The challenge for teachers is to really teach intuition is a hardcore skill, and not just skim over it because it’s more fun to teach eye jabs.
As someone well-studied under Gavin de Becker, how must we view Fear?
This answer is probably not surprising with Gavin and his staff as some of our biggest advisors and mentors – View fear as a gift! Many people fear their fear, because if fear is present, something “bad” is probably happening. I think by teaching self-defense, we’re also helping people imagine the worst – thereby liberating them from the paralysis that can occur when the worst actually becomes reality.
With this understanding of Fear, how can we diminish, exercise, control and/or channel this Fear?
Immediate acceptance is key. Instead of fearing fear, or resisting/denying fear (and the situation that caused it) just saying to oneself: “OK. This is happening. I know what to do.” Keeping our responses as simple as owning the experience, staying present and having confidence is the best way to go.
It is common to hear a self-defense instructor say,
“Run from danger, but if you can’t Fight.”
Easier said than done. How do you teach the process of “Action”… of “Fighting Back” into your students?
I teach with options, but no judgement. I call this teaching format “the slippery slope.” Really take them on a journey, step by little step, that violent acts actually happen. (Example: OK, you got a weird feeling about this guy, here’s some options. OK, now that guy starts following you, so here’s some options. Trust yourself. OK, now that guy is full-on chasing you, so here’s some options. Trust yourself.) This helps them ease into the scariness of these situations, which aids in not triggering or paralyzing people. Tiny bits of simple is better than overwhelming amounts of awesome. But it also gives people the chance to thwart a situation before it’s a full-blown assault by seeing the signs were the situation is going long beforehand.
What are your views on weapon training? Do you instruct your students to ever engage or “Fight Back” when someone is holding a knife, gun or club?
I tell people to follow their intuition, and to get training in weapons defense. I think it’s a skill everyone should know, and refrain from giving “cookie cutter” advice. I personally have done a lot of weapons training, and I’m so glad I have those skills. I don’t personally teach that content in GFB seminars (because we don’t have the proper time or venue), but I always encourage our audience learn more. Options and knowledge are power.
What does Erin enjoy doing when she’s not “working”
Hot yoga, any outdoorsy activity in Colorado and roller derby!
What is just one of your goals in the next 5 years? (This can be ANYTHING!)
We will soon be announcing a train-the-trainer program, so anyone in the world can teach Girls Fight Back content to audiences as a public speaker. I’m really excited to share our approach with more self-defense teachers that would like to do more public speaking as an income source, or just another way to impact women. If your readers are interested, they can sign up to receive notification when it’s officially announced here:
Thank you Erin!
For more information on Erin Weed, do so by visiting her website at GirlsFightBack.Com.