Recently I’ve been coming across some interactions on social media which are quite unsettling. Unsettling because the interactions I’m referring to are people not only comparing trauma, but arguing about who had it worse. This isn’t only on social media though, I’ve encountered it myself, and heard many other stories or face to face interactions which follow the same theme.
I’ve seen and heard people argue about which was worse; rape or molestation, genocide or slavery, physical abuse or emotional abuse, the list goes on. The fact is though, none of them were worse than the other. They all sucked.
Sure, we could sit here and try to quantify levels of trauma, but why? I have yet to find reasoning behind this thinking which isn’t laden in negativity.
Something we must all learn to understand if we are to heal together - trauma is relative. What is traumatic to me, may be laughable to another and vice versa.
Here’s what I mean:
In 2012 I was living in Cairo, Egypt. The January 25th revolution was still ongoing, and things were not always as safe as they could’ve been. One of my closest friends and I - admittedly without much thought - decided to head to the other side of Cairo to meet up with friends at 2 AM in the morning (a little over an hour drive without daytime traffic). Long story short, we got a bit turned around on the way there, and pulled off beneath an underpass - where it was well lit - to figure out what road we needed to be on.
As we sat there trying to get in touch with the party we were supposed to meet up with, munching on Cheetos, we noticed a light coming down the road, opposite the flow of traffic. Which, in and of itself is no cause for alarm in Cairo - this is a normal occurrence. As the light drew closer, we realized it was coming from a dirt bike, which was getting oddly close to where we were parked. The crunching of Cheetos slowed and we froze for a moment when a blue and white dirt bike with a skull painted on the front stopped directly in front of the car. A man got off, and started walking towards us. At this point, we thought he may still just want to make sure we were okay...we were, after all, pulled under an overpass at 3 AM. We quickly decided to lock the doors and not roll down the windows - my friend motioned to the man we were okay and didn’t need his help. However, he kept insisting we roll down the window. At this point, something clicked in our heads, and the situation suddenly felt extremely off. My friend then decided to take off and drive, but the moment we started moving forward, two more men came out from the side of the road, yelling and throwing bricks at the car. Thankfully her tiny little Fiat had sports mode and as I yelled at her to go, she hit that little red button and we took off. I recognized an exit ahead and we jumped on it - but not before a brick narrowly missed the passenger window by less than a centimeter, denting the door in at least an inch.
We were fine. We lost them at the exit, and drove right back home. We may have smoked a whole pack of cigarettes on the way back, but we made it out of a sticky situation with only a dented car and adrenaline rushed nerves to show.
For me, this situation didn’t exactly phase me past the evening. In fact I laughed about it and had retold the story numerous times - both as a tale of caution but also as what I chalked up to nothing more than a “crazy event”. It dawned on me though, weeks later, that she was still carrying that night with her when she told me of becoming anxiety ridden upon seeing a dirt bike, or someone walking towards the car (which in Cairo, both scenarios happen constantly throughout the day). For her, what happened, was traumatic.
We experienced the same event that evening. We were in the same car, doing the same thing. However, due to the way my life had been verse hers - we both held very different feelings on what happened.
Trauma. Is. Relative.
Not everyone experiences or sees things through the same lens. When any event happens, the way someone perceives it will depend on just about every aspect you could think of; childhood, prior trauma, fears, hopes, career path, education, etc.
What is traumatic for one, may not be traumatic for another - and vice versa. However, the feelings followed by trauma - are the same.
If we stop comparing trauma, trying to win some sort of twisted contest, we would see we hold a lot in common. Like emotions. Emotions following a traumatic event range far and wide - however, this is where we can find common ground and understanding. While we may not understand how the event is traumatic through our view, we can understand the attached emotions. Emotions of; hopelessness, detachment, fearfulness, numbness, shock, irritability, distrust, abandonment, anxiety, and depression - to name a few.
It is in these emotions we may find commonalities - and while we may not completely comprehend another’s view - we can better understand each other.
When we understand one another (even a little bit), we can stop arguing about who had it worse and start focusing on helping one another heal.
The 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act included badly needed Tribal provisions - a great step forward - but if you take a closer look, things seem a bit off.
Take a look yourself here: https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/tribal/legacy/2014/02/06/vawa-2013-tribal-jurisdiction-overnon-indian-perpetrators-domesticviolence.pdf
What crimes will be covered?
-Dating Violence; and
-Criminal violations of protection orders.
Sounds great, right? Exactly what we’ve been needing, right?
Not so much. If you take a closer look you’ll notice there are still many holes.
What Crimes Will Not Be Covered?
The following crimes will generally not be covered.
-Crimes committed outside of Indian country;
-Crimes between two non-Indians;
-Crimes between two strangers, including sexual assaults;
-Crimes committed by a person who lacks sufficient ties to the tribe, such as living or working on its reservation; and
-Child abuse or elder abuse that does not involve the violation of a protection order.
See what I mean?
Tribal jurisdiction over crimes of domestic violence isn’t all it’s (often) been made out to be.
To be clear, the current tribal provisions in VAWA mean crimes of domestic violence (including sexual assault) are only covered if said crime meets the following criteria:
The 2013 VAWA Tribal provisions are a step forward, but leaves much ground to be covered.
“Awareness” and “Mindfulness” practices and posts seem to be all the rage lately, which is wonderful! However, many things which become “all the rage” or “buzzwords” often turn into a mess of information which is all too often over explained. Turning them into buzzwords many know but don’t truly understand.
Awareness is the ability to directly know and perceive, to feel, or to be cognizant of events. More broadly, it is the state of being conscious of something.
Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one's attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training.
They seem pretty much the same based on their Wiki (and Webster - I don’t rely solely on Wiki y'all, their definition was just much deeper) explanation - and they are, but they also weave into one another.
A quick Google search for awareness or mindfulness exercises brings a plethora of options to you - but once you choose one, it can get a bit...complicated.
As you scroll through, you may encounter a few exercises you really dig the thought of, some you don’t, and some you can’t even begin to grasp. Which is exactly why I feel the need to break these practices down into a simpler version.
I’ve always taught people that awareness leads into mindfulness. Often times, traditional awareness exercises start with being aware of yourself - which they’re right, being truly aware of yourself is the ultimate goal. But when you’re starting out, it’s still hard to be able to grasp being aware of you. Often times, yourself is the hardest to look at - let alone be totally aware of. So let's work backwards.
Start with the outside world - no need to go in search of exercises online, simply step outside. Pay attention to all things outside of your phone. The beautiful sunshine, or clouds. Wind and rain. Sounds and silence. Everything. Take note of it all, work to do so as often as you can - and oddly enough, without much effort, this awareness transfers to you being aware of you.
Once you’re aware of you, it’s time to take it a step deeper and start being aware of your thoughts, emotions, aches, pains, etc. Again, no need to overcomplicate things (let’s face it, traditional meditation isn’t for everyone), just take note of what is going on with you. Next time you feel a twinge of pain in your body, stop and check if there is pain elsewhere - or how deep said pain goes. Or next time you find your mind jumping to conclusions, take a moment to pause on one, bring your attention to when / where / how / why this one is coming to you. Maybe it’s good, maybe it’s bad - regardless, exploring it brings you closer to knowing yourself.
And guess what knowing yourself is called?
When you think of women’s self defense, what comes to mind? Probably one of the hundreds of slogans used by those who give and promote courses; something along the lines of, “Don’t become another number,” “Defend Yourself!” or “Learn how to get away from an attacker.”
The list goes on and on. The problem is, all these slogans are rules or commands. Not much different from the patriarchal crap you get in the majority of women’s magazines, no?
Women’s self defense is a wonderful tool, but not in the manner in which it is currently being used by the majority of those teaching it. Allow me to explain.
The thing about the way in which women’s self defense is currently being utilized? It is a male-dominated martial art. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, as I’ve come across many male instructors who are beyond wonderful. At the end of the day though, they are still men. They do not know what it feels like to move in a woman’s body. They do not know what it feels like to objectified daily.
Women’s self defense is, for the most part, comprised of a “striking-based curriculum.” Doesn’t “self defense” automatically mean striking? No. Striking is actually detrimental to the entire “self defense” cause. Those of you who have been in street fights know it is not wise to pull out the kicks unless you’re Bruce Lee. Which I highly doubt any of the women taking any of these courses are, or striving to be. A true women’s self defense curriculum will focus on pressure points, joint locks and leverage, with a very small amount of striking involved.
Another issue is that women’s self defense courses operate as fast cash for martial arts businesses. Women’s self defense is an easy sell. No one wants to get attacked, right? Fear will also make people buy into crazy things. Most often, these courses are marketed based on fear. It’s this easy sell that gives jokers a chance to pull in some extra cash between belt testing and competitions. Please be aware of who you are taking a course from – just because a person holds a black belt in a martial art does not qualify them to instruct women’s self defense. Women’s self defense is a specific art in and of itself. Furthermore, for those who do teach it based on holding a black belt in another martial art, make sure they test properly. Meaning, make sure no one is getting their black belt in six to eight months, as one so often does going through business driven martial arts programs.
Now that we’ve covered the main problematic areas for the way in which women’s self defense is utilized, let's take a look at the material being taught in your average course: body language, verbalization, awareness, intuition, removing oneself from the situation and personal defense tools.
There is nothing wrong with these individual bullet points, but rather the way in which they are presented. All six of these key points are presented under the context of prevention. It looks something like this:
Body language – walk, sit or stand strong and you won’t get attacked.
Verbalization – yell instead of scream and you won’t be attacked or people will always come to help; tell your attacker “no.”
Awareness – be aware of who is around you at all times so you may prevent an attack.
Intuition – trust your gut and it will prevent you from getting attacked.
Removing oneself from the situation – cross to the other side of the street so as to not get attacked.
Personal defense tools – anything and everything can be used a tool of self-defense. Never mind the fact your body is going into fight, flight, or freeze mode rapidly and you might not have any time or head about you to use anything you have on you and you really aren’t trained well enough to be carrying a gun or knife, but here, have this gun and knife.
Instead, these points should be presented as a tool to bring about self-empowerment, love and ownership of body. Which would look more like this:
Body language – Pay attention to how you stand, walk and sit. Remind yourself to hold your body with pride and confidence. Can it help deter an attacker? Sure, but the main point is confidence. How you hold yourself doesn’t just affect people’s view of you, but your view of yourself. After a while of reminding yourself how awesome you are and to hold yourself like you’re just that awesomely strong, you’ll find yourself looking in the mirror one day to see the true lioness you are inside.
Verbalization – learn to assert yourself in daily life. Can learning the difference between a scream and a yell prevent an attack? Maybe, but the main idea here is to feel comfortable speaking your mind. We so often don’t speak up because we think our opinions or ideas don’t matter, or maybe that we’re not worth. Relearning to do so is empowering.
Awareness – be aware of what is around you, not because you can spot an attacker before they attack (maybe you will, maybe you won’t), but because we are often very sidetracked in social media and a world of technology, all located on our phone. Have you ever watched someone text and walk? I’ve personally walked into poles while texting and walking. Be aware of what’s around you because life is beautiful. You’re missing so much. You might also be missing a sudden curb, or oncoming traffic, so take a moment to lift your head, it’s an amazing world.
Intuition – trust your gut because it is a beautiful part of you. It is innate and wonderful. Start small, like taking note of the feeling you have before you know your phone will ring or a knock will be at your door. Learn to recognize your intuition. Could it help prevent an attack? I suppose so, but again, not the point. Reclaiming your intuition is empowering and brings you closer to your body, mind and spirit.
Removing oneself from the situation – how often have you stayed somewhere you were uncomfortable because all your friends were also there? I bet it’s happened at least once in your life. What about how often have you done something you didn’t want to do at all? It can be as simple as not wanting to go to coffee with a friend because you can’t stand their negativity, but you wind up going anyway and come out 10 times more annoyed than you were going in. Learning to remove yourself from these situations is a great way to bring your mind, body and spirit back to you and only you. Could it help you get away from an attacker? Perhaps, but attacks are so much more complicated than “cross to the other side of street.”
Doesn’t that sound so much better? Prevention is bullshit (unless you’re working on educating the younger generations, all genders alike, on rape culture and patriarchy) and those who continually push prevention need to start recognizing the harm they are doing, especially in women’s self defense, where a mistake or misleading instruction could lead to someone being physically harmed.
It’s been a moment - admittedly a long moment - since we had an update. Life is crazy, and we are not immune to its insanity (although many tend to think we are simply because we created something). So...let’s update!
Where we were. Where we’re at. Where we’re going.
We often use the above layout we picked up from Donald Warne, MD, MPH (an incredible human from the Oglala Lakota nation who heads a wonderful initiative - the American Indian Public Health Resource Center - we could literally go on for hours about how great Warne is, but you can also go see for yourself: American Indian Public Health Resource Center ). We learned said layout during one of his talks where he showed the journey through Indigenous health using said layout.
We often use this single statement to not only take stock of our personal lives, but our greater endeavors. In fact, I’m sure there will be a post on specifically this in the future.
Where We Were
We began as Arming Sisters in early Spring 2013. At the time, I was still living in Cairo, Egypt - but would soon be moving back stateside specifically for Arming Sisters courses. Upon arriving back on Turtle Island, giving courses is exactly what I got to doing. Fast forward a year, and I’m on a bus to North Dakota for a childhood friend’s funeral. It is there I decided to meet up with someone who had been helping me network - and tease out ideas for the past two years, Dereck Stonefish. A few weeks later we would be married, and a year later, he founded Reawakening Warriors.
Reawakening Warriors was founded in 2015 as we saw the growing need for a male counterpart course to Arming Sisters. Originally we kept things pretty separate, but went on to form ASRW - Arming Sisters Reawakening Warriors. We did so because in order to truly make a dent in all the many areas we cover, we must work together. All ages. All genders. EVERYONE.
Since then we’ve held over 30 courses from coast to coast. We’ve done so with minimal donations (totaling just below $9,000 in four years - including donations from the initial Arming Sisters launch on Indiegogo), and low course fees (we’ve asked only for accommodation and travel expenses, much of which we have covered out of pocket).
Late Spring 2016, we received wonderful news - Cine Qua Non Inc would sponsor us as a 501c3! Finally, we thought, we can move forward to secure funding. Shortly after learning this wonderful news, we decided to relocate to Colorado. We decided this for a few different reasons.
After relocating we realized we needed to put our own curriculum into play. As I stated earlier, we are not immune to life’s ups and downs - so we scaled things back for a year to not only get settled into our new location, but to focus in on self and recover back to a place of being centered. (One is never truly healed, healing is a daily process. If you are not healing, you are not living. It is more about being centered in your healing, than being healed.)
Where We Are
The struggle is real. We all know that - if you don’t you should probably check your privilege. Trying to secure funding while we both hold a 40+ hour work week is quite the challenge. One where we quickly realized we needed to get creative in order to keep pursuing our passion.
Which is why we’ve decided to give Patreon a try. We plan to share theories, knowledge, views, and topics we cover in each course every month. After said pieces have debuted on our Patreon for a month, we’ll roll them over to our blog for everyone to get in on.
(We’re also toying with the idea of a few more TeeSpring campaigns to keep us moving forward. Business cards, domain fees, website upkeep, etc. take a little more than love and passion to keep running.)
Where We’re Going
The hope is a platform like Patreon will help bring in personal funding, enabling us to scale back our work hours (or even better - take a month or two off from working) to truly focus on securing funding.
Our goal...in the long run? We aim to become fully funded, enabling us to give completely free courses! We also plan to pass our curriculum on to others. We would love to have the ability to put time into outlining our curriculum so others may bring it into their community with their own twists on it.
Note: NO, we will not release self-defense moves online to be passed on. As with any martial art, one must seek out proper training, and be diligent with years of work before jumping into teaching. However, one could put their own spin on each course. Be it yoga, meditation, painting, running, etc. Self-Defense is only our chosen tool of use - but there are many, many more!
As always, thank you all for the support along the way. We don’t know where we’d be without you all! We’re looking forward to this next step in our journey, and we’re honored to have you by our side.