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Self-defense workshop to build awareness, confidence and strength

SUTTONS BAY – Martial arts expert and Heart of Zen owner Michelle Racich will be holding a “Warrior Women” self defense workshop from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 5, at the business, 100 Adams St., in Suttons Bay.
Participants will learn techniques that will help them to evaluate risks; avoid, deflect and counter attacks, and take precautions to avoid becoming the victim of an attacker.

The class will include general safety guidelines and statistics, awareness of personal space and comfort issues, the use of the voice in vocabulary and kihaps (sounds produced with a strong exhalation by moving breath and qi from deep within the belly), attack avoidance techniques, escape techniques and basic joint lock work, along with bag and target drills.

The workshop is open to teen girls and adult women of all ages, and is appropriate for women with disabilities and elders. The cost is $85, and includes a light vegetarian lunch.

Racich has been studying and practicing martial arts and self-defense for nearly 30 years, and has been teaching women’s self defense for six years. She is a black belt Taekwondo instructor and first dan with the World Martial Arts Federation, a board certified Asian Bodywork Therapist in private practice, and a Qigong instructor.

“Self defense skills are important, even for women who live in areas that are not known for having a high crime rate,” said Racich. “It’s not a question of there being a high concentration of violence in an area, but rather one of knowing that you have the skills and confidence to be in control if a conflict should arise.

“Many women have told me that they aren’t interested in the martial arts because they believe in peace. What they don’t understand is that this is exactly what this work is about. Having the inner and outer strength to avoid conflict is peaceful resolution. Being able to think clearly, take a deep breath, and respond appropriately are practiced martial arts skills.

“Often,” she said, “it’s about having the ability to recognize when a situation has the potential to turn ugly and changing direction before conflict occurs. Sometimes, being confident that you have the tools to protect yourself should a situation turn physical is all it takes to support your decision and ability to walk, or run, away.”

Life skills

Besides physical preparedness, the class offers training in personal and life skills that are useful in all situations.

“These trainings help develop our self-knowledge, deepen our awareness of our personal boundaries, and increase our control over who and what we let come near us, physically, energetically and psycho-spiritually, and I think that this is by far the most important gift of this work,” said Racich.

“It helps us develop our observation and evaluation skills regarding the people and the space around us as we move through our daily activities, and it teaches us to acknowledge our personal and situational limitations. It also helps us to recognize that retreating can be a viable, appropriate and healthy response.”

Racich said that attending one class would give a woman enough information to protect herself. “The rest is up to her,” she noted, “and whether or not she addresses her awareness daily, if she listens to her inner voice and acts accordingly, and takes a deep breath when confronted with fear.

“I highly recommend continued practice to hone the physical skills and the mind-body connection for an integrated response to potential conflict.”

Currently, Racich will offer the workshop once a month; those who have previously attended are welcome to repeat it. Those wishing to repeat just the drill portion of the class may attend from 1:30-3 p.m., for a $20 fee. Racich is planning to offer weekly sessions in the near future, and may also offer a separate class for men.

“It’s still surprising to me how many women are afraid to assert themselves physically,” she said. “And it’s so rewarding, and makes me grin inside and out, to watch a woman enter the class with some timidity and apprehension over the unknowns in this work – and then as she learns that there are no tricks to being a Warrior Woman – and that she has all she needs within and can trust her own inner voice, to see her start to move and ‘kihap’ with confidence.

“I love to see a woman learn to leverage her strength and learn that she can maintain her own integrity and neutralize an attack when accosted by another. It’s so beautiful to see women recognize their strengths and begin to play with the tools they already have regarding their boundaries, and then add the Warrior Women techniques to them.

“Women have found their voices, literally and figuratively, through this work and have begun to reclaim, or assert for the first time, their confidence and strength as a woman, as an individual – as one who matters. I love this work, and think it’s so important,” she added.