Rachel Teaches Feminist Self Defense

Warrior Woman

Rachel Piazza

Ten years ago, just after finally ending a 7-year toxic relationship, I started training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I had wanted to try it years before, but my boyfriend at the time discouraged me from doing so. While it took a lot of guts to walk into a jiu-jitsu school full of men, it was a liberating feeling. Day by day, I embarked on the long, arduous process of training in a full-contact grappling sport. 

The physical and emotional challenges over the last 10 years have been overwhelming at times. They’ve included surgery, hospitalizations, and confronting my inner strengths and weaknesses in a very visceral way; splayed out on the mat, soaked in sweat, and listless from exhaustion. Yet, from these challenges, a strong sense of power has emerged. Not only learning how to fight, but knowing what I’m capable of inside and out has given me more confidence and a stronger voice.

That’s why I founded Feminist Self-Defense. I wanted to help other women embrace the power inside of them. Women and girls are too often taught that they aren’t powerful. They feel vulnerable in a world where violence against women is rampant. Showing women that they are more than capable of being strong and effective fighters can ignite a transformation inside of them. 

Further, it was important to me to offer “self-defense” training in a way that is sensitive to the reality of women’s lives. I believe women don’t need to be reminded of their vulnerability, so I steer away from the scare tactics that many self-defense programs rely on. I’m also acutely aware that women often know the perpetrators of violence, so teaching them how to defend themselves from random attackers is not realistic. Instead, I incorporate boundary setting skills to help women navigate the more insidious nature of intimate partner and acquaintance violence. 

My goal now is to use Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a way to boost women’s self-confidence and give them tools to stay safe. While I acknowledge that violence is a social problem, and never the fault of the target, women deserve to have the resources to navigate potentially dangerous situations in their own lives. Women can discover an internal power through physical combat training and have fun doing it! 

Overcoming the emotional trauma of my past relationship has been a long process, but I’m proud that through jiu-jitsu and my creation of Feminist Self-Defense, I’ve created a path to healing and joy for myself and others.

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Rachel, thank you for sharing and for establishing a program like this. I can't wait to try out your class the next time I'm in NYC! XOXO - Kell

Are you a #WarriorWoman like Rachel? Click here to share your story with me!

Phebe Survived Both of her Miscarriages

Phebe

Warrior Woman

Phebe Shumate-Yawson

All I ever wanted was love. My father didn't know how to reach me. I know longer fault him for that. There is still distance between us, but I try to bridge the divide with laughter. 

During my younger days - very long hard days of wanting love - I left the country and lived in Ghana for over a decade. I volunteered with my family's nonprofit organization, Oiada Inc. Int'l, and did everything from dressing up like a clown to entertain orphaned children, to dressing up like a needle for sick kids, rapping, dancing, singing, and cooking all over the country.

I did not expect to fall in love but I did, and I fell hard.

We got married, and five years later, I got pregnant. Eights weeks after that, we lost the baby. I sobbed for what felt like an eternity. I was completely broken, gaining 20 pounds in 2 months. I can remember lying in bed with my husband feeling like this was my fault. So I told him that I was going to take a shower. I walked into the bathroom, turned on the water then I laid on the bathroom floor in a fetal position feeling absolutely broken. I told God, I feel broken, like I can't recover and I didn't know how to make it to the next moment, to the next day, but I did.

Some time went by, and I got pregnant again and we had our first child. She was beautiful and chubby and more than anything I could've imagined. We got pregnant again before she was two. 15 weeks into that pregnancy we were told after the ultrasound that our baby wasn't growing, and that, in fact, I was in the middle of a miscarriage.

I was in denial even though I felt the cramping. 

I went to my auntie and laid in her bed, and as she held me, I screamed in horror and pain as I felt my baby falling out of me. My cousin ran for my husband because although the baby was gone, the blood wouldn't stop. My other auntie who is a midwife tried to stop the bleeding in the car on the way to the hospital as I was finding it hard to stay conscious. I remember my husband asking, "Is the baby ok? Is the baby ok?" and my heart shattered even though I was half out of it. Even though my heart was already broken, it still felt like a sword pierced me. I almost died that day in more ways than one. 

Two weeks later, I found myself on the bathroom floor yet again, but this time I fell deeper. I told God that I needed Him to hold my soul because I didn't know how I was gonna get up. Then I heard my baby girl calling me, and I found the strength to stand for her.

I now have three children. They're all beautiful models of strength that keep me alive. They force me to live harder, be stronger, and fight for happiness everyday. I am now an award-winning author, full time mom on the path to opening a new business with my brother. All and all things are looking up and I'm proud to be happy!

Phebe, thank you for telling us your story of courage and strength, despite incredibly odds. xoxo - Kelly

Are you a #WarriorWoman like Phebe? Share your story with me, here!

I Survived My Toddler's Cancer Diagnosis

Meg

Warrior Woman

Meg Hammett

My daughter was 18 months old when she was diagnosed with a rare tumor. This required 10 months of weekly, in-patient, and out-patient chemotherapy, and one month of radiation. We had 15 life-threatening trips to the ER and spent 120 days/nights in two different hospitals. We've also helped her to have at least 20-25 MRIs, CTs, internal exams, and more.

Both my husband and I continued working full-time while taking care of our daughter. 15 months ago, she was declared NED (No Evidence of Disease) after 40-some weeks of chemo. She has since excelled in preschool, fallen in love princesses and candy, and will not stop talking! She is your average, wonderful, silly, amazing 3 year old...who happens to be a cancer survivor.

Our journey is far from over though. She could have lifelong side effects from the treatment and we still get follow-up scans every 3-4 months. If she has clean scans for two years, the risk of a relapse drops drastically. But she won't be considered cancer-free until she has five years of clean scans. Every day my husband and I both live with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and recovery from trauma. 

Being strong doesn't mean ignoring your weaknesses. It means acknowledging them and working through them, even if that means breaking down in tears. Being strong doesn't mean you don't break down; it means you get back up. My strength comes from therapy, acupuncture, yoga, and trying to find the good in every day. And most importantly, remembering to take care of myself so I can take care of my family. 

Meg, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. You truly are a Warrior Woman. Sending you my warmest wishes and heartfelt prayers for you and that lovely baby girl of yours. xoxo - Kelly

Are you a #WarriorWoman like Meg? Share your story with me, here!

Calling All Warrior Women!

Strength

Warrior Women

Share Your Strength!

Attention warrior women! Tell me about your feats of strength! Are you mentally tough? Physically? Emotionally? Spiritually? Intellectually? Have you done something extraordinary that requires tons of strength?

Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Have you built a business? What kind of strength made that happen? 

  • Have you raised kids that make you proud? Why did you need strength to do it? 

  • Have you accepted failure and moved on from it?

  • Have you chosen an alternate path for your life that few people have? 

  • Have you put health at the forefront of your life after years of neglect? 

  • Have you forgiven someone who hurt you?  

  • Have you conquered a physical challenge?

  • Have you excelled in your career?

  • Do you have another story to tell?

Tell me how you've demonstrated strength in an incident in your life for a chance to be featured on my blog! If you're chosen, I'll ask for a picture showing off your very best bicep flex, too. =) 

Writer tip: The best stories are told about a specific story. Choose just one incident or event from your life that best highlights your strength.

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Write about the incident that best showcases your mental, emotional, physical, academic or spiritual strength.