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Find Your Power Within

Find your power within at IMPACT’s advanced self-defense class

“We all come built in with the wiring we need to survive. It’s inside all of us – we are knowing and powerful beyond what any of us can comprehend. Wow. Find it and feel it within you… it’s there. Always has been.”
– Renee, an advanced IMPACT graduate and close friend

We are ALL born fighters and speak our true voice at birth!

Then, for many of us growing up, due to a number of messages we receive from our families, community, culture, religion, society, etc. we lose or stifle our voice and forget our strength. I believe in the saying, “In a patriarchal society, men lose their heart and women lose their voice.” 

Through a variety of mentors and empowering personal and spiritual growth work, I have had, lost, and found my voice throughout my life. Even in my most confident and content periods of my life, I still had a certain level of anxiety that I had accepted (as biological) and felt that I was managing it quite well through healthy coping tools and lifestyle practices. And then I experienced IMPACT…

IMPACT offered me (& others) a completely different type of healing and growth experience.

Instead of just experiencing the peace, relaxation, and love that yoga provides (for me since I am a trained yoga teacher), IMPACT’s staff guided me to step completely outside my comfort zone and work through several different emotionally and physically challenging situations in order to eventually experience the wonderful calm feelings in a yoga class. Instead of solely focusing on emotion regulation, our adrenaline significantly shot up as we yelled “NO!” 1,000+ times, practiced being attacked and defending ourselves, watching other students do the same drills, and verbally and emotionally processed what these experiences evoked.

Students may not enjoy the process (as you might in a yoga class) , but definitely appreciate the LONG-TERM benefits of deep, significant changes, such as more confidence, empowerment, and ease moving through the world and facing difficult people and situations.

One student at a public graduation shared that “One IMPACT class is more transformative than 10 years on the couch”. (my paraphrase)

Why stepping outside your comfort zone and facing your fears is worth it!

  • We only grow when we step outside our comfort zone.
  • In order for trauma or any pain to be fully healed and released from our bodies (where it is stored), research has shown that we need a somatic (body-centered) intervention.
  • “Bottom up techniques like IMPACT allow the body to have experiences that deeply and viscerally contradict the helplessness, rage, and collapse that occur during trauma,” according to trauma expert, Bessel Van Der Kolk
  • In order to change, people need to become viscerally familiar with realities that directly contradict the static feelings of the frozen or panicked self of trauma, replacing them with sensations rooted in safety, mastery, delight, and connection…Of course we can never undo what happened, but we can create new emotional scenario intense and real enough to defuse and counter some of those old ones….” (Van Der Kolk)
  • Do it for your children and future generations! Whatever challenges we don’t work through, we pass down to future generations. We’re role models for our children when we face our fear and bravely work through it.

When I sought out IMPACT’s Women’s Basics Class, I was just interested in taking a self-defense class. I had no idea the class was going to be life changing! I came to find out that the other 11 women in my Women’s Basics Class were also stunned and thrilled to find that their lives were transformed too. To read about our experience and my fellow students’ testimonials, check out my blog,Empowerment at the Deepest Level.”

Stepping “into the fire” in the advanced class

A year after taking IMPACT‘s Women’s Basics (Self-Defense & Empowerment) class, I returned to take the Advanced level class, which included blindfold fights, barefoot bedroom fights in a realistic bed, and elevator fights. While this class is NOT for the faint of heart and, in my opinion, requires either having done significant personal healing work or having a current therapist on hand, you will FACE your fear head on and find a POWER within (that has always been there).

Would YOU like to rediscover your POWER? 

If you are new to IMPACT, the first class is the Women’s Basics. The next series will be held on March 9, 10, 16, & 17, 2019. Register here. IMPACT also offers classes for men, LGBTQ, teens, and families. For more information, check out their website.

Many participants of just the Basics class report experiencing such a huge transformation in several areas of their life that they may just take this class. 

Other students, like myself, choose to continue this brave journey because we both realize that unlearning childhood survival patterns takes repetition and we want to re-experience the amazing connection with our power in a safe, supportive, trauma-informed environment that IMPACT uniquely creates.

Other trauma-informed (or empowering) healing modalities

If you sincerely wish to rediscover your power, but still feel by the end of this blog that IMPACT is not for you, rest assured, there are several other trauma-informed healing methods, such as EMDR, DBT, SE (sensory experiencing), trauma-informed yoga, biofeedback, sandplay, etc. that may fit you better. Healing is the KEY, not the method you choose. There are several different evidenced-based practices from which you can choose and many individuals benefit from more than one modality at different points in their life.

Unique challenges IMPACT’s advanced class provides

Tracking an assailant & fighting blindfold

Out of all of the challenges that the Advanced class posed for me, I felt the most anxiety about the blindfold tracking. “Would I be able to sense where the perpetrator was without sight?!” I learned to trust my INTUITION more than ever before. I also realized one of the gifts of blindfold fights, which is the TOTAL FREEDOM to follow my survival instinct and NOT care about how I looked to anyone watching my fight. When I fought blindfolded, even though Amelia was next to me, I naturally had to turn inward and rely on my instincts to survive and I found, to my surprise, that my instincts were even more helpful than her expert guidance.

Bedroom fighting

Being assaulted in one’s own home (or while traveling) while sleeping is likely one of the greatest fears that people have, but no one talks about. This is exactly why it is part of the Advanced curriculum. By learning exactly how to defend yourself (& your family) in this most vulnerable situation can help you sleep better at night. One student in my Women’s Basics class has publicly shared her blog about this experience (which, in the Basics class, is practiced with shoes on and lying on the mat, not on a bed). She began her blog, “It took 44 years and 50 seconds to lift my father off of me” and ended it with “And in doing so, I found the freedom to fight, and maybe even to fly.” Whether or not you are an overcomer of abuse, this exercise can feel overwhelming. Yet, you are not alone in these classes. Amelia, the lead instructor is close to you to coach you if needed and your peers are also there to shout “NO!” with you.

In the Advanced class, there are the added challenges of using real mattresses, sheets, and blankets, and having to fight barefoot. As a woman, this seemed daunting because I’m used to relying on the strength of my legs, yet I still figured I would handle this confidently because I had practiced “this drill” many times in the Women’s Basics Class. I was surprised and deflated at one moment to have gone into “freeze” or “collapse” mode, but what’s beautiful and life changing is that in IMPACT we have our “guardian angel” Amelia (the lead instructor) always there if she sees we need her to remind us of our “weapons” and our power. What felt like eternity was (according to the video) just 1-2 seconds. As soon as Amelia reminded me to “heave him off of you!”, I did it like that and the “perpetrator” was on the floor and I was on top of him knocking him unconscious. (To clarify~ all of the suited instructors who play the “perpetrators” are wearing fully padded suits and are not hurt by the student’s hits. They just react in a realistic way to give us the feedback we need to learn.)

How does IMPACT create a safe, supportive, trauma-informed environment?

#1 Safe Container– All IMPACT staff have been trained in trauma and consistently maintain the highest standards to help students feel physically and emotionally safe and supported while students step outside their comfort zones in order to grow and experience empowerment. It’s a delicate balancing act for any professional and yet IMPACT staff make it look seemless.

#2 Amelia Norfleet Dorn– Owner and lead instructor of Colorado’s IMPACT chapter

Amelia is a master teacher (& “guardian angel”) who intuitively knows when to step in and when to allow her students to learn on their own. Amelia is totally there for you and truly believes in the strength and capability of her students to let us struggle at times on the mat and find our way. If you are a parent, a teacher, a coach, etc. you can appreciate that it is NOT easy to stand back and let your child/student/client, etc. struggle! Yet, Amelia brings over 20 years of experience and a steadfast belief that everyone is inherently powerful.

For the basics students, Amelia (& other staff) lead by example when they model the self-defense techniques (or verbal boundary setting strategies) first, then teach you and eventually coach you step by step. When Amelia feels her students are ready for less scripted or “scrappier”, spontaneous fights, she will still be there by your side the entire time reminding you to stand in your power, take a deep breath, yell “NO”, and use any self-defense moves that may help you knock the “perpetrator” out.

For the advanced students, Amelia (& other staff) will again lead by example when they demonstrate vulnerability and inspiring bravery as they model, teach, and eventually coach students in using the self-defense techniques (or verbal boundary setting strategies). The staff allow advanced students to follow your survival instinct a lot more and only steps in to coach when needed. This class allowed me to deeply connect and TRUST my intuition in a profound way.

#3The Suits“- These men and woman are SAINTS. They allow students to yell, curse, and hit them as hard as possible (even if they are wearing fully padded suits, they sometimes get bruised). They are willing to connect with the dark side of humanity when they role play perpetrators as realistically as possible to help students experience worst-case scenarios and triumph over them. How else can I describe these folks who allow themselves to get “beat up” by students in order to empower us to be safe in the world? And they do this work on top of their full-time jobs?

#4 A Community of Support = lead instructor, “suits”, assistant instructors, students, & other professionals

In class, Amelia and her staff + fellow students are 100% engaged and incredibly supportive. During every fight, students are required to have their “toes to the mat” and yell “NO!” along with the student fighting on the mat. This increases our learning and even more importantly provides the support necessary for students to take enormous risks in learning how to defend themselves. The staff also frequently check in with students to see how they are doing emotionally and physically and provide 1:1 support if needed. Staff also facilitate a longer check in at the beginning and end of every class.

Outside of class, students can connect with their peer from class who they are assigned to provide support for one another. Also, students are encouraged to seek support from other professionals, (trauma-informed therapists, coaches, etc.) if needed, to process their experience for further support and deeper integration and healing. I found both being able to process my experience with another student and a therapist to be extremely valuable. Emotions and experiences will likely get stirred up. When unresolved issues come to the surface and we process them, this provides an opportunity for real learning and healing.

This community of support allows students to courageously “step into the ring”, reflect and integrate our learning, and experience a deep level of caring and connection.

How does IMPACT exactly work? 

I will only be able to briefly explain this since I was just a student and not an instructor. Thus, I do not have IMPACT’s “Owner’s Manual”.

In the book, The Body Keeps the Score, trauma expert Bessel Van Der Kolk explains, “One of my favorite body-oriented ways to build effective fight/flight responses is our local impact center’s model mugging program, in which women (and increasingly men) are taught to actively fight off a simulated attack….The program teaches women to recondition the freeze response through many repetitions of being placed in the “zero hour” (a military term for the precise moment of an attack) and learning to transform fear into positive fighting energy…”

What made IMPACT’s program exceptional is its intense experiential component. You will re-experience the INTENSE fear (or imagined fear of being attacked or feeling powerless) and instead of freezing, fleeing, or submitting, you FIGHT back with full force and reconnect with your TRUE POWER.

My fellow students and I were all AMAZED at how practicing verbal and physical boundary setting at IMPACT transferred into our real lives. Best of all is the internal change that occurred. IMPACT graduates know their strength, are confident in using their voice to ask for what they want and need, and can set boundaries like nobody’s business. I found my voice, courage, and fight in ways I had never before. I hope you do too.

For more information about IMPACT, check out their website. Also, feel free to contact me if you have any questions and/or if I can support you in any way during your IMPACT experience: 720.432.5262 and [email protected]