The Angela Meyer Interview Part V – Erik Kondo

Erik: I think that much of self-defense can be thought of in terms of boundary setting. IMO, boundary setting is comprised of the three elements of Respect, Communication, and Enforcement. Most people think that all physical self-defense is Enforcement.

But I think physical self-defense can be divided into two overlapping categories:

  1. Physical actions that are primarily Communication.
  2. Physical actions that are primarily Enforcement.

Defense actions that are “resistance” based are really Communication. These actions send a message of non-compliance. But Enforcement requires actions that go beyond resistance and actually “force” resolution by injuring and/or disabling the attacker.

I think that many times WSD instructors and students confuse these two different types of physical actions. For example, Resistance/Communication is only effective against lowly motivated attackers who are looking for victims that will not resist. But a highly motivated attacker will not be stopped by Resistance/Communication. This type of person must be dealt with through the use of true Force/Enforcement.

Problems come about when the Defender employs Resistance/Communication when she should be using Force/Enforcement or the Defender uses Force/Enforcement when Resistance/Communication would have been sufficient.

Therefore, effective self-defense requires knowing the difference between Communication and Enforcement and when which type is required.

What are your thoughts on what I said? Can you think of specific examples of what I am referring to?

Angela: I agree completely and really like the language you’ve coined around this.  I think so often when we are talking about Women’s Self Defense, we have this idea of being a badass on the streets and being able to “I wish a motherfucker would” stare down an attacker, when the reality is, most attacks will happen from men you know.  AKA, highly motivated, or driven by emotional content.

So, how do we teach this in WSD classes/ workshops?  Like any type of Self Defense or Martial Arts that is taught, there are layers to the teaching.  For the foundational classes or “one off” workshops, in Women’s Self Defense, I think the most important take away is boundary setting through physical intensity and becoming more familiar with limbic brain processes.

For those who continue to train and become more serious, the key word is “stress inoculation”.  I do not think this is just physical, although I do think physical is the “gateway.” Physical, mental, emotional training is all connected.  For example, I have trained in Muay Thai,  Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling for many years.  I think I’m highly competent in the physical movements during training.  That said, I still struggle with freezing if my brain goes into a limbic state. Consistent training and stress inoculation in a safe and controlled environment has greatly helped me to access the ability to act in these situations instead of freeze, but I do still have a lot of work to do.

Circling back to your question, I think we must start with the psychological realm (also knowing that when we are talking about “Women’s Self Defense” we must take into consideration different cultures, socio economics, age, well/sick, etc., and not lump all women into one category)

How do we live our everyday lives?  This needs to be brought to light… day one… through some type of stress inoculation.

Once a woman has entered this realm, then I think introducing weapons into the equation is necessary, since 99 percent of the time, women will not be successful in “beating up” a larger man even if he is “untrained” and she is “trained”.  It’s just bullshit to think that can happen. It’s a Hollywood mentality.

I do believe learning to fight and becoming stress inoculated is the first step, because without this, it’s not realistic to add on a weapon.  If I don’t understand “push/pull” energy, if I freeze when I’m hit, if I lay down and die, a weapon will certainly not save me.

I think it is extremely important and intellectually honest to make the distinction between lowly and highly motivated attackers.  This is why I think it is bullshit to teach “moves” in a WSD workshop or class and insinuate these “moves” will save you. This work is much deeper and complex than earning moves. I’m going to bring it back to working with psychology (especially, limbic response) through physical, emotional and mental stress inoculation.

Erik: I think that honesty and authenticity are two qualities that are missing in much selfdefense instruction.

I have a theory that instinctive movements are influenced greatly by the person’s emotional state. And a certain group of movements are consistent with the emotion of FEAR and another is consistent with the emotion of ANGER. Many of these movements are opposites. For example, the emotion of anger creates movements that bring someone closer to the person that she is afraid of. I call these IN Movements. While the emotion of fear drives the person to want to move away. I call these OUT Movements.

When you consider many physical self-defense techniques, you will notice that many of the technically effective ones require the defender to “attack the attacker” by closing/shutting him down or engaging in close quarter strikes, joint locks or chokes. What this means is that the defender needs to move closer to the person that she fears. These movements are not consistent with the defender’s primary emotion of fear. They are consistent with anger.

In other words, regardless of the theoretical effectiveness of the technique or how well the student can perform the technique when not fearful. She will most likely not be able to perform these techniques when in a fearful state. On the other hand, she is more likely to execute techniques that are consistent with being afraid such as kicking and pushing away in order to create the opportunity to escape.

For example, making a fist and punching is an anger action. Whereas an open-handed push away is more likely to be a fear action. This is not a question of which movement is more effective. It is a question of which movement is more likely to be executed given the projected emotional state of the defender. If the action is intended to be used by a female defender against an attempted stranger attack, it is highly likely that fear will be woman’s primary emotion. Therefore, those techniques that involved the woman pulling IN her attacker to choke/gouge/bite him are unlikely to be carried out, regardless of their underlying effectiveness.

It is for this reason that WSD self-defense instructors are constantly trying to get women to “get mad” when simulating a self-defense scenario. Or they use the analogy of the “protective mother” fighting to save her children. The instructors intuitively recognize that anger is an essential element for success in their fighting methodology. I think these instructors also need to understand is that they need to teach an alternative methodology that is suitable for the fearful defender too. It is not enough to only provide students with an Anger Toolbox. They must also have a Fear Toolbox. And students need to understand how their emotions are likely to override the trained movements that are not consistent with their emotional state.

here are small group of movements that are consistent with both the anger and fear state. I think that the hammer fist striking qualifies because you can use it in anger and also in fear to hit someone away with or without a weapon.

What are your thoughts on IN and OUT Movements?

Angela: I am in complete agreement with this theory and from my experience in teaching Women’s Self Defense, most women who have been through traumatic experiences, express anger and rage when training, because when the actual attack took place, they froze in fear.  They use mottos like “never again mother fucker (s)” Anger is a very powerful energy and when used properly can fuel a sense of fearlessness needed to create “IN” movements.

I also think it is important to use anger as a tool for women to find voice and authenticity in the world.  A woman who has been told to shut up and look pretty her whole life can find a lot of power through physical modalities that ask her to become bigger, aggressive and not selfconscious. That said, as someone who is a fighter and struggles with anxiety, I know first-hand that when put in a fight or flight situation, where huge adrenaline dumps are a factor, my fear or “OUT” movements are dominant.

In my most recent fight, I was able to override anxiety, by changing my eyes to “mean eyes” and sounding off in a very scary way every time i would strike.  These “anger” actions made me feel more powerful, therefore actually physically exhibiting more power.  This tactic worked beautifully in round one, but in the second round where her forward pressure didn’t stop and I was met with a situation that I had not planned for, fear became my dominant response, my eyes changed and I had more freeze responses, not able to think or take action.  After round two in the corner my coach sat me down and basically slapped me awake with his words, “What the fuck are you doing?  You are not scared of her.  Change your eyes right now.”  With just the coaching and shifting my state through my gaze and energy, I was able to translate the fear back into anger which felt more powerful.

These shifts take time, and self-awareness practice.  I think this is vital in teaching women’s self defense.  How do we, or can we in a limbic state, choose how you want to show up?  What are tools that can get us there?  Changing your eyes from deer in headlights to slits? Changing facial expressions and posture?

I think we start here and then move to other physical techniques that address the reality in an attack most women who are untrained or very little trained are going to have the natural response of fear.

Erik: In the example of your ring fight. When you are feeling Angry what images flash into your mind? And when you are feeling Fearful, how do the images change?

What do you “see” happening, if only for a moment?

By images, I mean rapid flashes of the future within the context of the fight. These images are part of your emotional mind communicating with you.

 Angela:  “In the example of your ring fight. When you are feeling Angry what images flash into your mind?”

Blood.  Lion with sharp teeth devouring its prey. Goddess Kali. Predator animal that kills without concern or thought for another’s humanity.

“And when you are feeling Fearful, how do the images change?”

I see myself scared…more as a little girl. Tender. tears. an animal who plays dead for survival purposes.

“What do you “see” happening, if only for a moment?”

First round of last fight.  Saw me as the predator.  Kill shots. Dominating.  Out for blood.  Invincible

Second round of last fight: Saw her crazy eyes.  Constant pressure forward without technique, but just animalistic aggression. I saw myself getting mentally tired, because I was afraid that physical I could gas out if I was that aggressive.

Third round of last fight:  I saw me losing and didn’t want that outcome. I still didn’t go back to the kill switch, but I was not running.  I saw me winning because I wanted to.

“By images, I mean rapid flashes of the future within the context of the fight. These images are part of your emotional mind communicating with you.”

When angry:  Predator animal.  Wild animal.  Fangs out. ability to kill without concern for humanity or feelings

When afraid. Myself as a little girl. hiding. running. not trusting in my own capacity to fight.

CRGI would like to express our sincere thanks to Angela for this interview.


The Angela Meyer Interview Part IV – Erik Kondo

Erik: I have noticed a common complaint among instructors who teach WSD. They complain there is a lack of interest from most women for participating in self-defense classes. There are bursts of interest that usually coincide with a highly publicized assault, but in general, women don’t seem to be motivated to take classes.
What are your thoughts on this issue and how do you feel more women can be encouraged to get involved in self-defense training?

Angela: I feel like it’s all about the environment created. We live in a world that is still operating with gender norms and socialized patterns of behavior that differ for men and women. I definitely see “bursts of interest” coinciding with current events, (Our recent administration has caused a huge rise in WSD in Washington DC), but I also see something more.

Within any Movement, people need to be inspired by the “why.” Why will it benefit a woman to train in Self Defense? To make her safer from a statistically low violent attack? To have better skills to deal with assholes on the street who say shit? For therapeutic reasons from previous trauma? To burn calories?

When we are dealing with people who have busy lives, limited resources, schedules, and proximity to training facilities, the question becomes what will be the motivating factor(s) to commit? I’m not sure the latter reasons are a strong enough catalyst, especially when we are dealing with a significant “intimidation” factor for most women.

For instance, I know it is MUCH safer to wear my bike helmet biking through DC, but I don’t always wear it, because I forget or I don’t want to carry it around. The potential risk is not enough catalyst for me, but I wholeheartedly agree wearing it could prevent serious injury if I had an accident.

But, if for me, wearing a bike helmet had a direct effect on my everyday life, I may be more serious about making that happen.

Or take a practice like meditation. At some point, I need to directly understand how a daily meditation practice will positively affect my life. If I don’t believe it will, am I likely to do it? I may “will” myself for a period of time, but if I don’t have my own “why” and a direct experience for my everyday life, I would be less likely to make the time to meditate.

These are random analogies, but…when we are dealing with Women’s Self Defense, we are also dealing with a high level of intimidation, lack of comfort, and fear on top of all the other stuff.

So how can we create a “why” that has an immediate effect on their everyday lives? Because I wholeheartedly believe it does. (boundary setting) This is where Self Defense begins WAY beyond learning techniques and how to fight. As a teacher, I use the physical modalities to tap into something much deeper and shed light on daily patterns, belief systems, mannerisms and habits.

I also do not think anything exists in a vacuum. The physical training is a necessity to tap into the deeper work.

I come full circle in answering your question. I see the “trend” of women’s self-defense rising and I see out of this trend, more women seriously interested and committed to training in Self Defense. I think this starts with the way we teach. Not wishy washy, “Sex in the City” shit, but some serious physical intensity, AND the encouragement to pay attention to what bubbles to the surface…aka: self-awareness. What happens when you are physically uncomfortable? Do you habitually say, “I’m sorry”? Do you feel self-conscious when you yell? Do you love hitting shit? Do you make excuses? This kind of awareness and training has a direct effect on women’s everyday lives because it is all integrated. Every relationship: work, intimate, family, strangers, has a direct correlation to this deeper awareness of how we are showing up in our lives. (boundary setting) I’ve found that women get this. They are inspired by it. They find a “why” in it, which inspires them to find the time, resources, commitment for continued training.

Erik: You brought up several points that I think are worth expanding up.

Self-defense training is a matter of the Risk vs. Reward a/ka Cost vs. Benefit equation. In this case, for most women, the Benefit is not worth the Cost. Where the Benefits are defined solely in terms of dealing with some future unlikely stranger attack and/or verbal harassment and the Costs are the immediate use of time, money, and the intimidation created by participating in the class itself.
In this case, the immediate and certain Costs outweigh the future and uncertain Benefits.

Question #1: How would you describe the female “Intimidation” aspect? And how can it be reduced?

Question #2: Many in the Self-Defense Industry (The Merchants of Fear) use FEAR as the means to circumvent the Cost/Benefit equation. They use the motivation of fear as the primary driver for getting women to attend classes. This situation results in students attending a class or two as a means to reduce their fear (Fear Management). But as soon as their level fear dissipates, so does their desire for training.

I think you are talking about expanding upon the Reward/Benefit side of the equation so that it becomes greater than the associated Risk/Cost. Not being attacked/harassed is a Negative Reward in that you get the reward when something doesn’t happen. And most people in safe communities get this reward automatically. Dealing with an actual attack and/or harassment has a negative association since you still have been attacked and/or harassed.

On the other hand, Positive Rewards are tangible benefits that have an immediate benefit. Some of these benefits revolve around creating more respectful interpersonal relationships, greater self-esteem and confidence, improved self-awareness, effective boundary setting skills, and more. These expanded benefits can be obtained without having to actually be attacked.

Question #3: In my opinion, the commonly used Self-Defense Training is like an Insurance Policy analogy provides the wrong impression. The implication is that the Payout only happens if/when you get attacked and there is a continual associated cost. I think Self-Defense Training is more like your health. The more effort you put into improving your health, the greater the benefit regardless of if you get ill or receive an injury.

You said: “Self Defense begins WAY beyond learning techniques and how to fight. As a teacher, I use the physical modalities to tap into something much deeper and shed light on daily patterns, belief systems, mannerisms and habits.”

I think this is the root of an issue that causes great confusion in the Self-Defense Industry. The physical fighting aspect of self-defense is only a fractional part of complete Self-Defense (personal safety). Therefore, it should also be a fractional part of self-defense training. But physical training is also a vehicle needed to reach the student’s authentic self. In other words, self-defense training that is not physical is likely to only reach into the student’s cognitive mind. While this aspect is very important, it takes physical training to reach into the student’s nonconscious processes and emotional mind. And not just any kind of physical training will do that. It takes authentic physical training to access the student’s authentic self.

Question #4: It is here that opinions start to diverge. What fraction of self-defense training should be physical and what fraction be non-physical? What should the non-physical fraction entail? What constitutes “authentic physical training”? What are the diminishing returns of physical training? In other words, once the student has received a certain quantity and quality of physical training, does it start to have less and less ability to reach the student’s authentic self? And if so, how can the physical training itself be modified to keep providing solid returns on investment? Is it necessary to replicate the actual circumstances of an attack to create authentic physical training, or depending upon the individual involved, can authenticity be created WITHOUT making the training as realistic as possible?

In a nut shell, I think the authenticity of the student’s response created is more important than how it is actually created. That leaves open for a wide variety of different methodologies for physical training, but they should produce a relatively narrow result.

These are general questions. It is not necessary for you to answer them all. Please feel free to respond as you wish.

Angela: RE: Question #1. My initial response would be, more female teachers. We are primal creatures who see pattern recognition. When I see a woman teaching, I also see the possibility of me being like that. If I see a man, that’s great too. I have had numerous male instructors and coaches that are phenomenal, but there is also an unconscious understanding that I can never be that for obvious physiological reasons.

RE Question #2. YES a million times to this paragraph. After all of the Women’s Self Defense workshops/events that I teach, I make sure to spend time talking to each woman or groups of women and just listen. what I am hearing as a common thread is, they love the fact, that I make Self Defense not just about the physical stuff, but also applicable to their everyday lives. The majority of women in these workshops have a personal “aha” moment about how they are showing up in their daily life, and “in turn” asking the question, “why?” From this awareness they can choose consciously to do something different. There is extreme power in this conscious act of choosing.

As a teacher, I am not concerned about pushing women to their physical red lines…. I’m a natural at it. I demand it of myself. I ask others to hold me accountable. I tell them at the beginning, I am not there to be their friend or get them to “like me,” My job is to ruffle feathers and if they felt uncomfortable, or hated me just a little bit, I did my job. I do not teach anything physical, without understanding a “why” to the technical part of my teaching, therefore I don’t feel any sense of being a “poser” in the physical realm.

From that “real” and tangible space, I can ask these deeper questions without fear of being “too soft”, “woo woo” or conceptual.

RE Question #3: A million times yes to this statement.

RE: Question #4: I think my answer to the latter questions is, Live relentlessly into the questions, not the answers. Be okay with, “I don’t know.” As a Buddhist Chaplain, End of Life care counselor, and hospice worker, the “money” answer would be….“I don’t know” It takes gritty courage to live into the questions, without a need to find ground or certainty beneath us. Because the most honest answer is, there are not hard and fast rules. We are all going to die and thinking we can out-smart, out-buy, or out-control, that reality will always bite us in the ass.

I also understand this way of thinking is on a much broader and conceptual reality plane. We as human beings want and need answers and structure “Knowing and controlling” are not necessarily limiting, unless bastardized into truth and concrete “answers.” So at this point, it is vital to have the conversations, communicate and practice. Being willing to try and fail, or try and get feedback, or try and succeed, it necessary.


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The Angela Meyer Interview Part III – Erik Kondo

Erik: I am interested in your opinion on female runners and personal safety. What are some of your thoughts on training women to deal with their fears and concerns?

Angela: My first response would be, don’t run, train in Martial Arts and Self Defense instead. BUT I spent many years as an outdoor runner and even ran a marathon at one point (which was not the best decision for my body).

This is a serious issue and there have been several incidents where I live, in Washington DC, where female runners have been attacked, especially early in the am.

I think first and foremost, trusting intuition and that “gut” feeling of safety/unsafety is key when dealing with outdoor running as a woman.  For instance, I remember many years ago when I lived in AL.  I was running during the day on a trail in the middle of nowhere.  There was a part of the trail that paralleled with a small highway.  As I ran by the highway, a truck with 3 men hastily pulled off onto the shoulder.  There were no other cars or people around. They got out of the car and started walking towards the trail.  For a split second I thought, “Ang, they probably just have to go to the bathroom, don’t freak out,” But in the next split second, I started sprinting for my life.  I did not care what I looked like, I followed the fear in my gut. As I started to sprint, they realized it was probably not worth it to chase me, and yelled things like, “We just wanted to talk to you.”

I reiterate, when we are talking about Self Defense, we are referring to winning moments in time. I won that moment in time, but I just as easily could have not.

I have many women ask about carrying pepper spray while running.   My response to that is, “If carrying something makes you feel safer, do it, but unless you’re trained in using pepper spray, keys or a tazer, the reality of being able to access and use properly in a moment of “fight or flight” is slim.  Using weapons, takes just as much training as defending weapons and this is where I always default back to the real work of Self Defense, especially when we are specifying women.  Learning to fight is key, instead of being “weapon-centric” one must learn to fight on a deeper level and always look for exit strategies, weapons in a real-life environment, and the ability to use our bodies as natural weapons.  We must begin at the preemptive, psychological, sociological patterns that are deeply ingrained in us and it’s all connected.

Erik: In think that you brought up an interesting issue here.

On a statistical basis, I think that the majority of women are on some level effected by Fear of Violence while running and a smaller proportion are effected by verbal harassment and threatening behavior. And a very small proportion are effected by actual physical assaults. But the consequences of these assaults are severe.

Therefore, regarding Fear of Violence, carrying a weapon may have a soothing effect. In that case, the weapon provides a benefit. It also may help them in terms of verbal harassment since the person many feel less vulnerable and be more assertive, but, a major problem occurs in the event that they actually have to deploy the weapon.

In that case, not knowing how and when (legally and tactically) to use the weapon may have the effect of worsening the situation. In addition, they may have false confidence regarding their weapon’s capabilities which may encourage them to take more risk than they would without having a weapon. And of course, there is always the issue of not having the psychological will to use the weapon. Not to mention, the practical issue of carrying it.

Then again, there are always those situations, where having a weapon available may become the determining factor for safety.

Therefore, I think it can be reasonably said that carrying a weapon has both positives and negatives associated with it. The factors will vary from individual to individual, from environment to environment, and from incident to incident.

Reviewing what you said “We must begin at the preemptive, psychological, sociological patterns that are deeply ingrained in us and it’s all connected.”

These are deep issues that cannot be resolved in a few hours of instruction. Neither can the ability to learn and execute physical technique be learned in a few hours.

Therefore, for a one-time class with women who are unlikely to take additional classes, what do you feel is the most important aspect to focus on? In other words, do you think it is more important to focus on problems that are more likely to occur, but have less physical consequences, such as verbal harassment and sexual coercion. Or problems that are less likely to occur, but have greater physical consequences such as violent stranger assaults?

Angela: A big YES to all you said.  I am learning so much from your questions and deeply grateful for the process.

When I teach Women’s Self Defense workshops (or any “once off” training) I make sure they understand:

They are only dipping the tiny tip of their baby toenail into the vast waters of “Self Defense”.

There is nothing I am about to say/teach in this class/workshop that will guarantee a magical shield of safety.  I also tell them if they hear teachers who say, “these 3 techniques will make you safe.”  Run. Fast. In the other direction.

It comes back to the importance of boundary setting. I think this is the first vitally important shield to owning your own body and space.  Women being verbally harassed, sexual coerced, or violently assaulted are symptoms of our culture.  They happen.  Sometimes really often.  It’s disgusting.  It’s not right. And in no way is it a women’s “fault”.    That said, we as women, can start to make personal choices to how we want to show up in the world. Do we say we are sorry, just because we are apologizing our existence away, or are we really sorry for something?  Do we giggle, because we like to laugh and have fun? Or does aggression and confrontation make us uncomfortable? Are we not able to yell because we really don’t have the capability, or are we so self-conscious about how we come across? Do we always take care of others because we really want to, or are we just programmed that way?

I think this is the most important aspect to focus on. Through an intense, uncomfortable, physical experience, how do I as a teacher, shed light on everyday habits and engrained belief systems, that keep them from being a fucking powerhouse?  Awareness is key.  If I can just plant a few seeds that will take root quickly or grow over a long period of time, I have done my job of making a woman safer. I will never know when or if the seeds will take root, but I’ll try like hell to sew them.

I do think it is VERY important to acknowledge that every woman is different and there not a cookie cutter answer.

I had an experience the other night.  I was sleeping alone and thought someone broke in the window of my apartment.  I struggle from pretty severe anxiety.  It shuts me down, especially in a moment of primal fear. I went through all my self Defense 101 checkpoints. What could I use as a weapon? Where are my exits?  What will I do to get out quickly and where will I run?  The process was legit and proactive…but the real problem, was, can I actually do this?  My body feels shut down in fear. I “know” all of these things intellectually but can I do them?  It’s not an easy answer and I think we are doing a disservice to all women, when we give pat answers.

So to reiterate, I think the most important thing to start teaching women from day one:  Bringing awareness to how they move through their everyday world.  Does this way serve them and make them safer and stronger?


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The Angela Meyer Interview Part II – Erik Kondo

Erik: Rory Miller talks about creating a physically safe place to do physically dangerous things and an emotionally safe place to do emotional dangerous things. It sounds like that is exactly what you are doing.

Angela: Yes. I also make sure I am fully responsible for physical safety as well. This is why I am very strict on no one talking when I’m talking, so that everyone can hear the instruction and there is no confusion. I let people know they may get bloody knuckles, from punching a pad bare handed, and if they have a job where that’s not cool, they can use palm heel strikes. I let them know they will be physically uncomfortable, and that’s part of the work, to get their bodies stress inoculated.
But I take the job of keeping them physically safe very seriously.

Erik: It has been my experience (and others) in dealing with the typical demographic of women that come to a self-defense class, the majority are really not interested in engaging in serious physical contact. Using a rough guideline of the 80/20 rule. I find that only twenty percent are willing to push themselves physically, the other eighty percent would rather not.

My solution to this issue has been to focus on primarily boundary setting and use role playing of common scenarios that women encounter in their everyday lives as teaching tools. Invariably, the women have voiced boundary intrusions and violations by men as their primary concern and problem.

Angela: I agree this is one of the most voiced concerns of women who are seeking “Selfdefense”. It’s that in between space, where someone has not physically crossed a line in the sand, but there has been some sort of verbal intrusion or feeling of impending violation. In Fit to Fight, the Self Defense system I train under, they refer to this space as the “fence.” The space in-between, where there is not a clear threat, but you prepare mentally and set yourself up physically to be ready.

I also agree many women are really not interested in serious physical contact, but I think a huge bulk of that trend is female patterns of socialization, which I see as something that needs to be directly addressed and changed. I tell women right away, this is not cardio kickboxing, calorie burning time or, group exercise.

Honestly, I don’t care if women don’t want to push themselves physically (although I think you are correct in the 80/20 rule, but I think the physical push is necessary to access the part of themselves that feels too powerful, violent, aggressive, too uncomfortable. I think it’s necessary for them to feel what they fear, in a safe and supportive environment, otherwise they will never have an opportunity to rise above it. Of course, this is all done by building trust and understating the real distress of trauma. I make sure from the beginning the women know I am a safe leader and yet in the next breath, tell them I’m okay with them not liking me.

Erik: Generally speaking, I have found that younger woman in particular, do not have a real understanding of the concept of deterrence. They confuse deterrence with aggression. They feel that by engaging in tactics such as strong body language, eye contact, assertive phrases, and the like, that they will encourage aggression rather than discourage it.

Much of their behaviors seem to stem from socialization that relies upon using passive body language and indirect communication to deal with conflict. Some examples are excessive smiling, giggling, downcast eyes, ignoring, hunched shoulders, pretending to be looking at her phone, entwined legs, etc. These behaviors seem to be ingrained responses to social conflict particularly in dealing with aggressive men.

It is my belief that these behaviors are habits that arise partly from the fear of engaging in Over-enforcement. Since they fear a backlash from assertiveness and strength, the tend to overshoot in the opposite direction and engage in Under-enforcement. The element that they don’t seem to understand is how Under-enforcement breeds contempt, a lack of respect, and can lead to violations, particularly from predatory individuals.

Enforcement is at the core of boundary setting. It is the willingness to enforce boundaries that creates respect for the boundary. Most of the time this enforcement is not physical, but sometimes it is.

I would like to know if you agree with my general assessment, and if so, where does your training fit in?

Angela: Very well said, and I couldn’t agree more. If there was ONE take away I would want women to get from training with me in Self Defense, it is your statement, “It is the willingness to enforce boundaries that creates respect for the boundary…under-enforcement breeds contempt, a lack of respect, and can lead to violations, particularly from predatory individuals.”

I start an intro Self-defense workshop or series with that in mind, therefore the work we do, will yes, be very physical and tactical…and yet I am looking to ignite the psychological grit and emotional resilience to say, “not today mother fucker”, not just to an attack, but boundary setting in all areas of a woman’s life, especially relationships…and maybe, just maybe, begin to de-socialize, normal female responses when confrontation/ perceived aggression arises: giggling, permagrin, lack of seriousness, apologizing, over nurturing, excuses, and sulky body language.

The themes I see the most are:

1.Apologizing: I find it fascinating how so many women are socialized to apologize their existence away. I encourage students from the beginning to count the number of times they say “sorry” during training. I am a firm believer that awareness is the first step to broader social change and movement.

2. Giggling: I bring awareness to this before we start training, that it will most likely happen and when it does, ask yourself why? Not as a way to judge yourself or others, but again, as an awareness practice. What are common habits when we are uncomfortable and why we do them? I of course do not think there is anything innately wrong with giggling, but if it is a response to uncomfortably, do others take us seriously?

3. Unnecessary Self -Consciousness. It can be very difficult for many women to yell. I have personal experience that I’ve had to overcome, the fear to be “seen”. But through a lot of internal and physical work, I have found voice, drawn boundaries, and become a woman, those on the outside see as “tough” and a “beast.” Many women find it extremely uncomfortable to yell from their guts. A little peep comes out or no sound at all. I think they see a part of themselves they don’t want to admit is there, violence, aggression, power, rage. I love the Marianne Williamson quote and read it often, “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” I don’t encourage women to go out and pick fights, but I do think it is necessary for boundary setting. I encourage women through physical uncomfortably to “unleash the beast” in a safe, supportive environment, so they can feel the underlying energy of it and know it’s “okay.”

I am so passionate about this work because I can see myself in all of it. My inspiration to competitively fight these days (besides loving it), is because I’m still working through deep ingrained parts of myself that are terrified to be “seen.” Parts of myself that seize up with anxiety if I think everyone will be looking at me, completely vulnerable, exposed, with no guaranteed control of the outcome.

End of Part II


The Angela Meyer Interview, Part I – Erik Kondo

Who is Angela Meyer? —————————————————- 2

Pushing Your Students and Red Lines —————————- 5

The Effects of Female Socialization ——————————– 7

Running and Personal Safety —————————————— 10

Female Interest in Women’s Self-Defense ———————– 14

Understanding Risk vs. Reward ————————————— 16

Boundary Setting: Communication and Enforcement —– 19

Fear and Anger —————————————————————— 21

Emotional State and Mental Images ———————————- 24


Erik: Please tell me a little about yourself. I am interested in hearing about your background and current activities.

Angela: Ha ha…these days if someone were to ask me that question, my answer off the bat would be to laugh and say, “it’s complicated, but I’m actually always working on the act of balance to make it ‘more simple’.

I was a collegiate soccer player, did not speak as a little girl, to the point of therapist wondering if some sort of “trauma” was involved in my “muteness.”  Found voice through tapping into deeper currents through the team mentality of soccer and spirituality.  After graduating college, I lived in Brazil favelas with a family for a year because I felt drawn to the “edges.”  I got a Masters of Theological Studies from the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO and volunteered/ lived/ worked for over 10 years at an AIDS hospice in DC for homeless men and women called Josephs House. In this time span I also started teaching Yoga, and became an End of Life Counselor through the Metta Institute in San Fran.  I left DC to live in NYC and study as a Buddhist Chaplain through the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care.  Working in the “liminal” space between life and death has been one of the most life-giving spaces for me, as it is “real”, and there is no “bull-shit.”

While I was in NYC I found, a practice called Budokon through a Yoga studio where I taught.  That was my first introduction into Martial Arts.  I had had therapist for years telling me I should do Martial Arts, and my response was always, “I don’t have time for another thing.” After my first taste of Martial Arts, I had visions of being Million Dollar Baby and trained seriously in all aspects since then.

Upon moving back to DC a year later, I trained very seriously in Krav Maga and MMA, Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu, wrestling.  From the beginning, I had a desire to compete, but I also suffer from anxiety which kept getting in the way.  I also had to do a lot of internal work, around my identity of being a “caregiver.”  All the work I had done professionally, was in an intense caregiving role.  I had to work out internally what it meant to be a “caregiver” and also what it means to be “violent”.  I wanted to fight so bad in a ring or cage, but didn’t think I’d be able to hit someone in the face, ground and pound and make them bleed. I had to work through my own inner violence, and integrate the feelings and meaning attached to it.

In the last year and a half…I finally stepped into a Muay Thai ring four times and am currently training for a fight at the end of April.  Although the fear and anxiety is there every time, I’m learning more and more about my “limbic threshold” and through great coaching being able to access more than I thought was there.

I’ve trained in self-defense for the past six years through Fit to Fight, an organization that recently broke away from Krav Maga, but focuses on both Self-defense and training students to fight. I will be testing for my Black Belt this August in San Antonio.

Currently I teach Yoga, lead Yoga Teacher Trainings, teach a lot of Women’s Self-defense, travel and teach workshops with my partner who is also my coach. I normally train 3 hours a day and am always looking for balance which I’ve accepted is not a destination but a continual act.  I am fascinated between the similarities in Yoga, Fighting (Martial Arts/Self Defense) and working with Death, breathing is the common thread.

I’ll stop there and we can continue.

Erik:  Well, I had a suspicion that you had an interesting background and you definitely do.

In terms of women’s self-defense, what is the focus of your teaching? What is the primary message/take-away that you want your students to receive from your classes?

Angela: To stop waiting for prince charming or someone to come save them.  To learn to be your own hero.

To stop apologizing away their lives and instead say, “I wish a mother fucker would.”  To understand that it’s possible to still be fiercely compassionate and violent in the same moment.  To not fear their own violence, but to channel it, creating boundaries, not just in a self-defense scenario, but every relationship in their lives.  To say no when they want and yes when they want.  To understand that if someone chose to attack them, they must dehumanize them…they have become an object, therefore no one cares how you “feel”, or if you are tired or don’t want to right now.

I want students to become more intimate with their perceived “red line”…the place where physically they think they have nothing more to give. They can’t go on…where they are highly uncomfortable…and I coach them to see if they can access more…to realize that they may just a little bit more to give.  To understand that if someone crossed a line in the sand and they had to “fight”, no one would care if they were fucking tired, or uncomfortable, they just should go.

This comes full circle to the psychological work.  The “pre-emptive” self-defense.  Questions like What would you be willing to fight for?  What are you fighting for currently? (doesn’t have to be physical), Could you kill someone? What would you be willing to do?

I think it is very important to do the “inner” work of self-defense, as well as the physical.

Erik: Please expand on what you mean by “I wish a motherfucker would…”

Angela:  “I wish a mother fucker would” is of course used more for effect than a literal expression.

When I’m teaching, I make sure I clarify that I am not literally walking around the world, hoping someone will attack me. I am a small woman, and even though I “train” am under no assumption that size, terrain, surprise, weapons, etc, don’t matter, they do. I use this “phrase” to explain walking around as a woman with confidence. I explain to the women I teach, that after training in Self Defense/Fighting, I walk different on the streets of DC. I am still fully aware of my vulnerability, I just have a different awareness. If I am walking on the street and I hear someone sketchy coming behind me, I am more ready, more alert. I look if there are places I can run, are there other people around, is there anything I could use as a weapon? I want to show that I would not be an easy target. This is what I’m talking about when I say “ I wish a mother fucker would” mentality, like a game face on, even if inside my bones are shaking.

Erik:  Based on what you said about pushing your students and their Red Lines.

How do you deal with the fact that what you really want to do is push these women both physically and mentally, but there is always the very real possibility that due to past history with trauma (or something else) that one or more of them will have an emotional breakdown?

This creates a situation in group training where the students are effectively limited by the weakest member(s) of the group.

For example, you simulate a high-pressure assault and the student breaks under the pressure. The result is that she ends off being psychologically worse off than before. Her confidence is lowered, not raised.

On the other hand, the other women in the group would benefit from dealing with having their limits pushed, tested, and ultimately expanded.

Many instructors deal with this issue by creating “fantasy fights” where everyone “wins” regardless of the effectiveness of their actions.

The side effect being that the students leave the training with an unrealistic assessment of their ability and never really get “tested”.

How do you deal with this problem?

Angela: Wow, these are great questions and very real ones. I have had several students who have had a history of trauma from mild to very severe and I think the key word is TRUST.  I lead with a no bullshit approach, and I push students to their breaking points, but because of my background in Chaplaincy, hospice and counseling, I never do this without having first created a safe space.

I lead with ferocity but also a feminine energy (not meaning, because I’m a woman, just more circular).  I sit the women down in a circle before we start, I share a little bit about my fear and vulnerability, not in a sense of oversharing, or being “soft”, but so that they will trust me. I tell them that I am okay holding any of their “feelings” and that my job is not for them to like me, but to ruffle their feathers.

That said, because I am a trained professional in creating community, safe spaces and counseling…I feel able to not baby women who have had past experiences, but go at their speed.  Many of the women are also seeing therapist in conjunction with self-defense training.  I’ve had so many different experiences and deal with them each on an individual basis, through deep listening and a mutual trust relationship.  If I have not established trust or created a safe space, I would not be able to do this.  I think that is why it can be so healing to have a Woman teach all women’s self-defense.  In these environments, it can feel safe enough to break down, fall apart, get angry, and work through trauma.    Even though my goal is to explore their limbic threshold through pushing physically and psychologically, I am also a fierce nurturer, and energetically embody a safe presence.

I also am not an advocate of protecting or babying women, but I don’t think it is black and white, especially when dealing with real trauma. This is where I think self-defense is such a personal journey and there are no “right and wrong” answers.

I do not change the intensity or ferocity of my teaching, but I am highly aware and sensitive, to those who have had prior experiences.

Sometimes I’ll have them work with specific people, like my assistants.  I always provide techniques for self-care after.  I also make sure to let these women know that they are in charge.  I do not force anyone to go where they are not ready to go, but I work with them in an intimate way to take their power back…again, for each woman I’ve worked with, it’s been a personal journey.

So, I guess, my “circular answer” to your great question is…I could not do the work I do, I could not ask women to go to the places that scare them the most, if I did not first create trust and a safe space.  This is one reason I think it is helpful to have female teachers of Self Defense.  It’s hard to fully understand what it’s like to walk around the world as a woman if you are not one.  Just like as a white woman, I can never understand fully what it means to walk around as a person of color.

End of Part I.