IMPACT HISTORY AND OUR TRAINING SYSTEM
The IMPACT full-contact form of personal safety training has its origins with a group of martial artists who decided in the early 1970s to develop a new form of self defense for women – one that was relevant to the needs and capabilities of women, acknowledged women’s issues, and made use of training methods that introduced more realism and better results. These individuals designed the foundation of IMPACT by researching police records and by speaking to survivors and perpetrators, as well as experts in education, psychology, sociology, martial arts, and physiology.
IMPACT coursework has grown out of two decades of first-hand experience teaching personal safety. Our highly developed program is designed to provide our students with realistic and useful skills for themselves. The program is taught by specially trained teams of female and male instructors. The course addresses situations ranging from the day-to-day levels of boundary violation to the worst-case scenario of actual assault.
All of our courses involve full-contact, full-force interactive fights with a thoroughly padded mock assailant who is trained to re-create common assault scenarios ranging from subtle harassment to actual physical violence. Students learn not only to defend themselves, but to overcome the common "freeze response," and to manage fear and anxiety during intimidating situations.
Prepare's classes give you the opportunity to clearly identify how you naturally respond in any given situation. We provide you with the emotional, verbal and physical tools that allow you to examine your interactions with other people and identify what works for you. You redefine what it means to be aware of your surroundings, the choices you make about personal safety, how you speak to people, and how you allow people to speak to you. We encourage you to be comfortable setting boundaries with people you interact with on a daily basis, people you come into contact with randomly, and people you interact with against your will. Our goal is for you to be able to set healthy boundaries and ask for what you want.
In class, we place students in the context of situations where their physical, emotional or psychological safety is seriously at risk. The skills taught apply to any circumstance that entails the challenge of identifying a problem and acknowledging its existence. We figure out which tools we need to solve the problem, make choices, then create a plan of action that enables a quick, decisive and appropriate response. If a chosen strategy is not working or additional factors affect the scenario, it is important to stay flexible in order to modify plans in the moment and implement an alternative strategy.
We believe the best way to learn personal safety is through concept-based learning rather than rules. Through this educational model, we are confident that you can apply the principles of the program to your life regardless of race, religion, cultural heritage, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. We are aware that every situation is different and that hard and fast rules do not make sense all of the time.
We believe that trusting your innate ability to perceive danger and responding in a way that enables you to implement a safety plan unique to the situation makes more sense.
People who have been through an assault (we refer to them as "survivors") or, for that matter, any extremely frightening situation often recount feelings of "freezing," "paralysis," or an "inability to think or breathe". These are very common ways to respond to the fear associated with confrontation. The fear is often compounded later on, upon reflection, when victims realize that had the assault escalated, they wouldn’t have known what to do. Our job at Prepare is to provide you with practical tools and skills to help avoid or minimize those kinds of reactions.
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HOW THE CLASS WORKS
Our classes set up safe "simulations" reproducing what happens in the "real world." We feel it is essential to provide scenarios that are realistic in order to teach people to protect themselves in a realistic fashion.
Our teaching technique is a process of layering.
1. You will first learn a concept.
2. Next, learn a skill that relates to that concept.
3. Then, you will practice the mechanics of the skill.
4. Finally, you apply all that you have learned.
This layering process is essential, because it facilitates an ability to absorb, integrate, and digest new information.
In other words: "Learn it, drill it, do it."
At each class session, new material is layered onto the skills taught the session before. As your skills and confidence increase, the fight scenarios and verbal scenarios will become more complex and challenging. If, on the first day of class we asked you to fight the male instructor as hard and skillfully as you will by the last day of class, you would likely be overwhelmed. The class is set up in such a way that you can learn through success.
The first time you fight the male instructor he is just a static target. As you improve and build on your confidence and successes, you will encounter harder and more challenging fights. As your power grows, so does your self-confidence. When you are fighting in the adrenaline state, your body does not know the difference between real life and simulation. As far as your subconscious mind believes, this is really happening to you and you are really successfully saving your life. This is why it is so important to begin gradually at a pace where you can integrate the basics before being challenged.
By the second-to-last class, the male instructors are fighting as realistically as possible. By graduation, nearly everyone is prepared and capable of defending her life. In fact, we know students who have had to defend themselves in the "real world" before the course was over and were successful.
Experience tells us that it is of utmost importance to create an atmosphere of support, acceptance and validation. We like to foster an atmosphere of non-competition. The instructors will never compare you to any of your classmates (though we sometimes hold up someone’s success as a positive example). We realize you all come from different backgrounds and experiences. Your instructors will advise you based on your own progress from the beginning of the class through the end. All you will have to do is look at yourself to see your accomplishments.
You learn more in a group than you could individually. Students actually teach each other through the example of their unique scenarios every time they step on the mat. By watching the experiences of each individual student, the class as a whole learns more than what they could personally experience themselves in the context of their own scenarios. You can watch the other students and ask yourself "What would I do in this situation?"
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ADRENALINE STATE TRAINING SIMULATES REALITY
The way you train is apt to be the way you will respond in a real confrontation. This system allows you to train just as you would need to respond in real life. In class, you will have the opportunity to hit using full force, training your muscle memory to do the moves with an all-out effort. This allows students to see the level of realistic response to a particular type of blow. The male instructors wear specially designed, patented protective armor so that our students can strike full-force and find out what it really takes to confront a larger person or to deliver a knockout blow to an aggressor.
Just as importantly, students practice their verbal skills in these realistic role-playing scenarios as well. It can be just as challenging to think on your feet and say what you mean!
Because of this realism, we’ve discovered that our training methods give rise to a physiological and psychological condition known as the "adrenaline state". This is the condition we experience when facing fear or stress in a real emergency. Just as in a real-life situation your body will become adrenalized, so in class you will be fighting while in the adrenaline state.
When we experience fear or similar stresses, our bodies release adrenaline and other chemicals to increase strength and act as painkillers. The "adrenaline state" prepares us to deal with the situation at hand.
Dr. Lawrence Blum, a Clinical Police Psychologist, has studied the effects of adrenaline in law enforcement officers for more than 20 years. In his article, Wellness Technology for Law Enforcement, he describes this adrenaline state clearly:
The body’s reaction to stress is "fueled" in large measure by the discharge of adrenaline into the blood system. Further, every time adrenaline is discharged into the bloodstream by the adrenal gland, a set of consistent, predictable psychological and physical impacts occur. These impacts serve to prepare the human body for decisive physical action. It does not matter to the brain whether the stress is positive or negative. When the individual is aroused, the following psychophysiological changes occur:
• Increases in circulation, respiration, and heart rate, and alteration of blood flow from internal organs controlled by the parasympathetic (non-emergency) nervous system; to muscles and tissues used in the alarm reaction (controlled by the sympathetic nervous system)
• Decreased rate of digestion
• Suppression of the immune system
• Increased skeletal muscle tension
Dr. Blum goes on to discuss how the cognitive systems (reason, logic, fine motor skills) are not available during this time. The part of the brain that is available and working, what we call the subconscious, is the part that controls our actions. It is our body’s way of preparing us for "fight or flight."
He further explains that "…the brain becomes conditioned by either repeated encounters with stressful circumstances – or a single traumatic event – so that it will, with repeated encounters with psychosocial stressors, begin to react under emergency conditions, even when no actual emergency occurs."
Fight or flight
What does this mean for you as a student? Most of us have either encountered assault personally or know someone who has. In addition, you have seen countless acts of violence on TV and in movies. This information is recorded in the subconscious memory as non-cognitive information. If you were to be assaulted, your body would pass into the adrenaline state. The information stored in your subconscious memory would be the information that you would have available with which to defend yourself. Due to our socialization, much of the "fight or flight" response is no longer viable. Women have been told that they cannot fight or flee, so they just freeze. Even in mildly frightening situations, where no actual emergency occurs, many women find themselves frozen from fear, unable to act.
Our goal is to replace the subconscious information currently stored in your brain with clear and easy responses to most kinds of verbal or physical assault. The class conditions our brains to react appropriately in stressful situations so that we do not have to rely on inaccessible cognitive thinking.
During an adrenaline response, our perceptions are also changed temporally. Distortion of perceived time is referred to as "Tachyepsychia," sometimes called "Visual Slow Down." Nothing really slows down during this time, but so much focus is brought to bear on the emergency that there is greater detail and speed in processing the information that the brain is taking in. Events appear to move more slowly because we are processing things with more efficiency and detail.
Distances, as well as time, are distorted whenever your body is adrenalized. Since your eyes do not function as they normally would, the distance between you and your attacker appears distorted. Training in the adrenaline state and adjusting while you are still experiencing the fight trains the eye to assess correctly and work in this state. As you fight, the instructor may modify your distance or technique. The brain will receive this information and incorporate it into muscle memory.
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BEYOND PERSONAL SAFETY — BRIDGE TO PERSONAL GROWTH
Many other changes may begin to occur in your life after completion of the class. Students often tell us that they have become more decisive, brave, self-confident, less anxious, or just plain relaxed. Some find it suddenly easy to speak their minds or to stand up for what they believe. Many of our graduates are surprised to find that they are suddenly thinking clearly under any number of stressful situations – say, handling an approaching deadline, or engaging a spouse or significant other in a difficult conversation.
Ironically, most people who take this class do not identify a fear of crime as the reason they enroll. The majority tell us that they come to class for empowerment, confidence, and to learn to stand up for themselves in their daily encounters with people who cross their boundaries.
Our Class Helps Build Emotional Intelligence, Thereby Increasing our Ability to Perceive and Respond Appropriately to Potentially Dangerous Situations.
All the experts agree that emotional intelligence is critical to success and happiness in life. It is described as a "meta-skill" - in other words, emotional intelligence is a skill that allows for us to maximize all our intellect and our talents in every area: career, academics, sports, arts, music, and performing. Emotional intelligence also improves our ability to deal with the stress and the challenges of emotional and physical boundary violations, whether in day-to-day situations or worst-case situations. Our programs are centered around the tools needed to deal with these situations safely and effectively, including emotional intelligence skills, so we all can protect our emotional and physical integrity.
Emotional intelligence affects our ability to perceive and respond successfully /appropriately to danger¹s warning signs and to danger itself. Our perception of these signs, or of danger itself, often comes to us first through our auto response system, because of the emotionally charged nature of the situation. Serious danger and low level boundary violations alike create an adrenaline response and accompanying emotions that make it hard to access cognitive information.
Daniel Goleman's wonderfully clear and informational book Emotional Intelligence describes 5 competencies, all of which are relevant to personal safety:
1. Self awareness/knowing one's emotions.
This is the ability to answer the question "What am I feeling?" with a vocabulary to name feelings, (anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, discomfort) and being able to distinguish one emotion from another. Another component is being able to tune in to instincts and gut feelings.
Both are critical in the arena of personal safety. We must be able to pay attention to the pre-incident indicators of danger (sometimes a gut feeling about seemingly innocuous behavior or verbal interactions) and to overcome gender socialization (how we are "supposed" to react if we are feeling a particular emotion) to create safety-maximizing responses to dangerous situations.
2. Managing one's emotions.
In the context of personal safety, this entails being able to feel a feeling and instead of "flooding", be able to think, analyze a situation and make a reasoned, effective, decisive and appropriate response to dangerous situations. It also includes the ability to reframe the emotion(s) being experienced so that they don't prevent us from acting effectively, and/or the emotion helps us to act effectively. For example, transforming fear into anger - an emotion that can fuel action instead of freezing us. One further note: being emotionally upset takes away cognitive function space! Being able to feel without flooding leaves us room to keep thinking. We need brain power to create unique, finely tuned reactions that are responsive to the particular situation in front of us.
3. Recognizing emotion in others.
This emotional competency includes the ability to have empathy or otherwise be in attunement with someone else¹s emotions. From a personal safety perspective, it means being able to identify someone with good intentions vs dangerous ones. It also includes the ability to read verbal and non verbal signals to identify whether an assailant is angry, scared, jittery, under the influence of chemicals, mentally unstable, etc. How successful our chosen game plan will be depends in part on how well matched it is to the specific circumstances we face.
4. Managing other's emotions, handling relationships.
This aspect of emotional intelligence speaks directly to the skills included in our Basics curriculum that help us address the low-level violations inherent in day to day dealings with people we know. People we know includes people we like and people we want (or need) to continue to be in a relationship with. A component of this skill is boundary setting. We practice setting boundaries and limits using strategies which address unwelcome behavior rather than by attacking the person, allowing room to preserve and maintain the relationship, if desired. We also believe our class helps to build an ability to engage in personal leadership and leadership of others, another facet of this component of emotional intelligence - essentially, greater interpersonal effectiveness!
5. Motivating oneself.
An aspect of this competency with a clear connection to personal safety is the ability to maintain a sense of optimism and hope (emotional self efficacy) - having the will, the way, and the belief that you can positively effect a situation for the best, even when that requires persistence in the face of a setbacks or disappointments. Students learn to "fight to the finish" even when faced with situations that involve working through mistakes or mis-steps, handling unusually determined assailants, or fluctuating shifts in the balance of power.
Our class is all about optimism and perseverance, nurtured throughout the class process as skills are developing. This results in confidence, based on a series of successes in ever more difficult and challenging scenarios. Some might in fact define the intangible benefit of empowerment as that sense of self-efficacy that supports our ability to lead lives where we choose our own path and possess the means to reach our personal goals.
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Top 4 Reasons Students Register for an IMPACT class:
- to increase their empowerment
- to experience less fear or helplessness when intimidated
- to gain physical self-defense skills
- to recover from a traumatic experience
Our program is structured to facilitate the accomplishment of these specific goals and so much more. Airline pilots and firefighters undergo similar adrenaline stress, realistic scenario training and report that their problem-solving skills in crisis serve them well in all areas of their lives. Our graduates say the same thing. This is the benefit of concept-based learning versus memorizing a checklist or a choreographed series of moves.
You will sharpen your observation techniques to help you identify internal and external cues to predict violence. Students practice paying attention to subtle cues and developing their instincts to assess the behavior of others.
You will enhance your personal leadership skills. Classroom scenarios stress being able to look to yourself to find solutions and lead yourself out of the problem. We’ll help you hone your ability to find your own openings and opportunities; create a plan of action; and determine split-second strategies in chaotic situations.
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Who is Prepare?
We’re an organization offering personal safety and assertiveness training. We conduct on-site programs at corporations, for community organizations, and schools. People often recognize our fully padded mock assailant and are familiar with our 20 Hour Basics class for adult women. Our curriculum has expanded to address workplace sexual harassment, leadership training, communications skills, teamwork and bonding. We also offer training for men, co-ed programs, programs for teens and children, all featuring realistic scenario training.
What type of self defense do we teach?
Our goal is to empower individuals to make effective personal safety choices. In an emotionally supportive environment, you will practice both verbal and physical skills with our fully padded mock assailant. With this unique physical training method you can deliver full force, full contact, knock out blows to vulnerable areas on the padded assailant’s body in dynamic, interactive fights. Training also includes verbal self defense strategies practiced in role playing scenarios in a wide variety of contexts - dealing with strangers as well as people you know.
What will you learn?
You will learn the most common ways individuals are attacked as well as the strategies and psychology of assailants. Classes prepare you mentally and physically to handle the full range of challenging situations we all face in our daily lives, including the danger of extreme circumstances.
You will learn how to:
- avoid danger by heightening your awareness
- shorten your body’s natural "freeze" response
- capitalize on the adrenaline rush (your body’s response to fear and danger)
- assess situations quickly and respond decisively
- use your voice, brain, body and spirit to stay safe
What other benefits will you receive?
The benefits of class go beyond learning how to stay safe or how to intervene in a potentially violent encounter. Our graduates report positive effects such as:
- greater general awareness and confidence
- increased self esteem and assertiveness
- ability to communicate clearly and directly
- creative and flexible problem solving skills
- improved leadership skills
- more focus and effectiveness at work
- calm and clearheaded thinking during stress or crisis
Who teaches our classes?
Our instructors undergo hundreds of hours of training and supervision to earn their certification from nationally recognized instructor trainers. They are professionals dedicated to ending the cycle of violence.
Will these techniques work for you?
Everyone can learn these simple techniques. This system of self-defense is appropriate for all ages, all levels of fitness, and all body types. You will discover and learn to enhance your own body's natural strengths. Limited class size ensures individual attention and personalized instruction.
What if you have special needs?
We are committed to removing barriers for interested students. Our instructors will adapt the physical techniques to work with your physical challenges or pre-existing injuries. We offer payment plans to assist with your financial needs.