Sifu Della O'Sullivan
Why I Set Up These Workshops
Updated: Oct 13, 2021
This is WHY I set up these workshops.
My goal was to allow a safe space for women & girls to feel confident enough to walk into the class to begin with.
And for some that alone is a lot, I have some who cancel last min cause they do not feel ready, then book the next one, and for some it takes 2-3 times before they walk in the door. But they keep speaking to me, I keep speaking to them, and support in any way I can Until they are ready without any pressure.
But, I always make clear the workshops are an introduction to further training, and one workshop is not enough, and that when they get to a place where they can train more regularly and put the hours in I recommend good clubs I know (not bias to style) so long as its practical for them, and more importantly, the teacher and environment is inclusive. If they are local to my Schools then they join there.
To my delight, the majority want to start regular training soon after, but some need more time so will just sign up for a 5 week course to build further confidence. Everyone’s journey is different.
I know all too well that if you are someone who struggles with self-confidence, or has survived violence, the thought of walking into a regular martial arts club is very intimidating.
Also, when you have survived violence, you often develop an increased trauma response to danger, this also prompts freezing so that adds to the anxiety around attending classes- I speak about this in my workshops, as I had to overcome this myself, I had PTSD, and I found that exercises that teach to regulate breathing really helped, so - Yoga, chi-Kung are great!
Plus, when you train regularly you will start to develop automatic reflexes, this gives skill to react before conscious thought, and for me helped override freezing, and when this happens it really helps with self-confidence, as you learn you can depend on your body, which helps the mind. When I explain this, they really want to start training regularly. But it does take a few more steps for some to get to a place where they are ready to join regular more intensive classes.
Like me, some will have PTSD, and will experience flash backs, have become upset on the first class etc as these feelings resurface, or when they are training they feel a grab which is how they have been grabbed before etc, and it throws them into reliving things, I know what that is like.
But, this resurfacing of emotions, flash backs, and freezing happens at almost every workshop I run, but the difference is we expect it, and we have people in place qualified to support for them.
It’s vital to have a safe space and introduction for all who need it.
I know that if I offer an easy to book, free or donation based workshop, which is only two hours, no pressure or commitment that I will get those turn up who really need it. And I was right.
Because I know how I felt…
It took me nearly 5 years to gain confidence to walk into a club, And even then I only went with my brother.
It was tough, but I fell in love with martial arts and that's where I fought to keep my focus, and found I way to continue, I often made excuses when I first started training to leave the room when I felt emotions bubbling up, so I would say things like: ‘oh I think I left my car window open’ so I could go outside and catch my breath.
So, having a good trainer is also vital, which is why I am creating a location list of good clubs with good trainers I can vouch for to put on the website. There are clubs out there which are inclusive, and morally ethical, who are also very skilled. They exist
Essentially, what we have created is a stepping stone, and a safe space:
We have Bede House Southwark house women’s domestic violence services on site to support anyone who needs it, and they give theory on red flags within romantic relationships.
As a recent study of England and Wales showed that the women who had been killed by men within the last 10 years, were by men they knew, ex-partners or current partners. Not many talk about this, and often just think of a stranger who is a threat. Its a lot harder to fight back against someone you know, care about or who have already set in manpultions through coercive control, which will insite a freezing, and immobilation state, and this is why Bede are an important pillar to the workshops.
*This information on how to spot toxic behaviours early can really save lives. I have been doing several case studies this month, and majority, start of like a whirlwind romance, get intense really quickly, then there is isolation, and for those who step back are submitted to stalking! More times than not stalking is an indicator for violence. And is now taken more seriously as a crime within itself.
Free spaces are always available to Bede house clients. (Some women cannot cannot have a pay trail as they are in very complex environment so we free offer bookings through Bede). And donation based or free bookings to others.
We have Jon Xue Zhang on board the flag team who is an excellent martial artist, and a Psychologist!
We also make sure those who cannot be photographed or be in pics for social media have bands on their wrists. (Some have stalkers who watch their every move, and some really do not want pics taken for other reasons) So this is an important way to protect the students, and to ensure they always feel comfortable:)
And we end the workshop with mediation led by ELUMI YOGA which is such a beautiful way we end the class. We stay behind to talk to everyone, have tea and get to know everyone who attends.
But I am also trying to raise awareness so, I invite local MPs and councillors to come and listen to them.
They are the exact audience who need to be heard if you want to understand fully how to tackle male violence.
And it’s an opportunity to tell them what they have plans to do to ensure safety & change.
Within the context of a self-defence class, it makes sense for me to give advice to those who have outsourced the information and training. But it’s a secondary solution and it’s not what we should be hearing from the powers that be.
We should be hearing what THEY are gonna do. The onus shouldn’t be on women.
Huge thank you to my FLAG TEAM!
To Jon Xue Zhang for his continued support and for joining the team
And to Aiki Budo Alliance for organising the Wolverhampton workshop, and all the support you have given
To Bede House Southwark for all the work they do to support women and girls
ELUMI YOGA for volunteering your time and efforts
And to all the brave and girls women who attended.