Susie Kahlich

photo by Nadja Wohlleben 2016

photo by Nadja Wohlleben 2016

I am a martial arts instructor, certified self defense instructor and a violent crime survivor.

I started studying martial arts in 2000, after I became a victim of a very violent crime.  Like most women, I had never taken a self defense course in my life.  I knew it would be a smart thing to do, but while I always told myself I was too busy or the classes too expensive or too far way, the truth was, I was scared.  Before I was attacked, I had this tiny but powerful suspicion inside of me that I never wanted to face: I was worried that I wouldn’t fight back, I wouldn’t defend myself.  But the attack taught me that the will to survive is much greater than we realize.  The body has a biological response for fight or flight – and you have no control over what your body does in these situations.  But your body isn’t going let you go down that easy and it will do whatever it takes to survive.

I started training the Japanese art of Ninpo Tai Jitsu (Ninjitsu) in Los Angeles, under Chadwick Minge, with the intention of just learning a few moves, and then getting on with my life.  But a lot of the things addressed in our classes were more than locks and throws and punches — there was strategy, reading another person’s intention, balance, bodyworks.  But mostly it was about learning to trust yourself, your training, and your body — your will to survive.  I stayed with my teacher for 8 years and became the first woman in his 25 years of teaching to reach instructor level, out of sheer perseverence.  Those guys do not make it easy!

Susie Kahlich
Susie Kahlich

The way the body learns is to repeat an action over and over again; it learns more quickly when it moves slowly rather than vice versa.  That’s the way I teach.  Because I am a comparative person — I look for patterns and relationships in everything — during my training I looked for everyday movements I already did that were similar to the techniques I was learning.  Ever had your arms full and use your foot to push open a door?  That’s the exact same move as the front kick tobi geri in Ninjitsu, and you’ve already done it a thousand times.  Which means you can already do it, and you’re already good at it.

Susie Kahlich

Reading about the New Year’s Eve attacks in Cologne and Hamburg horrified me.  It was every woman’s absolute worst nightmare.  I was struck by the similarity in the method of the attacks to those seen in Cairo and other cities against Western female reporters during the Arab Spring.  If those attacks during the Arab Spring weren’t coordinated and organized beforehand, they certainly are now.  

My first response was to figure out how to defend yourself in that type of attack.  Many other martial artists I’ve spoken to have said “at that level, there’s nothing you can do.  You just have to let it happen.” I refuse to accept this, and after studying the reports of the victims — what they experienced, how the attacks were carried out exactly — I recognized another element to the attacks that is similar to something I saw in California.  There is a defense against this kind of attack, in fact (although always the first defense is awareness), that requires no special training or specific fitness levels, but it does require rearranging one’s thinking a bit.

Women need to know how to defend themselves in a realistic way — not by changing their routes or their clothes or going out in pairs or adjusting their lives, even temporarily; because every woman knows that all that does is reduce a risk, but never eliminate it.  She’ll reduce those risks much more substantially if she’s confident she knows what to do in the event she finds herself in that situation.

Courses and workshops are open to all ages, body types, fitness levels and all gender identities. Contact us with any questions or concerns.

That doesn’t take 16 years of training; it takes a different understanding of herself and her own strengths. It’s the journey I’ve been on since 2000, and it’s the journey I’d like to share with you.

Susie Kahlich