Category Archives: Self Defense

A pirate, a ninja, and a gens de couleur walk into a bar in 1784 New Orleans….

Tortuga Bay, 2016 Eric Hoffer Award Finalist

Tortuga Bay, 2016 Eric Hoffer Award Finalist!

A pirate, a ninja, and a gens de couleur wak into a bar in 1784 New Orleans….

The punchline? I think this is my next action/adventure series, probably launching after the third book in The Pirate of Panther Bay series is published by SYPP in 2017. The new series will follow three sets of characters as they branch out on their own at the end of the third book: Isabella and Juan Carlos, Gabrielle and Louis, and the ninja (yet to be named). New Orleans provides a provocative blend of Spanish and French colonial cultures. Adding a Japanese to the mix has the potential to ramp up tension and conflict immeasurably!

At the end of Tortuga Bay, I had decided to take Isabella to the U.S., cruising up the west coast of Florida to St. Marks, then Pensacola, and ending her journey in New Orleans. (I have plans for Isabella and Juan Carlos, there.) I wanted to make the third book a little more fun, however. So, I was thinking about adding a ninja. A Ninja? you (a reasonable person) might ask?

Tortuga Bay

I already had a free black (gens de couleur) added to the cast up Isabella’s daring and desperate escape from Port-au-Prince and Dr. D’Poussant’s henchmen. Why another character? In part, each of my novels explores cultural conflict. The Pirate of Panther Bay series stretches challenges readers on a number of different fronts, both in terms of how colonial powers viewed slavery as well as pirates. Fundamental differences in the value of human life are explored in The Pirate of Panther Bay, as Isabella struggles with her place in the world as an escaped slave under the contradictory philosophy and social psychology in play in Catholic, colonial Spain. In Tortuga Bay, differences between and shifting alliances among France and Spain are central to the story.  So, I think the third book is ripe for a new take on cultural differences. Why not add an Asian influence?

The glory days of the Ninja, masters of ninjutsu, were in medieval Japan between 1500 and 1700. Japan was unified in 1700, and the role of the ninja declined precipitously as their services against warring clans where no longer needed. This actually sets up the back story for my ninja pretty well. Since the demand for their skills largely disappeared, a ninja would have little reason to stay in Japan (particularly if the government was trying to shut them down).  Yet, their skills would be particularly well suited for pirating, even in the Caribbean.

While the ninja were in decline after 1700, they didn’t disappear altogether. Indeed, their training forms the basis of To-Shin do, a self-defense oriented martial art created by Stephen K. Hayes. Hayes is a member of the Black Belt Hall of Fame and is credited as one of the key figures leading the revival of ninjutsu and introducing it to the U.S. (Also, my black belt is in To-Shin Do, and this marital arts provide the foundation for my novels A Warrior’s Soul and Renegade.)

Shiraishi Island, Japan

Shiraishi Island, Japan. This old fishing village will be the boyhood home of the ninja in the third book in the Pirate of Panther Bay series.

The character really came together for me while visiting Shiraishi Island in the Seto Sea. The island would have been a tiny fishing village at the time, but my character will be discovered by a old ninja traveling through rural Japan. The old man will discover the talent of my character and bring him to a training facility in the mountains of the fabled Iga Provice of Japan. Then, he will make his way to the Caribbean. This is all backstory, but this background will be essential as his own series takes off from the Pirate of Panther Bay series.

I am very excited about this new series prospects!

 

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10 elements of a high-performing anti-sexual assault program

After spending years researching and writing the content for a book on college sexual assault–Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault, and What We Can Do About It–people have probably guessed that I have a few ideas about what a high-performing anti-sexual assault program might look like. In my final chapter, I outline some of these features, including several strategies and programs that directly and effectively address sexual assault, including:DownwardTrendImage

  1. A clear and focused mission and vision for their sexual assaultprogram that recognizes the complexity and diversity of modern college campus life while recognizing their duty to lessen the risks and incidence of sexual assault on campus and within the student body.
  2. Comprehensive sexual assaulteducation programs targeted toward freshman that discuss the legal context, student code of conduct, and clearly identifies resources and processes for addressing sexual assault.
  3. Incorporation of human sexualityeducation nested in contemporary college student attitudes and behavior to broaden awareness and empathy for diverse viewpoints and establishing individual dignity and sovereignty as a core value.
  4. Self-defenseeducation and training as primary prevention and risk reduction strategies tailored to the needs of today’s college students.
  5. Comprehensive bystander education and intervention programs that are well attended and reach out to a broad base of the student body.
  6. An effective, timely and efficient process for assessing sexual assaultcharges on a case-by-case basis with that protect and support the victim without compromising the rights and dignity of the accused.
  7. Adjudication procedures that go beyond engaging local law enforcementand the criminal justice system and extending to non-adversarial and more collaborative programs such as Restorative Justice.
  8. Support services that are traumasensitive to assist and support survivors on their healing journey.
  9. Well-defined and mutually respectful relationships between college administrators and local law enforcementagencies with trauma sensitive training and procedures in place.
  10. Active and broad-based participation by student groups in addressing sexual assault, prevention, and risk reduction.

To found out more about how we can make our campuses safer, check out my website CampusNinjaSelfDefense.com.

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What parents can do about college campus sexual assault

Staley,selfdefenseinstructor,2

Coaching self-defense at Florida State University with members of Global Peace Exchange

Ever since I started writing my book, Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault, and What We Can Do About It, I have been asked what are the proactive steps we can take to reduce the chances our kids will be sexually assaulted when they go to college. It’s a fair question, and I discuss some of these steps in the last chapter of my book. For those that are impatient, here are 10 action items that will go a long way toward addressing the problem:

  1. Enroll your children in a martial-arts based self-defense program as early as middle school or ninth grade that includes scenario-based training and situational awareness.
  2. Encourage high schools to include human sexuality in their curricula so that students are at least exposed to professional opinion about sex, intimacy, and human bonding, and why sexual assault and rape can be so devastating.
  3. Encourage high school college counselors to include workshops on the risks and dangers on modern campus life, including bystander roles, responsibilities, and interventions.
  4. Encourage parent groups and associations to hold workshops on campus sexual assault, risk reduction, and prevention.
  5. Encourage adult discussions with teenagers and college-age children about sexual assault and how it impacts their lives and the lives of their friends.
  6. Be open to a wide range of remedies and strategies for addressing sexual assault on college campuses while also insisting on evidence-based accountability in the programs;
  7. Insist that colleges and universities hold offenders accountable, and provide evidence that their programs are reducing risks of sexual assault faced by students.
  8. Read the campus sexual assault policies for the colleges and universities students plan to attend.
  9. Ask for data on sexual assaults, investigations, and the results of those investigations.
  10. Ensure college-bound students are aware of programs and support available to them and their friends at the schools they plan to attend.

You can find out much more self-defense programs and the book at my website, campusninjaselfdefense.com.

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25 questions “UnSafe On Any Campus?” will answer

This summer, my newest book, Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It, will be published by Southern Yellow Pine Publishing. This journey has been both amazingly personal and one of the most challenging writing projects I have undertaken. I now have a portion of my self-defense website, campusninjaselfdefense.com, devoted to the book. Here are 25 questions Unsafe On Any Campus? will answer:IMG_1195 (1)

  1. How serious is sexual assault on today’s college campuses?
  2. Is sexual assault and rape an “epidemic” on today’s campuses?
  3. Who is most likely to be a victim of sexual assault?
  4. What is the connection between sex, sexuality and emotional trauma?
  5. What makes the trauma associated with rape and sexual assault different from other assaults and crimes?
  6. How does modern college culture complicate efforts to reduce sexual assault on campus?
  7. Is sexual assault an inevitable outcome of the “hook-up” culture and sexual promiscuity?
  8. How does miscommunication between men and women lead to higher rates of rape?
  9. Why don’t men “get it” when it comes to sexual assault?
  10. What is the profile of the “typical” rapist?
  11. Why can’t the traditional criminal justice system handle sexual assault and campus rape more effectively?
  12. What alternatives might be more effective in reducing sexual assault than traditional law enforcement?
  13. How can college students and young adults protect themselves and their friends against sexual assault?
  14. What role do bystanders play in stopping sexual assault?
  15. What programs or strategies are most effective in reducing sexual assault and rape on college campuses?
  16. What role can victim-offender dialogue and Restorative Justice play in creating better outcomes than the criminal justice system?
  17. What role does risk reduction plan in solving the sexual assault problem?
  18. Do sexual assault prevention strategies work?
  19. Why do some people minimize the effect of sexual assault and rape on college campuses?
  20. Why are so many women unwilling or reluctant to report their sexual assaults and rapes?
  21. What role does the media play in promoting sexual assault?
  22. Why is the famous “Rocky kiss” really a rape, and why does it matter?
  23. Is James Bond a serial rapist?
  24. What role can self-defense based martial arts play in reducing risks and preventing sexual assault?

Check out this blog and my website for more details about the book and answers to these questions!

 

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Treating Guns Realistically in Children’s Literature

While volunteering for the Tallahassee Writers Association at Downtown Marketplace, an older woman picked up a copy of my book A Warrior’s Soul. My quick summary emphasizes that the story is about school violence and self defense. 

“Does it have guns?” she asked. 
I hesitated–it’s the first time someone had asked that question–but answered “yes.” She immediately put the book down and walked on. 
I was disappointed in her reaction, and it had nothing to do with the lost sale. Like most authors, I write stories that I believe are authentic. A Warrior’s Soul and Renegade are contemporary stories dealing with school violence. The deal realistically with the current problem and the brutal nature of bullying and violence. How can I not have a story that also involves guns?
The real issue should be how are guns treated in the story, and what purpose they serve to the plot. To avoid a role for guns, or other weapons, in a story of violence detracts from the power and realism of the story. Indeed, my experience with teenage readers is that they connect to the stories because they are real, not sanitized parent preferred versions of their world.
The gun serves as a powerful plot driver in A Warrior’s Soul, but it is never glorified. The story direct addresses the mystical allure of guns as a way to even the odds against more powerful enemies. And this is true. Guns are the Great Equalizers. It’s one reason why more and more women buy guns for self-defense.
But guns in the hands of an untrained and inexperienced user–Luke, Lucy, Chuck, Dirk, and the other kids in A Warrior’s Soul–represent a toxic and potentially lethal mix. The plot doesn’t shy away from the potentially tragic consequences of their use in the wrong hands. 
While some, apparently like the woman at Downtown Marketplace, may believe that we should purge contemporary stories for children and young adults of guns, I believe we need plots and characters that see them realistically. Guns are ubiquitous in our society–in film, in our homes, and on the nightly news. Denying this social reality puts our children at greater risk, not less. 
Guns are tools–adult tools–whether they are used for hunting, sport, or self defense. Our children need to understand their power and the circumstances in which they are used appropriately and inappropriately. In A Warrior’s Soul, their use is inappropriate, and the consequences of their use are potentially devastating because of poor decisions made by different characters. This, in fact, is one of the lessons from their story (and a subject of the discussion questions listed at the end of the book). 
Guns are not evil. They are not good. They are tools that can be used appropriately or inappropriately, depending on the circumstances, motives, training, and judgement of their human owners.
Shouldn’t we have more stories like this? Perhaps our children would have a healthier respect for guns as well as each other if they did.
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Fiction and Storytelling as a Way of Visualizing Success

Authors are often surprised by the reactions of readers who seem to find things in our stories or arguments that we didn’t even see ourselves. I’m no exception. In fact, the way readers peel back the layers of my stories and characters energizes me as a writer as well as me personally.

I recently experienced this as I read reviews of A Warrior’s Soul, my middle-grade novel that traces the lead character’s evolution from a self-doubting and fearful victim to a leader willing to use his martial-arts skills to confront his middle school’s bullies. The martial arts could easily be seen as a plot device for ensuring the good guy, in this case Luke, wins, much like James Bond’s gadgets and high-tech weapons allow him to get out of impossible situations. I didn’t see Luke’s story that way, but I could see where some readers (and critics) might.
However, most readers, kids and parents alike, have recognized a more complicated plot line. A Warrior’s Soul is a story about a kid who needs to believe in himself more than anything else. His martial-arts skills, in fact, are useless because he doesn’t believe in himself. It’s only when he develops his own self-confidence that he begins to use the martial-arts skills for what they are: tools for solving a problem. Readers in the real world, it turned out, see in Luke’s story (and his best friend Lucy’s) a path toward resolving a seemingly intractable problem. In other words, my fictional story provided a way to visualize a real world solution.
I didn’t quite think of my story in this way until I read Tori Eldridge‘s excellent book Empowered Living: A Guide to Physical and Emotional Protection (a book I highly recommend). Tori’s book is a slim volume but chock-full of insight, common sense, and hard-earned practical wisdom. Among the nuggets that starting churning through my brain was something I knew from years of public speaking and participating in rigorous sports: Visualization is a critical component of success, even if the visualization is imaginary. As Tori says (p. 31), “The imagination is a powerful tool…. Studies have proven that repetitive visualization of a task results in the same, if not greater improvement than physically practicing the task.” 
And this is what A Warrior’s Soul (and probably Renegade) does for kids experiencing bullying. Luke’s path becomes a way for kids to visualize a way out of a nasty situation, even if they aren’t martial artists. Luke’s courage becomes their courage. Luke’s discovered faith in his own self worth and ability to stand up against violence becomes a way for real kids to think about how they can follow in similar foot steps. When a eighth grade teacher in Florida asked one of her students what he liked most about A Warrior’s Soul, his response was that it just seemed “really real.” He could see himself as Luke.
And adults respond similarly. For example, 
  • Becca Bryant writes at amazon.com: “With bullying being such a huge problem in today’s society I think this book really opens the door to teach not only young boys that they have a voice but also girls.
  • Pamela Wilson writes: “I would recommend this book to any pre-teen/teen boy or girl. It shows them what bullied children are going through, and positive ways to resolve the situation.
  • Adrian Moore writes: “I think this book will help teach kids to take charge of their problems, when adults can’t help them.
Honestly, I was taken aback at first by these comments (which are small parts of their larger reviews) because I didn’t intend for the book to be a “how to” guide on dealing with bullies. In fact, I include a disclaimer at the beginning so that it wouldn’t. This was supposed to be a good story with good characters, albeit grounded in a contemporary public school setting. 
What I’ve come to realize, however, is that fiction serves a very important role in the real world by allowing readers, whether young or old, to visualize, and perhaps even take, different paths toward solving problems in their everyday lives. That’s a very powerful, and humbling, insight into the power of our medium. 
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Dealing with Violence Against Women & Girls

One of my epiphanies writing Renegade centered on the role of violence in the lives of our children, both young and old. I’ve always wanted realism to be an essential part of my writing, stories, and characters, but I didn’t realize the degree to which violence was intertwined with the plots I seemed to instincitvely develop until I finished Renegade. Equally important, however, was a foundational value embedded in my stories: Violence doesn’t win the war. (For more on this, see my interview over at Writers4Higher (October 6, 2012).) Violent tactics might win a battle or two, but the ultimate solution has to involve either neutralizing the violence or avoiding it altogether.

This is why martial arts figure so prominently in Warrior’s Soul and Renegade. Martial arts is used as a self-defense technique, not a tool of aggression and domination. Even in The Pirate of Panther Bay, while violence is an unavoidable part of the plot–this is a pirate story!–it’s the love story and Isabella’s self-reflective discovery of the objective value of preserving human life that trumps the violence in the end.

In the modern world, however, the most practical way for individuals to defend themselves against violence, particularly bullying, is through training in self-defense. And martial arts provide the most comprehensive and effective way to develop the mental and physical skills necessary to neutralize the threat of violence.

This, of course, begs the question: Why don’t we see more people studying martial arts? Only about 1% of the US population has participated in some form of martial art. Moreover, most of these students are men and boys. Why don’t we see more girls studying martial arts?

I may be a good researcher, but I don’t have all the answers and I was curious. So, I convened a Roundtable consisting of some very acccomplished female martial arts practitioners and instructors and started asking them questions. The first question–why don’t we see more women and girls studying martial arts–is now live on my web site (www.srstaley.com). I will be posting the discussion on four additional questions throughout the winter and spring.

Hopefully, this roundtable will be begin a much broader discussion on the role of violence in our society and the ways we need to defend our selves against it for the purpose of defeating it. We owe it to ourselves and our children, and especially women and girls.

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