APRIL: Fight Back!
a workshop and panel discussion on self-defense and physical empowerment in the age of Trump
In this fraught political moment, many of us are looking for ways to defend ourselves and feel empowered. Our April event, FIGHT BACK! consisted of a 45 minute self-defense workshop, led by instructors from POP Gym, followed by a panel discussion with writers, activists, and wellness professionals. We learned the introductory fight skills to keep us feeling safe, and tips for physical and mental wellbeing in this difficult political time.
We were joined by an incredible group of panelists…
Nola Hanson is an trans artist, amateur boxer, and organizer living and working in Brooklyn, New York. Their socially-engaged interdisciplinary practice explores identity and intersectionality through athletics and performance. Nola is the founder of the Trans Boxing Collective, which was formed in 2017. They received their BFA in Painting and Art Criticism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2014. Nola is a current MFA candidate in the Art and Social Practice program at Portland State University.
Zan Romanoff is a freelance writer and the author of two young adult novels. Her work has appeared in print or online at The Atlantic, Buzzfeed, Eater, GQ, The LA Times, The New Republic, Racked, and The Washington Post, among other outlets. She lives and writes in Los Angeles. She started boxing in 2017 and has since been called "a total psycho" and "too aggressive for her own good." Her 2017 piece for Healthyish, Why We Learned How to Fight details her experience with self-defense and martial arts.
Rachel Piazza is a passionate advocate for women, a lifelong athlete, and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist. With over a decade of experience, she helps women ignite and celebrate their power through martial arts. Having earned a Master of Science degree in Women’s & Gender Studies, focusing on women’s leadership, Rachel’s work to empower women continues to be grounded in the latest academic research in the field. Combining her strengths as an athlete and scholar, Rachel developed Feminist Self-Defense, an empowerment-based self-defense curriculum. Her fun yet effective approach has been lauded by leaders in the anti-violence field. Rachel is a highly sought after speaker and thought leader. In addition to her TEDx talk on sexist language, Rachel presents regularly at local and national conferences, as well as organizations and campuses across the country. Her thought leadership on empowering women through martial arts has been featured in numerous publications, including espnW. Rachel’s multi-pronged approach to female empowerment has inspired thousands of women across the nation to embrace their own leadership and strengths.
Kru Natalie “Peaceful Warrior” Fuz (“Kru” is “teacher” in Thai) is the head coach and owner of Chok Sabai Gym. In 1998, she began training in Muay Thai and started competing in the amateur circuit in the Tri-State area and became an important fixture in the New York Muay Thai fight scene, representing and breaking barriers for the (at the time) small female presence. As her decorated fight record accumulated, she was invited to fight internationally, including Thailand, Canada and Europe (see notable fights below), ending her amateur and professional career with more than 30 fights. As much as she loved fighting, Kru Nat always knew she loved teaching and passing on the art of Muay Thai even more. Kru Nat started teaching in 2002, after being certified as instructor by Master “Toddy” Thohsaphon Sitiwatjana, and in 2008 was invited by Master “Cheetah” Chantanao to certify as Kru—becoming the first female Kru in the United States. In 2006, she became the first female fighter to be awarded the O-1 Visa for extraordinary abilities by Homeland Security through which, she became a naturalized US citizen. Her dream to open her own Muay Thai school became a reality in 2009, when she was granted her Green Card and a year later, she opened Chok Sabai Gym in New York City. She hopes to honor the traditional practices of Muay Thai by providing a nurturing environment built on discipline, respect and sportsmanship for both fighters and non-fighters. On any given day of the week, you can find Kru Nat at Chok Sabai Gym training her students, working with her clients, sparring with her fighters or relaxing on her Thai mats. She firmly believes that wellness and good healthy habits are lifelong practices that should encompass life outside the gym and beyond the next fight. With this in mind, she is constantly molding Chok Sabai Gym to not only be a great Muay Thai school, but also a center for wellness—where healthy habits are formed.
Pop Gym is a recently founded organization, looking to bring free/low-cost self-defense skills to folks all around NYC. Our workshops have been described as, “fun”, “holistic” and “empowering”, and for any questions, comments, or inquiries for future workshops for you or your organizations, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check our schedule on popgym.org for a workshop near you, or email us to set one up for your group/organization. Normally led by The Monster and The Professor (pictured above), due to a scheduling conflict, they will be sending one of their instructors (Grey, He/They) to speak on their behalf. Grey is a 3rd Degree Black Belt in Tae-Kwon-Do, and has studied Muay Thai, Boxing and BJJ. Grey has helped co-organize and promote self-defense workshops in NYC since 2015.
WE LET IT ALL OUT WITH POP GYM, AND TALKED ABOUT WHAT IT MEANS TO LEARN TO PHYSICALLY FIGHT, WHEN YOU HAVE A MARGINALIZED IDENTITY.
There are many dynamics at play in mainstream boxing gyms and martial arts studios. Kru Natalie Fuz talked about what it's like to compete on a professional level, as a woman. Zan Romanoff spoke about being one of the only women at her boxing gym. Rachel Piazza told us we're all born with self-defense instincts.