WHY GIRL POWER?
Girl Power is a unique and empowering martial arts program for Girls Only! But why have a program for girls only?
Martial arts historically were taught only to males and even today the number of females studying martial arts is relatively few. A typical martial arts class is comprised of 80-90% males. The Girl Power program was born organically. In 1997 Robert Firestine, a Shaolin Kung Fu master teacher, was teaching children at a summer camp in Marin County, California. Children could sign up for whatever classes appealed to them and, in one particular session, all girls signed up for Robert’s Kung Fu class. He was pleasantly surprised at what he saw happen in that class. The girls developed a real esprit de corp, supporting and encouraging each other. This atmosphere helped the girls achieve a new level of confidence and soon their enthusiasm and hard work translated into power in their martial arts skills. The following session a few boys joined this class. Robert watched as the chemistry of the class changed. The esprit de corp receded and the girls became reserved in expressing their power. In theory Robert would not have expected this, yet could not help but take note of what he had just witnessed. Knowing in his heart that there were always girls ready to hop into a historic male arena and challenge it head on, he had to concede that there were many who needed a safe and supportive environment where their power and confidence could be nurtured. Having witnessed the abuse of his mother and sisters growing up and having four daughters of his own, Robert wanted to use the martial arts and self-defense skills that he had dedicated his life to, to help with the problems this generation of girls and women were facing. Why not have a program designed for girls that instilled in them an inherent resistance to abuse, and the self-defense knowledge and skill to prevent it. As parents, we all feel intuitively that the danger girls face has increased in the last two decades. Actually, the statistics are staggering.
· The increase in missing children since 1982 is 444% -- 74% were girls. Teenage girls are considered the most vulnerable. Source: National Crime Information Center
· 1 in 5 adolescent girls become the victims of physical or sexual violence, or both, in a dating relationship. Source: New York Times
· 93% of rapes and sexual assaults are committed against girls and women. Source: National Crime Victimization Survey
· Fewer than half (48%) of all rapes and sexual assaults are reported to police.
· More than half of all rapes against females occur before the age of 18, and 22% before age 12. Source: National Violence Against Women Survey
· 70 to 80% of sexual abuse survivors report excessive use of drugs and alcohol.
· Somewhere in America, a woman is battered (usually by her intimate partner) every 15 seconds. Source: UN Study On The Status of women, Year 2000
· Studies by the Surgeon General's office reveal that domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44, more common than automobile accidents, muggings, and cancer deaths combined. Source: Journal of American Medical Association, 1990
· Of people who were diagnosed with eating disorders, over 90% are female.
· Young girls who are sexually abused are more likely to develop eating disorders as adolescents.
There are programs to help girls and women if they survive being kidnapped, after being battered and/or sexually abused, after the eating disorders have ravaged their bodies and spirits, but why not have a place that is designed to address these issues before they occur, or worse before it’s too late. What is needed is a preventative program that plants seeds of self-worth, self-acceptance, and self-love, joined with the ability to defend one’s life. So the light bulb lit up and Girl Power was born!
In 1999 Robert and his family moved to Tucson, Arizona to make this vision a reality. Creating a place where girls could come and be nurtured and supported as they learned to release their inner power has been a blessing for Robert as well as all the girls whose lives have been transformed by this program. Knowing how to defend your life produces a confidence that lessens the chance of being a victim. But this program is about much more than self-defense. Girl Power teaches about personal responsibility and promotes integrity, honesty, respect and self-discipline. Girls learn that their potential is unlimited and with patience, perseverance and hard work, they can achieve that potential. Most of the girls who have attended the program never would have ventured into a traditional male-dominated martial arts class. But Girl Power gave them an opportunity to develop a part of themselves that may otherwise have been forever buried. We have witnessed as the shyest and most reserved girls walk into their power and, before you know it, develop a “ bring em on” attitude when confronting boys in our coed demonstrations. We believe that everybody has the right to learn to defend themselves, so we opened a door to help make that a reality. Girl Power is a life-saving program. With the increase in violence to girls and women, we consider self-defense to be an indispensable life skill. We would not think of letting our children grow up without math or reading skills. These are necessary skills for their survival in this world. The ability to defend yourself in this increasingly violent society is also an issue of survival. Every day we read the papers and are aghast at the stories of crime and violence that go beyond the bounds of what we experienced as children. Yet if we look a little closer, we will see the stories of those who, by simply fighting back, survived. The rate of survival increases dramatically if the knowledge and skill of self-defense is ingrained at an early age. Surely, it is worth the time and effort to invest in our daughters this life saving skill. Unlike other activities, knowing martial arts is a matter of life and death. Every girl that has been part of the Girl Power program has received a gift that will last a lifetime –the ability to protect themselves, their children and loved ones, to believe in themselves and to be empowered in the unique gift that they have to give the world. Girl Power does not teach that equality with boys will come by trying to be like a boy, but rather by embracing their individuality and power as a girl! They are taught that true beauty radiates from the inside out, When a girl believes in her heart that she has been created special, beautiful, smart, and strong this will shine through her thoughts, words, and actions and thus throughout her entire life. Surley, the Girl Power motto will ring in their hearts and minds for the rest their lives: I am special! I am beautiful! I am smart! And I am strong!
"It is important that girls, while they are still growing physically, emotionally, socially, intellectually, and spiritually, be served in a context that encourages and supports their expression, however tentative and nascent. They need to have the opportunity, easily available not just hard-won, to risk self-expression as scholars, athletes, artists, and leaders, until their competence leads to the confidence not only to express themselves but also to comfortably sustain their perspectives when they are challenged by boys and men. That competence and confidence does not follow from insight or understanding alone, but can only develop from example of adult models, along with personal practice and experience."
Former President of the
National Coalition of Girls Schools
Board of Trustees