Thousand Waves Peacemaker Award


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March 1 KIAI issue – Marie sections updated 1/29/09

Community Outreach

Peacemaker Award

In January of this year a new tradition began—the Thousand Waves Peacemaker Award.  This award is given to people who carry the mission of our Center—promoting personal safety, violence prevention and anti-violence activism—into their communities.  The first award was presented in January to Marie O’Brien, Director of Violence Prevention Programs at Thousand Waves.
We are proud to announce two new awardees, Aileen and Lizzy, each of whom used assertive and courageous intervention skills in their communities. We encourage you to read about what they did to interrupt violence, and hope you’ll join us when we present their awards. Lizzy will receive her award on March 21 at 9am; Aileen on April 8 at 8pm. Sarah needs to confirm these dates. If you know someone worthy of this award, contact us to nominate them.

Aileen’s story

Thousand Waves adult member Aileen Geary used her intervention skills on the CTA, when other commuters starting taunting and threatening each other and it looked like a fight was going to break out. “My goal was to keep any physical confrontation from occurring, in hopes of keeping everyone safe,” writes Aileen. Read about the volatile situation and the strategies she used as an active peacemaker here. (connect to full story)

Lizzy’s story this story needs to be corroborated – Sarah will do so

Thousand Waves junior member Lizzy used intervention skills at her school when a fight broke out in the playground. This new white belt karateka taught self-calming and conflict resolution tools to her second grade classmates so they would not resort to fighting in the future. Learn the simple and brave role she took on in the face of physical violence here. (connect to full story)

Full story – continuation of Aileen’s story

Late in August, my girlfriend CJ and I had to go to Niketown for a 10K packet pickup. When we arrived at the Jefferson Park blue line stop, we found out that we’d have to take a shuttle bus to Irving Park because of work being done on the tracks. I didn’t realize at the time that this inconvenience would become part of a self-defense intervention strategy later in the evening.

A few hours later, we were on the crowded Clark/Lake platform waiting for a train. Three young men, 18-22 years old, were playing dice. A young heterosexual couple was engaging in some PDA. Other folks were chatting, listening to their iPods, minding their own business. All of a sudden, the three young men became interested in the young couple. One of them, the Loud One, began yelling at the couple (the Boxer and the Girlfriend). Initially, the Boxer and the Girlfriend ignored the Loud One, but as the slurs flew, they began to retaliate. Within moments, the Loud One began to approach them, followed by his Two Friends.
I had been observing the exchange, and quickly came to a few conclusions. One: the Loud One and his friends seemed to be relatively benign, but bored. They had now raised a challenge, and would feel bound to follow through in order to save face. Two: the Boxer (so identified by his t-shirt, his physique and his bearing) was probably quite physically capable. Three: the Boxer and the Girlfriend were willing to ignore the Loud Ones as long they could. Four: if the Loud Ones and the Boxer began to tangle, someone could get seriously injured.

As the Loud Ones approached, I stepped in between them and the Boxer. So did another man on the platform and a CTA worker. All three of us attempted to cool the situation – I said something like “it’s no big deal, just leave it alone” while the CTA worker and the other rider stepped in and said similar things. The Loud Ones retreated.

The train arrived. We all boarded the train, and the Loud Ones boarded the same car. They stood at one end, the Boxer and the Girlfriend were at the other end of the car with us and with the CTA worker. I chatted with the Boxer and the Girlfriend – the Girlfriend was admonishing the Boxer that he couldn’t “hit them first.” When the CTA worker’s stop arrived, she asked if the Boxer and the Girlfriend wanted to get off with her. They demurred. He was quite certain he could handle the Loud Ones. I suspected he could, as well, but didn’t want to find out.
As we often discuss in self-defense, once a fight begins, things get ugly quickly. Someone could have a weapon, someone could get in a lucky shot. My goal was to keep any physical confrontation from occurring, in hopes of keeping everyone safe. As soon as the CTA worker left the train, the Loud One resumed his taunting of the Boxer. Other people in the car were clearly uncomfortable. Then, the Loud One began to move down the aisle.
I quickly made a decision. I stood up and walked toward him in the aisle. Using my “teacher voice,” I said “Go sit down.” He continued to taunt the Boxer over my shoulder, but began to back up. I made a variety of calculations at that point. He had continued to focus on the Boxer, and was not redirecting his anger at me. Had he begun to target me, I would have had to change strategies. Instead, he was giving ground, as I had suspected he would. As he shouted at the Boxer “what’s your stop?” I said, “We all have to get off at Irving Park. This is not the time or place. You can deal with it at Irving.” I knew that there would be CTA workers and probably police at Irving because of the shuttle situation. The Loud One continued to back off, shouting, “We’ll see you at Irving,” and he and his friends left our car for the adjacent car.

At Irving, we all got off, and, as I suspected, there were many officials. As we all left the car, some of the other passengers immediately began telling CTA workers that the Loud Ones had been causing trouble. They were intercepted. The Boxer, the Girlfriend, CJ and I boarded a bus and took it to the next train stop. No punches were thrown. Think, Yell, Run – no Fight necessary.

Editor’s Note: Written by Aileen, who used the fifth finger of self-defense to “Tell” us about this success story. Aileen is a high school teacher, as well as a black belt and volunteer assistant in Thousand Waves’ Violence Prevention program. And a Thousand Waves Peacemaker.

Full story – continuation of Lizzy’s story
Lizzy reported that one of the boys in her second grade class has a very ‘different’ sense of humor, and other students don’t always understand it. Sometimes other children get mad because their feelings are hurt by his jokes. One day after school, this boy and some other friends were playing. The boy said something that offended another child, which led to 2 girls and the boy physically fighting. A playground supervisor helped break up the fight.
Lizzy realized that her fellow students could benefit from violence prevention strategies she learned at Thousand Waves. She decided to teach them to TAKE TEN so they would learn to manage their strong feelings so they don’t erupt violently. TAKE TEN is a system of anger management and violence prevention developed by Anne Parry, an educator who has worked with survivors of violence for many years.
TAKE TEN is simple, and it really works. It puts distance between us and the person who has made us feel angry, sad, frustrated, or disrespected, by:

  • waiting ten minutes … doing ten jumping jacks

  • remembering ten things we like about the person we’re angry with…

…or anything else you can think of to give you time to cool off before responding with hurtful words or actions. The idea is -- if you can’t express yourself peacefully, then talk it out, walk it out, or wait it out.

Lizzy introduced the TAKE TEN strategies to the playground supervisor, and then taught it to her friends. They sat down and learned about what to do when they’re mad, then they all practiced. The boy did ten lunges. Another student took ten steps back. Another said she’d wait ten minutes. They discussed other options like taking ten breaths, or doing ten pushups.
Later, Lizzy and her mother talked with Kyoshi Sarah, the co-director of Thousand Waves, to share the story. Kyoshi found out that Lizzy’s friends have not gotten upset recently—and that they haven’t had to use TAKE TEN to prevent fights.
ED note: Lizzy is a new karate student at Thousand Waves in the Junior program. Her older sibling had taken some classes at Thousand Waves in the past, so she was introduced to some violence prevention ideas in Thousand Waves’ curriculum before she started training herself. Still, as Kyoshi Sarah pointed out, “It’s not very common for a student with only eight classes to do this with such great results!” We applaud Lizzy’s leadership as a Peacemaker.
K told other student’s dad about this technique, from Anne parry, hopefully making way into school systems.

w/ student said hasn’t come up again w/friends, K reminded that we need to practice.

We applaud Lizzy, a new Thousand Waves white belt student who taught self-calming tools to her second grade classmates who were fighting. And we honor Aileen Geary, an adult black belt member who interrupted escalating violence on a CTA train last summer. Read about what these peacemakers saw, and what they did to interrupt violence here.

She currently works in the Chicago Department of Public Health on violence prevention programs for families, schools, and community organizations. In her book, Choosing Non-Violence, she writes:

Most violence happens when people are so angry, frustrated or afraid that they become out of control…for most of us, talking about our feelings is difficult. It makes us feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed. And when you think about it, your emotions are not good or bad. They just are. You can’t be blamed for how you feel. But what you do with feelings is very important.


  • Sat. 3/7 Stress Management & Wellness Workshop. Childcare available. Limited space. $40. Scholarships available.

  • Self-Defense Course for Women/Teen Girls. Runs 4 Mondays, 6-9pm, Apr 6-27. Discounted fee of $95 through 3/16; $115 after. Scholarships available.

Tax deductible donations to Thousand Waves support the scholarships we award to individuals and groups seeking violence prevention classes. Help a survivor of violence on her healing path to feeling more confident, secure, and in charge of her life. Support a group of at-risk youth to use self-calming skills instead of resorting to violence. Help teens build respectful relationships with peers and dating partners, creating safer connections in their lives. They thank you for your support. Have this link to donation page!

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