Spark Your Sass, Kick Some Ass: Wen-Do Women’s Self Defence Weekend
“The Oldest Women’s Self Defence Organization in Canada” is a status that not only speaks to the credibility and effectiveness of Wen-Do as a Women’s Self Defence form, but also to it’s relevancy and importance as a thriving source of empowerment for women in modern society.
The practice of Wen-Do is alive and well in Newfoundland & Labrador under the guidance of Renee Sharpe, a self-described “32 year old punker, welder, feminist and Wen-Do Women’s Self Defence instructor.”
Renee is organizing and instructing Ignite & Fight: Women’s Self Defence Weekend November 29th and 30th in St. John’s. The instructional two-day Wen-Do weekend invites Girls 10+, Women and Trans Women identified of all abilities to “spark your sass, and kick some ass” by learning “practical and fun ways of exploring how to use your voice, your brains, and your bodies just the way they are, to defend ourselves in scary and potentially dangerous situations.”
Courses and workshops offered over the weekend strive to teach “responses to the most common assaults on girls and women such as choke holds, wrist , arm and body holds; weapons self defense, ground and bed defenses; gang and swarming situations,” as well as components of “effective blocks, strikes, body language and verbal self defence,”
Renee Sharpe was kind enough to take some time from her busy schedule to share some words of wisdom regarding this weekend’s event, the importance of Wen-Do, her inspiration to become an instructor, and more.
When did you first become involved with Wen-Do?
Renee: In 2002 MUN offered a Wen-Do workshop that rocked my world. I moved to Toronto the next year and started taking Wen-Do courses on the regular.
What inspired you to pursue becoming a Wen-Do instructor?
Renee: In 2010 I was living in Montreal, and I was finishing up a 2 year welding course where I was dealing with some major aggression from the men in the trade school. They told me to suck their dick, threatened to rape me, said that women don’t belong, and when I fought back, I was met by resistance from the school administration, school board, etc. I was pissed, and scared, but mostly pissed and determined.
That year a man also came into my bedroom at 3am and tried to attack me. I slept with a hammer and was able to verbally defend myself. That fear I cannot try to explain. I was involved in a very solid queer feminist anti-oppression punk community that had my back hard. I was singing in a band called Wombraider, and all of my lyrics were about women’s self defence and fighting back.
One night a punker woman was attacked on the train tracks in front of the Fattal building in St. Henri, our neighborhood. The attacker tried to rape her. She fought back and got away. Myself and friends planned an emergency take back the night march. 100 or more of us took to the streets on bikes and on foot, some of us carrying bats and wearing wildly badass hot tight black outfits. We took up half of the road, made lots of noise, spray painted “fuck rapists”, gave out flyers to pedestrians in French and in English of why we were taking over the streets. We ended at the Fattal lofts where we smashed our piñata rapist, who when we smashed his head in, candy fell out.
Wombraider played a show at the Fattal lofts and during our set I said that if the rapist is there, and I find out who he is, that I will fucking kill him… Like, ya know, hurt him real bad… I wouldn’t kill anyone, unless it was to save my life or the life of someone I know… and (it was then) I promised that I would become a Wen-Do women’s self defence instructor, and come back to teach for free. And I did 1 year later.
I became a Wen-Do instructor because I needed it, I believe in it, and I’m so honoured to be able to give women even more strategies to defend themselves, and to invite them to take up even more space – with lots of yelling, kicking ass and having fun.
Tell us a bit about how Wen-Do Newfoundland got started.
Renee: I moved back home to Newfoundland in 2011 with the goal of teaching women’s self defence to trades women, women in smaller and isolated communities in NL and Labrador, and it has been incredible.
What would you say is the most important message and the overall goal of The Wen-Do Women’s Self Defence Weekend?
Renee: That Women and Trans Women, of all ages and abilities know how to defend themselves already. We always hear of the women who didn’t make it, when in reality, when women fight back, they get away most of the time. We are stronger and smarter than the world tells us.
If one were to register and attend this weekend’s events, what can they expect to walk away with?
Renee: Wen-Do is transformative. At the end of a 2-day course women have a shift in their beliefs. They leave knowing that they deserve to feel safe at home, in relationships, in the streets, and in our communities. If they have to move into a physical self defence technique to get to safety, they know they are strong enough to do so effectively, and their life is worth it.
Recent headlines were made in Newfoundland when a young certified welder was turned away from a job and was told the shop is “no place for a woman”. Being of the trade yourself, what would be some words of advice to a young woman put in that situation, or facing that sort of mentality in the workplace?
Renee: Advice: Women, get that money. Don’t let any man get in the way of that money. Get support and never shut up.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Renee: Thank you for this opportunity, for real. The more people in our communities who make this conversation happen, the more supported folks feel. And that’s everything. So, thank you.