– Episode Ten –

Planning and Preparation

About The Empowerment Podcast

The Empowerment Project Logo

In this podcast, created as a platform to teach you everything she knows about self-defense, join host Silvia Smart in this safe space. With over three decades on the frontlines, she’ll give you skills and knowledge for your self-defense toolkit so you can live your most fearless and empowered life. Research proves that empowerment self-defense programs work. Participants are less fearful, more aware of their boundaries, and are able to speak up sooner when faced with manipulative or threatening situations. Furthermore, for those who have experienced trauma in the past, evidence shows that empowerment self-defense training can interrupt the cycle of violence and decrease the likelihood of a future assault.

Other Episodes You Might Like...

The Empowerment Podcast – Episode 53

Stephanie Cyr has started an Empowerment Self Defense Program at SFSU that is rolling out in the Fall of 2024! In this episode, she’ll tell us all about it, share a wonderful self-defense success story and so much more. Our wide-ranging conversation covers how great it will be when we can make ESD a standardized course offering in all public schools and how ESD can impact health, along with positivity and lots of hope for the future of this movement.

The Empowerment Podcast – Episode 52

Success Story – Complying & Playing Along

Did you know that complying and playing along are essential tools you already have in your toolkit? It can help us buy time to get help or get to safety. Join host Silvia Smart as she shares how one person “played along” to stop an attempted rape and get to safety.

Our stories are important. YOUR stories are important! Consider sharing your story with me and with my listeners.

The Empowerment Podcast – Episode 51

Host Silvia Smart and author Lauren Taylor discuss this newly released book which is an excellent resource for everyone – those interested in empowerment, in self-defense and instructors of ESD as well. Join Silvia and Lauren as they do some of the exercises in the book and chat about the ins and outs of this fascinating publication worthy of a read!

The Empowerment Podcast – Episode 48

Finding Empowerment within the Upsetting Context of Mass Shootings – an Interview with SAC Kieran Ramsey, FBI Portland

There’s a clear uptick in mass shootings across the country leading to lots of fear, confusion and anguish. Who better to talk to than the FBI? Join me and my guest, Special Agent in Charge of the Portland FBI, Kieran Ramsey.

We discuss how regular people like you and me can help prevent mass shootings and play a role in stopping this disturbing cycle of violence. (Hint: it will not make the news.) We discuss the ins and outs, ups and downs of knowing what to look for, fact versus myth, reporting, planning, preparation and yes, believe it or not, empowerment!

Many thanks to SAC Ramsey for sharing his experience and wisdom as we negotiate the complex landscape we all live in right now.

Please share this episode far and wide. Together, we can create a kinder and safer world, one relationship at a time. We’ve got this!

Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
• Call 911
• Call Your Local Non-Emergency Police Phone Number: Directory by City
• Report to the FBI
• Contact Your Local FBI Field Office
• FBI Phone #: 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324)

Connect with Silvia
Trauma Informed Active Shooter Trainings with Silvia

Special thanks to my editor, Henry Smart-Denson

The Empowerment Podcast – Episode 47

Folks, Florida is on the front lines right now. There are huge safety concerns brought on by the cruel laws, restrictions, rhetoric, and policies of Ron DeSantis and his friends that are affecting many people. Because of this, Equality Florida, along with the NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens, have all issued travel advisories for the State of Florida.

I wanted to find out more and am thrilled to introduce you to Brandon Wolf, the Press Secretary of Equality Florida.

In April 2023, Brandon’s organization, Equality Florida warned against traveling to the state of Florida for folks in the LGBTQ+ community saying it could be risky and potentially unsafe. The warning says: “Taken in their totality, Florida’s slate of laws and policies targeting basic freedoms and rights pose a serious risk to the health and safety of those traveling to the state.”
The League of United Latin American Citizens issued its own warning, saying bluntly: “Traveling to Florida is dangerous.” The advisory goes on to say travel in Florida “can be unsafe for people of color, individuals who speak with an accent, and international travelers,” and people in those groups could face “a heightened risk of harassment, possible detainment, and potential family separation based on racial profiling.”

From the New York Times: The NAACP became the latest to issue a travel advisory to the Sunshine State, warning that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s “aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools” have turned the state into an openly hostile place for people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.”

The Empowerment Podcast – Episode 46

Denial, Safety, and Empowerment – If we’re gonna talk about Empowerment Self Defense, we have to talk about denial. When talking with survivors of sexual assault and survivors of other types of relational violence it is common to hear that the survivor had a funny feeling something was wrong but then doubted themselves or rationalized or minimized their intuition and flat out ignored it. This is called denial.

Denial can put us at risk and because of that, breaking through denial in all the ways it manifests in our lives keeps us safer. Period. Looking at and talking about denial is directly connected to empowerment self-defense AND to our safety as we walk through the world.

The Empowerment Podcast – Episode 45

Meet Jill Shames, Empowerment Self Defense Instructor. Listen in as she and host, Silvia Smart, share a few self-defense success stories and talk about all the things the survivors did RIGHT! Find out why they recommend a perspective shift as you think through your own experiences! You are strong and powerful and Jill and Silvia believe in you!

The Empowerment Podcast – Episode 44

Meet Lauren Taylor who has been working to end gender-based violence since 1978, when she co-founded Washington, D.C.’s first shelter for abused women. As an empowerment self-defense teacher and founder-director of Defend Yourself, she’s trained more than 35,000 people in the D.C. area and elsewhere in the U.S. She’s also trained dozens of trainers around the country and around the world.

Join us as we find out more about Lauren and what makes her tick. Learn about the book she co-authored with Nadia Telsey, which will be published in the fall! Importantly, follow the links here to learn how to pre-order the book and support this important work!

The Empowerment Podcast – Episode 43

I Survived a Cult
Join host Silvia Smart as she shares pieces of her journey to empowerment and survival from a cult-like martial arts system. Listen to the red flags that crop up around these dysfunctional and sometimes dangerous systems and people.

Cults and charismatic leaders with ill intent are everywhere – Qanon, NXIVM, Scientology, and The Children of God, are just a few examples. Cults and narcissistic, manipulative, and sociopathic leaders exist within conspiratorial cultures, churches, and spiritual groups. People get stuck in these systems – especially when they are vulnerable. Learn the signs so you can protect yourself and stay safe.

Audio Transcription


This podcast is brought to you by the empowerment project.

Research proves that empowerment self-defense training makes you safer period. I want you to have a great self-defense toolkit so you can create strong boundaries, speak with confidence, and take up all the space that you deserve in the world.

We’ll hear stories from survivors and find out what worked for them and why. We’ll interview leaders in the field and talk about tips, concepts, and really easy things that you can do to make yourself safer and interrupt the cycle of violence.

I’ve taught self-defense classes for over 30 years and I promise to teach you everything I know!

Ultimately, I’m going to want you to get some in-person training, but a great empowerment self-defense class is more than just the physical skills. The list of things I want to teach you is endless, so let’s get to it.

My name is Silvia Smart, and welcome to the empowerment project.

I’m so glad you’re here! Welcome.

Hey hello! Welcome back!

In this episode, we will shine a spotlight on the concept of preparation and planning because it is the secret code to unleashing your empowerment and I want you to have it. There is a question I get asked all the time and I figure you might be wondering about it too, so we’ll break that down. Of course, we also have a couple of stories – one is an account of a traveler who finds themselves lost – that’s happened to me, has it happened to you? The other is an eye opener I learned at an FBI training on surviving an active shooter scenario.

You ready? OK, let’s go!

I get asked this all the time and so I wonder if you are thinking about it too? “Doesn’t a self-defense class just make you paranoid? More scared? More fearful?”

My answer is always – It DEPENDS!!!!

You can invest your time and energy into an empowerment self-defense class, in which case, my answer is that on the contrary, far from becoming paranoid, you’ll have less fear! That’s the empowerment part. But there are other programs out there and I want you to know the difference so you can be a smart consumer.

There are self-defense programs – that may even use the term “empowerment” in their name, by the way, – which are more of an Anti-Rape Aggression style or genre. These are often taught by people with military, law enforcement or martial arts backgrounds who believe that teaching you physical skills is all it takes. These programs tend to market to your fear, and yes, participants leave feeling more scared.

If you remember, in my quest to be good at what I do, I’ve participated in lots of classes over the years. I’ve researched what is out there and who is teaching what. I do NOT recommend these fear-based, aggression-based, martial-style classes!

These programs focus on the scariest stuff, the stuff on the more violent end of the continuum, the stuff that you and I know is actually least likely to happen to you. They perpetuate the myths about how sexual assault and violence actually happen. Participants often feel condescended to. The only prevention offered comes by way of laying down strict rules “don’t do this, do that. Never do this, Always do that”. What this does is reinforce the bullshit story that the victim is to blame for the assault. “Follow these rules if you don’t want to be a victim! If you are – or were – a victim of an assault, you probably didn’t follow the rules!” is basically the message.

Like I said, these classes tend to focus on the physical only, and so they teach relatively complex moves which, while being impressive, incredible, even, might not be the most practical techniques in real life for a non-martial artist/non- military trained-person.

By the way, I have heard many times from people who have taken these types of courses that because the moves were so complicated, they struggled to remember what to do in the moment when the moves were most needed.

So YES, this type of class can definitely leave its participants feeling more vulnerable, more scared, and honestly, more helpless than when they walked in! 

However, EMPOWERMENT self-defense classes give you a life-changing gift: LESS FEAR and MORE FREEDOM!


  • Classes are taught by people who understand trauma and the challenges of being a person who is vulnerable to sexual assault and violence. Instructors are comfortable with any emotions that might come up and we don’t traffic on your fear.
  • Empowerment classes separate fiction and myths from actual facts. When you are operating with reality-based information, you can make real choices and keep yourself safer!
  • Speaking of choices, an empowerment self-defense class is not going to give you rules and regulations to follow and by doing so, narrow your life down to a list of “do’s and don’t’s”. Instead, the focus is on giving you real information, easy tools, and choices, lots of choices. YOU get to be in charge of your life. YOU get to decide what is right for YOU!
  • An empowerment self-defense class will never blame the victim. And will never use the victim-blaming stories or tactics to present the information to you, to scare you or shame you into doing what they tell you to do.
  • You will be respected as you should be, not condescended to.
  • You will learn way more than just physical skills. You will learn about the way sexual assault and violence really work. You’ll be taught to identify perpetrator behaviors early on so you can make choices to keep yourself safer right from the beginning. Not only does this put you at less risk, but it allows you the autonomy to make choices in the moment based on your knowledge, strength, and resources.
  • In an empowerment class, you’ll learn how to use your voice and verbal self-defense techniques that will change your life and empower you for EVER!
  • The physical tools you learn and practice in an empowerment class are practical and simple. They are easy to remember. Easy to do. YOU can do them! You don’t have to train martial arts, have a certain build or body size, be athletic or coordinated to know how to kick someone’s ass. Period. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
  • You’ll be taught how to manage your adrenaline. How to breathe through a freeze. How to stay calm in a situation that is scary.
  • Your strengths will be identified and your power will be unleashed.
  • An empowerment self-defense class opens UP your world and sends you back out into it with more confidence than you had when you walked in and a deeper belief that YOU ARE LIMITLESS!

Before you take a class, you’ll probably want to ask some questions. Be a good consumer. Find out about the instructor and what you’ll learn in the course. Observe the marketing. Ask for references. Seriously. If you are going to invest your time and energy into a class, I want you to get the best.

By the way, here is a plug for the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation – the NWMAF. This organization has identified the specific differences between the types of self-defense classes we’ve just been talking about and have created a program to certify instructors who teach EMPOWERMENT SELF DEFENSE. They post these programs, schools, and instructors on their website so anyone can find them.

Check out the NWMAF website to find out what classes are happening where you live.

OKAY, let’s Talk about Preparation and Planning.

Self Defense Story

But first, the self-defense story!

A young adult traveler got lost. They were trying to find their way home after a long day out and about in a new country/new city. Their knowledge of the local language was fairly rudimentary and their understanding of local customs and practices was fairly new. They decided to ask a passerby for help getting back to their hotel.

By using non-verbal cues, and a combination of English mixed with a few local words, the hero of our story was able, they thought, to get their message conveyed. The passerby crooked their finger signaling “follow me”. And so they walked.

But it was weird. Something was off. They were being led away from the direction they thought they were supposed to be going in. Hunh? And as they walked, there were fewer and fewer people. The crowds continued to thin out as late afternoon turned to dusk.

Up ahead, was a tunnel. It looked long and very very dark. The tunnel got closer and closer. Darker and longer. There were fewer and fewer people.

What to do? As the story was told to me, the nerves were kicking in. The breath halting. The mind racing. The fear building. Should I be rude? What if I offend this person helping me?

What would you do? Think about it. What are your options? (By the way, what I’m doing here is setting you up to do some planning and preparation. See how sneaky I am?)

But seriously, it’s this simple! Just think it through…if this were you, if you found yourself in this exact situation, what choices would you have and what do you think you could do to get out of it?

You know I’m going to tell you how this story ends. Just not for a couple more minutes because the ending of this story is going to illustrate my point. My point is that planning and preparation can change the course of your life! Planning and preparation, far from making you more paranoid and scared actually free you up to make choices when the going gets rough and you feel your adrenaline starting to course through your body.

First, Another Story. This One About Fire Drills!

I was in an FBI presentation/training about responding to an Active Shooter Scenario when I first heard this story. I have used it ever since to illustrate how Empowerment Self-defense Training works. This is the secret code I promised you! The one that unleashes your empowerment! 

  • Long ago schools across the country were heated by old boilers etc. There were live flames in schools!
  • There were always lots of fires. Buildings burned down. Children and teachers died.
  • In 1958 there was a huge school fire – 200+ children and teachers killed in Chicago
  • In 1959 Congress enacted the Fire Drill Law
  • Every month, across the country since then, we all participate in Fire Drills! You follow the person in front of you, head down the hall, down the stairs, etc. 
  • You practice when you are calm when you have no skin in the game
  • And then, when it’s scary, you can’t see, you smell smoke, can’t breathe, hear sirens, people screaming, your heart is racing, etc…you KNOW WHAT TO DO!
  • Since 1959 only 1 person has died in a school fire!

This is exactly how ANY kind of training works! Not just fire drills, but CPR too, for example, and YES! Self-defense! You practice it when you are calm. You do it when you are with other people, maybe in a casual setting, when you are kind of relaxed. And you practice, you build your muscle memory, you think through scenarios and you learn easy things you can do to stay safe or to keep others safe.

Like fire drills, like CPR, like first aid, for goodness sakes, like knowing how to swim so you stay safe when you’re around water…empowerment self-defense is a life skill. It could save your life. It could save the life of your kid. So why is it not taught every year at every grade level in every public school across the country? Does that make sense to you?

I’m digressing, sorry…

Preparation and planning: It’s not at all about being paranoid or more fearful. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. It just means you have the knowledge, information and skills tucked away in your back pocket in case you ever need them.

The end result is that you live with less fear because

  1. you aren’t frightened unnecessarily about things that likely won’t ever happen to you,
  2. you trust yourself and your body to alert you if something’s wrong and
  3. you know you can handle yourself if you have to!



What Does it Mean to Plan and Prepare?

First, you take an empowerment self-defense class. Just make it happen. OK? Just get it done. You’ll be so glad you did! Go to the NWMAF website and find a program near you. And keep listening to this podcast!

Second. Become a life learner about this stuff. “Life on life’s terms” means we keep our eyes open and see and feel what is actually happening in our society, in our communities, and in our own lives.

  • Read, watch, and listen to the news with a critical eye and ear. The media is always going to pick the most dramatic stories. But remember that stranger assaults, violent stranger assaults, are the situations least likely to happen. But hey, they get viewers/readers and sell advertising slots. Take those stories seriously, but keep them in perspective.
  • Keep listening to this podcast. Here, you’ll get information and facts about what sexual assault and violence really looks like so you can identify it and respond to it while you are still in the prevention stage. You’ll hear from lots of experts in the field who will share with you everything they know.
  • Use your sleuthing brain. Listen to podcasts like “Crime Junkie” I love that one! Listen to “Dirty John” by Wondery. Notice the patterns. The ways the perpetrators set up and groom their victims.
  • Go to my website, nagacommunity.com, and look for the resources tab. Go to the blog section and dig around. You’ll find lots of good information about empowerment, self-defense, and sexual assault, and violence.
  • Read books! I think I’ve mentioned “Missoula” by Johnathan Krakauer about sexual assault on college campuses and Chanel Miller’s book “Know My Name”. But read others, Read books by Anita Hill, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker.
  • Speaking of books, Go to our FB Group: The Empowerment Project Community and scroll through the posts. You’ll find links to information and lists of good books to read.
  • Watch documentaries. Here’s what I mean. Use your critical eye… Take the documentary about Jeffrey Epstein called “Filthy Rich”. It unfolds through the eyes of the survivors and as you watch, look for all the ways Epstein and his sidekick, Ghislaine Maxwell, groomed, manipulated, and abused these girls and young women. And watch for all the powerful and wealthy people who are implicated. Use this as a way to become more aware of how sexual predators work. And watch how powerful and strong the survivors are as they speak up and speak out about what happened to them!
  • If you are in school, take classes the are gonna expand your knowledge about power dynamics in our society. When you get the chance to do research projects or papers, choose topics like relationship violence, gender, and power, how rape is handled by your local law enforcement agency. Interview people! Start digging around! Become an expert in your own right!
  • And please post what you find on our FB group too, by the way! Let the rest of us know! We’d love to see what you are learning!

Besides being a critical thinker and unleashing your inner detective, in other words, besides having good information that goes well beyond the drama you see in movies and hear about in the news, let’s talk about planning!

What Do I Mean?

  • If you are going into a situation that has you concerned.
  • If you are confronted by someone at work who regularly makes you feel uncomfortable
  • If you are going on a date with an unknown or relatively unknown person
  • If you have a family member that frequently gives you the creeps
  • ANY of these situations and more – make a plan!

Think it through! It’s your life, your end game, your goals for yourself, and your choices. Just think it through. Ask yourself:

  • What message do I want to communicate?
  • How can I keep myself safe?
  • Who are people who will support me as I work through this?
  • Who would be willing to talk with me about this and think it through with me?
  • Who would be willing to role play this with me?
  • What steps do I need to take to make this happen?
  • Is there a possibility of retribution?
  • If so, how do I keep myself safe?
  • Is there someone who would stand with me while I do this as a silent supporter?
  • Who can I check in with when I’ve done this. Who can I debrief with?
  • Who will celebrate with me?

And then, make a plan! Practice and prepare! That’s it. It’s THIS SIMPLE!

End of Our Success Story

As you recall, the sky is getting duskier, there are fewer people around and the long dark tunnel is looming. The heart is pounding and our hero is asking “what should I do” when all the practicing and planning they’d done for the previous year kicked in. All of a sudden it hit them that they knew exactly what they should do!

 And they stopped. Just stopped and said, “NO!” “NO, I’m not going to follow you!” They took a deep breath feeling relieved that they were responding to the moment. The guide swiftly turned around and using both their hands, grabbed our hero’s wrist and started pulling them toward the tunnel. “NO!” they yelled. And they did a very simple release that was embedded in their muscle memory. With their arm free, they turned and ran and didn’t look back until they were in a more crowded location that felt safer.

Practice and preparation.

Our hero actually trained the same martial art I do, which is how I came to hear their story. When this situation takes place, they’d trained less than a year. Our art is based in self-defense and getting out of all sorts of different grabs – along with other stuff like chokes and holds – is par for the course. Two or three times a week for the past few months, our hero had practiced this exact release dozens, maybe hundreds of times. Muscle memory kicks in when your mind falters or goes blank. That’s how it works. That is practice. That is preparation. 

But remember, you don’t have to train a martial art to get the benefits of muscle memory. You are going to do a lot of repetition in any empowerment self-defense class. And your moves will be simple and effective.

And again, just like fire drills and CPR classes, don’t just take one. Take an empowerment self-defense class every year! This is a great life skill. Take a class yourself and get your kids into one too. Just get started so you can get your muscle memory kicking in now!

If planning and preparation are the secret codes to unlocking our empowerment, ask yourself, “do I have any situations going on in my life that feel unsafe or that concern me? If so, How am I going to think about them, think through them and make a plan to empower myself and make myself safer?”

Think about it. Consider it carefully. Talk about it with friends. With your therapist. With the family members you feel closest to.

Then, make a plan and prepare yourself to stand in your power and claim your space on planet earth. YOU can do this! We believe in you! I believe in you!

Use our FB group, The Empowerment Project Community as a resource! Ask questions, let us help you think through your situation, and plan and prepare! It’s what we do! Tell us your success stories so we can all cheer for you! Find us, (don’t forget to answer the questions!) and then jump on in! The moderators are all empowerment self-defense instructors and that combined with the amazing people in this group is a power pack of awesomeness, information, and support!

Thanks for listening and see you next time!

Wrap Up

And it’s affirmation time. This is how I end every self-defense class. It’s kind of cheesy, but it’s very cool. And this is how it works. We’re going to do like a little call and response. If you can say this out loud. If you can repeat after me, do it because it’s important, I think, for you to hear your own voice. But if you can’t, like if you’re on a crowded subway or someplace where It’s embarrassing, don’t worry, you can also just say it inside your head. Okay, so I’m going to say something and you’re going to repeat it after me. I’m going to give you space to do that. And at the end, we’re going to say “YES”! Here we go.

Repeat after me.

I am worth protecting.

I love myself.

I belong.

I deserve to take up space on planet Earth.

I am a strong and powerful person.


And hey, as a wrap up, will you do me a favor? Will you do all the things that you do when there’s a podcast like, will you tell your friends, will you subscribe? Will you come back each week? Communicate with me? Review this podcast? Will you please do all the things to help get more bandwidth, help more people find out about this podcast? That would be super awesome!

Take a deep breath. You are amazing. Thank you for being with me. See you next time.