BI workshops teach empowerment, self defense

Self-defense classes have been around for decades, and the idea is simple — to teach women how to better physically handle dangerous situations.

But there’s a missing link between having the physical ability to handle anything and having the self-worth mentally to put that ability into action. And that’s the idea behind a series of workshops being held on Bainbridge Island.

Be Bold Be Brave, which bills itself as “Self-defense from the inside out,” is run by two island residents, Dr. Allison Kress, a nationally recognized clinical psychologist and Master Steph Aduddell, a marital arts teacher and fourth-degree Tae Kwon Do black belt, who runs Pacific Fusion Martial Arts.

The genesis of the workshops comes from one of Aduddell’s often-repeated sayings to her students, “All the physical self-defense training in the world won’t make a difference unless you feel worth defending.”

Kress, whose daughter is a student of Aduddell’s, heard that mantra and realized it was the perfect concept to apply to her work.

“That’s exactly what I do by helping women turn personal challenges into opportunities for self-discovery and empowerment,” Kress said.

It was at that moment that Be Bold Be Brave was born — a holistic approach to personal empowerment that addresses the whole person mentally, physically and spiritually. And the skills are transferable to every aspect of life — the classroom, personal relationships, athletic fields and the business world — regardless of age.

Be Bold Be Brave has workshops for women of all different age groups, including middle and high school, college and adults. The workshops are age-appropriate and tailored to each group’s unique set of needs. Workshops for adults also include fun activities, such as tapas and wine-tasting.

The next workshop will take place Sept. 25 at Pacific Fusion Martial Arts and is geared toward middle school girls.

A typical day starts with attendees receiving a swag bag, and then the group gathers to do an ice-breaker and get to know one another.

Kress will then lead the group, first working on internal empowerment and weaving in concepts such as self-defense and assertiveness. Workshops typically have a guest speaker as well as group work and will cover different topics. For example, Courtney Oliver of Bainbridge Youth Services joined a previous workshop with teenage girls to discuss dating, boundary setting and sexual assault.

Be Bold Be Brave also features a question-and-answer panel so that younger girls can ask older ones about things they wish they knew at their age. A workshop for middle schoolers will feature high school girls, for example.

Although the topics are heavy and treated with seriousness, the workshop is intended to leave students feeling positive and uplifted rather than weighed down. “We want people leaving feeling like they’re on top of the world,” Kress said.

After lunch, the physical work begins with Master Aduddell. Students get to write on one side of the board something they find personally challenging, whether it’s in their own life or a problem going on in the world. “It’s a huge hit,” Aduddell said. “We found they had some amazing topics to discuss at that point.”

On the flip side, they write down what they hope to get out of the workshop and what possibilities might be opened up. “We break those boards we worked on,” Aduddell said, “and we leave there incredibly empowered, hopefully, really working on that internal gut response.”

The teaming of Kress and Aduddell is a natural one for both women. Kress has over 20 years of clinical practice experience and has led many female-focused therapy groups and presented a number of larger presentations for schools, parents and professionals. Aduddell, in addition to teaching martial arts, fills her classes with lessons about goal-setting, self-actualization and life skills.

Their respective areas of expertise combine perfectly. “I can dig into the physical,” Aduddell said. “Allison can dig in on where we are at emotionally during thee times and how we empower ourselves during those times.”

The two women said they have built an excellent personal and professional relationship based upon mutual respect. Kress referred to Aduddell as “a powerhouse” as a role model, and the feeling is mutual. “If your kids aren’t with you, you want them with Steph and her husband,” Kress said.

The workshops are staffed with volunteers who assist and get to participate as well.

Also joining Be Bold Be Brave is intern Audrey Measer, a Bainbridge High School graduate and senior at Gonzaga University. Measer, who is majoring in public relations, said she was fortunate to find Be Bold Be Brave.

“It took me about five minutes to know this is really special,” Measer said. “I want to spend time connecting with these two women and my home community.”

To register, visit Another workshop for high school girls, “Be Boundless,” will take place Oct. 23, followed by “Rising Strong” for middle schoolers Nov. 6 and “Safe in the City” for adult women Nov. 13.

Students gather to write challenges on their boards before learning how to break them - a popular activity at the workshops. (Contributed photo)

Students gather to write challenges on their boards before learning how to break them – a popular activity at the workshops. (Contributed photo)

Each workshop takes place at Pacific Fusion Martial Arts on Bainbridge Island. (Contributed photo)

Each workshop takes place at Pacific Fusion Martial Arts on Bainbridge Island. (Contributed photo)