Aaron Mikail / SMDP Intern
Jennifer Cassetta is an author, empowerment coach, self-defense expert and a proud Santa Monica resident. Jennifer is also the author of the new book, The Art of Badassery: Unleash Your Mojo with Wisdom of the Dojo
What inspired you to begin such a unique career?
Twenty-two years ago I stepped into a martial arts school in New York City and fell completely in love. I trained in a martial art called Hapkido and within a few months, I started to feel stronger in my mind and body and more purposeful than ever. It was like I found my home. Later that year, on September 11th, 2001, I found myself running through the ashes three blocks south of the World Trade Center. After looking for shelter for hours, I finally made my way to the dojo (martial arts studio) where I felt safe for the first time.
That dojo became my refuge and the place I wanted to spend more and more time. So, I dove deep into my training, became a personal trainer and over the years added more credentials to my health coaching career. After ten years I moved to Los Angeles with my third-degree black belt, Masters degree in Nutrition, health coaching certification and a dream of spreading my mission of helping more people feel strong, safe and powerful from the streets to the boardroom. I began public speaking and weaving in the wisdom of martial arts into everything I taught whether it be self-defense, wellness or self-empowerment.
Why is it essential to empower yourself?
The short and blunt answer is, that nobody is going to do it for you. You can listen to all of the motivational speakers, read all the books, but if you don’t put it all into practice in your life, “on the mat”, then it’s just words. By empowering yourself, you gain a sturdiness, a steadiness, an unshakeable force within that NOBODY and NOTHING can take away from you.
What roles do self-defense and Martial Arts play in your life?
Martial arts has taught me so many lessons, many of them laid out in the book. On a daily basis, discipline is a practice that martial arts has helped instill in my life. I’m disciplined in my self-care that includes nutrition, exercise and sleep. I’m disciplined in my dedication to lifelong learning. And I’m always working on being a disciplined solopreneur (still a work in progress!).
What is the connection between confidence and self-defense? Are these two concepts interrelated?
Yes indeed! When you know how to avoid danger when possible and how to protect yourself if needed, you move through the world differently. You exude confidence which in of itself, can deter predatory behavior. Your body language speaks on your behalf before your voice does and self-defense teaches you to carry yourself in a way that communicates alertness and readiness. Self-defense teaches you to use your voice in a powerful way to set boundaries and stick up for yourself, which both takes confidence as well as enhances it.
How should individuals respond to adversity?
I don’t believe there’s any one way to respond to adversity. Personal choice is our greatest gift. In the book, I give women choices on how to respond when verbally attacked, put down or doubted. Remember too, that sometimes our greatest opponents are not other people, but actually our own self-doubt. That’s why I guide readers through exercises that help build resilience by “embracing the suck” and “rolling with the punches” as well as mastering our own inner voice.
What inspired you to write a book?
I wrote the Art of Badassery because I was tired of hearing stories of women being taken advantage of, manipulated, controlled, overlooked for a deserved promotion, verbally, mentally or physically abused. After teaching self-defense for 20 years, I could write a book on those stories alone. But instead, I wanted to write a book to help women face those difficult challenges, avoid them if possible and give them tools to deal with them when they are unavoidable.
I use martial arts as a framework for self-empowerment, but by no means do you need to run to the nearest dojo to sign up for martial arts classes. The lessons in the book are all about developing inner strength, not punches and kicks. I’ll share strategies that I learned “from the mat”, that will help you develop resilience, get back up after you’ve been knocked down, block negativity, use your voice powerfully, practice radical self-care, listen to your intuition and most importantly, how to be a fierce leader in your community.
What is a final piece of advice for women living in today’s world?
I love living in Santa Monica and think it is an idyllic place to live. The palm trees, the sand, the $7 oat milk lattes, I mean, what’s not to love? At the same time, it’s important not to let the beauty of the area allow us to let our guard down. Taking proper precautions when you’re out and about like practicing situational awareness is still imperative as well as basic home safety skills. Be aware of the crime that’s happening (no matter where you live) and live with compassion for our neighbors. We can look out for ourselves and our community members. We can be safe and enjoy our surroundings. We can do both!
The book is available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Art-Badassery-Unleash-Your-Wisdom/