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Born to Be a Badass

Apr 27, 2020

Amy Stewart Cooper, born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, has trained on and off in the martial arts for 25 years. Those arts include Taekwondo, Chinese Kenpo, Kajukenbo (hard and soft style), Tai Chi, Aikido, Okinawan Kempo, Kobudo, and no-gi Jiu-Jitsu. 

Since graduating from San Jose State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Amy has worked as a photographer, a receptionist at a veterinary hospital, a behavioral therapist, and an art teacher for developmentally disabled adults. She now owns a restaurant with her husband and a self-defense business with her sensei, and travels across the country to attend Self-Defense Conferences with other self-defense teachers. 

Amy’s been married for almost 30 years and has two boys who are now in college. 


In this episode, Amy and I discuss:

  • How the areas of martial arts Amy practices and teaches bring different elements together to serve for well-rounded self-defense.
  • The real-life experience of trying to figure out how to defend herself in the middle of an attack, which spurred Amy’s passion for women’s self-defense.
  • The soft skills of avoiding becoming a target, versus the physical hard skills of self-defense. 
  • The essential and empowering practice of respecting boundaries when teaching women’s self-defense.


Key Takeaways:

  • Martial arts and self-defense are complementary, but not equal. Much of self-defense is about avoiding becoming a target and responding to conflict in situationally appropriate ways.
  • Having compassion and curiosity about someone’s reaction, rather than assuming there’s something wrong with them can help diffuse or even avoid conflict.
  • Practicing situational awareness is not about being paranoid, it’s about noticing things that are different around you, which more often than not, enhances your life experience.
  • Embracing who you are, and being happy and confident are the best things you can do to avoid being a target.


"Self defense is life enhancement. The things that we do to protect ourselves, to be a hard target, make our lives better on a daily basis anyway. Know your own boundaries, be able to enforce them. Practice situational awareness, understanding what's around you, in a way that's not paranoid. And then trust your gut. Always trust your gut." —  Amy Stewart Cooper


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