NYTW is thrilled to expand our partnership with The Center for Anti-Violence Education (CAE) to include Empowerment Self-Defense classes during the run of How To Defend Yourself. Want to learn more about self-defense or unsure of what to expect? We chatted with Rae Switlick, Empowerment Self Defense Program Manager for CAE (and one of the trainers for the Self-Defense classes at NYTW), about her experience with self defense and all the amazing work that CAE does!
How did you begin teaching self-defense?
I moved to New York to pursue dance. In an effort to research movement for a duet I was working on, I purchased a month long trial at a Krav Maga studio. The movements were relatively easy to adjust to coming from a modern dance and non traditional partnering practice. Something about the mentality behind the training really struck me. The idea that I was maintaining my peace by accessing my strength shifted how I saw myself and completely changed the way I move through the world. I made a rather bold decision to drop everything and start training as much as I could, taking a job at the studio to have access to as many classes as possible. After a brief hiatus to complete my MA in Performance & Culture, I returned to the practice, more informed on how self defense fits into a broader societal context. It seemed natural to train to become an instructor and start sharing the empowerment I felt with others.
Who participates in your self-defense workshops?
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to train a wide range of lovely individuals, varying in demographics, lived experiences, and bodies. In my opinion, good self defense programming should focus on what is most practical and relevant for each person’s needs and abilities. This approach allows for people to focus on what they can do, building on the strength they already have. I try my best to maintain a space where everyone looking to work towards a safer world feels welcome and supported. At CAE, we try to focus on those in our communities at a high risk of violence, but offerings are open to all!
Do I have to pay to participate in CAE programs?
No! We have a virtual monthly physical practice and other opportunities open and free to the public! We also regularly work with other NYC-based nonprofits to provide accessible offerings for communities across the city and beyond.
What can I expect from a self-defense class with CAE?
CAE uses a holistic, trauma-informed practice. You can expect to explore the topic self defense from preventative measures to physical techniques to after care. Self defense is everything and anything you do to keep yourself safe. We include exercises aligned with current best practices while encouraging participants to focus on what works for them and the way they move through the world. (It’s also a lot of fun!)
What other classes does CAE offer?
CAE offers a range of training topics all centered around an anti-violence perspective: Upstander (bystander intervention), anti-oppression & activism, de-escalation, empowerment self defense, combating sexual violence, non-violent communication, public transit safety, youth programming, and more! They’re all available on our website www.caeny.org
Rae Switlick has been with the Center for Anti-Violence Education since August of 2021 when she joined as Program Manager for Empowerment Self Defense. She is thrilled to further the work of CAE and hopes for a world where freedom of expression, artistic pursuits, and true safety of the most vulnerable among us becomes common place. Rae’s strongest held belief is that every individual should be provided with the agency and access to live a fulfilled life as they so choose, and she loves that CAE provides a space to support that.
Rae provides a holistic approach to self defense, supported by her sociological research for her MA in Performance & Culture at Goldsmiths, University of London and her ongoing support of social justice efforts, particularly in relation to the performing arts. Outside of this work, Rae provides support as the Artist Advocate & Liaison with SHIM: NYC, a safe haven residency program for music artists supported by Tamizdat and the Artistic Freedom Initiative. She also continues to train physical practice clients of all skill levels through her own company, High Kick, LLC. Rae has been teaching physical self defense practices for several years, including the research and development of ENOUGH: Self Defense Practices for the LGBTQ+ Community. In addition to her training and certification as a Krav Maga instructor, her fighting background also includes practice in Muay Thai, Brazilian jujitsu, kickboxing, and an undefeated amateur fight record. Rae holds two additional degrees from The Ohio State University: a BFA in Dance and a BA in English, and has experience working with a range of special populations, ages, and demographics.