It's about to be a new year, and this brand new feature on our website is part of one of our main resolutions here at Warrior Sisters: to provide more opportunities for our supporters to get to know the women who get this work done. We're starting off strong by introducing Hetal Sheth, founding member of our NYC chapter and all-around badass. Enjoy!
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a third year Psychiatry Resident in Bronx, NY. From an early age, I have been motivated by a drive to ameliorate social injustice and in particular was drawn to women's issues. As a medical student I was politicized and became involved in various projects. I started to learn that the various women's issues that I was passionate about were all related. I recognized that violence against women manifested on a small to large scale and all of these manifestations were connected to larger systems. I pursued Psychiatry because I felt that it would be the best intersection of social justice and medicine. As a Psychiatrist I plan on working with women and girls who have been prostituted and trafficked.
What made you want to get involved with Warrior Sisters?
I became involved with Warrior Sisters several years ago and began teaching classes about a year ago. I was blown away by the philosophy and intention of this grassroots organization. The classes take a holistic approach and recognize that violence against women occurs on a spectrum and we need a diversity of tools in order to tackle this spectrum. Women and girls in this society have been conditioned to be small, to be passive and subservient. Seeing the participants in the classes break out of that conditioning is a powerful process to witness. They are able to do this through the discussions we have, the role plays we enact and the verbal and physical self-defense they learn.
What background, if any, did you have in self-defense when you got started?
Before starting Warrior Sisters, I trained in Krav Maga for about a year. When I started teaching Warrior Sister classes, I was not an expert martial artist. However I knew enough to be able to defend myself and to teach others how to do so as well. Another aspect of WS that I really appreciated is the emphasis that any women and girl can learn how to defend themselves. You do not have to be an expert to do so. In fact, what we find is that most participants have already defended themselves in one form or another. In our classes, we recognize the skills and knowledge that our participants come in with and we build on that.
Which is your favorite tenet of the WS statement of principles, and why?
I love that we explicitly prioritize trauma-informed training. The teaching of self-defense to women too often occurs in male dominated spaces that are not sensitive to the trauma that women are generally coming in with. Warrior Sisters works to create safe spaces for women to learn how to defend themselves on all levels of their experience. These classes take a trauma informed approach and are sensitive to the experiences that participants are bringing in. The essence of trauma is a loss of control; these classes help women to take back control in many different ways.
Tell us about a woman who inspires you.
I have been inspired by all the participants who come to our classes. There's an incredible diversity of women and girls that have come to our classes and each and every one has something important to contribute to the group. It’s an incredible process to see women tap into their latent power and open up in ways they couldn't even have imagined.
Tell us about your favorite self-defense drill or technique you’ve used in a WS class.
We usually start class with a warm up where the participants run around each other and try to tap shoulders or knees. This sets the mood for the rest of the class by creating a light, safe and playful environment. The energy of the room shifts in a dramatic way and the participants are relaxed and alert. My favorite exercise is when we teach how to use our voices as a strike. We go through this process several times and it is amazing to see the participants shocked by the power of their voice. The most common statement we hear after this exercise is, "I didn't know I could use my voice in this way!"
What has your work with WS been like?
Being a part of Warrior Sisters has been a transformational experience for me. It is encouraging to see women and girls come together to learn how to defend themselves and each other. The deeper message that participants come away with is that we are stronger when we are working together and as a collective we can end systemic violence against women. I am thankful to be a part of this amazing organization that is doing exactly that.