Interview with Arming Sisters Founder Patricia Stein-Stonefish

Arming Sisters is a women’s self-defense project developed by Patricia Stein Stonefish (Lakota) a martial artist with a black-belt in Hapkido. LRInspire’s Matt Remle recently interviewed Patricia about the history of Arming Sisters, its future, plans for a documentary film, and more.

Tell us about yourself?

Born in Fargo, North Dakota and raised around the US. I’m mixed Lakota (German / Lakota / Mexica). While my degree is in veterinary science, I’ve traveled around the world as a Jill of a Trades until I started Arming Sisters. Once I started that idea I pulled from a decade of martial arts training (Taekwondo / Hapkido / Gumdo / Self Defense) to bring the classes to life.

Tell us more about Arming Sisters.

Arming Sisters was born out of the 2011 Egyptian revolution. Started with giving compact self defense courses around Cairo, Egypt with my coach and morphed into what it is today. When I arrived back state side in April of 2014 though, I saw just how wrongly women’s self defense was being used. I have yet to find a self defense class for women that isn’t pitched as prevention. I despise that word, and prevention, to be frank, is bullshit. When you pitch women’s self defense as prevention you create an endless cycle of victimization which feeds into the rape culture of today’s media. Huge disconnect. For me, after I was attacked, it was martial arts which brought me back to life. Made me realize that I’m one strong force to be reckoned with…THAT is the basis of Arming Sisters. Using women’s self defense to empower. I believe one of the quickest ways to empower the mind is through physical action. Before OR after an attack. Arming Sisters is about healing. Not preventing.

Arming Sisters workshop

Arming Sisters workshop

Tell us about the Arming Sisters workshops you’ve run already.

We’ve run five workshops thus-far and they’ve gone tremendously well. I’m amazed at the strength our women have, both physically and mentally. As word has spread we’ve gotten great feedback and we’re actually looking at being fully booked in the Northern Prairie until September. Since we’ve started I’ve learned so much from the women I’ve worked with, and in turn grew tremendously myself. Having the opportunity to share our experiences healing, and I can’t wait to see all that’s to come.

Patricia Stein Stonefish teaching self defense class.

Patricia Stein Stonefish teaching self defense class.

Recently we ran a story about the efforts to make a documentary film about Arming Sisters, tell us more about how that came about and how the efforts are coming along.

Willow and Brad contacted me shortly after I arrived from Egypt. At first they wanted to help with promotional videos, but it turned into much more. They saw an opportunity to show a different side of things, a true documentary not painted in a white savior light (my biggest worry…I talked and met with them close to six months before I was sure I could trust them to show things accurately).

Now they’re pushing full steam ahead and I couldn’t be more excited for what’s to come. The plan is they’ll be traveling around with us in the coming months, pulling footage from classes, and the communities. You can learn more about the documentary through their Kickstarter:

Just to be clear, these are two separate projects. Money raised on this Kickstarter goes towards funding their travels, equipment, and time. Not towards Arming Sisters.

What’s next for Arming Sisters and for yourself?

For Arming Sisters? We have big plans. At the moment I’m unsure of whether to make it a permanent establishment in the Northern Plains or keep it on the road. Regardless, as we get our feet under us more and more I plan on training more instructors, and furthering our reach.

 Patricia Stein Stonefish with students.

Patricia Stein Stonefish with students.

For me? Arming Sisters is my passion, and I can’t wait till I can drop the bread winning job to pursue just this. It’s a part of me…and my family. Of course I foresee a couple bushy haired Native babies in the future, and a nice quiet prairie home surrounded by horses and endless hours of the husband and I drinking tea on the porch…but that’s a whole other chapter.

Pilamaya yelo (thanks) for you time.

Interview by: Matt Remle

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