"Women need to hit shit."
Christophe Clarke, known as Master Clarke, is the mind behind a modern wave of feminist butt-kicking, reminiscent of the women-led Take Back the Night movement, which empowered women to fight back against men who attack them. One big difference: Clarke is a man.
He calls his class Women Learn to Kick Ass and says, "It’s not defensive. It’s not self-defense. It’s self-offense. Women aren’t victims."
Clarke, who grew up in Denver, spent years traveling, teaching tai chi in Australia and garnering two Olympic wins in 1989 and 1996. Back in Denver, he is resurrecting his Women Learn to Kick Ass tai chi workshop at Rocky Mountain Movement.
Westword sat down with Clarke to talk about what to expect at the workshop, how women can own their power, and repentance for recovering assholes.
Westword: How long have you lived in Denver?
Master Clarke: I came here when I was on the U.S. Olympic team, and I got hired by the Broncos to work with them on visualization. You say you're from Colorado; everybody loves Colorado. The Broncos were working with kung fu. That's why I stayed close to Denver. So I worked with them for one season, and that actually landed me to making kung fu movies.
Do you display your two Olympic gold medals?
No, I don't. Now, I only display the medals of the students. They are the students' medals, so I'm just a coach that trains other athletes.
Why do you use the term "self-offense" as opposed to "self-defense"?
Self-defense is saying you're already a victim; self-offense puts you in the driver's seat. The conscious women, women who are thinking they don't want to put themselves in this weak position, Rosy the Riveter — that's the attitude we want to see women embrace. That is self-offense. You're going to attack. You're going to be strong. I'm working with women and children as my primary core base. What we are more than anything is an encouragement-achievement center.
What do we need to know entering the Women Learn to Kick Ass class? Are beginners allowed?
They need to know going in that their mindset has to be power. It doesn't make a difference what you know, as far as being a beginner or your skills. It's all about the mindset. The positive mindset of saying that I’m in charge of my area, my situation, my life. We’re talking women who are going to take total responsibility.
You’re a self-proclaimed former asshole. What can other men learn from you, and how?
I’m going to be vulnerable enough to expose my weakness to other men. Part of our problem as men is we have not learned to forgive ourselves for what we have done. Some men are living in darkness; we try to encourage men and women alike to forgive themselves for their past endeavors.
Have you forgiven yourself?
Absolutely. That's where this work started from, from me coming in tune with myself and saying, hey, look what I did. Look what I've done. But we're solution-based. Both men and women need to do a certain type of healing. Why do you have to tell me? Show me. We want to be proactive.
What do people need to bring to the workshop?
The only thing they need when they come is loose-fitting clothing. We'll provide everything else — the weapons, the techniques. Just come with an open mind and the willingness to receive. I think sharing information is what we're doing. Teaching is pompous. I'm going to share some information in order to help women out of a difficult situation.
Tell me more about the weapons the class incorporates?
It’s a women's assassin class. I want to teach women how to kick serious ass. This is a serious class for women. We're not going to teach you strength. I'm going to introduce you to the strength that you already have. Women are already powerful. We gotta get people out of that victim mode, especially for single women. For women who walk home alone, hiking, no matter what you're doing, you will feel safe.
These are going to be lethal attacks. They will be legal, but lethal. Like, "I'm going to take you out."
This is not something I would share with men. I work with the FBI, and the things that I show law enforcement are not what I teach anyone else, and it's the same concept. I share these techniques and things with women only. This is a women-only situation. No men will be there.
We'll be using a short, fourteen-inch stick that they can carry with them at all times. We want them to know how to use extensions of their hands. I'm not going to teach you how to punch a guy in his face. I'm going to teach them where to strike — the soft spots on the person's body that can't be developed, the pressure points.
Why have you dedicated your life's work, now, to teaching primarily women and children tai chi?
This is my repentance. What women can learn from a recovering asshole. Men, we have to step up and learn to listen, learn to be better, to understand the emotions of women. I think that we are detached from that part of ourselves. We need it to repair the relationship of men and women. Women produce men. Why are women thinking they're weak? Women produce all of the strength. My mother produced me, so how could a woman be weak? That's impossible. The concept is, we have to understand, women have to understand that they create. They're the mothers of creation. They shouldn't ask for respect; they should demand respect.
What made you want to bring this class to Denver?
The thing is, I started this program Restart. I went to Australia and was teaching in Aus, and it was so well-received there. When I came back, I said a lot of people really appreciated the idea of self-offense. Conscious women do self-offense. Conscious women are not going to put themselves in the victim position. To be conscious is to be aware, to be in tune, to be present — that’s conscious.
Women are amazing. Step up to yourself. There's no stepping down. Victim mode is inappropriate. Own your strength; stand up for yourself. But this "No means no" concept isn't it. Your look says no. Your presence should say no. Your presence should define who you are. Men are not inherently bad. Men are not the enemy. Men need to be understood and dealt with appropriately. Again, teaching women to own their power.
Can you tell me more about the Women's Black Belt Movement?
Women need to hit shit. Women need to scream and punch and hit shit, to release the stress.
It's hot. Women's Black Belt Academy exists to help women "break through your stuff," so to speak. This is the new thing; we want to create a movement. A black belt club that follows this Women Learn to Kick Ass workshop so that women would be able to continue the program. One class isn't going to put your mind in the right space; this has to be something that you practice. Which is why I created the all-women's black-belt club. They all get a black belt. All of them. That's the uniform — blue with black belts. They wear this uniform because it shows the unity of a team.
For other women to get involved, it's inexpensive, so we can grow it. It's going to be a positive movement for women to own their power. One of my students, the first thing she did after breaking through the three layers of wood, I made her break through all the crap. I made her write it down, and she broke through it, literally.
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I understand you started a men's group called Evolution Gents. Tell me more about this?
Girls can send their boyfriends to this class. It's powerful, because we are being honest. I develop friendships and get to the truth. How can we treat women better? How can we say thank you for the work they've done? Appreciation. I want to be appreciated. We talk about appreciation. Honey, I need that validation, too. I still believe in men and women.
Men need to make themselves better. I say, simply, "No you're better than that." Instead of saying, "You fucking asshole; you piece of shit," I think you can show a higher level of being a man. Step up, brother. Step up. You’re better than that. I know things have changed. But I still believe in the power of men and women. I think it's still there. I think that men and women still have a chance. Communication is key. We want to move together. A synergy of conscious men and conscious women. The guys I'm working with, I'm creating better men to provide for these women. The good-man factory.
The next Women Learn to Kick Ass workshop will be held on Saturday, March 18, from noon until 4 p.m. at 4380 South Federal Boulevard in Englewood. Tickets are $29, and as of this writing, the workshop still has space available.