Joan Helson is owner and chief instructor at Sisu Women's Self Defence. In addition to being an empowerment-based self defence teacher, speaker and women's educator, Joan is a professional writer and editor. A dedicated student of the martial arts for over 20 years, she began her training in the Korean martial art of Taekwondo in 1996, earning her black belt in 2001 (Kukkiwon certified, ITA certified). While a senior instructor in Taekwondo, Joan developed programs to bring more women to the martial arts and to teach self defence to adults and youth, a path which led her to the creation of empowerment-based women's self defence programs.
As much as Joan enjoyed the competition opportunities in Taekwondo, she was drawn to the more practical, self defence aspects of the martial arts and started focusing her attention on reality-based training and close quarters defence. In 2002, Joan began cross training the martial art of Chon Tu Kwan Hapkido (Combat Hapkido), a no-nonsense self defence system founded by Grandmaster John Pellegrini, and by 2004 she had left her taekwondo training behind in favour of this system. During a seminar in 2005 that she helped organize on behalf of her home club, Self Defence Canada, Joan was personally awarded a certificate of appreciation by Grandmaster Pellegrini for her dedication to, and promotion of, the Combat Hapkido system in Canada.
Joan founded Sisu Women's Self Defence in 2006 in response to increasing requests for women-only personal safety instruction and fueled by her desire to offer programs that could provide empowerment and education for women and girls. In addition to teaching physical self defence skills, her programs centre on building confidence and self esteem, encouraging healthy relationships and understanding the unique ways in which women may respond to and manage confrontation. Joan earned her black belt in Combat Hapkido in May, 2008, just a few days before her first breast cancer surgery. She attributes her perseverance through cancer treatment to the support of family and friends and the ferocious spirit developed through her martial arts training. Now a 4th degree black belt in Combat Hapkido, she looks forward to training, promoting and advancing in the art.
Joan has been fortunate to continue learning from many talented martial artists, taking whatever chance she can to cross train in defensive-oriented styles of martial arts like Jeet Kune Do, Jiu Jitsu, Krav Maga, Muay Thai and Filipino martial arts. She has attended many training seminars over the years and loves to participate in such opportunities whenever possible. She completed PPCT's Defensive Tactics and Spontaneous Knife Defense certification programs, as well as the ICHF Tactical Pressure Point (Level 1) program and is working toward further certification.
Joan has been invited to share her thoughts on issues of women's safety and empowerment with the media many times, including on CBC television, CTV National and Atlantic news channels, Global News, radio talk shows and newspapers. Her women's self defence programs have been attended by real estate agents, bar staff, teachers, students, hospital staff, small business owners and many others. She has been invited to present workshops in various locations in Atlantic Canada, including invitations by the RCMP, Halifax Regional Police, Halifax Recreation, the Nova Scotia Community College, Alice Housing, Dress for Success, Women Unlimited, Techsploration, Camp Courage, YouthNet, Girl Guides/Pathfinders, numerous public and private schools and many more. In 2013, Joan was honoured to be a recipient of the prestigious Canadian Progress Club Women of Excellence Award for contributions to her community in the area of health, sport and wellness. Joan holds degrees in Psychology and Humanities from the University of Western Ontario and is a best selling non-fiction author (The Ethical Shopper's Guide, Broadview Press, 1992).
Black Belt, 4th degree, Combat (Chon Tu Kwan) Hapkido
Black Belt, 1st degree, Taekwondo (Kukkiwon, ITA)
Certified Senior Instructor, Combat Hapkido (ICHF)
Certified Tactical Pressure Points Apprentice Instructor (ICHF)
Chartered School, International Combat Hapkido Federation
Member, International Combat Hapkido Federation
Member, National Women's Martial Arts Federation
Member, Association of Women Martial Arts Instructors