Tasha Ina Church
Tasha Ina Church is an Empowerment Coach on the island of Maui. She offers empowering strategies to emerging women leaders, so they can be their own heroes. For 20 years, this work has been her passion. She has published a multicultural children’s book, ran a non-profit, created three businesses, launched four online courses (soon to be 5), made a podcast, started a talk series, is a blogger, an international speaker, and has a weekly segment on the local news, and an ongoing article in our local magazine. Her newest venture is creating & hosting empowerment retreats.
What were your initial years of growing up like?
I grew up on 6 acres and a farm; chickens, a horse, a pony, bunny rabbits, ducks, and a garden. My parents were both teachers who instilled in me the goal of being a lifelong learner. I grew up with my parents and brother, and life was very simple and sweet in many ways.
We always did so much for our community. My dad, brother, and I would sing at the local shelter. My parents taught martial arts and studied Gōjū-ryū, and my mother taught self-defense in the 1970s. So, slap boxing was often a fun game around the house. I always thought my mother’s hands were as fast as lightning. Some of my favorite parts about childhood were going to the library with my parents to pick the books I wanted to read and being out in nature. I would spend days with my nose in a book.
Part of my growth process as a young girl was being surrounded by strong women (May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them). As a young mixed-race Native girl, learning about my indigenous heritage was essential to me. My mother befriended a First Nation healer and did Native healing work throughout the US and Canada. Their work had a profound impact on my life. I always wanted to do more to help others, so now, as an empowerment self-defense instructor, I have added aspects of that healing work into my practice. As far as other aspects of my background, my grandmother was Ukrainian. So, we would paint eggs and look up Ukrainian dishes to learn more about that part of my heritage. My father was part Scottish, so we would go to something called The Highland Games. I love all aspects of myself, so honoring the different areas of my life has been so important.
My initial years growing up were with a small but loving family, living in the Key Peninsula in the Pacific Northwest in Washington State.
Tell us about your life before you decided to start your corporate journey/venture/initiative.
Honestly, I never had aspirations to run my own business. I was an artist and wanted to be a full-time author. I liked drawing, reading, and writing. I loved playing sports and was an avid learner and an adventurer. I always looked up to my parents and brother. I felt and still feel very proud to be a part of my family. We would make traditional Native American drums, gather with friends, play music, and go camping. As far as ambitions go, I wanted to go to Art School, and I did. I studied Fashion Design. I wanted to write a book, and so I had.
How did you come across that one idea or a turning point that changed your life? Please tell us the backstory about it, if any.
What brought me to this work was my life experiences of survivorship, for which there were many. At 15, I met my first stalker, who was 32. I never knew what grooming was until after I lived it through what I thought was a friendship with that person. When I found out I was being stalked, I confronted that person verbally, setting clear assertive boundaries. However, somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that I would have been a goner if he had taken a swing at me in person. He was 6’2” & over 230 pounds. After the confrontation, I joined a martial arts school, hoping to feel safe. Unfortunately, it was predominantly a male-dominated school, and I was one of the few females there. I experienced harassment and worse at that school, but I stayed for eight years, wanting to learn as much as possible, knowing I wanted to support other women like me. I am short, 5’4”. I had an “aha” moment three years into teaching. One night I was out salsa dancing. I was roofied, taken, and had to fight for my life. That is when I got dedicated to transitioning what I was learning into something tangible for women and girls. Did women and girls wear a gi? No. Did they usually walk around barefoot? It depends on the culture but often not. So, I decided to take the skills I learned and see what worked while wearing three-inch heels and a dress. Since then, I have built two self-defense businesses. I studied seven styles of Japanese Martial Arts, Tai Chi, and three different styles of self-defense-specific training. My first business was for middle school and high school girls. It was focused on self-esteem, body image, and self-defense training. My current company focuses on empowering strategies for emerging women leaders, so they can be their own heroes. I offer empowerment self-defense training, violence prevention strategies, de-escalation, boundary setting, safety planning, self-care, and self-empowerment techniques. For 20 years, I have done this work, and I love what I do.
Tell us something about your initiative/ or current role. What is it about, and What impact are you trying to bring?
I am the founder of ElleLiveAction, an empowerment company focused on offering empowering strategies to emerging women leaders, so they can be their own heroes. I do this through online empowerment self-defense, empowerment coaching, and self-care courses. I also offer in-person trainings through retreats, private group trainings, and one-on-one sessions with those who want three-month intensives. Additionally, I do business consulting for self-defense and martial arts businesses.
This last year I launched an online course which was #1 on page #1 of the Udemy course platform out of 3224 self-defense courses. That course reached 28 countries in a month, covering 16 different languages. All of my courses total have reached 43 countries and people who speak 18 different languages across the globe. I love online learning, and due to the pandemic, many people have learned that they enjoy the same.
I am a survivor; I want to show others how to not only survive but thrive. I want to change the world. I want women to learn tools to feel safe, confident, and on top of the world. I want them to believe in themselves and know that in any fight, physical, emotional, or psychological, they are worth fighting for.
What were the challenges faced? Are there any now? How were the last two years for you [pandemic phase]?
As a survivor, I know the difficulty of finding a self-defense instructor who understood me and my needs. I had many male martial arts instructors who taught self-defense, but it wasn’t about preventative action, using your voice, understanding how to set boundaries, being assertive, or speaking up. As a business owner, I had difficulty differentiating what I do and how very different it is from going into a martial arts school and wanting a class. So, for the first few years with my newest business, I was not successful. Then I felt like I had arrived. I was teaching in one gym, a fitness center, and three studios, along with one of the top resorts on Maui, and had a grant approved to teach at a school running a girls program. Then the pandemic hit, and everything shut down. I was shell-shocked. Domestic violence went up by 46% in our state. So, I felt pretty useless. Then I decided to give away 46 online courses and wanted to create a new online empowerment self-defense course. I received an adaptability fund grant and was able to launch. I was so excited and thought, this is it. Sadly, I didn’t have a good marketing plan, so that course didn’t do as well initially. Then I decided to stop thinking small and go to companies that did this work full-time and had it dialed in. That is how I met the Transformation Academy. They had never had a self-defense instructor before and decided to take a chance on me. Now there are three courses through them and about to be a fourth, this one on self-care.
I always remind myself that no matter the challenges, there is always a way.
What have been your remarkable achievements/accomplishments?
As shared, I was #1 on Page #1 of the Udemy course platform out of 3224 self-defense courses. I was chosen to be a part of the PreX Fellowship through XLR8HI, as mentioned in Forbes Magazine. This last year, I was on the cover of Neighbors of West Maui Magazine. Regarding other achievements, I published a multicultural children’s book; I was gifted the first eagle feather on camera by an elder of the tribes in WA State. I am on the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation’s board, focusing on Equity and Inclusion. Last year I did my first international speaking engagement through VPEC (Violence Prevention Education Conference). Also, for the last year and a half, I have been doing my business full-time, which is fantastic.
For personal accomplishments, I started my healing journey from my survivorship over ten years ago. I am celebrating nine years in a relationship with my favorite person this year. During the pandemic, I called my parents every day for 444 days, except when they visited me. I have also done a total of 423 days of yoga as a life goal. So, I live my life in alignment with what I teach, loving who I am, what I do, and those around me.
What change would you like to bring in the world if given an opportunity?
I want to impact the world of women. I have tools, strategies, choices, and stories which have helped save lives. But, I want to do them on a much broader scale, and I continue to climb higher daily. I believe that with my knowledge, women could change the scope of violence prevention. I want all women to know that they are worth fighting for, and the hero they always look for is the person they see when they look in the mirror.
How do you look at failure from your experience and perspective?
Failure is a lesson, a challenge to do things differently. It is a learning experience. You take what you can from it.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your life?
You have the power to do so much more than you ever dreamed possible if you only are willing to try and take action to do so.
Your motto in life?
Empowerment goes beyond physical safety. It is understanding that YOU have a VOICE, and that voice has POWER — It’s about knowing that in any fight, physical, psychological, or emotional, YOU are Worth Fighting For!
Give a motivational message for the audience/women who are reading this.
“To all the women out there reading this, I see you. If you have been waiting for someone to save you, stop waiting for the knight in shining armor. You are capable of more than you could possibly know, and you can be your own hero.”
What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?
We are at an unprecedented time, and we need our women leaders to band together, support one another, and RISE. I have watched many women leaders fight against each other, tear each other down and fight over a small piece of a huge pie. Honestly, eat the whole pie, ladies (or women for those who prefer that term over another). Always know that there are opportunities. Imagine how much you could achieve and get done if you spent more time focused on yourself and your achievements. What if you were able to ban together with other women? Imagine the network, the reach, and the opportunities to support women all over the world who desperately need our aid. This is my message to women leaders of today, the change is within you, and in order for lasting change to happen, we must do it together.