Twenty-two years ago, Jennifer Cassetta discovered and became smitten with a martial arts school in New York City. In a few short months she found herself immersed in a martial art known as hapkido and began feeling mentally and physically stronger, and more purposeful than ever. “It was like I had found my home,” says Cassetta.
But then the unthinkable happened later that year. On September 11, 2001 she found herself navigating through the ashes three blocks south of where the World Trade Center terrorist attack occurred. After an exhaustive search for shelter, she was able to make her way to her dojo (martial art studio) where she found safety and respite from the chaotic scene that had engulfed the city.
Over time this dojo, she says, became her refuge — a place where she could settle in for peace and harmony. It’s where Cassetta dove into her regular routine, sparking her decision to become a personal trainer and later a health coach. After 10 years, she decided to relocate to Los Angeles with a third-degree black belt, a master’s degree in nutrition, a health coaching certification and a fervent desire to support women in feeling stronger, safer and more powerful in life, leadership and the boardroom.
Cassetta’s journey eventually became fodder for her powerful book “The Art of Badassery: Unleash Your Mojo With Wisdom of the Dojo.” In it, she shows women in the business and academic worlds using dojo wisdom as a key to allowing their inner badass to flourish. Whether the opponent is an overbearing boss, financial hardship or a testy love relationship, Cassetta shows readers how to create a roadmap for ascending beyond one’s fears, turning challenges and setbacks into superpowers.
Employing a blend of thought-provoking exercises and side-splitting humor, the book offers an elixir to women leaders who may find themselves experiencing blame, shame and disappointments that may be hindering achievement of their highest potential.
As in the case of martial arts, women in leadership roles, asserts Cassetta, often get pushed, pulled and kicked down. She notes that “as women we have had moments where we have felt mentally burned out, beaten down, or like we may crumble under pressure. We find ourselves banged up, bruised and stretched beyond our limits.”
It’s here where she celebrates women who, while bending and showing flexibility, do not break — using the power within themselves to rise up and stand tall.
“I wrote the ‘Art of Badassery’ after having grown tired of hearing stories of women being taken advantage of, manipulated, controlled, overlooked for a deserved promotion, and verbally, mentally or physically abused,” Cassetta says.
Having taught self-defense for over 20 years, she initially felt compelled to pen a book on these stories alone. But instead, she decided to write in support of women facing difficult challenges along with tools for managing them when they’re unavoidable.
“Throughout the book, I use martial arts as a foundation for self-empowerment,” she says. “The wisdom I share is all about developing inner strength as opposed to punches and kicks. I offer strategies from the mat that help women develop the resilience to get back up after having been knocked down, block negativity, use their voice powerfully, embrace radical self-care, follow their intuition and most importantly, be a fierce leader in their business and community.”
Cassetta believes that martial arts has taught her many lessons, several of which she lays out in the book. She says martial arts helped her instill discipline in her daily life. This has allowed her to remain disciplined in her personal self-care regimen which includes nutrition, exercise, sleep and even lifelong learning.
“My hope is that this book helps women stand up for themselves, their needs and desires,” she says. “I hope that it provides them with the tools to communicate boundaries and develop affirming self-talk. Further, I hope that it encourages women to practice radical self-care so that they have the energy to pursue the life of their dreams. And I hope the book provides women who read it a better understanding of their importance in the community, society and in the world as leaders. While all of this is a tall order for a book, if this advice helps just one woman realize how powerful she is, then it will be all worth it for me.”
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