The Heroine’s Journey of Susie Kahlich

What is the best thing that I love about my work? The thing I love most about my work is meeting so many people and watching them discover strengths and power, balance and grace that they often aren’t even aware they have.

What is my idea of happiness? Being so present in the moment that you have no concept of future or past, or even now. Being so full of being, that you feel as though you are filling up the universe and at the same time a deliciously small but significant part of something greater. That can come from stopping to hear a bird sing, an unexpected breeze caressing your face, a spontaneous smile with a stranger on the street, deep, connected laughter with friends, sunlight hitting a flower just so. It’s just a moment–it’s not sustainable all the time, but that makes it all the more sweeter when you have it.

What is my greatest fear? Letting myself down. Failure is totally ok with me, but I fear looking over my life as it’s ending and feeling like I didn’t at least try.

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself? There’s nothing I deplore, but I do wish I didn’t like candy so much. I’m not proud of my lack of patience–I’m a pretty impatient person and I work hard at keeping that trait in check.

Which living persons in my profession do i most admire? I see my profession as being empowerment more than physical self defense, and in that context, the people I admire most are: Keren Taylor of WriteGirl LA. Gloria Jones of Marc Bolan School of Music, Ananya Rao-Middleton of Ananya Paints, Eve Parmiter of Eve Parmiter Therapy. Yasmine Guerin of Negotiatress. Rithika Punj of Emotions Games.

What is my greatest extravagance? Art. I’ve just begun collecting, and I see why the big collectors do it — it’s totally addictive. Also home design: I like to be in a beautiful space. Also, probably, snacks.

On what occasion would I lie? When someone I love has made, has achieved, or is wearing something that so obviously makes them so happy they want to share their joy, even though it doesn’t appeal to me, I will lie. I will lie if it costs me nothing but makes their enjoyment richer, and I’ll do it every time.

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work? Administrative tasks and marketing, mainly. But also being challenged with the idea that learning self defense is not part of self care — when it’s the foundation of it!

When and where was I the happiest, in my work? I’m happiest in my work every time I get to see that little “click” when things fall into place show up on someone’s face.

If I could, what would I change about myself? Recently I had (what turned out to be a minor) health scare. As I washed my face before bed one night during this period, I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, am I going to see you in the morning? In that moment, I understood how much I relied on seeing myself every day, and how much, over the years, I had grown to really like myself. There’s nothing I’d change, but I love adding new experiences, lessons and skills into the basic mix and continuing to grow and evolve!

What is my greatest achievement in work? Getting people to see learning self defense as something beautiful and fun. Every class that ends in laughter is another feather in my cap.

Where would I most like to live? I’m always torn between being by the sea and being in a megalopolis. Which I could guess would put me in Shanghai? I’ve been there, and I do like that city an awful lot.

What is my most treasured possession? I had an artist friend named Jeff Gilmore, or Gizmo as he was also known. We knew each for years and were lovers on an off for a while. Years ago, he sent me a bracelet he had made. He placed it in a box that he illustrated in his distinct style, a mix of chiarascurro and street art, and it represents him, his spirit and humor, his creativity and lifeforce, more truly than the bracelet. He passed away suddenly almost 20 years ago, but that box comes with me everywhere I’ve made my home, from New York to LA, to Paris to Berlin.

What is my most marked characteristic? My voice. And a certain look in my eye I get when I’m training with my sword.

What is my most inspirational location, in my city? The river. I always seek water for inspiration, meditation, motivation, peace.

What is my favourite place to eat and drink, in my city? In Berlin, my favorite place to grab a drink is my local cocktail lounge, called George R. It’s more of a friendly neighborhood pub than a fancy lounge, and that’s what I love about it. I get to catch up with my neighbors and have a good night out whenever I go.

My favorite place to eat is something I’m still discovering. So far, I’ve had an amazing meal at a restaurant called Pauly Saal, and in the winter I like to go to Einstein’s, a classic Berlin restaurant serving hearty Berliner cuisine… and there’s a little stand in Mitte that makes excellent falafel.

What books influenced my life and how? Voltaire’s Candide has been a big influence on my life, actually, in terms of the absurdities of our species. Kobo Abe’s Woman in the Dunes is a book I turn to again and again to explore and reacquaint myself with notions of futility, human limitation, frustration, meditation, acceptance. José Donoso’s A House in the Country gave me an entirely different and profound view of governments and societies, and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, coupled with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness opened my eyes to the deep damage of colonialism. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter was required reading in school, but it is in his extensive prologue to the novel where he shines a clear and unrelenting light on the dangers of puritanism in all its forms. Finally, everything by Eudora Welty and Mark Twain gave me my love for humanity, because so much of that love comes through in every story they tell.

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day? Cosmic Dancer, by T.Rex and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction? I’m not really a fan of worshiping fictional beings, so I don’t really have one, to be honest. I would say the Norse goddess Freyja would probably be the closest.

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life? Gloria Jones, Phoolan Devi, Madonna, Abigail Disney, the Kurdish Women Fighters, the founders of Rojava, my teacher Chad Minge… and T.E. Lawrence.

Which movie would i recommend to see once in a lifetime? Sword of Doom – a brilliant exploration of narcissism, power, and psychosis. Also excellent sword fights. 2001: A Space Odyssey.

What role plays art in my life and work? Art plays a huge role in my life. I turn to the visual arts for creative inspiration, so much so that I even produced a creative nonfiction podcast inspired by my visits to museums and galleries for several years, called Artipoeus: art you can hear.

What do the words ‘You are the storyteller of your own life’ to me? Facts are facts, but you can always change the way you look at them. Is it cloudy with some sunshine? Or is it sunny with clouds? You choose! My dad once said to me, “people do what they want.” I’m not sure he meant it in a cognitive behavior kind of way, but that’s how I took it: we make choices, form relationships, succeed or fail based on what we really want, deep, deep down — even if we’re not always aware of it. And if we can identify those deep wants, we can change our story.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime? I would say that this is equally shared between two very dear friends of mine, one who resides in France, the other in the US.

Which people or companies would I like to work with in 2021? I’d love to work with Uber and Lyft, Bumble, Tinder and Grindr, Clue, Nike, Thinx, Jezebel, Teen Vogue. And I’d really like to work with women who have been outspoken about gender-based violence, such as Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Halle Berry, Charlize Theron.

Which people in my profession who can make a real difference in my creative career would i love to meet in 2021?

Brene Brown

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

What project, in 2021, am I looking forward to work on? Growing Pretty Deadly Self Defense! Our live classes are expanding to other cities in Germany, and our online classes have brought people from as far away as Tokyo and Uganda! On the creative side, I’m also working on a new podcast series of short fiction with a creative partner, called Stories About People, and I’m really enjoying developing it.

Where can you see me or my work in 2021? and . You can listen to archive episodes of my art podcast at .

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me? Some people choose careers based on interest or motivated by income, often with an aim to retire. But people who are lucky enough to identify and pursue their passion will never stop being passionate about it, will never stop seeking to experience and explore. It becomes part of your spirit, who you are. And it is often how you connect to the world, to your loved ones, to life.

Which creative heroines should Peter invite to tell their story?

Gloria Jones

Keren Taylor

Rithika Punj

Yasmine Guerin

Daniella Falletti

Catalina Carmon Balvin

Ananya Rao-Middleton

Eve Parmiter

Marina from

Nicole Paulus

How can you contact me?

Pretty Deadly website:

My website:

Articles on Medium:



Instagram: ;

Pretty Deadly Podcast RSS:

The Pretty Deadly App:

Direct download for iOS:

Direct download for Android:


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