Pretty Deadly: art critic / ninja Susie Kahlich in interview

by | Music

Susie Kahlich is a businesswoman, martial artist, and captivating storyteller who happens to be trained in the art of Ninjutsu.

Susie Kahlich is an old friend of indieBerlin / indieRepublik; we first met the lady when she was regular putting out podcasts about art exhibitions, with a kind of “art you can hear” approach – which we liked enough to become media partner for.

Even then Susie was teaching her brand of self defence for women under the name of Pretty Deadly in between her art podcasts locally in Berlin; obviously at some point there came a sea change and Pretty Deadly started swelling in both size and visibility. Cut forward a few short years and Pretty Deadly has now become an international movement, with Susie Kahlich’s personal approach to Ninjutsu-inspired self defence for women being taught under the Pretty Deadly name across three continents.

I had bruises and a newfound respect (wariness?) for our art-critic friend after that

We also applaud Susie and Pretty Deadly for her initatives especially in the latter part of the 2010s (is that how you say it? The twenty-teens…?) for reaching out to and teaching female refugees who, while living in refugee centres and generally precarious situations, had to constantly fight off unwanted sexual advances and crossings of boundaries.

We at indieBerlin (at that time) went along for a private session so Susie could show us what it was all about and…well, let’s just say I had bruises and a newfound respect (wariness?) for our art-critic friend after that…

It was after a personal attack in her home in the USA that she started learning Ninjutsu that would ultimately lead to the founding of Pretty Deadly in 2016. This self-defence initiative for women has now expanded into a global endeavour spanning four countries with additional self-defence products in development.

It started with an argument with my brother who was visiting me in Paris

After leaving the United States, Susie’s creativity also found expression in the form of Artipoeus, an art podcast initially conceived as a radio show in Paris. Susie has now been living in Berlin for seven years and has recently rekindled her commitment to Artipoeus following a three-year break. I met with Susie to found out more about these diverse projects.

indieRepublik: Tell me about about Artipoeus.

It started with an argument with my brother who was visiting me in Paris. Normally we would go to big sports events together but there weren’t any and we had this big argument which meant that when I started the show it was really a way to make art accessible to people who felt intimidated by it.

My last show was in 2020 and I announced it as my last one because I was really burnt out and my muse was my dad and also my brother, and I kind of lost both of my muses so I was like I don’t have any more motivation to keep going.

But over the last three years I did poetry readings here and there and occasionally I would find people who had listened to the podcast, and they said they missed it, so I would be like ‘ah that’s nice… I’m not doing it again though’. Focusing on my business and the business side of things mean I got further away from the possibility of starting it again.


indieRepublik: Why did you start again?

I began to miss this creative outlet and I had also stopped going to art shows right before the pandemic, I got really frustrated with artists in general and it was like a whole personal thing I went through, so I was like ‘I’m done with all of that’.

But…I think it was in the spring, I started thinking about it. But my real love is short stories, but that takes a lot. It takes a lot more out of me than Artipoeus does, it feels like I go to the bottom of the ocean for a while, and I don’t know how long that’s gonna be. So Artipoeus is kind of like an in-between, it’s creative writing, I talk about art, and I also get to think about the sound design.

indieRepublik: How do you design the sound for your podcast?

I read a script when I do the episode and when I was doing it regularly, I was usually marking in the script where I was gonna insert some music. But sometimes I don’t know what the music is going to be. There is one I’ve been working on that is mostly written but I haven’t been able to figure out the music for it, so that can slow me down. But sometimes when I see art, I know what the music is gonna be.

indieRepublik: When have you associated music with a piece of art?

There were some young artists at a gallery in Friedrichshain and when I saw the work all I could think of was Minor Threat, the punk band. That was the only thing going through my head. I can’t afford Minor Threat, but I worked with a local band here and I used some music really similar to it.

I think if music when I look at art, I guess maybe most of the time I would say. Sometimes a piece of work might really affect me emotionally but with no music. Or I might not have an emotional response at all, and it’s really challenging to write about work when this happens.

indieRepublik: What have you found difficult about the podcast?

What I found really frustrating was that artists really love having an Artipoeus about them, they’re very narcissistic people. They give me no feedback and they barely promote the episode and promote no other episode. It’s just something for themselves.

The last time this happened I was so angry. It happened with a female artist I met at a gallery who buttered me up and I really thought we were friends, but it was all just a set-up so she could get in Artipoeus. I was very susceptible to compliments at this time, but it was the last time this happened, and this is also where I was like I don’t want to do this anymore.

Bombay Sapphire Event am 05.08.2019 in München. Foto: Andreas Gebert

indieRepublik: Tell me about Pretty Deadly

Pretty Deadly came about because I am a victim of violent crime many years ago in Los Angeles, and then I started martial arts, and as I continued martial arts I could see that there weren’t many realistic self-defence courses available for women. After I received my instructor’s belt, I went to visit my mom who lived in Chicago, and she asked me to teach her self-defence because violence was becoming more extreme in that area, and she didn’t feel safe walking to the coffee shop. I had to make the teaching more accessible, easy to remember, and fun. So, I created that for her and her friends and it went really well, and then I just kind of brought it with me to Paris. And then I launched it full-time here as an actual business.

What I’m very frustrated about when it comes to gender-based violence and violence against women is women.

indieRepublik: What you think some of the problems are when it comes to violence against women?

What I’m very frustrated about when it comes to gender-based violence and violence against women is women. And I don’t mean that in a I’m-a-feminist-but-I’m-actually-a-misogynist way. What I’m frustrated about it this refusal to understand that these things do happen to men and there is sort of a shared burden of violence. There’s nothing wrong with men taking responsibility for their physical safety but it’s like women seem to refuse to do the same. It’s like if men are the ones attacking us then should they also be the ones to protect us?

indieRepublik: What did you think about the Barbie movie?

Right now, it’s one of the best things ever, because it’s affecting change… in very small ways, but it’s definitely affecting change. It’s a really particular thing to write something that is still relevant when it’s released and to have that have an effect on the world. And so, the fact that it got made and it got to say what it says is really remarkable.

indieRepublik: What is something that you are excited for?

I’m excited for a new product, Warrior Woman Workout, which is really fun. But on a bigger scale, I’m really excited by some of the little signs I’m seeing here and there that people are starting to take a different perspective on immigration, the developing world, and being more open to learn about each other. I’m excited about the positive developments in technology and the solutions we will have to come up with for climate change. I’m excited to see society as the patriarchy falls.

Find out more about Pretty Deadly here | Find Susie Kahlich on Facebook

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