Susie Kahlich // Berlin
Introducing Susie; a martial artist, art podcaster and astronomy lover from Berlin.
Hi, I’m Susie Kahlich. I run a self defense program that I developed designed to make learning self defense more accessible, effective, and fun (especially for beginners).
I also host and produce Artipoeus, a podcast telling stories about art — it’s like The Moth meets Modern Art. And I executive produce a podcast hosted by two legal sex workers here in Berlin, as the first product of my mini media empire, SINGE Network.
So tell us Susie, what are you passionate about?
I really love soundscapes and audio art, although I can’t do them nearly on the same level as the people I go see perform live. I also love physics, and dream of visiting the collider at CERN — I’ve already visited a smaller superconductor here in Berlin, and this summer will be visiting BESSIE. My biggest dream to combine those two things and stage an opera electronica I’ve been working for the past few years at CERN. In other news, lately I’m really curious about astronomy, and crows.
What keeps you busy at the moment?
Right now the thing that keeps me most busy is Pretty Deadly, not only teaching the courses, but overseeing the mobile app we’re building to make self defense accessible everywhere, as well as an increasing number of invitations for talks and presentations, which I greatly enjoy.
And of course scheming about a few other projects that are always percolating.
When I’m not doing any of those things, you might find me at a live concert, or on stage at a poetry slam, or strength training at the gym — I recently got back into weight lifting and found a great partner to train with, which makes it so much easier. Or just hanging out with my neighbors and practicing my German at my local Kneipe. And keeping an eye out for good graffiti trucks.
Thinking about your journey here, what are your biggest learnings?
I dropped out of college in NYC in the ‘80s, because I thought the university of life would give me a better education. I learned how to do sound for live bands at CBGB’s, working Punk Rock Sundays, and even once did sound for Sun Ra at the Original Knitting Factory! But I also fell in with a ragtag group of neo-expressionist painters, and hung out with them and absorbed All the Art Knowledge when I wasn’t working. I fell in love with a guy who edited film, and I learned all about filmmaking from the editing point of view, which brought me to LA where I tried my hand at being a screenwriter.
Before I could get very far with that career move, I became the victim of a violent crime — an incident that launched me into martial arts, and looking for a way to help women who suffer violence and don’t have the supportive community I did. My mom was my first self defense client, and teaching a Japanese martial art to a stubborn, unathletic old Swede is how I came up with Pretty Deadly.
Eventually, I moved on to Paris where I found a place to use my audio skills, screenwriting skills, and love of art in a little radio segment I produced called Expo Paris for World Radio Paris. That became Artipoeus, while I continued to refine Pretty Deadly and teach Ninjutsu along the way.
Et… voila! Here I am, the founder of SINGE Network, an online and real-time live event platform that uses storytelling, the immigrant experience (and a few Ninja skills) as the foundation of all our activities.
My learnings: when I started to pay attention to the things I sought out and did at every stage in life, and every where I went — the things that stuck — it was easier for me to stop trying to fit into other roles, and figure out a way to carve my own.
We know everyone’s working process is different. We also know you can learn a lot from the experiences of others so share yours below.
When are you most productive/creative? How do you get into the flow?
I’m a morning person, so much so that I usually have to fight myself whether I should workout first thing, or write first thing, or do admin, or- or- or… I do start every day with movement, even if it’s just cleaning up from the night before, and that movement gets me going. By the middle of my first cup of coffee, I’ve jumped into my day. It really doesn’t take much to get into a flow these days, because I’m just really excited about what I do. That’s such a privilege, to have that feeling!
Show us a picture of your favourite working spot.
What playlist is on in the background and why?
I have an old mini iPod that has about 10 years of audio stored on it, mostly from an old laptop that exploded a few years ago. When I have a lot of admin work to get through, I plug this into the speakers and put it on shuffle. It’s a mix of favorite music in different genres, some comedy albums I was listening to when training for a marathon, and Pimsler French lessons when I was getting ready to move to France. The ebb and flow of sounds move from background music to grabbing my attention (Ecoutez, et repetez!), and creates a nice working rythm between bursts of focused activity and forced little breaks.
Tell us a bit about the place you’re living right now.
Where is home at the moment?
I’m based in Berlin – specifically, the curious island of Moabit.
What do you love about this place? Is there anything you feel makes it unique?
I love Berlin for the weird wormhole quality of it. You can move from 1980s Berlin to the future in less than block and oftentimes at the same party; geographical, it feels and is pretty vast, but then you’re out for a walk somewhere, turn a corner and suddenly realize you’re really close to something you thought was clear across town. It’s like a time-traveling, shape-shifting urban small town.
Tell us about the hidden gems that you’d take your visitors/friends to where you live and why you chose them?
The Secret Beer Garden – this actually has another name that I don’t remember because I never use it, and isn’t all that secret to folks local to the neighborhood where it lives, but it’s in a really surprising place and once you enter, you feel like you’ve stepped into a totally different city.
Naturkundunmuseum – this museum not only has one of the most wonderful dinosaur displays I’ve ever seen, but Berlin’s Natural History Museum prides itself on its massive collection of taxidermized animals. While it’s a little heart-wrenching to see Berlin’s famous polar bear, Knute, restored through taxidermy, the museum began it’s collection at the turn of the last century and allows you to view animals that are extinct — they have a real Dodo! Also, their totally bizarre collection of stuff in jars is steam-punk paradise.
Monkey Bar at 25 Hour Hotel – this place is hard to get into because they’re always packed, but I’ve never been in another place quite like it. On the top floor of the 25 Hour Hotel, it features floor to ceiling windows and stadium seating, where you can sip cocktails and watch the residents in the monkey and baboon houses in the Berlin Zoo, that the hotel overlooks. It’s so cool!
Thai Park – another thing totally unique to Berlin! Every Sunday during the summer months, Berlin’s Thai community sets up a food market where you can go and feast on traditional Thai food for reasonable prices (including fried worms, ants, cockroaches and grasshoppers!). The whole thing is totally illegal but the City turns a blind eye because it’s such a tradition now, and it’s so good.
Kraftwerk Berlin – Berlin has a practice of re-purposing buildings, rather than tearing them down and building new ones. This former electric factory is an incredible space for music, and is host to the annual The Long Now festival. It’s breathtaking and dramatic and you feel like you’re inbetween time here.
Collaborating with The Sense Network
I could support others in the Network by..
…sharing what I know about building confidence and empowerment, and how to apply martial arts skills to business. I’m also a very out of the box thinker, and can help find innovations when feeling stuck. I’m also really good at story structure, set-ups and pay-offs, and can help mould a story into something impactful.
I’d like to collaborate with Sensers that would like to…
…compose electronic music / play with body-mapping technology to stage the opera I mentioned above… or anyone who wants to tell good stories!
The Sense Network work together to make things better and make better things. Tell us about the one thing you’d change in the world…
There is a large mural that was painted on the wall of a building on the corner of my street last year, and I see it every time I come home. It says, ‘As long as you are standing, give a hand to those who are fallen.’ I would make this a mantra for everyone, replace the Golden Rule with it, and teach it in schools.