First – there is nothing wrong with women, or anyone, wanting to learn to defend themselves. Protecting yourself and your loved ones from physical harm is a natural instinct. Second, I personally have taught “women’s self defense” classes throughout Boston – particularly during heavy activity by two serial rapists in the area.
I do think that some training is better than no training, however, I have several observations, and a couple of problems with, the way many women’s self-defense classes are taught.
- Many women are attracted to women-only classes because of a fear of training with men who may be stronger and who may dominate the class or ogle the women. This fear isn’t unfounded and is similar to fears about gyms which have led to a growth industry of women’s gyms.There is an advantage to having training partners of both genders and many different body types. This leads to better skills, and a more internalized feeling for the movements.
- Many classes teach women differently than men. There is this pervasive philosophy that women have more lower than upper body strength. This is actually anatomically true for everyone (your legs are stronger than your arms). The issue is that many women’s programs have taught women to throw themselves to the ground and kick. We believe this is a terrible idea for many reasons:
- Lying on the ground means you can’t run away, and now you are in a ground fight.
- Unlike the matted gym, the ground may be covered with obstacles which can hurt you.
- Relying on techniques which are only successful with significant strength is a problem.
- You should know what to do on the ground, while sitting, while standing etc.
Many classes also teach groin kicks or knees as primary defenses for women. Groin attacks are only OK. Someone who is intoxicated, full of adrenaline, on drugs, enraged etc. may shrug off a groin strike. Pain based techniques are fine, but to defend against a determined attacker – you must learn to attack the structural weakness of the body (such as eyes or joint). A powerful and determined attacker may have to be physically disabled from continuing an attack.
- Training needs to be repeated and expanded upon and should be quite broad. I’ve done single day or multi-day trainings. Certainly skills and confidence can be built shortly. The issue is that skills left unpracticed atrophy.I encourage my students to also train with firearms and edged weapons so that they can understand and respect the threat these weapons carry. I also teach improvised weapons, awareness exercises, combat breathing and mindset.
In this day an age, everyone needs self defense training. The right time to train is now – before you need it. But self defense training should be regular prevention – like dental checkups – repeated, tested, and updated.