Thursday, May 3, 2012

Women's Self-Defense

I recently watched a documentary on martial arts and it got me thinking about the misconceptions of women's self-defense.  I think that most places teaching women's self-defense emphasize empowerment and preparation, which is great and necessary.  I also think that most places don't make the claim that 1 or 2 sessions of self-defense classes turn you into anything resembling a black belt in martial arts, but I worry that there's very little indicating just how inadequate a couple of sessions really is. 

The 1 lesson in anything is always going to be the largest step forward; going from no knowledge to some knowledge is, in terms of percentages, an infinite % increase in knowledge.  This is also true for women's self-defense: simple precautions such as keeping a watchful eye open at all times and avoiding risky environments can easily make a huge difference to the likelihood of being assaulted. 

But lets discuss the actual "self-defense during an altercation" aspect of women's self defense.  Yes, keys can be used to increase the threat that women can pose to an attacker, but it's rarely specified "how much" more dangerous. 

To use an extreme example, I'd feel more comfortable defending myself against a lion with a knife rather than without, but it's probably not going to be the deciding factor of my survival.  Certain tools in the right hands could make a whole world of difference, while other tools such as guns and tasers allow for more untrained wielders to at least be more dangerous.

I've trained in various martial arts for the last 14 years or so, and I've yet to meet another martial artist, myself included, that doesn't think they'd be terrified if they were suddenly attacked when they were alone.  It seems to be the consensus amongst martial artists that there is no such thing as being too prepared to defend your life.

So if that's the case, should martial artists not let non-martial artist women know this?  Not just mention it in passing, but explain the importance of regular training - that with regular training over years and years, they will just possibly begin to possess the skills and the muscle memory needed to safely defend themselves in certain circumstances?

Yes, some training is better than none, absolutely.  But there IS one stipulation to this assertion: some training is better as long as it does not instill a false sense of security. 

Women's self-defense courses should be an initiation for women, a wake up call that makes women realize that it takes quite a bit of consistent effort to thwart even an average sized attacker, and that they should be working just as hard, if not harder than their male martial artist counterparts to compensate for the size difference?

If a 120lb man who has spent less than 10 hours training martial arts attempting to defend himself against a 160lb man who means him harm, I think most people would guess that the smaller man had better learned quite a bit in his 10 hours to compensate for the weight difference.  Many would say that a measly 20 hours of martial art training would make no appreciable difference (some would say that it depends on what and how they trained, which I would agree with, but my point still stands).

So I think that women should definitely take "Women's Self-Defense" courses if they can, but not for the purpose of "learning to defend one's self", but rather to learn "how hard it actually is to learn to defend one's self".  After which, hopefully, they'll enroll in a (effective) martial arts training program that teaches more than just looking graceful while gently tapping your attackers face with your foot.

If you disagree or have any other questions, please comment below and I will try and respond.  Thanks for reading!