It’s easy to find sobering statistics about the rate of sexual assault on women. Although men and boys can also be sexually assaulted, an overwhelming majority of victims are female. So it is no surprise that more women and parents of girls are looking into self-defense training in the form of martial arts.
When it comes to martial arts for self-defense, not all training was created equally. It’s important to find an art that you enjoy training in, that suits you, and that is actually usable for its intended purpose (self-defense). Here is my advice for women, or anyone, looking to start self-defense training:
1) Ensure the quality of what you’re learning.
When looking at training in any martial art for personal protection, the first thing you must do is vet your instructor. There are too many whack job instructors teaching things that A) are too complicated, or B) do not work under high-adrenaline and high-stress situations.
Make sure the techniques you learn are pressure-tested. You will not need to seek out fights in dark alleys to test these techniques, obviously – but you should be able to use them in sparring, in rolling (live grappling), or against a training partner who’s providing active resistance.
Be wary of instructors who do not incorporate any of these training exercise into their classes. If they’re teaching miraculous “works-every-time” self-defense methods, but you only ever train these moves at slow speed with compliant training partners, you need to take a good, hard look and ask yourself, “Is this person trying to help me, or just help themselves to my money?”
Self-defense instructors like Tresten (holding headgear) will often have students pressure-test techniques by dressing in protective gear and playing the role of an attacker. Students fight back, allowing the instructor to gauge their effectiveness.
2) Know your personal strengths and limitations.
Women and men are built differently. This is not to be sexist – neither gender is better than the other. However, knowing your traits will help you select the best art for your personal protection. Women have several traits they can utilize for a tactical advantage. For example, studies have shown that women may resist fatigue better than men. Women also tend to carry the majority of their strength in their lower bodies/legs.
If the fight does go to the ground (not that you want it to) women can use their legs to strike back in vital areas giving them time to escape. Also, controlling distance and overloading with only two or three strikes in vital areas works well against a larger attacker.
William Tresten and a self-defense class
3) Put thought into strategy.
So maybe you don’t have a lot of upper body strength – no sweat! You don’t need to bulk until you’re Conan the Barbarian in order to be able to defend yourself.
Choosing the right art for personal protection boils down to strategy – let’s be honest, going punch for punch with someone who wants to do you harm more than likely WILL NOT work and could get you killed. Most confrontations can be avoided with good situational awareness; however if an unavoidable situation happens, you need to know how to defend yourself.
The key to a good self-defense art is that it allows you to cause enough pain, in the right areas, immediately. Areas like the throat, nose, eyes, and groin are all good places to start. Targeting any one of these areas and landing a good strike may cripple the attacker long enough to allow you escape.
4) Don’t limit yourself to one style.
Remember, it doesn’t matter how good an art is for self-defense if it’s not good for you. The most effective style for your personal protection will be one that you can learn and retain well, and execute techniques from. So experiment with different styles.
I recommend building a foundation that incorporates elements of striking, grappling, and weapons training. Some arts may offer training in all three of these areas (like krav maga or jeet kune do); others may only offer one or two and you will have to supplement.
Continue to build on those foundations. I may be an instructor, but I still consider myself a student in the arts. Let me tell you, the best way to learn is to train with people that are better than you. You might fail 100 times in the gym, but it’s much better to work out the kinks there than out in the real world. You learn way more from you mistakes, anyway.
Biblically we all have the right to self-defense, and when someone decides to commit an evil act against you it’s an intensely personal thing. Jesus commands us to be ready; We try to get away and de-escalate the situation if at all possible but if it’s not then we no choice but to defend ourselves. We are more than conquerors through Christ (Romans 8:37), when the spiritual evil manifests itself into the physical we have to be ready to defend ourselves and those we care about (Ephesians 6:12)! Romans 12:21 – Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good. If you want the ultimate protection plan – lay it at the cross, and make Jesus Lord of your life.