Womens Self Defense
There are many who say womens self defense is learned better in an exclusively women-only environment. The so-called "experts" say it is less intimidating if women don't have to compete with the men, or, it is easier (more comfortable) to discuss subjects like rape without men present. So, the new trend in self-defense programs is "Womens Self Defense" classes.
I don't buy the reasoning. Why should there be competition in a self-defense class? Is there supposed to be a winner? And why is the discussion of rape only allowed by women? Isn't that part of the problem? The overwhelming evidence suggests that this is the wrong approach.
I can't tell you how many times I have heard, "I took a womens self defense course once. But, I went home and tried some of the stuff on my husband/boyfriend, and it didn't work!"
There is nothing more confidence-shattering than to spend the time learning all the techniques (and starting to feel good about yourself), only to have the bubble burst the first time you try out your new-found skills. Women then begin to feel there is nothing they can do to protect themselves when they can't even make it work against someone who isn't really trying to hurt them.
The real shame is when someone is really attacked, and after repeated attempts, can't make their women's self defense techniques work. At that point, they simply give up, and won't fight back no matter what. I can only imagine that someone in that situation would look back on the time or money spent for self-defense classes and feel that they had been victimized twice!
Why "Womens Self Defense" Programs Don't Work!
Most of the people who take my self-defense classes are women, even though they are not advertised as "womens self defense" classes (I'll explain why later). Sometimes, I even have a class that is all women. However, that is by coincidence, not design. Women who sign up for my classes know that there may be both men and women in the class. Whether there are actually men in the class is not important, after all I am instructing the class, so there is always at least one man in the class.
The point is, if a woman is so intimidated by men, that she will not even take a self-defense class with men, she will never survive an attack by a man, no matter how many times she takes the class, or how well she performs in it. Why? Because "intimidation" is just another word for fear. Until she can prove to herself the techniques work on a man, she has done nothing to help her get over her fear of men.
If she is ever attacked, it will probably be by a man! If she hasn't gotten over her fear of men, she will immediately panic, no matter what she has learned in her womens self defense course. If she hasn't learned how to deal with the bigger, stronger, more aggressive male, she will not understand how the dynamics of the situation will change in the real world!
Women MUST practice self-defense techniques against a man! Otherwise, how will she know they work against a man? This is what we call "realistic scenario training" (more about this later). If she has only practiced self-defense techniques with other women, she gets a false sense of security that her techniques will work in the real world. But, an even bigger problem is that most of what is taught in these so-called "womens self defense" classes wouldn't work anyway!
Poor Teaching Methods
Much of what is taught as "womens self defense" is not only ineffectual, but insulting as well. Courses intended only for women assume they are weak, less capable of defending themselves, and therefore need different methods from men to counteract violence. Women have been told to "yell 'FIRE', carry a hat pin or umbrella to jab at him, do something vulgar to gross him out, tell him you have VD." If any of that junk worked, we'd be teaching men to do the same thing.
The following examples of bad advice still show up in high schools and women's self defense courses:
"Do not overreact. Remain calm. Go along with his demands... stall him. This will give you time to devise an escape plan."
This is totally unrealistic and not workable at a rape crime scene. It is theoretical nonsense made up by people who have never been in the situation!
Imagine if the percentages of women and men raped were 50-50 instead of 98 percent women and 2 percent men. [Outside of prison, those are the true percentages.] Now imagine someone telling men, "Don't overreact to rape, guys. Go along with his demands so you won't be hurt."
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Another problem is the false sense of security given by unsubstantiated claims. One direct-mail women's safety device provides an "instant and easy self-defense" video for women.... "Can you point your finger? ... Can you raise your hand? ... If your answer is yes, you can instantly escape anything from rape to severe attacks.... It's quick and easy."
[SIDE NOTE: Click on this link to find out why most so-called "safety devices" and self-defense weapons don't work.]
One television commercial for a women's self defense program promises "two-minute, guaranteed knockout using your feet. When your assailant tries to grab you, use the heel of your shoe to strike into his head over and over." Could you learn to do this in two minutes? It takes years of training in karate or taekwondo to learn to effectively kick someone in the head, and even then, it's a risky move. It's just a marketing ploy to get your money.
If you buy a carpet cleaner that is guaranteed to work, but doesn't, the result is a stained carpet. If you pay for women's self defense classes, or videos that don't deliver as promised, the result can be serious injury or even death. Relying on someone else's guarantee is only a false sense of security that will only have bad results!
Womens self defense, the anti-crime gadgets, the martial arts self-defense programs marketed to women, are often too simplistic and come with unrealistic guarantees. The fact is, surviving crime requires far more mental toughness than physical abilities. Size, weight, conditioning, and upper-body strength don't make the difference. If they did, a lot of men would be in deep trouble. Crime survival takes tough-minded mental conditioning, the same for both men and women.
Doing nothing against a violent attack is the biggest risk of all because it makes resistance and escape later far more difficult. Worse, it increases the likelihood that violence will escalate, especially when the crime is rape. The most profound example involving resisting (doing something) versus submitting (doing nothing) was a Department of Justice study of rape published in 1985.
Countless myths that had long surrounded the issue of rape and womens self defense were shattered with this study, though it was not surprising to law enforcement officers who had had first-hand dealings with the victims.
- Rapists do not normally pre-arm themselves with weapons. Only 23 percent of 1.6 million cases studied involved knives or guns. [The major exception to this are rapists who break into a residence; 96 percent grab a knife from the kitchen.]
- Approximately 51 percent of women resisted in some form, ranging from screaming to fleeing, to fighting back; the remaining 49 percent did nothing.
- When broken down between resistance or submission, there was only an increase of two percent in the injury level to the women who resisted.
- Only .03 percent were also murdered, the lowest percentage of all violent crimes.
Do-nothing thinking in womens self defense is: "Confrontation always makes everything worse. Don't react-it might be an overreaction. Don't add to the violence by becoming violent yourself. Don't make him mad. Trying to escape risks escalating the problem." These ideas are wishful thinking or blind optimism. Experience at real crime scenes teaches you something very different.
Yes, there is always a risk involved in fighting back, but there is just as much risk in doing nothing. If you face a rapist and do nothing, he'll rape you. If you face an armed criminal forcing you into his car and do nothing, he'll kidnap you. Fundamentally, the do-nothing group wants protection against crime as much as the rest of us; the fallacy in their thinking is they believe that in doing nothing, they risk nothing. Instead they rely on the criminal's sudden conversion to compassion. I call this the "hope-and-luck defense." I hope it doesn't happen to me! If I'm lucky, I won't be hurt!
Doers, in contrast, have simple and direct reasons for taking action: If I don't do something fast, it's going to get worse.
What Does Work
What works, as proved by the results of both police and military testing, is "scenario training". Scenario training consists of learning techniques, rehearsing them in realistic scenarios, and then visualizing these actions in your mind. It is a method used in many fields, from sports to law enforcement, military to medicine, and must be incorporated into womens self defense.
Scenario training is a way of planning our responses. We do something similar every day in our regular lives. We plan what to say if the boss criticizes a report we've submitted or how to appease our spouse if we've done something irritating. Often we actually rehearse the words we'll use, we do it constantly. It doesn't always get us what we want, but it gives us a better chance.
Face-to-face with violence, your first split-second problem is not what is he going to do, but, "what are you going to do?" Scenario training against violence answers that question at the right time ... before it happens. You can make mistakes and learn from them before it becomes a life or death situation! In women's self defense, scenario training to survive violent crime draws on real-life crime cases, which allows us to analyze our own mistakes, as well as the mistakes of others, learn from them, and decide how we will respond differently.
Thus, from your memory, decisions will flash back to you during an actual crisis. That gives you survival rules to fall back on in case the security of your world explodes. In a nutshell, the purpose of scenario training against crime is to create survival dos and don'ts using "worst case" scenario planning. Pure and simple, it trains your survival instincts. You not only develop a survival mentality to increase your chances at the instant violence explodes, you also develop a new alertness to crime avoidance, noticing more quickly the opening stages of possible danger.
According to Mark Leap, Captain, Los Angeles Police Department:
"Before planning how to survive violence, most people need an attitude change. If you believe it won't happen to you, then you're not going to plan against it. You have to face facts, crossing this threshold first: it can happen to me, exactly like it happens to others.
"Cops play what-if games in their minds. They reenact scenarios, mentally transferring themselves into various crime situations, and plan a response. Scenarios, as unpleasant as they may be, are an important part of survival planning. They motivate people to plan against that same crime happening against them. Some people do that, others don't. The ones who don't are easier victims."
A book on Business may not seem like a good source of information on womens self defense. But, Dr. Spencer Johnson, coauthor of the One Minute Manager and author of, among other books, Yes or No: The Guide to Better Decisions, lays it out this way:
"Good decisions are the product of a good system, and parts of that system must include: What are the probable consequences? Am I being honest with myself? Am I letting fear stop me from making any decisions?"
Without realistic scenario training, especially in womens self defense, people panic and freeze up; they have no way to cut through the overwhelming fear that boxes them in during a crisis. Everyone needs to train for the same scenarios, and everyone, men and women alike, need to train the same way: to develop the mental toughness needed to survive a real attack!
This is the bottom line that must be adopted by every woman, every womens self defense teacher, and every parent of a daughter:
If the how-to-survive-violence technique and advice is not acceptable to men, it's not acceptable to women.
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The ones who don't think they need it, are the ones who need it most!
I said earlier I'd explain why it is mostly women who take my self-defense classes.
No matter what the psychologists say, it is my experience that women are much more impatient than men. They don't want to spent a lot of time in self-defense classes, therefore putting a low priority on it, while men will spend years taking martial arts classes.
Women get frustrated at repetitive exercises and don't want to practice techniques over and over until they get it right. Men will gladly work on techniques until they perfect them.
I offer both self-defense classes and martial arts programs. Men typically choose martial arts, women choose short-term self-defense classes. Men eagerly commit to a three-year Black Belt program. Women reluctantly sign up for a three-week self-defense course. [Women are constantly asking me, "Don't you have a one-day class?"]
I wish this weren't the case, but a six-hour course is better than nothing. Women say they are concerned for their safety, but very few are willing to do anything about it.
If you are Serious about Self-Protection…
Knowing how to handle yourself when confronted with violence is your only insurance against becoming a victim, or just another statistic in a police report. You have car insurance, home-owner's insurance, life insurance, health insurance…
What insurance do you have against being the victim of a violent crime? A long-term self-defense program offers the most comprehensive training, and therefore, the best opportunity to learn to handle almost any situation that may occur. However, if you don't have the time to commit to a long-term program, at least some form of weaponless self-defense training is better than none.
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What about Martial Arts?
Traditional Martial Arts are great for disciple, self-confidence, and exercise. They can help to produce the correct mindset needed when faced with a self-defense situation. But it usually takes several years to become proficient in the more complex situations and techniques.
If you have the time to commit to a long-term training program, by all means, a martial art will provide the most comprehensive training. However, you must do your homework before choosing a martial arts program. Many don't deliver the comprehensive training they promise, and most don't train you for realistic self-defense, especially when it comes to womens self defense.
Far too many martial arts programs focus greatly on sports and competition. Sports and competition oriented martial arts are worthless as self-defense, because they teach you to work within the confines of the rules. If you want to learn REAL self-defense, stay away from sports such as judo, tae kwon do, and Brazilian jiu jitsu. These don't work in real situations. If you want to learn realistic self-defense, you need to learn Budoshin Jujitsu, or Zentai Kenpo. Click on these links, or those listed below, to learn more.
If you don't have time to commit to a long-term program, make sure your women's self defense course includes:
- Crime awareness and avoidance
- Training and practice with, and against, men
- Realistic scenario training.
Without these important elements, your womens self defense program is doomed to failure.
Mark A. Jordan
Rokudan (6th Degree Black Belt)
Certified Self-Defense Instructor
Strong, Sanford - Strong on Defense; Simon & Shuster, Inc.; 1996
Federal Bureau of Investigation - Uniform Crime Report; 2000
Page Title: Womens Self Defense