Although it is hard to say for certain, estimates say that 1 in 3 (%30) women have experienced either physical violence, rape or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
Most violence is however, intimate partner violence which tells us that conflict will most often take place in close quarters.
The concept of self-defense is said to have originated from as early as 1066, in England excusing one from criminal charges based on the act of self-preservation. Nowadays it is somewhat of a buzz word which can take forms of Krav Maga classes, to what can only be described as “using the force” to send students flying across the room in a theatric fashion.
Our goal is to remove the confusion regarding what constitutes a good self-defense program for women while delivering a practical guide of how to get started and how to train it, especially if you are a woman.
Let’s imagine that there are layers, like most things, to this idea of an attack. The first one we call situational awareness, you can also think of these as being preventative measures by way of being alert, aware of your environment and your surroundings and being able to read the cues that are being presented to you at all times. By training yourself to scan your surroundings constantly and avoid getting caught up in your smartphone in public, you will be able to notice and identify threats before it becomes too late. The most vulnerable people are those who don’t realize that danger is ever-present and fail to act accordingly. If you did have a slip up and identified a threat late and see a suspicious person walking towards you, what is your level of assertiveness? Can you see yourself yelling at him or her to get back, or will you rationalize their proximity, allowing them to get even closer? What if you had a child in the car? Do you have a plan for when these types of situations take place or are you just another unsuspecting victim? It is important to recognize that no one is perfect all the time. Even the best of us let our guard down despite all the training we’ve had. There is a saying used by a military branch “complacency kills” and it will eventually happen to all of us but what is your plan for when it does? If you do, have you practiced it and is it something a specialist or someone with experience would advocate?
The next is your current level of health and physical fitness. There is an old story of two men walking in the forest who come across a bear. One of the men who is incredibly out of shape says to the other “There’s no way we can outrun this bear.” His friend’s response is “I don’t need to outrun the bear, I just need to outrun you!”. What this story bathed in dark humor is communicating, is the importance of our own health as a prerequisite for defending your life or the lives of others, the fitter you are, the better your chances of survival if the situation gets physical. Most prey animals escape their predators by way of foot, or more accurately “hoof”. In nature, this is the fundamental principle of natural selection. The higher your standard of fitness, the greater your probability when it comes to surviving an attack.
Now “self-defense” as it pertains to a woman defending herself from a man is a different story. Not only is there typically a drastic size and strength disparity but when two men get into a fight, they often square up and start swinging punches and kicks or elbows and knees, tackling each other or using some combination of strikes and take downs to get the top position and have the upper hand. This is if a “sucker punch” wasn’t involved or what even started the altercation.
It would be an odd sight to see a man and a woman square up with each other, usually for the reason that men typically attack women with grabs, holds, throws and pins. Women are also typically attacked unsuspectingly in an abduction-style where they are grabbed by the wrist, arm, hair, purse or really anything that can afford their assailant a grip. The reality of the situation is that if a two hundred and fifty pound violent aggressor grabs a woman by her hair and starts dragging her somewhere, waging a war of punches and kicks is not a smart decision, even with years of experience. Even a trained puncher or striker who has experience knocking other athletes unconscious with their hands or legs, knows that with a much larger and stronger opponent, there is a large amount of risk involved when getting into a punching battle. If someone were to watch an attack between a large man and a smaller woman unfold, it wouldn’t take a very educated observer to notice that a grappling battle has taken place. No matter your level of fitness, if you cannot deal with the grips of a much stronger opponent to avoid being stuck in the bottom position, your chances of running away and getting help just vanished.
Interestingly enough, this is where the next skill comes into play which is mastering distance management and grip fighting. Many people who train Jiu Jitsu in the gi (a name for the training uniforms you see in karate, taekwondo, judo and various forms of martial arts) don’t know that the gi was actually designed so that practitioners could grip each other almost anywhere on their body to learn how to deal with such grips. By learning how to prevent someone from getting inside your personal while fighting for the more dominant grips, which amount to control over the other person’s body, you can significantly raise your ability to prevent what would otherwise turn into a very compromising situation. Earlier however, we mentioned that most women’s attackers were someone personally close to them, someone you might even allow in your personal space until the situation got ugly. This is where grappling comes in. Learning how to positionally gain the upper hand by achieving the top position or getting behind someone to control them there or sink a choke, if necessary, can pose a huge advantage to a smaller person. Not everyone understands that the goal of Jiu Jitsu or BJJ is to out-maneuver and win against a larger, stronger person by using leverage and technique. When you combine these factors of situational awareness, physical fitness, distance management, grip fighting and grappling or ground fighting you raise your probability factor astronomically.
If this is all very new to you and overwhelming, don’t worry. Start small and start with something you can control like your health and becoming more aware. Not everyone wants to start Jiu Jitsu, maybe you’re the type that would rather exercise your second amendment rights or use pepper spray and while we as experts have our convictions, awareness is the first step and maybe it will motivate you to take the next and join a Jiu Jitsu gym or club. A big part of it is the responsibility that there may not always be someone to help you and you are going to be your first line of defense whether you’re a realtor meeting someone alone or an in-home nurse doing a late night house call. Some of the people we work with are motivated directly by the trauma they sustained which led to them becoming highly involved in the self-defense world, and who better than someone with personal experience that they can share to empower more young women to start thinking about having a plan of action in regard to their own personal security and protection. The biggest thing we wish readers take away from this is starting to develop a plan on your own and looking for expert guidance on the matter. Most of the people we work with who are victims of assault were caught completely off guard and had no previous frame of reference until it was too late. By taking action now and working on your plan of defense you will already be one step ahead. Thank you for taking the time to read this, we encourage you to get started and better yet, share this with someone else who can benefit from the information so we can empower more of the most important people in our lives. Be safe and good luck!