The first thing that comes to mind when people hear ‘’Personal Safety’’ is martial arts or firearms training. Being in the security industry the last 11 years I had the chance to attend many training courses. Continuing education is my first priority and I attend as many seminars and courses as possible each year. In all of them, the conclusion I reached is that preparation and prevention can be your number one tip for your safety whether you are a civilian or a security professional.
An experience I encountered at the age of 16 changed my life priorities and choices at that time. What I am today is the result of an attack I survived then that left me bleeding and half dead in an alley. I didn’t think that the attacker would “allow” me to live. I didn’t think I would live to see my family again. That “man” was the reason I got involved in the security industry and later into martial arts training.
In this article I would like to focus more on female self-defense courses and what can work for us and what won’t.
To clarify my comments here, I am not writing this article from a martial artist or an instructor’s point of view, but from the female perspective interested in learning some basic tips on how to protect her life.
My personal experience with martial arts began as a teenager and continues to this day but the bottom line is I’m expressing here my opinion as a woman, a student and a former attack victim, and I’m pretty sure some martial arts instructors won’t agree with it. My goal here is not to offend anyone’s work but to address some concerns from the female perspective.
During an attack there are many factors that affect all of us at the same time. There is surprise, physical pain, adrenaline and that horrible thought and feeling that someone else besides you can decide if you will be breathing the next couple of minutes or not…Your nervous system is red-lined. You experience a faster heart rate and rapid breathing and an increase in blood pressure. An effort from your body to control and adjust to the experience of the fear during the attack is in full defense mode. Some people might notice sensations in the stomach, head, chest, legs, or hands. Now multiply those physical responses with factors from the threat you are dealing with. Maybe a gun or knife or a much larger person or multiple attackers.
No matter how good a martial artist or instructor you are (no matter how many times you have practiced your art), there is nothing that can compare with dealing with a real life threat. Nothing can replace the experience and test you and your abilities more than an actual attack.
We know that in some cases women are stronger than men. Yes, there are examples of men being weaker, but generally speaking let’s agree that for discussion, men are stronger. The aim then is to help women think differently and a bit more strategically. We don’t have to learn to beat someone down, we have to learn where we should be, or what we should do so we don’t end up in a situation where violence is likely to occur. We have to learn to speak up when we are not comfortable –being vocal will Alarm a perpetrator as well as bystanders. No one wants to attack someone that will fight back or someone that will make a lot of noise or attract attention. As with all predators, attackers prefer to go after the weak, sick and vulnerable. It’s a simple “Cost vs. Gain equation.
We should not accept our environment as it is, rather, we should shape it and learn where we should and should not be. We can influence a potential attack simply through posture and by thinking ahead. Begin with “I won’t be a victim,” and then don’t allow it to happen. I would also suggest you consider what kind of environment you wish to be in and avoid those you know to be questionable. We can prevent danger and create a safer place for ourselves and our loved ones simply by being smarter and more prepared than a potential attacker.
No one can offer you a 100% safe environment, someone can attack you because the opportunity to do it exists. By being trained and self-aware, you prevent or postpone an attack. According to statistics more than 2/3 of the attacks against women could be prevented if they were trained in simple and basic self-defense.
Women, are known to have strong intuition, something that alerts us or makes us feel that there is something wrong with a person or situation. Use it! Think in advance what actions you could take that would provide you more safety. While you are driving, shopping, at home, dating, clubbing etc.
Research online will find many self-defense courses available but, 99% of them are delivered by martial arts instructors with no other qualifications. Even fewer of those Instructors are women. From my personal experience attending many of those courses, I found that the students were treated, trained and handled like martial arts athletes or professionals, and the major effort of teaching was focused on the fight or fighting back instead of avoidance and predator profiling. So, from the first moment students get in the class they learn how to become the victim and get involved in an attack.
The truth is, Self Defense Instructors make their money teaching what they know, and what they don’t know, they leave to someone else. Most have no formal training in altercation avoidance or conflict resolution so they teach reactive methods rather than proactive planning.
Now, my questions are how a normal woman, a mother, someone who has never delivered a punch or a kick in her life can learn fighting techniques in one to six lessons?
And more important, how can she apply what she learned in the gym successfully on the street? How will she react to a real threat from an attacker who doesn’t look like or act like or smell like her Instructor? Who won’t stop short of hitting her in the face or grabbing her body or ripping her clothes?
I see Instructors teaching blocks, arm bars, headlocks etc….I am over 30,with experience in sports and martial arts and I still don’t have the flexibility to make a successful headlock with my legs, and I’m wondering how someone is teaching that and believing that a woman with no experience or practice will apply it in real life?
I have been asking instructors if those techniques work in real life and for some reason they all say yes.
These Instructors are missing some important facts:
- They are male
- They have been practicing for many years
- They teach in a safe environment usually chosen by the student
I find it more dangerous to teach someone something that she is not ready to apply in real life than not teaching it at all. Teaching and reinforcing a false sense of confidence could lead to catastrophic failure. Can you imagine what would happen if a victim kicked an attacker and because of her fear-adrenaline, she kicks wrong or hits the wrong target? If he stays on his feet, He will fight.
Even if the attacker didn’t originally have the intention to seriously injure the victim, he might lose his temper or use more force than intended.
Not all attackers retreat if you fight back, some of them will fight harder and stronger.
More serious are knife and gun disarming techniques…Learning to disarm a plastic knife and gun can be catastrophically worse if the instructor has never used a firearm for his living. I have seen everybody participating in knife disarming, smiling and taking their time, doing it again and again….I’m not so sure if they would deal with it the same way if they had a real knife to practice with.
As a female I tried to apply some of the techniques I learned to real life.
Not all of them worked for me and I belong to the women who have a previous training in martial arts and sports, so it makes me wonder how it would work for a Mother or Grandmother?
I do understand the ”business part” of someone running a training course, but our responsibility as instructors starts with a loyalty to the people who are paying us to learn something that will save their life?
There are a small percentage of people who know what they are teaching and are doing it right. They have a background from law enforcement, martial arts and the security industry. They have gathered their experience and teach realistic techniques. There are people out there, professionals that are focused on teaching intelligence based tactics… brain vs. Braun. As women we must learn to think and out-think We must search for Instructors that know how to teach us, and know what to teach us. And we must learn under stress. We must allow ourselves to be tested under extreme conditions and continue to train to not be victims.
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