At least once a week, I get an email from a woman who tells me she is interested in “women’s self defense”. This is understandable, especially when you consider how many women’s self defense courses there are, and how few people actually understand the nature of real self defense, including self defense and martial arts instructors, unfortunately.
I’ve been meaning to add a page to my website on the myth of women’s self defense…how the principles of self defense are the same for all humans, and how the relative difference between yourself and a particular attacker you’re dealing with matters far more than the average difference between genders. I’ve finally gotten around to adding it here: The Truth About Women’s Self Defense
Some women who have emailed me also mention their size, usually when they’re smaller than average. But I get an equal if not greater number of emails from men who ask for advice on self defense for smaller men. Size does matter. Everything matters. But as a friend recently told me, “there are some people who are better than me, and there are some people who are worse than me”. Even if you are “small”, there are some people who are smaller than you, and there are some people who are bigger than you. Your size is somewhat meaningless. What matters is your size and skill relative to a particular/specific attacker.
No matter who you are…male, female, “big” or “small”…you need the same skills for physical self defense. You need to be able to use and defend against striking and wrestling, and to be able to use and defend against weapons. Through functional training, you’ll discover that certain techniques and strategies are better for you against certain individuals. But there are no specifics that are right for all individuals of a certain type. It’s an individual thing, and the only way is to discover it for yourself.
Check out the new page here, and let me know what you think in the comments below.
I agree to an extent. However, offering a “women’s self-defense” course is a great way to expose women who might never walk in your door otherwise to practical self-defense.
Also, if you examine criminological statistics you’ll find that the likelihood of a woman being attacked by another woman pales in comparison to the most common scenario she’ll face, which is a date rape situation. So, teaching a short-course in self-defense that deals specifically with that physical threat seems to make a lot of sense.
If I teach a woman how to kickbox, how much use is that going to be to her when she’s on her back or stomach, pinned under a man who is trying to rape her?
After teaching WSD courses for decades, I can tell you that I’d much rather teach a woman a few very specific techniques that deal with the most common situations she might have to face, than nothing at all (somewhere between 1-in-3 and 1-in-4 women are sexually assaulted or the victim of an attempt in their lifetimes).
Would I rather have a woman train with me for years on end, learning to deal with every single possible situation? Would I rather she become a skilled martial artist? Of course (on the basis that we are talking about a combative martial art). But, if the alternative to taking a good women’s self-defense course is, “or nothing at all” I’d rather she take the WSD training.
As an aside, check out http://www.defenduniversity.com – they teach what I consider to be a very viable women’s self-defense short-course.
Regarding getting women through your door, that’s what I meant when I wrote “Women’s self defense, more than anything, is a phrase used either by people who don’t understand self defense or by someone trying to sell you something.” For marketing or segmentation, it’s not a bad strategy, as long as the instructor knows what he is doing and is honest once the person walks through the door.
Regarding teaching PHYSICAL self defense in a short course…I’m skeptical. I most definitely agree that you or any SD course should teach a few specific techniques that deal with the most common attacks. That’s what my Fundamental Five is all about. BUT, unless a very significant portion of luck is involved, those few techniques (default responses) need to be backed by skills…a solid understanding and ability to control and/or manipulate distance and position, timing, etc.
It’s true that “kickboxing” isn’t going to help a woman once she is on her back or stomach. But it will provide the skills necessary to avoid ending up there. And, it’s going to take “wrestling” of some sort to learn how to escape if she is there. Neither of those things…offensive and defensive stand up or ground skills…can be taught in a quick course. Or, I should say that the skills can’t be attained in a quick course. They require a good bit of training/time.
In theory, I agree that it would be better to teach a woman a few techniques than nothing at all. But again, unless a LOT of luck is involved, I think these few techniques will primarily provide a false sense of security. Women would probably be better off realizing they do not have sufficient training, and focusing 100% on awareness and prevention. OR, spending the time/energy it takes to learn the required skills. No offense here, but I think it’s a little bit like saying that believing in something is better than nothing, even if that something is false.
I DO think a person (male or female) can learn a lot about prevention in a short course, who and what to avoid, how to recognize it, etc., etc. That’s what I address on my prevention page, and to be honest, I think the material on that page is equal to or greater than anything that can be covered in a quick course. So I think a quick/short course on prevention can be extremely valuable, but I have yet to see a short course on physical self defense that I feel does more than give false hope…unless the participant realizes they need to go home and train the material consistently, and does it…with fully resisting/uncooperative partners.
Regardless, the primary point of what I’ve written about “women’s self defense” is that it shouldn’t differ much from “self defense”…it’s one and the same…unless it is BS or a marketing tactic.
Hello! About teaching women, I also teach women self-defense and to me, they are just like a nuke power navy submarines, they can deliver a strong strike, but cannot take a good hit. This is why submarine has to stay very quite and try to sneak up close before the other side can counter them. I think all women have the elements of surprise on their side for the first 30 sec’s to hit the bad guy with everything they have and then get the hell out of there. If they don’t get the job done at that time and stay around, it’s going to be that much hard in round two. Thank You All For Reading My Two Cents.
So true. And that can be an advantage, depending on intent of aggressor/s.
Inflicting death, prolonged suffering or kidnap, better to try to ensure an outcome than be helpless
die either by fighting or suicide. Never consent to being bound, or trust promises. Respect reality: men think differently & are super strong & fast.
Flee, scream, try to keep them off balance, increase their perceived level of risk: ex loud as you can : DADDY,! , HELP, NO! GO! Leave me alone! Knife! Gun!
Convey information & commands! POLICE! HELP! Say Names, if known & how many! ,
Bang, push, throw. Don’t get trapped, distract& lead away from other potential targets, maintain distance
Chose to move through your fear, never let terror freeze you up,
underneath bodily fear, your mind is an thinking ally
Your body hurt, but only super intense pain or unconsciousness can stop your mind from processing ,critical Cues, , knowns, unknowns, options.
Stasis = opportunity forr predators.
sorry but this time I disagree. I think there is a lot of specifics which apply only to women, like the way they’re likely to be approached, the fact that thay will normally be smaller and weaker than their opponents and other parameters which are quite specific to a sexual aggresion. I do believe there is room for a separate approach to self defense between males and females. Of course you can find very small and weak men and very strong and big women, but those will be far from the average.
I 100% agree with the fact that a short course will only provide a false sense of security, and in this case I would say that the same thing applies to man and women. You cannot learn how to fight or to defend yourself in a weekend seminar. It will take you years, but, again, I would draw a different scenario for women and men. Those scenarios would have some common places, but they would essentially be different since most dangerous assaults for women (rapes) are different than those for men (stupid fights started for stupid reasons with potentially fatal consequences).
I have to say I really like your approach to self defense and all the information you offer on this topic, regardless we disagree in this specific point.
Keep up the good work 🙂
Cheers from Spain!
I think we’re just coming at this from different angles. I agree with the majority of what you have written, if not all of it. It’s true that women will often be approached differently, and that rapes are different from the typical bar fights that men get into. However, in the case of rape vs. a bar fight, I think you are comparing “apples and oranges” (if you are familiar with that saying). A rape is a very serious, horrible crime. A bar fight is pure stupidity and easily avoidable. Getting in a bar fight is not self defense, it’s just fighting. When I teach or discuss self defense, I am talking about legally justifiable self defense, and by physical self defense, I mean using physical techniques because there is *no* other option.
The lead up to ANY physical confrontation requires that certain conditions are met. The attacker must close the distance, for example. This is the same for every physical attack: a rape, a bar fight, an assault and robbery, etc. This is where all *physical* self defense training takes place, and dealing with it is the same for both men and women. For both, they need to learn how to strike and defend against strikes, how to wrestle and defend against wrestling, and how to use and defend against weapons. Furthermore, isolating women in a women’s self defense course doesn’t expose them to defense against men, the people they are most likely to be fighting anyway…in a serious situation. That’s another reason I think it’s essential that men and women train together, so that women become comfortable and at ease “fighting” with men.
BEFORE physical contact is made, in the lead up, I consider that to be part of awareness and non-physical prevention, which can be covered pretty quickly. The majority of time in self defense training is not spent there. And that is where the differences come in, in how a man will approach a man vs. how a man will approach a woman, etc. I should again say that although it doesn’t take very long to learn the awareness/prevention side of self defense (just a day or two really, but then constant application), it is the most important part of self defense. But anyway, even though men and women may be approached differently, for different purposes, I think it would be a disservice to focus on averages for men or women.
A woman MAY get attacked by a sick individual who decides to beat her like most men would do to other men. Surely you’ve seen videos of women getting punched and knocked out on the street, just like a man. And, a man MAY be approached by another man using strategies that are more often used against a woman (the warning signs by Gavin de Becker, listed on my awareness page are great examples: forced teaming, charm, typecasting, too many details, discounting no, etc.). So my position is that men and women should BOTH learn how to prevent all attacks, because you never know who your attacker may be, what approach he or she will use, and what the motivation will be. Men and women should both learn what kinds of people and places to avoid, how to be a bad target, how to be aware, how not to provoke an attack, when and how to escape, etc.
I agree with you that certain aspects of attacks may be different on average for men and women. But the physical requirements are the same, it would be better for women to train with and against men, and it would also be better if both men and women were aware of and understood how to prevent all approaches/attacks. An added benefit of understanding all aspects of prevention is that a man will be more likely to notice a threat to a woman when he sees it, and vice versa. I don’t see any reason why a woman shouldn’t learn it all, particularly when the prevention side is relatively fast and easy anyway, and with the physical side, it is a necessity.
Anyway, thanks for your thoughts (and same to you Mike)! This discussion is valuable for anyone reading.
The techniques can be the same for men and women, the only difference is that women tend to be assaulted under different circumstances. The primary goals to keep safe is awareness and avoidence and if attacked, the over riding priority is to injure the attacker – not try to cause pain because if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they will not feel pain. I used to tell my female students that they should not strike a male attacker unless they are prepared to knock the attacker out or cause injury. The biggest obstacle for females is that they find it difficult to consider causing real injury.