Monday, March 13, 2017

Women's Self Defense for the Win!

This story has been making the rounds in martial arts circles lately - check it out:

Survivor of Golden Gardens Assault Shares Her Story

and here:

Seattle Woman Uses Tactics She Learned from Self-Defense Class to Escape Brutal Sexual Assault

If you don't click though, here's a short synopsis:

Woman credits a two-hour women's self defense course with helping her survive an attack by a repeat offending rapist in a park bathroom.

The victim came out of it with bumps and bruises, but she's basically okay!

You should stand up right now and applaud too.

I'm sure you'll agree that this is fantastic news, and I am grateful that she was able to fight off her attacker and survive with so very little damage.  That awesome.

The fact that she says a very short women's self defense course helped her survive caught my attention, because there are some folks out there who think that short women's self defense courses are useless.  You know, they mean the basic two-to-four hour courses that lots of martial arts schools and teachers offer.

I would agree, to a point, that short self defense courses are woefully inadequate to cover all of the things a person would need to defend themselves in every situation (and they're terrible if you end up finding yourself in a fight).  I would also argue that a lot of martial arts classes and programs in general - and I'll include firearms courses too - are also inadequate to cover all situations, including many common ones.

Look, for women, statistically the danger we really face is from our loved ones and people we know, not from strangers in the street wanting to assault or fight us.  The vast majority of women's self defense courses fail to address this, but  honestly, I don't think we in the martial arts community, on average, are competent enough to address it.

Thus, most of our self defense courses focus on the typical "stranger tries to attack you" scenarios, which are actually becoming less common as crime rates overall have been plummeting for the last generation or so.  It still happens, all the time, but it's getting rarer.  Great news, but it goes to show that our focus in the martial arts is not jiving with what is actually happening in the real world for the average female victim of assault, robbery, rape, and murder.

But here's where I disagree that short women's self defense courses are "useless" (and never mind the fact that I have a real world example to back me up, as noted above).

A good women's self defense course will be more about situational awareness, about avoiding and evading people who wish us harm, and about getting out of a dangerous situation once someone has decided to attack.  This does not require years of training, although of course, it would be preferable if women of all ages would join us in our weird little obsession with acquiring bruises for funsies, obviously.

Short courses are very good at getting women to think about their own protection. To be aware when they are in places where it's easy to ambush (such as grocery store parking lots and you guessed it, public restrooms).  To trust their own instincts when things aren't "right", and to teach them not to talk themselves out of leaving a bad situation.  To help them spot where and when in their daily lives that things could go wrong, because the first part of learning how to defend one's self is to recognize that there's a dangerous situation in the first place.

The "martial arts" part of women's self defense courses are about escaping and getting free.  It isn't about staying engaged with a bad guy, it isn't about besting someone in a fight, and it certainly isn't about "winning" a fight.

In my opinion, actual fighting skills in short self defense courses should be relegated to a few easy-to-learn techniques to defend and then counter-attack vital areas (throat, eyes, groin, etc.) so they can get out of the grasp of a bad guy.  It should not require being incredibly fit or skills that it takes most of us years of practice to do well.

When I see women's self defense advertised using an image of an incredibly fit woman outfitted for kick boxing, and she's kicking higher than her head, I cringe, I really do.

I'm with Trey on this one.

Boxing and kickboxing Our "win" in self defense is survival.  We don't have to beat someone up or make them tap or kill someone to "win" when someone offers us harm.

This is a mindset MOST of us do not train in, in the martial arts.  We train to engage, we train to stay in, we train to control, we train to win.  The "survival", self-defense mindset is not what we generally practice.

We have this great example of a woman who was able to take what she learned from a two-hour self defense course and use it in real life against an honest-to-goodness bad guy.  Of course, she had some help from bystanders, but still...

She came out of it with some bruises.  That's it.  And the perp is captured.

Women's self defense FOR THE WIN!

One more thing - I really think there is an underserved market in short-course MEN'S self defense courses.  How MEN get into trouble, how MEN can get out without getting hurt (especially understanding social violence and how to de-escalate).  Men experience far more violence than women do, statistically, and I would love to see stuff like this get off the ground as well.

Who's with me?