The Safety Dance
Back in our old martial arts program in Texas, we taught a short (4-hour) women's self defense course.
There's not a lot you can do in four hours - we focused on situational awareness and a few basic, core techniques mainly intended for escape. Our hope was that the course inspires women to think more about their safety in general, and to consider taking a more in-depth self defense course some time in the future, either with us, or somewhere else.
We had all kinds of women in our classes - elderly, young, mother and daughter teams, and women with disabilities. Most of them are engaged in what we were teaching and eager to learn ways to help themselves become more safe.
It was a real pleasure to teach this class. It's a joy to get our students to think about ways that each of them - within the context of living their daily lives - can be more actively aware of their environments and more in control of their personal safety.
Some of us out there sneer at these short self defense courses and call them useless.
No, these courses will not teach you how to fight bad guys "in the street". Speaking specifically about us and our course, we didn't pretend that they would.
Short women's self defense courses are there to start the conversation about taking control and responsibility for one's self-defense. They're mainly for the mind, not the body. Because if you're thinking about your self defense, your general awareness gets better, and it makes you a harder target for people who wish you harm.
Of course, it's far from perfect and definitely not all a woman ever needs to do or learn to defend herself. We made this clear to our students, and we followed up with participants on topics about self-defense with the hope that they'll take up more in-depth training.
It's true that a four-hour introductory women's self defense course won't cut it for many dangerous situations. Self defense is a complex topic and requires more than a short course like this.
Training as a bad-ass martial artist for most of your life has many flaws for self defense and protection, too. Each of our games has gaps and holes and situations where what we do won't help. Many of us never actually train for real-life self defense situations (heck, we don't even understand what those look like or what the real risk may be for each of us).
I mean, how does rolling teach you how to deal with an active shooter situation? How does swinging a stick help teach you how to deal with a home invasion? Both of those things happen all the time in the US. So I guess we shouldn't roll or do Arnis...?
It is nearly impossible to perfectly train for every conceivable self defense scenario. At least, it is for those of us with jobs and other responsibilities in our lives.
We didn't even pretend to try to do so in our women's self defense course. We believe, though, that such a course is better than nothing.
It gets them started in the Safety Dance.
Do you teach short self-defense courses? What kinds of things do you focus on? What would be your ideal self defense course for people who aren't looking to study martial arts full-time? Let me know in the comments!
PS: As I was writing, this is the song that was going through my head. Enjoy.