Why should you take a self-defense class? When you are ready, how do you distinguish between the various self-defense programs out there? In this blog, I’ll talk about why self-defense training is important, and what to look for in a great class, so you can be an informed consumer. You’ll also find a list of quick and effective tips to help you get safer right now!
Why Self Defense?
Throughout history, women have been perceived as fragile and vulnerable. We have been socialized to:
- Put other people’s needs before our own
- Take care of others and be nurturing
- Be sugar and spice and everything nice
- Empathize and give others the benefit of the doubt
- Be seen, not heard
- Do as we are told, obey, not make a scene or speak up
- See ourselves as less-than, not good enough, or not worthy
There is not necessarily anything wrong with (most of) these traits, but in terms of our safety, these are attributes that can put us at risk. If your default is to give others the benefit of the doubt, for example, and you don’t feel comfortable responding in any other way, you are more vulnerable than someone who is willing to ask questions, speak up and maybe even make a scene.
How many women have told me over the past thirty-plus years that they let people walk all over them – to their own detriment? How many women have shared with me that they knew something was wrong with the man or the situation, but went anyway, not wanting to make him feel badly? How many times have I heard a woman tell me that she froze when confronted with an uncomfortable situation, didn’t want to draw attention to herself, didn’t want to hurt anyone? Too many times!
You can see where I’m heading here. While “playing nicely” and taking care of others are wonderful traits, they also can put us at risk if we are behaving unconsciously or are acting out of habit or fear of what others might think.
What should I look for in a GREAT self-defense class?
A good, basic self-defense class will teach you to be loud, and will couple that with effective striking techniques. A women’s self-defense class taught by a man is okay on some levels, and is better than nothing, but you can do better. A class taught by a woman who is not a trained martial artist can also be okay, but, how do you – and she – know that the skills you are learning are really effective? Ooookay, so, then what?
When you choose a self-defense class taught by a woman, you can count on her knowing and understanding the intricacies and subtleties of what it means to be, well, a woman. Chances are good she’ll be respectful of you, your emotions and your experiences. When you pick a class taught by a woman who is also a martial artist, you can bet she knows how to fight, and knows first-hand what works best when your opponent is bigger and stronger. You want a teacher who has tried and tested all the skills she teaches you!
Do yourself a favor and pick a program led by an instructor who has read, studied, looked at all the research and gives you knowledge based in facts, not myths. Find an instructor with many years of experience who cares deeply about her work. Lastly, choose a class that can provide you with continued training if you want to delve more deeply into any of the aspects you worked on in class. These are all important things to think about when you pick a self-defense program, and will go a long way toward enhancing your experience and giving you more value.
What more can you expect from a self-defense program besides the basics? A great class is going to broaden your awareness, teach you about preventive strategies and help you learn to set clear boundaries in LOTS of different situations. By the end of a great class, you will feel empowered, and will have learned to live with less fear and more freedom. You will have tools to stand up for yourself at work, home and school. A great class will encourage you to question unconscious patterns and old habits born of socialization. At a deeper level, a great class brings you to the deeper realization that YOU ARE WORTH PROTECTING!
When I teach, I say that the little stuff is really the big stuff. Yes, you want to practice the “big stuff” like striking and loud yelling. That ought to be a key component of any self-defense class. But think about this: We know that it takes time for a perpetrator to pick their victim. We know what that process looks like, how it happens. At each step along the way, there can be opportunities, windows, where you might be able to affect the outcome. What does that look like and how does it work? It starts with how you hold yourself, your eye contact and your tone of voice. It matters how you respond, for example, when someone is asking you too many personal questions, telling you a sexist joke or putting you down. The little things really are the big things.
Self Defense training is incredibly personal at its deepest level. We are shedding light on our own unconscious as we learn new ways to respond. We are upending history as we make new choices, and we are flying in the face of socialization as we learn new ways of being and thinking about ourselves. Every piece of effort counts and a great self-defense class can be a catalyst!
What can I do to make myself safer right now?
- Take a self-defense class. It doesn’t have to be a class at Naga, just find a great class and take it!
- Take a refresher class every year. Keep your skills up-to-date. The additional practice can really help! Think of your self-defense training like a CPR class or a fire drill. Practice when you are calm so you have skills you can rely on when you feel unnerved or scared.
- Trust yourself! If something feels wrong, likely something IS wrong. Leave, speak up, get out of there, call someone. Trust yourself!
- Practice saying “No!” Get comfortable with saying it! Sometimes it takes a while, just keep practicing!
- Try speaking up! It’s not easy and you will most likely get some blowback, so only do so if you are sure you are safe.
- Walk with purpose. Perpetrators are looking for a woman who won’t get them into trouble, i.e., someone who looks afraid, uncomfortable, distracted or unaware. Keep your eyes up, swing your arms, walk with a long stride, shoulders back, YOU OWN THE STREET!
- Communicate! If there is a person or a situation that is making you feel uncomfortable at work, school, home or anywhere, talk to some other women about it. Talk to the authorities, to Human Resources. Speak up. The safer you are, the safer ALL women are.
Women’s Self Defense is an integral part of the programs offered at Naga, along with martial arts for adults, teens and kids. We teach self-defense workshops for kids, corporations and private groups too.
To learn more about our self-defense classes for women click HERE
To learn more about our self-defense instructor, click HERE
If you are interested in our programs for kids, click HERE
Or if you know someone looking for a martial arts program that is based in self-defense click HERE