Women Self Defence - Developing a World Class Offering

I started researching material for women self defence classes from 1991 as part of my black belt program whilst training in the US. The following year I was invited by a friend in Asia to provide a 2 day training course through Association for Women for Action and Research. The course I delivered however only started on its quantum leap when I embarked on a rigorous commercialisation process from 2001 onwards. Below I will present some of my insights on how I developed a world class offering which has been used as the framework for some martial arts instructors and law enforcement officers internationally.

Why Have you Chosen to Deliver a One Off Course?
How do you teach a person to be effective in under 6 lessons? This is a challenge for any thinking martial art instructor and proves to be a challenge for all self defence courses. Basically it's difficult to squeeze in enough material and practical training in a few hours for a women to be effective in physical self defence. My thinking however is that fewer participants want to start off with a longer course, and I needed to get women through the door to listen to the material. So I developed a course that was heavier on theory and awareness, that provided thinking and tactical skills, that overviewed the opponents they may face, and that had a plan of action for such a situation.

You Have a Theme to Your Course?
The theme of my course is 'Not All Bad Things Are Done by Bad People.' Women Self Defence is rarely about being jumped in a dark alleyway. From FBI statistics I researched, though this might be a few years old, 83% of women are victimised by someone they know. This means that more often than not this is an opportunistic crime which is perpetrated by a colleague, or friend, or acquaintance, or relative that the victim has previously trusted. With this in mind, my course had to prepare the victim for such a betrayal, to reduce the fight/flight response, to engage them in physical self defence with less of a delay, and to empower them to understand that using aggressive physical self defence tactics is appropriate in this situation. These are all difficult themes that I thought most other instructors would not be able to cover as well as I could, and therefore my course would be like the 'intro' for other longer courses which may help participants gain the physical skills they need to survive such an attack.

What is the Most Surprising Thing You've Discovered While Giving this Class?
The most surprising thing that I have discovered is that most participants are unwilling to use physical force against an attacker. This discovery was one of the impetus for me to create my Fight or Flight Visualisation Tool which allowed participants to create a situational analysis for themselves and to give themselves permission to engage in physical self defence. Creating this tool was the first step in elevating the quality of my offering, as it further spurred me to centre the course around the needs of the participant - rather than just to dwell on the 'how to' of delivering them a few easy 'deadly techniques'.

Have Classes been Easy to Deliver?
Most classes are. There have been one or two that have met difficulties. One was when I was engaged by a women's refuge to come talk with the ladies about the threats they are facing. For many of those participants however, the emotional rawness of their ordeal was still fresh - and the content of what we were discussing was uncomfortable to them. The second, and far more trivial, difficulty was when I was providing women self defence training to a privatised high school and for some reason my training partner couldn't come on the day we were practicing ground fighting techniques. I had to literally raise my voice - and not smile - to force those young girls on each other so we could continue the lesson.

What Professional Insight would You Share with Other Instructors?
Be precise with your words. This is a sensitive topic, and a simplistic approach to it is inappropriate. No one wants to be victimized. No one wants to be raped. But these participants are not trained fighters; they are unused to violence. So giving them a particular technique and presenting it as their sole survival tool puts the onus on them. This means that if they fail to initiate that technique or perform it correctly, and then if they get raped, the emotional burden will land on themselves. All because some instructor believed that encouragement may help increase their effectiveness. You must temper your words and chose them with care. Give the participants options, but remember that even a passive defence is part of their available options, and survival and recovery are their key objectives.

Any Further Insight?
The self defence instructor needs to ponder this. It doesn't matter if the sex started as consensual or even if both partners had a long history of consensual intercourse; even if in the midst of sex IF a woman decides that it's got to stop, from that point it ceases to be consensual and becomes a sexual assault. Problem is the women might be on a soft-ish surface, pressed down by an opponent who might otherwise be a nice person but who still outweighs them by about 20-40 kilos. They've got their legs splayed and they've got something thrusting into a bodily orifice. The woman might be experiencing the effects of some alcohol-induced haze but is otherwise calling for the person to stop. Now, over to you.

This post is part of a Women Self Defence blogging carnival organised 
by myself but hosted by Charlie Wildish at his blog.  Please visit his blog
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Colin Wee
Joong Do Kwan Chung Sah Nim
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