Friday, December 15, 2006

Resisting Rape: Teaching Women's Self-Defense

I just read
Ronin's post on resisting rape on his blog. He brings up some good points. One of the hardest subjects to cover in teaching martial arts is handling a rape situation. I remember assisting at a women's self-defense seminar when I was about 15 years-old and a woman breaking down as she was trying to learn the techniques. She had been raped, and also physically abused by her husband. She needed more than the standard Karate techniques she was learning that day. Make no mistake, teaching women's self defense is a calling that few are prepared, or qualified, to do. I have now been teaching it for about 20 years in a seminar format, and have a few opinions I'd like to share.
  1. Many, if not most of the women who should be taking self-defense classes aren't going to do it. Like the lady cited in my example above, they are too afraid and emotionally damaged to take that step.

  2. You need to adapt your techniques to your subject. Many techniques taught in a standard curriculum aren't suitable for women. You need to either modify the techniques you teach or get new ones that will work on a much larger attacker. Many instructors (male and female) mistake what is effective for them with what will work for a scared woman who is usually weaker than her attacker. One way to check this is to try your techniques on someone who is much larger and stronger than you, or have a regular student or instructor do it. An eye-opener for me was when I tried some of my techniques on a 6'5" 275 pro football player. I learned quickly what wouldn't work. If I couldn't make it happen, can an untrained woman?

  3. Psychologically prepare your students to do whatever it takes to survive. Often, they aren't willing to be vicious enough to successfully stop or maim an attacker. I typically ask my seminar participants whether they have children. I point to someone who raised her hand and ask her what she would do to protect them. She will usually say, "anything!" I then tell everyone to think of what will happen in a home invasion rape to their kids after the rapist has killed her. It changes the perspective a little. Many don't value their own lives nearly enough, but cherish their children. Use that!

  4. Don't start teaching your physical techniques from a stand-up position; start with the "victim" down and an attacker on top of her. How many times have you seen or heard of a male mugger or rapist confronting a woman, squaring off with her, then grabbing her or punching her as he would a male subject? Women wake up in their beds with someone on top of them; they are grabbed by the hair and thrown to the ground, or intimidated into complying with verbal commands by the presence or voice of the scumbag. What sense does it make to teach someone who's depending on you to impart something which could save her life a technique that she may never use? Teach her how to maim or stun an attacker such that he can't chase her, or that he has to seek an emergency room to help put his eye back in it's socket. Start down, then work your way up.

  5. Use as many male volunteer attackers as you can get. If a skill can be effectively executed on a strong male in a safe environment, it will build the confidence and instinct to resist when the time is right. Teaching someone how to do something ineffectively is worse than teaching nothing at all.

  6. Follow up with literature from your local police department or the Web that details crime prevention strategies. Make sure they leave knowing how to walk confidently and to use their voices. Hook them up with good information on purchasing a handgun and names of instructors, courses, and ranges to learn and maintain their skills.

  7. Encourage regular participation in a martial arts curriculum that focuses on self-defense, even if it's not yours.

If you have any questions or comments, please email us or comment. All comments are reviewed before posting, and usually elicit a response comment within 24 hours.

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UPDATE: Read this DefendU Q & A for a good example of a technique I also teach (as the "grounded defensive position").


dancilhoney said...

I learned to be aware - prevent attacks; learned the mindset of attacker; learned how to defend myself. Thanks for sharing also visit women self defense

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I am a fan of short-term self defense as not everyone will take the time to learn a fighting system. women protection