Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Self-defense Recommendations for Women?‏

Hello again:

I'm currently in the process of going through your book (with a pencil to underline everything important), and I peeked ahead to the section on self-defense for women.  I'd been wondering about this topic for a while and I was wondering if you had any more specific recommendations, especially per my particular situation.

Now I have to admit up front that I'm not much of a natural athlete and I'm not in the greatest shape.  I recognize this is something I have to work on a lot, probably more than the other areas of my preparedness plan.  I'm not so bad that I'm out of breath after going up stairs - I can hike for about four miles on hilly terrain, lift moderately heavy boxes, etc. - but I certainly don't yet match your description of a person fit enough to take on SHTF.  Also, I know absolutely nothing about martial arts and thus would not be able to tell if someone was selling me trash in that area.  In the past I've also been prone to the "I don't need to learn how to fight because I have a gun" attitude, which your book and blog successfully showed me was incorrect.

So since I knew that I needed get myself into a women's self-defense class, I went online and started to look for local classes.  And apparently, women around here don't need to defend themselves, because I could find next to nothing (at least close by).  Most of the classes / schools were in the major cities ~50 miles away, and of all the remaining options, I'd say about 75-80% of them were just karate.  Since I knew you generally recommended something more mixed than that, I decided to keep looking.  Also, 90% of them were very guy-oriented, and you had said that women need an instructor who specializes in training women.

One of few remotely promising options I found was this site:  http://www.abdct.com/womens-classes.html.  Like I said, I honestly can't tell whether or not something is worth my time, and there's not really anyone I know who knows enough to ask.  Does this guy look good to you, or is this more "martial arts BS," as you say?

Another option is a local group of karate schools where two of my guy friends got their black belts.  Like I said before, these don't appear to be as mixed as you recommend, but it's still out there.  I also remember reading on one of your self-defense posts that you weren't into the mental/emotional stuff in karate/taekwondo, you just wanted to learn how to fight - that would be more along the lines of my thoughts as well.  Link:  http://www.gabrieleskaratekickbox.com/welcome/

I also have no idea how much any of these options will cost.

I don't want to become a professional fighter, I just want to be able to handle myself if I have to, like you say.  I can see plenty of non-paranoid reasons to take a self-defense class, economic collapse or not.  Just for starters, the current rape statistics on American college campuses (25% of female students being the victims of rape or attempted rape).  Those odds aren't comforting to say the least, so it sort of amazed me that there weren't more classes.  Basically, how do the above options look to you, and do you have any more detailed recommendations for women's self-defense?


Hi Katy,

First, allow me to apologize for not answering sooner. Seems that every time I spend a bit of extra time doing something else email gangs up on me and I’m a month behind replying.
It’s good that you are seeking ways to improve your ability to defend yourself.
While you mostly see relatively young, fit guys in defensive shooting classes and training, the truth is that women and senior citizens are the favorite target.
Put yourself in the bad guy’s shoes: Who would you rather chose as a victim?
My description is somewhat ideal. Its understandable that we’re not all alike, we’re all different people, different bodies and lifestyles. The important thing is knowing your limitations but at the same time not be afraid of some self criticism so as to improve those things that are within your power to do so.
I can hardly think of anything more boring that 30-45 minutes on a stationary bicycle, yet I do my best to drag myself to one when I go to the gym.
Being strong and fast is important though. Not only for fighting but other situations as well. Something as simple as running away from all sorts of threats is within our genes, yet so many people wouldn’t be able to run if they had to.
Some time ago my wife was with my son, shopping in the centric part of town, perfect normal day, about noon, lots of people walking down the bullevard. All of a sudden she heard shots and she had to run with our baby inside a store. Someone had tried to rob a store and started a gunfight with the guard. Its just one small example but I guess you understand my point. IF you have to evacuate your city on foot for whatever reason you also need to be able to do so, the amount of stuff you’re fit to carry will tell how much of the much needed gear, food and water you’ll be able to take with you.
The first link, ABD, that seems to be a god combination of martial arts and practical self defense. There’s nothing wrong with martial arts in itself. The problem is that as time went by its has become less and less “martial” so to speak, to the point where  it is often not nearly as good on the streets as some people may be led to believe. As I often mentioned, some of these classes do all they can to avoid something very natural in a fight, which is getting hit.
Check this out, from the FAQ in that same website that says they train you “for the real thing”.
Will I be getting hit? No. Our classes are very SAFE. We use pads, shields, and safety equipment constantly, and the injury rate is VERY low.
Most people do not want to get hit. Some are down right scared of it. In a competitive combat sport or martial art, this occurs naturally when you compete, against someone that wants to beat you. The downside is that some of these martial arts aren’t focused on self defense and leave important things out.
I would still chose the first one, since it seems more self defense oriented. Train as much as you can but always remember, you really don’t know how good or bad you are until you fight against a partner that really wants to defeat you. Its better to get hit in the face with a glove in the gym than getting punched for the first time bare knuckle in a fight for your life.
Its not a bad idea also to cross train. If you get into karate you can learn a lot, and its specially valuable if you don’t shy away from sparring sessions.
Whatever it is you do, know that its FAR better than doing nothing at all. Remember that you need to train at least some with a non cooperative partner, don’t fall for a false sense of overconfidence (which most defensive schools will try to push) and never forget that your main objective is self defense.
Also keep in mind that you have weapons available. Knives can be terrific defensive weapons id you invest a few classes on knowing how to use them. Knives require physical strength and if you don’t know a few basics it can be taken away from you much easier, so don’t overlook some minimum training.
Delica 4, Purple FRN Handle, Plain
The Spyderco Delica is a fine choice when it comes to a compact, defensive-capable blade, both for men and women.

Consider yourself lucky, knives that can be easily purchased in USA and other countries are banned or seriously restricted in UK and other European countries. Take advantage of this opportunity. I got my wife a (purple :-)  ) Spyderco Delica. Its scary sharp, solid and easy to open.
Take care Katy.



Don Williams said...

I am not an expert but will suggest some other things to also consider:

a) You might also ask some local policemen if they know of any
good self-defense trainers --but take their suggestions as advice, not Holy Writ from on high. Emphasize that you are not looking for trouble or lawsuits.

But realize that lots of police don't like the idea of civilians defending themselves --although some support it.

b) There are plenty of books on self-defense that your library can get via interlibrary loan which you can examine as a check on your instructor.

As a start, I would suggest "Self Defense Techniques and Tactics" by Joseph Walker and the Marine Corps Martial Arts Manual (MCRP 3-02B) available online here:

Although, give the size of MCRP 3-02B, you may want to get Adobe Acrobat (free download) and then download a copy of MCRP 3-02B from here:

(The Marine manual covers attacks and defenses for hand to hand, use of knife and use of stick and other improv weapons.)

I not saying those are holy writ -- I'm saying they have some things of value. But use your judgment in all things -- esp re the idea of trying to disarm someone with a gun or knife.

c) There is a strong conflict between self-defense and the social conditioning imposed by our laws and communities. If you are seriously threatened by someone you will have to hurt them badly to stop them and you will probably face a lawsuit even if the police don't arrest you.

Unfortunately, the same pacifists, lawyers, prosecutors and judges who do nothing to protect you are the first to condemn you -- especially if you avoid risking your life by using ruthless and effective measures like a knife.

d) So you probably want to check with a good local lawyer -- one with local influence and who will win if you have to hire him to defend you. That will also give you the confidence you need if you have to act strongly -- when you are being attacked is not the time to ponder the legal issues of a counterattack.

At the same time, realize that even the police are held to the standard of a "Reasonable use of force" -- and that only certain situations justify use of deadly force.

Don Williams said...

e) Ferfal's advice in his book re the importance of sparring is very good.

Anyone can show you how to do a knife hand chop to the carotid.
CIA officer Lindsay Moran, in her book "Blowing My Cover" , indicates
that Hand to hand fighting in CIA
training was covered in 2-3 days.

Which may be fine if your plan is to just sucker-punch someone while he is still verbally threatening you.

It takes more instruction, however, to learn how to use the legs and waist to put a lot of power into punchs while not leaving yourself open to counterattack.

It takes even longer --and experience in sparring -- to learn how to spot opportunities for strikes against an opponent defending themselves and trying to strike you.

Dueling ain't smart but sometimes it's unavoidable. Criminals are hard to sucker punch because they are often expert in it themselves.

f) Finally, there is a wide range of things encompassed by self defense beyond fighting.

Making your house a hard target for an invader with strong doors, locks, and alarms. Some police departments will be glad to send an officer over to look at your apartment/house and give advice on how you can upgrade it to make it more impervious to burglars.

Another aspect is Learning how to control your environment at all times while away from home -- remaining alert and avoiding situations that leave you vulnerable and spotting hostile surveillance early, for example. Not getting lost and wondering into bad neighborhoods.

In his book, Ferfal discusses the proper use of the automobile, for example. although possibly not in ways your police would approve of, hee hee.

g) Women traveling --e.g, on business -- are particularly vulnerable. Defensive avoidance measures --i.e, to avoid situations where you become vulnerable to attack -- are covered in more detail in travel safety books like
"Travel Wise: How to Be Safe, Savvy and Secure Abroad" by Ray Leki. Again, your library can probably get a copy to review.

Anonymous said...

If you have a boxing gym near you, I’d enroll in that first. Boxing is a no-nonsense martial art and a great way to get in shape. Three months at a gym and you’ll be in great shape. You develop great reflexes, stamina, and learn to absorb real punches. I did Karate-Do for 6 years in a very traditionalist Dojo. We kept it as real as possible. Even then, though, when I compare the Karate sparring sessions to lasting 3, three minutes rounds in the boxing ring punching and receiving it’s whole different thing.

Now, street fights are a different animal. Growing up through the teen years, back when I was in Karate, I got into a few fights and was assaulted twice. Dojo experience does not translate well into street fighting. Assaults, on the other hand, are quick as lightning and vicious. One moment they are just in your face, and if you are trained to react, you either fight or flight. I’d would venture to say that this is the main advantage of training in a martial art. It engrains in your psyche the reflex to react as opposed to just paralyze with fear. Our instructor used to tell us, keep improvising and keep moving. Today’s society is too civilized, and people have lost the ability to recognize and react to aggression. Getting hit and training in a controlled environment helps you awaken the dormant survival instincts we all have inside.

Gallo@gta forum

Anonymous said...

If you want to find a great women's martial art school that offers self-defense, I suggest looking up the National Women's Martial Arts Federation, there have a listing of schools. I've been taking Martial Art and Self Defense classes for five years at Valley Women's Martial Arts in Easthampton, MA. If you're ever nearby, I encourage you to stop by and take a class, they're great!