Martial arts training is typically about much more than self defense. Some arts, the ancient weapons arts for example, provide very little training in self defense. Others provide training that is much better suited to the battlefield than to civilian life. When choosing a martial art for self defense, a woman should look for one that recognizes that self defense requires a complex web of physical and mental skills.
Social and Emotional Skills
According to the National Institute of Justice, roughly 22 percent of female assault victims are assaulted by a domestic partner. More than 78 percent of rapes are perpetrated by a person the victim knows. Self defense is about much more than learning to beat up a stranger in a dark alley. The Mona Lisa's Sword system of self defense will, for example, teach you how to recognize a dangerous situation and get out. It will teach boundary, de-escalation and other social skills that will help you protect yourself before things get physical. No martial art can protect you if you don't have the will and self-respect to use it. A good martial art will teach you confidence and give you the strength to deal with situations in the most appropriate way.
A good self-defense martial art will teach you how to generate a strong technique. A small woman hitting with her entire body behind a strike can hit as hard as a strong man just hitting with his arm. Most traditional martial arts can teach you to kick and punch hard. Some will teach you how to hyperextend and twist joints to cause pain, which will help you bring an attacker to submission. Those arts that were developed by military and law enforcement personnel tend to be better at teaching these skills in the context of practical self defense. Two such arts are Krav Maga, the martial art of the Israeli military, and Shuri-ryu, which was adapted from traditional karate by an American highway patrol officer.
Some modern martial arts programs teach a combination of traditional empty-hand skills and modern weapons skills. If you would like to learn to carry a gun, find a school that will teach you to use that gun as a part of your martial arts training. If you don't want to carry a gun, find a school that can teach you how to use improvised weapons -- keys, a purse, a belt or anything you can pick up in the house or beside the road. Weapons extend your reach and magnify your power. It makes no sense to hit someone with flesh and blood when you can hit with something that imparts more force and doesn't hurt.
If you really want to know how you will react when a self defense situation gets physical, consider a self defense program that lets you practice on trained martial artists protected by heavy padding. Striking the air or pads is very different from striking someone who is trying to knock you down and dominate you. If you are physically and emotionally healthy, full-contact self defense practice can build skills and confidence. One system of self defense that prides itself on intense, realistic training is Model Mugging, which focuses on crime-prevention techniques.
- National Institute of Justice: Intimate Partner Violence
- National Institute of Justice: Selected Research Results on Violence Against Women
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Intimate Partner Violence
- Mona Lisa's Sword: MLS: Contemporary Self-defense Classes
- Model Mugging: Choosing a Course for Women
- Martial Art of The Gun: Why Shooting (Hojutsu) is A Martial Art
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images