As a child, I was embarrassed that my mom repeatedly enrolled me in self-defense and self-esteem classes. When my friends would ask me what I was doing on the weekend, I would come up with any excuse not to tell them that I was enrolled at the local Women’s Centre for a two-day-long self-development class, or at the YM-YWCA for women’s defines classes.
Looking back, as an eight-year-old, that was a totally reasonable way to feel, since most of my girlfriends were going biking or playing at the park or doing whatever else we did as children before the advent of the personal computer. At times, my mom’s insistence made me feel singled-out, different from all my friends.
And I guess I was different. After all, I was the only female under 18 years of age in most of the classes I attended, and I was probably the only eight-year-old girl in town who knew how to break a grown man’s foot.
Luckily for me, I haven’t had to use any of the skills I learned, but not every woman is so lucky. According to the US Department of Justice, every day in 2006, an average of three women were murdered by their partners; more than 600 women were the victims of sexual abuse; more than 13,000 became the victims of partner-related assaults and rapes; and more than 2,185 children went missing.[i]
These are not easy numbers to ignore. So, why aren’t we all learning how to defend ourselves?
According to The Women’s Self-Defense Institute, the paradox of self-defense is that the more prepared you are, the less likely you are to need to use it. When you know how to recognize potentially dangerous situations, you become more confident in your day-to-day activities, making you less likely to become the target of such crimes. In a self-defense class, you should also learn the theories behind personal attacks, a variety of ways to prevent attacks, how to properly execute self-defense moves, and what to do after you’ve been attacked, like reporting the crime to police.
It’s important to know that even without self-defense training there are simple actions you can take to survive an attack:
1) RUN! 81% of women who ran from an attacker escaped.
2) USE ANY PHYSICAL FORCE NECESSARY! 68% of women who fought back escaped.
3) YELL! 62% of women who yelled or screamed when they were attacked escaped their attacker.[ii]
So, what else can you do?
Do your research. Be aware of your surroundings. If you’re in a new city, or you’re unfamiliar with a venue or location, check it out online so that you can be prepared and avoid potentially dangerous situations.
Trust your gut. As women, we are consistently told about our “women’s intuition”. If you have a bad feeling about a situation or place – leave. You don’t need an excuse and you don’t need to validate your feelings to anyone. We have primal instincts for a reason, and we should be listening to them more often.
Learn the basics. And have fun doing it! Have a girls’ day and enroll yourselves in a one-day self-defense class to learn the basics of defending yourself from an attacker. Afterward, you can watch some action movies and practice your moves, or finish of the day by heading out together to your favorite club with your new-found situational awareness.
Believe in yourself. Self-confidence is the key to understanding your own strength.
You may choose to enroll in other forms of self-defense classes, like martial arts (i.e. kickboxing, karate, or even jiu-jitsu). These options will not only teach you a variety of self-defense techniques, but you’ll also be getting exercise and becoming more fit in the process. You’ll want to choose the option that you’re most comfortable with, to maximize your results. Kickboxing worked great for me: it provides a full-body workout, cardio training, and the opportunity to practice your hooks, jabs and kicks! And it helps relieve tension and frustration all alongside a killer, high-energy soundtrack.
We all have a Wonder Woman inside of us just waiting to come out – we just need to give her the knowledge and skills to do her job.
If you live in the Montreal area and would like to take a self-defense or martial arts course, check out the following links:
LERIKEN Functional Fitness - http://www.leriken.com/classes/self-defence
Kickboxing Montreal - http://www.kickboxingmontreal.com/
H2O MMA Gym - http://www.h2oma.com/
For support or counseling, please visit the Montreal Women’s Centre (http://www.cnd-m.com/english/Archives/Visit/2003-04-Women%20Centre.htm)
Report all abusive situations or attacks to your local Police as soon as possible. To check out the Montreal Police Department’s website, follow the link: http://www.spvm.qc.ca/en/.
[i] National Organization for Women; http://www.now.org/issues/violence/stats.html#endref6