women's self defense

I've seen a few women's self defense classes, and I have not been very impressed. Through they do a good job in increasing a women's agressive mentality, I think it also teaches misplaced confidence. The moves are often taught with a compliant partner, or some guy dressed like a punching bag walking toward them arms outstrectched like a zombie.

What are your opinions on some of the neccesary components, and most important lessons, of women's self-defense?

jbapk, I've had the same experience. I volunteered my time to help out with an organization that put on self-defense, and anti-rape, seminars/classes for women. A lot of the information was very enlightening and provided me with a lot of insight. However, when it came to techniques for actual self-defense it left a lot to be desired. The "head instructor" even told me how to fall when one of the participants tried to "throw me" so that she would know that the technique would work. The worst moment came when one of the participants asked what she could do to protect herself if she were lying flat on her stomach and an assailant was mounted on her (on her back). The "head instructor" then said very confidently that the person on the bottom was in a very safe position and that there was little the attacker on top could do to hurt her. All I could think of was how many prison movies/stories started like this. From that day forward, whenever I have had to teach a technique, I always explain the why's, how's and when's that accompany it. It's way too easy to get a false sense of confidence over what you think you "know".

I teach self-defense for a living and work with many people including women on a regular basis.

I fully understand the arguments many have with some of the seeming flaws with "Padded Assailant" mock attacker systems and their not fully "alive" approach. In a perfect scenario the people engaged in such classes would take the time (and feel they have the time to take) on-going Self defense classes MA classes etc. Unfortunately for many this is not the case.

Most of these types of classes are offered in short term workshop style. The better ones cover a lot of basic information that offers options that intercede before the physical. They raise awareness and confidence allowing individuals to learn to be safe in their imaginations and that they do have choices. When one is armed with new awareness and confidence one often avoids being selected as a victim thus by-passing the need for "super" physical skills.

The physical skills taught are most often simple, gross-motor tools that are easy to teach and learn over a broad population. They are proven effective in many situations and are readily learned by men, women, old, young, athletic and coach potato alike.

These classes also appeal to and attract many who otherwise might never get involved with more traditional MA pursuits.

Finally this style of class has a proven effective track record world wide with literally thousands of success stories. My guess is that most or probably all other more traditional forms of martial arts can not boast this success rate in true street confrontations.

Remember that attacks by men on men and attacks by men on women are not usually the same kind of attack. These are not NHB fights. As Tony Blauer often says, and I agree "Although NHB athletes are really fighting, it isn't a real fight". What this means is that the three-dimensional nature of a true ambush street attack is very different then a fight that is agreed upon and pre-determined.

I work with my partners to create what I feel is the best of both worlds when teaching self-defense skills. But for those who do not have the time or inclination for long term training I highly recommend some of these "Full-Force" self-defense classes that use a padded attacker.

On a final note, Many men that take these classes find that although they are comfortable with their physical arsenal the strong verbal attack components that are often a part of this work can be quite un-nerving to them. This is why for street readiness it is a great idea to include scenario days in your training at least once or twice a month.

My favorite of these types of classes:


Just my two cents.


The false sense of security is not only limited to women's self defense courses...

Since "pfsjkd" was kind enough to bring up the possibility of not surviving an attack even though resisting, I'd like to pass along a few thoughts on biting.

There's all kinds of ways and reasons to bite, but I won't go into those. I'm thinking more about how HARD to bite.

These are my rules of thumb:
(1) Attack not overly violent, with reasonable expectation of survival - Bite to hurt and distract, enough to leave marks, but not necessarily hard enough to break the skin...leaves evidence that could lead to successful prosecution later with less chance of acquiring a blood-born pathogen.

(2) Violent attack, with real possibility of permanent injury or death - Bite off chunks, and if possible spit in face of attacker (makes a hell of an intimidating statement)...if death is a possibility, concerns of possible blood-born pathogens are moot, and making a mess will make successful apprehension and prosecution easier.

(3) Violent attack, with near-certainty of death - bite off and swallow chunks...may discourage the attacker, but if murdered, the victim's body will contain significant physical evidence that will be almost impossible for the murderer to eliminate without significant difficulty...making successful apprehension and prosecution easier.

With practice, the average human can develop the ability to bite right through an orange or thick steak...sufficient power to achieve any of the above. Any other thoughts on this?


I agree that women's S/D classes must be
carefully structured to maximize the results for a
given time frame. I have found that women in
general have predictable "hangups" which must be
overcome in order to be effective at defending

First, they have been taught by
society to be demure, and the thought of hitting a
heavily-padded attacker brings out comments of,
"I don't want to hurt you!" We get them past that
hurdle with a little practice and some emotional
"involvement" in the situation.

Second, the thought that they will "freeze" with fear
during a real situation requires patience and an
explanation of the helpful effects of adrenaline.
Then, with properly structured fright-response
drills, the woman learns that she will only get SO
scared, and that she IS capable of action while
she's feeling that way. Also, most attacks on a
woman are oriented first toward gaining her
compliance, not instantly killing her. This is a
unique advantage which allows a woman a
moment to compose herself during an attack and
prepare her defense. Once she becomes a little
more familiar with her "comfort zone" and her
"thresholds of discomfort", she no longer is
dealing with the unknown when launching her
counterattack when surprised. She has "been
there" ( close approximation) in training, and does
not have to formulate a plan while under duress.
The plan is already instilled.

We have had several clients use their training to
prevent harm to themselves. They reported that
the confidence gained from our drills, and the
duress under which they performed them in class,
allowed them to act where they might have once
hesitated. Most women don't want to become
life-long martial arts students. What they minimally
need is a set of fundamental plans designed
specifically for the types of attacks and positions
they will statistically encounter. The average
rapist, etc. is not prepared for his "victim" to
immediately respond with something effective. He
anticipates the "trembling sheep" stereotype, and
has to quickly re-formulate his own plans when
confronted with an unanticipated response. This
hesitation on his part provides a psychological
edge to the woman, who KNOWS her plan.



I really appreciate the psychology behind some of these posts. What would some fo you recommend as actual techniques for someone taking this type of seminar or set number of classes knowing that the individual does not intend on becoming a long-term martial arts student?

Nowaydo,I feel you on the point about male attackers perferring to go after 'victims', but take issue with;Would you tell your girlfriend to fight back........or just take the rape?I tell my wife that she needs to do whatever it takes to survive. That's no clear definition of 'whatever it takes'. It may mean fight back, but then again, it may mean submit and live through it.

nowaydo , I think it's great when people gain self-confidence from good, quality instruction and scenario training. My issue lies with self-proclaimed experts who spout off statistics and then provide people with innefective techniques which lay the foundation for the new and improved self-confidence. For example, in the example I cited above I was told to fall down when one of the participants in the seminar attempted a throw on me when she put her hands behind my neck and shifted/turned her hips to one side (she was not trying the plumb from MT, by the way). She was under 140 lbs. and I'm 255. After the class she came up to me and said how happy she was with the knowledge she now has because before the class she never thought she could "throw" someone my size so easily. Self-confidence is great when it involves issues such as how to not present yourself as a victim, being aware of your surroundings, recognizing trouble spots, etc. I only have a problem with so-called experts who aren't building self-confidence properly.

I've been looking into the various types of women's self-defense training programs out there, and have seen all kinds of situations.

The worst I've seen are the point-TKD approach to self-defense, with attendees being told to hit an attacker with a 10-move combo in a specific pattern, or to strike to permanently disable just because someone gripped your wrist. These programs do as much harm as good, IMHO.

The mediocre award goes to the various college self-defense classes I've seen/participated in. Most of these are only a step or two above the previous example, but they give a more realistic range of technique and sometimes incorporate mild assailant scenarios. However, they still leave much to be desired. There are similar programs offered through some women's shelters, but the quality of these varies greatly depending on the instructor.

The decent/good/excellent programs generally have a minimum of 20-30 hours of intensive, scenario-based training incorporating simple gross movements, adrenal-stress-response, state and local law pertaining to self defense, and extensive awareness and avoidance training. A few have options for both knife and gun training upon completion of the empty-hand programs.

Depending on where you are, you will probably be able to find one of the better ones, but they are less numerous than the lousy ones. To find them, run a search using "BAMM", "Model Muggers of Boston", "Impact Twin Cities", "Peyton Quinn", or "RMCAT". There are others, but that'll get you started. The methodology of the good ones is extremely different from that of the poor or mediocre ones, and is worth examining.



The reason I know the profile of the average rapist
is because I have studied the subject for some

I am not in the least bit intimidated or flusterd by
your narrow minded views of being the only person
who could possibly be correct in his assertions on
this subject.

I think perhaps you are the emperor. but that is
another thing entirely.

good luck to you. Enjoy your omnipotence.



Are you familiar with the term 'Selective Reasoning'? Well, you suffer from a chronic case of it. I almost spit out my coffee onto the monitor, I laughed so hard when I read your comments questioning De Becker.

I like that you stir things up a bit, but to be pig-headed for the sake of being pig-headed only shows that you have no room for evolution and advancement. In other words, you are demonstrating an inability to learn from others because you know it all.

Why not give these guys comments a moments thought and give them the benefit of your doubt that they may be right about a few things. At least that there may be a possibility that they might be.

However, having said that I agree with some of what you are saying and hope you continue to contribute to the thread. Can we cease the devolution of the thread and turn it the other way?


Damn you guys are sensitive.I just try to deabte a few things (which these forums are FOR) and Taku, you give me "I WILL NOT BE INTIMIDATED", Do you think I am trying to intimidate you? I think you are being a touch paranoid.I figured you guys could handle a lively debate, I didn't realise that you were elected all powerful arbiters of right and wrong.Sorry for not falling right in step with you.And isn't it kind of weird for guys that seem fixated on credentials that I get "because I have studied it for a long time" as yours? Wow, the irony here is poisoness.And so is the elitist condesention.You guys just don't come off very secure when you seem bitter to your very cores that I have the audacity to dare disagree with the prevailing self-defense fads.. propaganda.Try to chill out and have fun with these debates like I do, life is more fun that way.Back to the issues.I have two points 1) MMA has shown that styles that are dominated by randori style training (sparring) are effective.And that styles that aren't are not effective.2)Now... of course rape is not a vale tudo fight.But to me, a rape looks more like a vale tudo fight than static self defense training or absurdly restricted semi-sparring wherein one guy is dressed in armor.Granted there is much to learn that is not fighting techniques,... things that may be called "preventative measures", but this isnt really what I have an issue with.I am just telling you that the crap being requrgitated month after month as the newfangled CGC state of the art stuff in Blackbelt Magazine month after month is crap.Worse... it is the same crap taught in traditional jujutsu styles years ago, just being sold by guys that aren't wearing gi's and called something catchier.Now, is it ok that I don't agree with you guys? Or should I take disagreement elsewhere?

Hey gichoke...
I didn't say "I WILL NOT BE INTIMIDATED" so go back and read.

I have read all the comments on this thread. You seem to have a short memory or just don't pay attention to your own statements...You stated way back (I am paraphrasing) that you did not feel like taking the time to back up your statements with any evidence or statistics. Then you were very quick to require someone give Gavin Debeckers backround info. I stated from the start (or at leat my second post) that I to was going to follow your lead and not waste time actually loading everything I said with statistics. It was a comment on your own approach. Now you are saying I should ...Blah Blah Blah...

I agree with AUS, lets turn this into something possitive. Why waste time quibbling over little things besides I think a lot of these mis-understandings are semantic issues. And by the way, I also agree with some of the things you are saying.

Just as you stated you can not know what is in a mans mind...That includes not knowing what is in mine. SO don't assume just because I am making statements to the contrary of you or rebuking your appraoch to this subject That I am angry, sensitive, young, inexperienced, ...You get the picture.

Remember the scenario always dictates. A 135 lbs soccer mom could win a fight with a a 250 lbs guy on top of her using eye gouges etc. It may not happen it may not work, but it could. And sooner or later in all situations opportunities present themselves. In a sexual assault the testicles may be a viable target at some point. I know personally of several stories in which women in an attempted rape have grabbed and squeezed a guys testis untill he threw-up and passed out. These are true and documented cases. Will all these things work all the time? NO. But can they? YES. Can a smaller women protect herself in an emergency situation from a larger man? YES. Will She always prevail? NO.

Please tell me (this is a serious request) What recommendations you have for women to prepare themselves for a situation in which they may have to defend themselves. How should they train? What techniques should they focus on that are (what you consider) to be the most effective.

I look forward to your reply.


Taku, I do not "know" what goes on in someones mind, nor can I say that the'r minds even exist, I can only ever know (as DesCartes stated) "I think.Therefore I am."Beyond that it is all just opinion.
Then you state that "most rapists are average looking guys",,,, how can you know this? Are YOU a rapist? I stated that it is too late when a man is on top of a women, unless she knew what to do.And palm heels and eye gouges are not a reliable replacement for saolid fighting techniques.They are a dirty trick that may work if you are very lucky, frankly, I think a woman depending on those moves is in big trouble.As for learning something about the subject.I think I already do.I think that is why so many of you are uncomfortable with my statements.I am the little boy stating that the emperor is actually naked.You all can convince yourself that a typical soccor mom can fend off a typical rapist with an incredibly obvious simple move like an eyegouge, good for you.Lets just hope you don't get too many women hurt by spreading that crap, huh? PS.I never stated that a woman should not resist.OF COURSE SHE SHOULD, But she should learn how to fight and resist properly, not by getting into a eyegouge contest with a stronger guy that gets off on hurting people.That is just stupid.

"But she should learn how to fight and resist properly, not by getting into a eyegouge contest with a stronger guy that gets off on hurting people.That is just stupid."

I don't think this is what people are saying either.

If "The Gift of Fear" does not strike your fancy I would recommend "Strong on Defense" for more information. There are several case studies of women survivors there.

Did someone ask for statistics and legitimate sources? Fine. I will dig them up and put them here for further discussion within a few days.

I have been studying a variety of martial arts for 10 years, with about 4 years of BJJ in there, and am a fan of sport fighting. However, I have seen and heard enough about some of the self-defense programs to start doing my homework, and I've been impressed enough that I am now getting involved with these training methods as well.

There is a world of difference between regular martial arts training, training for sport fighting, and self-defense. Any method can contribute to any other, but IMHO each has its strengths and weaknesses and is not really complete.


"Fine. I will dig them up and put them here for further discussion within a few days."

Thanks, look forward to it.

The problem with individual success stories is we don't know if the defense used was what made the women successful, or just the fact that she fought made her successful.And it is VERY hard to generate stats on these kinds of things, there are groups that will tell you that 30% of women have been victims of sexual assulat, and there are groups that will put the number at 5%.It all depends on how you load the question.In the case of successful rape defense, lots of women may consider slapping a boy at a party when they were 13 and he kept grabbing at her ass was a successful defense and others think of rape as when a man leaps out of the bushes on a passing jogger.I just dont have any faith at all in stats and anecdotal stories are even worse.Most of these studies are done to get a certain result, not to find the truth.All studies indicate that in a typical situation it is wise for a woman to make noise and to struggle.But to try to find what a women should do from case studies is far more problematic.

Personally I'd put alot more weight on the first couple of stats, the US justice department is alot more credible than the others, which appear to be advocacy groups.