Violence against women is an all too common problem worldwide and even the United States. Rape statistics alone are simply staggering; in the United States alone more than 18% of women have survived a rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. Sadly, more than 60% of the rapes were carried out by a known person such as a date, an intimate partner or even a husband.
While these figures are shocking they still do not account for other types of assaults and violence such as domestic abuse. Based on these statistics it is no wonder that many women around the world and particularly in the United States look for a reliable means of self defense.
In the United States there is easy access to guns for those that desire them. More and more women are purchasing these weapons for self defense purposes and for the most part they are better able to protect themselves in the event of an attack. There are some concerns however when it comes to having a firearm as your only means of self defense.
1st there is no way to deescalate the response. Those that have no other method of protecting themselves are only left with two choices, become a victim or shoot (and likely kill) the attacker. That’s it there are no other options available.
2nd A gun is only useful if the person can get to it in a reasonable time. Women who are grabbed, surprised, knocked down or even attacked in their own home by a known person may not be able to get to their weapon. A weapon locked up in the gun safe or in a handbag that is now 6-10 feet away is of very little use if they are in the process of being attacked.
3rd As explained earlier many attacks are committed by someone close to the victim. Even under that extreme stress the victim may not be willing to use lethal force, leaving her with no other options.
Unarmed Self Defense
Even with the concerns there is something women can do to help improve their chances of escape or defense while under attack. The right self defense system builds confidence, strength and fitness and introduces techniques that are effective for unarmed combat. Additionally becoming skilled in a hand to hand style allows the woman a chance to escape, get to their weapon and in some cases, subdue their attacker.
Not all styles are created equal so choosing the right system is going to be critical if the goal is to have a realistic chance to be able to defend yourself in the event of an attack.
Boxing- Boxing is known as the sweet science because there are some very sophisticated techniques and strategies involved. To a casual observer it appears that there are two people simply standing in front of each other trading full power punches for 12 rounds. Clearly this is a bad strategy for a female who is likely facing a much bigger and stronger male. If you take a closer look though you will find that many times only a small percentage of strikes are landed in a boxing match and that is coming from another boxer who is ALSO trained to strike, despite your attempts to avoid them.
In boxing you will learn proper stance for the most efficient movement while giving you the ability to defend but also the best chance to deliver a powerful punch when the opponent leaves an opening. In addition defensive footwork is taught along with bobbing and weaving, slipping punches, parrying and circling in and out of range. Both Floyd “Money” Mayweather and Mohamed Ali were very good at evading blows while delivering strikes of their own.
Kickboxing and Muay Thai- Kickboxing and Muay Thai (or Thai kickboxing) share some similarities to boxing in regards to striking with the hands and evading the opponents’ strikes. Where boxing stops Kickboxing and Muay Thai picks up by adding kicks. Kickboxers use the hands nearly as well as a boxer but they also incorporate kicks to the body and head which makes it more difficult to defend. The other benefit of adding kicks is that the legs are much stronger than the arms so the strikes that are delivered pack more power and are a bigger threat to an attacker.
Muay Thai shares the kicks with kickboxing but they also add elbow strikes and knee strikes from a standing position. This allows even greater versatility since an elbow or knee can be used when there is almost no room to move around. In addition Thai fighters are allowed to clinch from the standing position so fighters learn to disengage or even attack from that position which might be useful for a woman who is grabbed. Finally, Thai kickboxers are also allowed to kick an opponent’s legs. The legs are typically an easy target and when a trained kickboxer lands a leg kick against untrained opponent’s legs, very often the pain created by the kick causes the opponent to fall.
Judo/Brazilian Jiu Jitsu/Wrestling/Mixed Martial Arts– Judo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), Amateur Wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) are very grappling heavy styles. The benefit of a grappling heavy style is that it teaches you how to use your body leverage and position to move into a position of advantage when grabbed or taken to the ground. In addition these styles teach a student how to escape and disengage when they are grabbed by someone unexpectedly.
Judo is a Japanese system and an Olympic Martial art. The premise of Judo is to use the best and most efficient technique based on your opponents balance and center of gravity to throw them flat on their back, a judo player also has the ability to follow and finish the fight on the ground should they choose to. “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey (135lb former Olympic Judo player) told a story on Jimmy Kimmel live detailing a confrontation with two men inside of a movie theatre where she used her Martial Arts experience to defend herself.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is a style loosely based on Judo which focuses on ground work. This system has a solution for almost every position you may find yourself in, including when an opponent is on top and in between your legs. This position is known as “the guard” and offers many opportunities to reverse position and even choke out or break the arm of the attacker. The style became popular in the United States when 170lb BJJ black belt Royce Gracie took on and defeated all comers in the early UFC’s. During these events Gracie was able to make his much larger and more athletic opponents submit after putting them in various chokeholds or arm locks once on the ground.
Amateur Wrestling is a sport found in high schools and colleges around the country which makes it difficult to access once out of high school. The system is all about takedowns, avoiding takedowns and pinning an opponent to the ground. All of these are extremely valuable skills especially since many women are attacked when their attacker attempts to grab them or throw them to the ground. The ability to avoid the grab or takedown can be the difference in the ability to flee or even get to their weapon.
Mixed Martial Arts is known as MMA and is quite simply a mix of the most effective striking systems and grappling systems all under one roof. This style gives a practitioner several tools from styles such as boxing, kickboxing, wrestling and BJJ. This allows a woman the chance to deal with her opponent both while standing and on the ground in the unfortunate event that the altercation goes there. More importantly it teaches how to avoid going to the ground if the person wants to avoid that situation entirely.
It should be pretty clear by now that all of the systems mentioned above are all sports as well and for good reason. Someone training like an athlete is going to become more fit by practicing these systems. Improved fitness help long term health but also in a dangerous situation needing an immediate response.
When someone trains in a system that is also a sport they typically will face an opponent in practice that is using full effort or close to full effort. The use of full effort allows the students to gauge how well their techniques work when they are being opposed with 100% resistance. Styles that use too much cooperation not only do not use this effort but often gives a false sense of security to the student since most often their “opponents” are cooperating and allowing them to apply techniques. Another advantage to full speed sparring is the development of timing that just cannot be attained with cooperative training.
Confidence is also developed when training a martial art like a sport. If someone has never been in a fight or confrontation they may not be able to overcome their fear in order to execute the techniques they have learned. When a student gets to grapple or spar live they face that challenge in each class. While this will not eliminate the fear these systems help train the fight or flight response and experienced students will be able to perform under stressful situations far better than students who train in styles with very little or infrequent contact.
All of these systems are relatively intense and will build a stronger body and mental fortitude they are also taught by professionals that have competed themselves so the classes have quality safety equipment and have courtesy’s to avoid injuries.
Without a doubt women are the focus of physical attacks all over the world. Usually these attacks are carried out by males and most often by someone close or at least known to the victim. By training in any one of these styles it will improve a woman’s chance to escape the situation, get to her weapon should she want to or even use an escalation of force as she deems necessary.
Pete Kontakos enjoys discussing health, fitness, vitamin nutritional supplements, martial arts and other sports. Pete is certified as a wrestling coach through USA Wrestling.
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