About Featured Expert: Jarrett Arthur the co-founder of Jarrett & Jennie Self-Defense, M.A.M.A.® (Mothers Against Malicious Acts), Customized Self Defense for Women, and other specialized self-defense and safety programs for women, moms and kids. Jarrett discovered Krav Maga, just after graduating from college in 2004. It was a life-changing experience. Despite being a nationally-ranked athlete growing up, she struggled with insecurities and self-doubt which fostered a childhood laden with anxiety, depression, and bullies. Jarrett carried that mindset into young adulthood—until she began training in self-defense. She earned her first-degree Black Belt Instructor Certification from Krav Maga Worldwide in 2009. Jarrett spent several years acting as the Program Coordinator for km-X (Sherman Oaks) as well as Lead Instructor for adult (Krav Maga, fight, and fitness) and children’s classes at the Krav Maga Worldwide in Los Angeles. She reluctantly stepped away from those roles in order to develop programs, teaching methodologies, and a training environment focused exclusively on training self defense for women and children. Today, 100% of her self-defense students are women and children.
The following is a condensed version of the full audio interview, which can be found in the above link at Science of Skill’s SoundCloud station.
Marcus Roth: Hey there folks, welcome again to the Science of Skill podcast. This is Marcus taking over for Coach Dan, and I’m on the horn tonight with Jarret Arthur where they have spent the last 13 years gaining expertise in the field of self defense. Now she’s here on the podcast today to share her insights on the topic. Hello Jarret.
Jarret Arthur: Hi, thank you so much for having me.
MR: Followers of the podcast will know that Jarret is Jennie’s partner in self defense. They together serve all over the United States doing women’s self defense and self defense courses in general to whoever is around. We had her on the cast a couple casts ago, and they serve and teach self defense to women and everyone in general across the United States. Jarret, tell us how you got into self defense?
JA: Honestly I got into self defense pretty much by accident. I just graduated from college and I was a competitive track athlete in high school and in college. I had never done any combat sports, I had never done any traditional martial arts, and I graduated and I moved home with my mom for the summer. I was going to go back to school and start my master’s degree, and she saw flyers for a self defense class, Krav Maga to be more specific, and she said, “Hey Jarret, you know you’re going back to school and you’re a young woman, and you should really know how to defend yourself.” At the time I was fairly young, and being an athlete, and also being I would say probably just a naturally more aggressive in my personality, I’ve always been comfortable being a little bit more aggressive, I totally just … I was like no, not interested. Not taking the class, don’t need it, I can handle myself. She pushed and pushed, and finally, pretty much just to get her to stop pressuring me, I went in and I took my first Krav Maga class and completely fell in love with it.
MR: Where’d you end up in Krav Maga in terms of experience?
JA: I earned my black belt in 2009 and immediately started training for my second dan and blew my knee out and had reconstructive surgery. I had been told by a whole handful of surgeons that it was career ending. I was out for about three years and it changed my personal practice with that knee injury.
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MR: Now would you say that you and Jennie primarily serve women in your tours around the United States or is it more mixed gender?
JA: The first, more than half of my career, I taught coed classes and kids classes. When Jenny and I got together, we made the decision to focus primarily on working with women and kids, and that is because we felt that there were fewer opportunities for what I would consider mainstream women to really learn self defense in an environment that they feel comfortable doing so, and also from reputable female instructors.
MR: What would you say is the main difference between self defense for men and self defense for women? Is there a way to train differently to prepare for the differences, or would you say the same training could easily apply to both genders?
JA: You really have to look at two different aspects of the training. You’ve got the physical side of it, and then you also have the mental side of it. Before we dive into this, I just want to be really clear that I absolutely understand that I’m generalizing here just based on my experience. If you’re talking about from a purely physical standpoint, I mean you’ve got to state the obvious which is that women, they are going to look at different challenges, they’re going to have different challenges based on their physique, based on their strength, based on their size, based on their height, based on their weight. Particularly when you’re looking at the fact that the majority of violence against women is perpetrated by men, you’re going to have to assume that they’re going to be in situations where they’re defending themselves against somebody who’s bigger and stronger.
MR: Your partner Jennie and I spent a good amount of time really looking into male and female dynamics of self defense, as well as what a man can do to help support a lady in his life looking to get into self defense. For this podcast, I want to make things a bit more training oriented. Let’s talk about training. If someone, male or female, wanted to put a lot of effort into self defense, how would they start? How many times a week should they train at first, and in what ways?
JA: As often as possible they should be training, and as many different ways as possible. If someone were really ready to commit to self defense, I would recommend finding a little reputable school and attending classes at least 3 times a week. Then I would probably recommend, if we’re talking about somebody who maybe doesn’t have a background already in self defense or martial arts, or combat sports, focusing on one thing first instead of trying a bunch of different things at the same time which tends to confuse muscle memory and make it a little bit harder to actually acquire skills.
MR: What is the top mistake you see ladies starting in self defense to commit? Do you find men make different first mistakes, or would you say it’s the same issue regardless?
JA: This is the thing that I see most often in beginning level female students, but I just want to be careful for me not to call it a mistake, and that is I think the hardest thing for us as instructors to get out of our beginning level female students is aggression during striking. It is hands down the absolutely hardest thing to do. To get them to hit hard, to fully commit to hitting. To really unleash that inner animal for lack of a better word that we all have within us, and to get that to come out and it’s not a mistake in female students, but that is the biggest challenge for us as instructors, and the skillset that we want our female students to acquire as quickly as possible, is how to feel comfortable just going for it.
MR: How would that person go about correcting their mistake? At least for the examples you gave to not committing enough for ladies and committing too much for men, would you say just being mindful and working to the end goal?
Yeah, I mean certainly being mindful is important, absolutely. I think, again, I don’t think this is a mistake per se. I think this is just typically what tends to happen with female students that start in self defense, that it is, the whole thing is really intimidating, and particularly for many many women, that level of physical aggression and impact, the vast majority of our students have never hit a single thing, let alone hit somebody. Now asking them to unload is hard, it puts them in a really uncomfortable position. I think that one, women need to feel comfortable in the environment that they’re in, and they need to feel comfortable with the instructor and the partner that they have. I think that’s super important, because if you’re not in an environment where you feel comfortable, and of course there’s going to be discomfort, but you need to be in an environment that you trust, that you feel comfortable really trying to let that aggression come out.
MR: It takes courage to be really violent with people. Would you recommend to help ladies, or men get ready for extreme moments and still be prepared to get violent?
JA: I understand that this viewpoint might not be the popular one, but I honestly think that if you’re talking about just every day people that might find themselves in situations of extreme violence that are particularly in first world countries, I think that there is, this is my opinion only, I think that there is a misconception that in order for somebody to be able to defend themselves effectively, they have to be comfortable with the notion of violence. Exactly what you’re talking about. They have to be comfortable with being violent with somebody. I think that that is actually not true. I think that there is a difference between somebody who is … I think that the issue is less that you have to be comfortable being violent, and more that you have to be prepared to be violent in a worst case scenario.
MR: Do you have any interesting stories to tell about self defense or self defense for women?
JA: I will tell a story about a course that I was teaching. Specifically it was a MAMA course which is a system that I created specifically for moms and childcare providers. MAMA stands for Mothers Against Malicious Acts, and I work with moms that have kids of all different ages, and we work specifically on how to defend yourself when you’re with your kids. How to defend your kids as well as what lessons to teach your kids about personal safety and self defense without totally traumatizing them. This was a six week course and right from the beginning I had told everybody in the course that the final week we were going to do full force training. I was going to be bringing in somebody who was going to be in the big full force suit, and we were going to be running live scenarios and having them fight. That made everybody uncomfortable, but there was one woman in particular that I noticed right off the bat seemed to have a bigger reaction than most, and that was an inward reaction. That was week one that I mentioned this. She’s going through the course, week by week she’s doing a fantastic job, she’s hitting hard and really seems to be enjoying herself and she’s giving me positive feedback, and then it was the week number five. The week before we were going to do the full force training, and after class she said to me, “You know what, I think I’m going to have a schedule conflict next week and I’m not going to be able to make it.”
I thought, what? This is the best part of the whole course. You get to totally go ham on somebody. She said, “I’ll try and make it, I’ll try and make it.” Then the night before she told me she wasn’t feeling good. I, like any good self defense instructor, like just you can come and just do the best that you can, but you really don’t want to miss it. And so she showed up on week six, on that day, and she was really emotional right from the beginning. She told me she didn’t think she wanted to participate, and I pressured her. I told her, oh I totally get it. You’re scared, but this is really important and you’re going to feel so empowered when you do it, and I’m pushing and I’m pushing and the more I pushed her, the further away she went and more internally she went, and I was losing her as a student.
Finally I said to her, look you don’t have to do this. If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. She kind of looked wide eyed at me, she said, “What?” I said no, I’m being totally serious. This is completely your choice 100%, I’m not going to push you again. I’m sorry that I pushed you up to this point. This has nothing to do with me, this has to do with you, and you know what, if you don’t participate in this part of the training, that is absolutely okay and understandable, and you are going to be fine. If you don’t participate in this part of the training, you are still totally prepared to defend yourself and your kids if you found yourself in this situation. This is about whether you want to participate or you don’t, and this is completely your choice.
I just left it up to her. She thought about it for a few minutes, and she decided to participate. It was an amazing experience watching her go through this, and it was an amazing experience as an instructor watching her take control of the situation, and making that decision for herself. It was a really really powerful learning moment for me as an instructor, because I had always just tried to push, nicely of course, but you know, tried to push people passed their fear, yeah. Into the training. This was a moment where I realized this has nothing to do with me.