Q&A with the Experts: Self Defense for Women
September 22, 2016
12 minutes read
This week, we take a question from SOS Subscriber Patty Murray (Lavista (Omaha), Nebraska), who asked the following question:
Q: “How do I help women to understand that self defense is important? All the women I know will not do anything to protect or defend themselves.”
We contacted experts in the field and included their responses to Patty’s question below:
Name: Jarrett Arthur
Bio: Jarrett Arthur is 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. She earned her first-degree Black Belt Instructor Certification from Krav Maga Worldwide in 2009, and was in training for her 2nd Dan test when she suffered a major knee injury. 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 women and children. Today, 100% of her self-defense students are women and children. She is based in Los Angeles, California.
Name: Jennie Trower
Bio: Jennie Trower is 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. Jennie began her martial arts training in 2000 as a way to move past a particularly rough breakup. She found focusing on a new skill, and after a couple of years, she decided to expand her knowledge and try a Krav Maga class. Since that time, she has earned numerous Krav Maga/self-defense teaching certifications, built a career around helping other women connect to their own personal power, and reached hundreds of people across the country through live training events, her blog and social media, and speaking engagements. She enthusiastically and officially joined forces with Jarrett in 2016. Through her seminars, special events, private lessons, corporate wellness and ongoing programs, Jennie trains hundreds of women each year, who represent 99% of her clientele. She is based in Austin, Texas.
Response: We totally understand wanting to empower our friends and families with potentially life-saving skills and information — and the resistance that they frequently have around this topic. We have found that tailoring our approach can help the audience to be more receptive.
Keep in mind that what we perceive in others as a disinterest or unwillingness to practice self-defense may actually be fear. Fear to face the possibility of some really scary “what if” scenarios; fear that we will somehow become violent people if we learn how to fight back; fear that we aren’t fit enough, strong enough or tough enough to effectively fight off an attacker; etc.
In addition to fear being one of the major obstacles that keep women from learning and training in self-defense, shame around this topic can also be a big factor. It can be frustrating when the ones you care about seem to have no interest in protecting themselves, but sometimes the best thing we can do is accept their personal choices and remind them that we’ll support them no matter what. Often times, lessening the pressure can help lessen the shame, leading to action.
Here are our top tips for getting the conversation started and inspiring your friends to learn how to defend themselves:
Focus on prevention: We believe that 95% (or more) of effective self-defense involves everything you do before you are ever involved in a physical altercation. So focusing on all the prevention strategies and tips can be a less intense way of introducing the women in your life to the concept of self-defense, without ever asking them to throw a punch.
Find quality self-defense training in your area: Many schools and studios offer women-only seminars that can be a less threatening experience for first-time students. Make it a social experience and grab a few friends and attend as a group, then head out to lunch or grab a coffee to decompress and talk. Look for a program that involves effective boundary setting and prevention strategies, in addition to physical skills.
Set a positive example: We’re sure you already model good personal safety for your friends and family, but consider taking it a step further. Maybe share with them the benefits of self-defense that you’ve noticed in your own life, aside from learning how to survive a violent encounter — better boundaries, increased sense of self-confidence and self-worth, feeling strong in body and mind, more peace of mind, etc. We find that leading with benefits rather than fear is always a more effective approach.
We hope these suggestions help, and we commend you for wanting to equip the women in your life with this important information!
Jenny and Jarret offer a free safety guide with their top tips in PDF form.
Name: Lisa Scheff
Bio: Lisa has been studying self-defense formally since 2011 as a student, board member, and then for 4 years as the Executive Director of IMPACT Bay Area. She is the founder of Paradox Self-Defense, which provides training for women in a safe environment. Discovering that there are simple verbal and physical skills that are easy to learn and remember changed her approach to personal safety from “cross my fingers, be hypervigilant, and hope nothing bad happens” to being comfortable and confident moving through the world. Nothing makes her happier than empowering her students to recognize and defend their boundaries, both emotional and physical, with strangers and with people they know. When not teaching, she is learning all she can about violence dynamics with an eclectic group of experts and studying martial arts at Hand To Hand Kajukenbo.
Response: I don’t believe that women don’t understand that self-defense is important. They know it’s important, because when I tell people about my work they tell me they’ve been meaning to sign up for a class for years.
I believe there are a number of factors that stop women from signing up for self-defense classes. The one I want to talk about here is the one we have the most opportunity to address as instructors. There are a lot of self-defense classes out there, and how does someone who isn’t part of the self-defense community figure out which one to take? After all, every martial arts school advertises themselves as teaching self-defense. And then there are classes taught by local law enforcement agencies, classes on college campuses, and classes taught by various organizations that teach one-off classes.
These are some of the hallmarks of good self-defense classes:
They clearly understand the difference between martial arts and self-defense. Martial arts teach people many great skills, some of them useful for self-defense. But studying a martial art is NOT studying self-defense.
Instructors and their program’s website or other materials will never blame the victim for being assaulted. This can take a lot of forms, from telling women to dress certain ways to avoid assault to telling someone who has already been victimized, “If you had only done X, Y, or Z that never would have happened to you.” Even if you believe that those things reduce the odds of being assaulted, comments like that are not an effective way of engaging your students in their own safety.
The instructors should have studied trauma and understand how it affects students’ behavior and also know how to keep students emotionally safe in classes.
A good self-defense class will recognize that most assaults on women are committed by acquaintances, not strangers.
Classes should address the full spectrum of self-defense, not just physical skills. Students need to have the opportunity to learn to trust their instincts and lots of opportunities to practice verbal boundary setting since these are the skills they will use every single day.
Analyzing the Experts:
- Takeaway 1: Initial hurdles may range from fear – fear of the “what if”, that we aren’t strong enough, etc. – as voiced by Jarret and Jenny, to not knowing where to start in choosing the right form of self defense class, as suggested by Lisa. Focusing on promoting prevention and setting positive examples based on one’s own experiences may be the best place to start in encouraging a loved one to take charge of their self defense.
- Takeaway 2: Finding the “right” self-defense class in your area is important and can leave a lasting impression, for better or worse. Both Jenny and Jarret, as well as Lisa, emphasize finding a self defense class that encourages women to use their instincts and practice verbal boundary setting. Some women may be more comfortable with a women’s only class that also offers social opportunities. Regardless, it’s important to ensure that a class is legitimately dedicated to self defense (as Lisa points out, martial arts is not studying self defense) and to ensure that whatever class you choose, there is a positive atmosphere and use of language – any class that makes use of a “victim blaming” philosophy, as voiced by Lisa, is not the right class for any woman.
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