When people learn that I have been training in mixed martial arts more than nine years, I am often asked about women’s self-defense. I am always mortified by the people who have the illusion that training in martial arts equates to being invincible during a street assault. I am doubly mortified by people who think a one or two day seminar in women’s self-defense is adequate for a woman to have the self-defense muscle memory to escape an assault by a man who is bigger and stronger. Someone once said “I’ll bet that you have no problem going to Wal-Mart at 2 a.m.” Why would I go to Wal-Mart at 2 a.m.? That’s when all the crazy people are out. The question communicates a lack of fundamental understanding of the nature of self-defense.
80 percent of self-defense is keeping yourself out of situations where others would have the opportunity to attack or assault you. That means not venturing out to Wal-Mart at 2 a.m. That means staying out of bars. Yes, this will make some women scoff. However, if they stepped back to count the openings for attack, assault, and robbery that are created just by setting foot in a bar, perhaps they would rethink their objection.
I drilled into my daughters when they were teenagers to never, ever, ever allow a man into your home that you don’t intend to have sexual relations with. Many of the women I went to high school with who were raped were raped by male “friends” they had invited in. The overwhelming majority of rapes are perpetrated by men that their victims knew and usually trusted, including relatives, friends, and acquaintance. A National Institute of Justice study of sexual victimization of college women showed that 9 out of 10 victims knew the person who sexually victimized them. Women who want to protect themselves from sexual assault must recognize that they need to actively circumvent opportunities for men to physically isolate them, which can be a prerequisite for committing a sexual assault.
19 percent of self-defense is presenting as a difficult target. While the greatest threat to a woman’s physical safety are men that she knows and even trusts, there are predatory strangers. Predators usually look for easy targets; women who are vulnerable. They are looking for women who are distracted, who appear that they can be easily overpowered, and women who are not likely to fight back. You’ll make a less appealing target if you appear alert, aware of your surroundings, and can confidently look in the eyes of those around you. If you’re walking in a parking lot, have your keys in hand, ready to use as a weapon if necessary. Be alert and staying focused. Refrain from being distracted by a digital music players, cell phone, and riffling through your purse.
By keeping yourself out of situations in which you could be assaulted, and taking care to make yourself an unsavory predatory target, you can eliminate 99% of the potential you will be attacked, assaulted, or robbed. In other words, 99% of women’s self-defense is prevention. To hedge your bets in the case of the other 1%, it behooves all women to regularly train in one or more martial arts.