Over the last decade or more of teaching self-defense, too many times have I heard stories from women (and men too) of being abused in some way. In fact, many women who start training in self-defense usually choose to begin after they have been the victim of some kind of assault, whether it be domestic violence, sexual violence or a random attack by a stranger. I’m always so impressed by the courage it takes to face and sometimes relive one’s fears, and begin a self-defense program. I also love it when people start training in self-defense to prepare themselves and learn to defend oneself before anything like this does happen. Regardless of where you are, the first lessons that I teach of self-defense take place off of the mat. Self-defense starts with your head. Here are my first three lessons in self-defense:
Lesson #1: Be Aware
Being fully present is something most of us struggle with these days. Talking, texting and headphones are just a few of the distractions that keep us from being completely aware of our surroundings at all times.
Lesson #2: Mark Your Territory
Everyone should have personal and physical boundaries that they set that become non-negotiable. These boundaries should apply to people that you date and other relationships, as well as physical space around you that nobody should enter unless invited into.
Lesson #3: Communicate Powerfully
Say it with me: NO! A two-letter word that is sometimes so hard to say, is now all it takes to legally accuse someone of rape in some states. In many cases of sexual assault it may take a lot more than using words to get someone off of you, but having the ability and confidence to stick up for yourself (in all areas of your life) is the first step of communicating powerfully.
Intrigued and want to learn more, but don’t know where to begin?
I’ve created the following as a guide to finding the right self-defense training programs for you. Which of the following sounds like you?
I want to learn just the basics and I am a bit intimidated by the whole thing. I don’t want to wear a uniform, bow, or learn to count in another language. I want to learn the nitty gritty basics of how to defend myself without spending a whole lot of time.
If this sounds like you there are many options. Perhaps you’re a college student? Many colleges will bring in a speaker (like myself) to speak on personal safety and self-defense. Some will even provide a self-defense training workshop or series of classes. Not a student? Most martial arts schools will teach self-defense workshops from time to time that are open to the community. Read a book like Hear Me Roar, or learn from home on DVD or online (Stilettos and Self Defense is my at-home instructional video).
I want to submerse myself in learning self-defense for a limited amount of time from 3 days to 3 months.
For you I suggest looking into programs like IMPACT which are classes spread out over a few days. You get to practice on real people and are put in real life scenarios. Also, some martial arts schools in your area may offer programs that can go more in depth than just a 2 or 3 hour workshop.
I want to dive into a sport, get sweaty and get full contact training. I don’t care about the formalities and history that come along with a traditional martial arts, just get me on the mat!
MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) may be the thing for you. MMA is usually more like a sport and after you learn the basics you will most likely be competing and/or fighting with your classmates. Conditioning is key, and you will get in shape quickly. Just be careful that you choose the right school for you. I would always steer clear of big egos and students with a lot of injuries (bad signs).
I want to master self-defense and the explore culture of martial arts and am putting no time limit on it.
Here, your choices are many, and it really just depends on your goals and what schools are offering. You will have to do a bit of research into the schools in your area and I even suggest trying out a few free trial classes at different schools before you pick a school solely based on style. You’ll want to know if the martial arts style you choose is hard (like Karate), soft (like Wing Chun) or a bit of both (like Hapkido). It may seem silly but hygiene is often overlooked at many martial arts studios. If it smells funky and the mats are never cleaned, you won’t see me there! My most important piece of advice in choosing a martial arts school is go where you feel welcome. Instructors should teach with the right mix of respect, discipline and service. If ego is leading, there can be trouble ahead for you, no matter what style you choose.
Training in martial arts was the best use of my time for over a decade at the same school (World Martial Arts Center) in NYC. My instructors were amazing and the head instructor taught us the perfect mix of techniques that work on the street and beautiful martial arts form that oozed grace, confidence and empowerment. Empty your cup and master your self-defense skills and I promise you your life will change forever.