You almost certainly take precautions to try to avoid predictably dangerous situations. But it’s still smart to learn self-defense techniques so you can resist and survive an attack if trouble comes looking for you. You can find self-defense classes specifically targeted to women, or you may prefer to learn general techniques, such as Krav Maga -- a self-defense program developed by the Israel Defense Forces -- or Jeet Kune Do, a training system founded by Bruce Lee.
Find a Class
Contact local health clubs and gyms to see which types of martial arts or self-defense classes they offer. Use an online location finder to search for a specific type of class, such as Krav Maga or Jeet Kune Do. Other options include well-established martial arts centers, your local police department and adult education centers. Check women’s shelters, or rape crisis or counseling centers, if you’re concerned about domestic violence. Keep in mind that self-defense classes focusing on domestic violence will emphasize psychological tactics -- because you’ll know your attacker -- that may not be relevant if you’re attacked by a stranger.
Elements of a Self-Defense Class
Look for a women’s self-defense class that teaches you to analyze situations and offers you options to deal with those situations, the Portland, Oregon, Police Bureau advises. At the same time, a class should prepare you to react instantly to a sudden attack in which you don’t have time to stop and think. For example, a comprehensive self-defense program should teach you what to do if an attacker grabs your hair, hands or neck; if an attacker is on top of you; and if an attacker has a weapon. You should also learn how to use your belongings to fight an attacker.
Evaluate Classes and Instructors
If you’ve found a promising class or you've narrowed your search, ask if you can observe a class. If you receive permission, check out the class focus, which should mainly involve self-defense techniques, as opposed to fitness training. Observe how successfully the instructor communicates the techniques to the students and whether safety is emphasized. Talk to the instructor before or after the class and ask about the program’s curriculum.
Workshop Vs. Classes
A self-defense workshop may be a reasonable option if you have limited free time. Check in advance to see if the workshop specializes in one particular self-defense area or technique. A good workshop should teach you techniques that you can learn quickly and that can help in a variety of situations. If you have time for a more involved class, Krav Maga is a no-rules technique that translates well to self-defense situations. It emphasizes gross motor skills, which are easier to employ when your adrenaline is pumping, as compared to finer movements. Jeet Kune Do combines a variety of combat styles and resembles martial arts but, like Krav Maga, isn’t limited by combat rules. Taking traditional martial arts or even boxing classes can teach you valuable skills, as long as you member that the competition rules go out the window during a real street fight.
Mixed and All-Female Classes
Participating in a mixed self-defense class with both men and women gives you the opportunity to spar or practice your techniques against men. On the other hand, the Portland Police Bureau notes that all-female classes “tend to provide an easier atmosphere in which to discuss sensitive issues.” Women’s-only classes may also let mothers and daughters train together. To get the best of both worlds, you can select an all-female class with male instructors in which you spar with the instructors. Find out if the instructors -- whether male or female -- will wear padded suits while simulating attacks, which gives you the opportunity to counterattack using full force.
- Xtreme Krav Maga: Women’s Self Defense
- City of Portland: Guidelines on Choosing a Women’s Self-Defense Course
- City of Portland: WomenStrength
- SEPS: Women’s Self Defense Boston
- Female Awareness: Female Awareness Self Defense
- Women Self Defense NYC: Women Only
- Self-Defense Techniques and Tactics; Joseph B. Walker
- Knack Self-Defense for Women; Chris Wright-Martell
- Well Woman Active Man Magazine: Women Only Self Defense Class
- Photo Credit Dirima/iStock/Getty Images
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