Womens Self Defence Blogging Carnival

Welcome to the Blogging Carnival for Women’s Self Defense.  This is part of a series of blogging carnivals set up by Colin Wee of Joong Do Kwan.  I am honoured to be the host for this particular carnival.

Any self defense situation can obviously be very serious, but women’s self defense can carry the additional burden of sexual assault and rape which men don’t usually have to contend with.  This can leave emotional scars for a lifetime which affect a women’s self image, self esteem and her ability to make and maintain healthy relationships in the future.  It goes beyond the normal fears that men face.

Unfortunately this carnival has not been quite as well supported as the previous blogging carnival where the subject was Anti Bullying, which was hosted on Colin Wee’s blog.

Nevertheless, I would like to thank all those who have taken part and have contributed.  The contributions are listed below and I recommend them all to you.

 

Blogging Carneval by Traditional Teakwondo Ramblings

Womens Self Defense by Tracy’s Kenpo Karate

Women’s Self Defense, Circa 1947 by Cook Dings Kitchen

Women’s Self Defence: Developing A World Class Offering, by Colin Wee

Women’s Self Defence – Blogging Carnival by Going My Way

Thoughts On Women’s Self Defence by Soo Shim Kwan

Women’s Self Defence:  Why It’s Different by Bunkai Jutsu

PS:  Just as a curiosity, the word defense/defence is spelt differently in different parts of the world.  The American way is “defenSe”, the British way is “defenCe”.

Womens Self Defense: Why It’s Different For Women

Women’s self defence requires  extra considerations to men’s self defence.  Sometimes they will face the same issues as a man, such as mugging  or possibly a same sex fight.  But with women there  is of course the issue of sexual predators which is not usually a consideration for men!  For men, it is most likely to be either a mugging or a dominance fight (“macho” men trying to show who is toughest).  Dominance fights do occur between women, but are far less common.

So what different considerations would you need for a sexual attack?

Firstly, it will be of course be very close quarters.  Many dominance fights can be close quarters, but they tend to go for head locks and controlling limbs.  With a sexual attacks, the attacker will more likely be trying to pull his victim front of torso to front of torso.  He will also most likely try to get her on back.  Either way, there will be little room
for strikes and kicks will be next to impossible.

People often say, “just kick/knee them in the b**ls”!  Easier said then done.  Firstly, the attacker will be aware of this counter, so he is not going to make it easy.  Secondly, he will be trying to get his legs between hers to pry her legs open; if he succeeds then so the opportunity for this kind of counter will be impossible.

Obviously if a woman can use a pre-emptive strike to a vulnerable target before it gets to that stage, she may be able to get out of the whole situation much earlier.  But assuming that for whatever reason that a good pre-emptive strike has not happened or has not been successful, and the attacker has his victim on her back and is on top of her; what options are left open to her?

Should a woman actually end up in this highly vulnerable position, the best bet is to use hands to vulnerable targets like eyes, ears, temples etc.  The attacker may well try and force kisses on her in which case she could bite his face.  Instinct is always going to tell a woman to pull her head back away from the attacker and that is what he will be expecting.  But if she does the opposite and thrusts her head forward for a bite, she could catch him off guard.  Rather than just biting and letting go, if she can secure a grip with her teeth and hold on, they she can cause a lot of high level prolonged pain.  Bites are often under rated in self defence.

It may make him more angry, but enough pain will distract him from his sexual desires.  It will also make him the one who pulls back, giving openings for elbow or palm heal strikes and possibly a window to escape!

Another strategy is to appear to give in and co-operate.  It will be counter instinctive as every fibre of the women’s body will be one of disgust to allow the attacker to touch her private parts.  But this could take him off guard allowing her the opportunity to counter when he least expects it.

I did hear a story of a lady who was attacked by a rapist.  After an initial fight which she was losing, she said something to the effect of “OK, OK, if we’re going to do this, lets do it properly and stop the fighting”.  The guy relaxed thinking he had won.  She then started fondling him.  She then squeezed his testicles very very tightly.  She was able to escape leaving the guy in a crumpled heap.

It takes a lot of courage to attempt that as well as having to overcome your own feelings of nausea; but it can be very effective.  In the heat of the moment and with adrenalin limiting the brains normal functions, many strategies and ideas can be forgotten about; so it will help to drill these tactics under some kind of pressure.

Target Hardening Against A Street Predator

If you have experience of Reality Based Martial Arts, you will already have come across the idea of target hardening.  However, it is not always included in traditional martial arts, so although this is not a new concept, I include it here for traditionalists who may not have heard of it before.

If you look at the way that animals hunt in the wild, they nearly all follow a similar pattern; whether it is lions stalking buffalo or wolves hunting moose.  They don’t go for the big, fit, powerful young bull with the huge big horns, they go the old, the sick or the young calves who can’t keep up with the herd.

Why?

Because it is an easy kill and they can get fed without too much risk of injury to themselves.  A hunter who gets injured can’t hunt effectively and starves, so they are not interested in a fair fight with the alpha male of the herd.  One on one, a lion is no match for a fit young buffalo.  One on one, a wolf is no match for a fit young moose.  So they look for the vulnerable members of the herd.  If they can hunt in packs to bring down prey larger then themselves, then all the better.

Our caveman ancestors were no different.  One on one they were no match for a mammoth, but working together as a tribe they could bring one down.  And I’m pretty sure that they did not target the biggest bull mammoth in the herd.  So it should be no surprise that this basic primal instinct has been passed down to our modern day street predators (bullies, muggers, rapists, etc).

Our social conditioning and modern environment adds a number of different factors into the equation.  The human street predator doesn’t only have to consider whether he (they) can get overpower their victim, they have to consider things like, will they be caught by the police.  But the same underlying psychology of the predator is still there.

Street predators will usually look for an easy target where they feel success is assured without much injury or consequences for themselves.  Of course, if they are high on drugs or drunk then all bets are off anyway as all ability to reason is out of the window.  When drunk or high they are more likely to act in a completely random manor rather than a premeditated manor of a mugger or rapist.

So how you can you deter a street predator(s) by looking like a big young bull with bloody big horns (metaphorically speaking)?

The first thing to realise is that you don’t necessarily have to be big, powerful and strong (though it does of course help if you are).  What you really need to do is to exude an air of confidence and awareness.

Lets say for example that a potential rapist is looking for a victim.  One women go walks by who is looking around (aware of her surroundings) and confidently looks like she wouldn’t take any nonsense from anybody.  Another women of similar age, looks and build walks past; but this one is looking at the ground, afraid to make eye contact and with a very timid demeanour about her.  Which one do you think the rapist will go for?

Obviously he is more likely to pick the second one.  First of all, he is not likely to get too close to the first lady before she’ll spot him, so not so much chance of getting close and taking her by surprise.

Secondly, even if he has a knife (or any other weapon) and threatens his victim; the first lady is more likely to fight and shout for help.  Yes, he can still cut her and run off, but if she screams or shouts (if only once), then the chances of people coming to her assistance and his chances of being caught have been greatly increased.  Even if he kills her, he is still more likely to be caught and like the jungle predator who can’t hunt when injured, this can often be enough to deter him (them).

Some rapists intend at the outset to kill their victim when they’ve finished, but they want to do it where they have full control of the situation and they won’t be caught (often by taking her somewhere else).  They don’t want to do it where there is a risk that their victim can attract help.

So it is the second lady who is looks timid and looks like she has no fight in her who is more likely to be selected.  The irony is that women who have been attacked or abused before will often stop taking care of themselves and dress down in order to make themselves less attractive to a would-be attacker/abuser.  But as in the case above, they actually give out more “victim signals” by doing so.  Abusers and rapists can often read those signals and know intuitively that they have an easy target.

Michelle Yeoh: Confidence, Strength, Beauty & Grace

Men often find strong, confident looking women more attractive; but as discussed above, ironically these women are less likely to be attacked (even though they are perceived as more attractive) because they are more likely to put up a fight.

Although I use the example of a rapist selecting a woman victim, this can be read across to any street predator selecting a target, be it a mugger or just a bully.

Animals in the wild are seldom interested in taking on a target where they may get injured as it will limit they ability to continue hunting  and they risk starvation.  The human predator has more social conditions to contend with, but the mindset is basically the same.

I want to emphasis that I am NOT suggesting that all you have to do is look confident and you’ll never be attacked again.  But it will reduce the odds in your favour.  The best self defence of all, is not be attacked in the first place.

Martial arts training with help to give you an air of confidence which will help you.  Most traditional martial arts teach good body structure as part of their basic techniques, which also tend to teach the student a more upright and confident looking posture.  These things are not enough on there own to assure complete safety, but they do make a definite contribution and should not be overlooked.

Blogging Carnival: Womens Self Defence

Following on from the recent Anti-Bullying Blogging Carnival, hosted by Colin Wee’s Blog: Joong Do Kwan; I have agreed with Colin that I will host the next blogging carnival.  The theme this time will be “Women’s Self Defence”.

If you are interested in participating, please register yourself and your blog with Colin Wee on his registration page.

The basic format of the blogging carnival is that all registered martial arts bloggers will all write about Women’s Self Defence.  Postings should be prepared in advance, but all published on the SAME DAY.  This day will be Saturday 14th July 2012.

I will be providing the HOSTING for the blogging carnival, so a few days before the launch date, all the links to your posts should be forwarded to me.  I will list all entries on the Carnival Hosting Page with link backs to your posts.

I will send you a link for the Carnival Hosting Page too, which you should include at the end of your post.  For the readers it will provide a lot of interesting links and reading matter on the subject of Women’s Self Defence.   For the bloggers it will provide link-backs to your site (which helps your Google rating) and a lot of traffic from other high ranking martial arts sites.

On the day of publication, all bloggers should promote the Carnival Hosting Page through their own networks (blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc).

So if you’re interested in taking part, don’t forget to register with Colin Wee.

 

Women’s Self Protection & Raw Power

I have written before about women’s primeval survival instincts which featured a video by Black Belt Hall Of Fame member, Melissa Soalt, otherwise known as “Dr Ruthless”.

The video below also features Dr Ruthless teaching self protection to women, most of whom are completely untrained in martial arts.  Although this video does not really include anything dramatically new, I think it is good (especially for women) to remind ourselves how powerful women can be with the right motivation and a real will to survive no matter what the odds.

As I mentioned in my previous article, society can teach women that they are the fair sex and weaker, sometimes giving the impression that they should not even try to fight back if attacked.  Woman are often taught that they don’t stand a chance.

However, just take a look at how much raw power untrained women can generate when they keep their heads instead of panicking and when they ignore any inappropriate social conditioning that might affect their personal safety.

Most predators look for an easy target.  Even  lions look to isolate a weak, old or injured buffalo from the herd; then don’t go for the strong young bull with the great big horns.  Why?  Because they don’t want to get hurt themselves, why would they?

A street predator (mugger/rapist) looking for a victim is just the same.  They select a target who they think will not put up much of a fight.  If it does become a real fight however, often they’ll back off as that is not what they are after.  Even though women generally may not be able to win an all out fight against a man, what is often overlooked is that most street predators are not looking for an all out fight.  Making as much noise as possible (like in the video below) is also a deterrent as the attacker knows that this will attract attention, which is the last thing that they want.

Of course this may not work against a drunk who is just looking for trouble and not thinking at all; but a mugger/rapist is more often sober and calculating and can potentially be even more dangerous.  So if he calculates that this target is too difficult or that the target will attract help from others, then they might just flee the scene.

So . . . . . respect to the ladies . . . . . give yourself more credit.

What Does An Ore, A Handbag & Half A Brick Have In Common?

The video below recently came to me via my Youtube subscription. It is the old Okinawan kata of Chikin Sunakake No Eiku by Akamine Hiroshi.  This is a weapon that originated from a humble oar.

There is a story of an old Okinawan master who was famed for being good with this weapon, who was repeatedly challenged by a Samurai.  He declined the challenges several times until eventually the Samurai confronted him and told him this it is, basically you fight or die.  As the Okinawan Master reluctantly picked up his oar, he used it flick sand into the Samurai’s eyes.  He then took advantage of the Samurai’s temporary blindness, to strike him in the throat with the oar, crushing his windpipe and killing him.  Very crude, simple, yet highly effective bunkai from such a basic weapon.

Not many of us are likely to carry around a oar these days just in case.  It’s not common to be confronted by a sword wielding Samurai either for that matter.  However, it does make a good point of using everyday implements as a makeshift weapon.  That is a principle that we can use today, even if we don’t practice traditional weapons.

Imagine if your home was broken into and you were attacked (or you had to defend your loved ones), what could you use around you as a weapon.  How about a photo frame on the mantlepiece?  Or a pen/pencil on your desk?  Could you use a fruit bowl to fend of blows or even hit with it.  Do you have chairs that are small enough pick up swing around.  Of course if you’re in the kitchen then there are many more potential weapons.

But have you ever stopped to look around your house (in every room) and see what you could pick up and use in an emergency? Then of course, have you ever practiced a few strikes with it, or even made up your own little kata?

Then of course what about when you’re out?  There’s the obvious ones like bottles and glasses.  How about an ash tray or a pool que.

When Shotokan Karate was still quite young in Europe, women did not have to free fight for their black belt.  Instead they had to perform self defence techniques.  One scenario commonly used was that they would carry a handbag that the “mugger” would have to try to take from her.  He would do this by grabbing her wrist with one hand trying to take the bag with the other hand.  The defence was the twist the wrist and pull back the hand, then continue the movement in, up over the top and come down striking the top of the head with the handbag (third movement in Heian Shodan/Pinan Nidan, normally ending in a hammer-fist . . . . without the handbag).

At an early grading I took, my class was told the following story by the late Ray Fuller (our grading examiner).  When his then wife, Pauline, who at that time was the highest ranking woman Karateka in Europe took her 1st Dan black belt, they demonstrated that particular defence.  When she struck him over the head with the handbag, she knocked him out cold.  He later asked her what the **** she had in the handbag?  She apparently said “half a brick”.  He asked why, to which she allegedly said, “to make it look good”.

Well women carry many things in their handbags, maybe some will start carrying half a brick now!!

Although I’ve always found that an amusing story, it does show how an effective weapon can be made out quite ordinary things.  It does make sense to look around your home, your workplace, places you socialise to see what can used as a weapon in case of emergencies.  In the home at least, it is also a good idea to pick them up now and then and make up your own little katas with them.  It does not have to as sophisticated as the oar kata below, but just being used to handling any object that could become an unsuspected weapon could be the deciding factor.

Women’s Self Protection: Primal Instincts

I come across this video below from a Facebook friend.  It is from the woman’s self protection perspective.  One of the main things that I liked about it is that it makes the point that self defence is a primal instinct, which we all have the capacity for.

When severely threatened we can all resort to the most primitive and basic animal instincts, which is savage, brutal and barbaric.  Civilisation has taught us to control such instincts.  In many cases it even teaches us to bury them completely.  This is especially true of women, where they are encouraged to be feminine (which is considered exactly the opposite of getting down and dirty and in a fight).

Things have improved over the years.  As a kid I remember that the role of a woman in an action film was to get into trouble, scream lots and be rescued by the male hero.  Nowadays women are portrayed as far more capable and independent . . . . . . . and rightly so.

Women in martial arts used to be a tiny minority.  They still are in the minority, but they make up a bigger percentage today then when I first started back in the late 70’s.   Although perceptions have changed and many prejudices have been overcome (still more to go), many women still have this cultural conditioning which bury their primal instincts.

Some years ago, I helped a friend, Wayne Badbury (from Kamon Wing Chun) doing a self protection course for women.  I was one of the stooges to be hit.  I had a kind of crash helmet, cricket shin pads and body armour.  It was like an early primitive version of the FAST Defence.  I had to provoke the women into an emotional response and then be hit.  I have to say that I was quite amazed at how hard some of these women hit when actually emotionally aroused (with fear).  I would not have liked to be hit like that without the protection and most men would not have been able to withstand it for long.

I hope I don’t offend anybody here, but these women in the emotional state hit harder and were more scary than a lot of female martial artists that I’ve trained with.  Most times that I’ve sparred with women, I’ve felt obliged to tone it down a bit (masculine cultural programming).  I will say that this is not always the case.  I remember once trying out a new club and being partnered to fight a female 3rd Dan.  I thought “OK, take it easy”, but the second we started she jumped in and hit me reverse punch.  “OK”, I thought, “I’ll go up a gear”.

Now some people may think that I’m sexist, but that same lady 3rd Dan later admitted that she too had to tone it down with most other women.  Now don’t get me wrong, I not suggesting that the guys should be laying into the women and knocking them about, far from it.  What I am suggesting is that if women can overlook some of their social conditioning, they’ll find they are much tougher then they think they are and are much more capable of physically fighting of an attacker then they think they are.

One of the most primal functions of a woman’s body is child birth.  Most men could not take that level of pain, yet many women do it over and over again.  Women have far more depths and capacity then most men give them credit for.  For that matter, they have far more depth and capacity then most women give themselves credit for.  Having the will to fight back (if necessary) does not detract from feminism (as some social conditioning may have women believe).  In fact many men actually have more respect for and are more attracted to a strong willed & spirited woman.

Ironically, many women would without hesitation fight to the death to protect their child, but not for themselves.  Don’t let social conditioning set you up to be a victim.

Turning To The Dark Side And Mama Bear!

OK, the title may sound a bit bizarre, but bare with me and all will become clear.  I hope.

Why is it that although martial arts are supposed to make us better, calmer, more relaxed people; that some of us actually enjoy practicing violent applications that can hurt, maim or possibly kill another human being?  Is it some deep down psychopathic instinct that some of us just can’t overcome?

The fact that some of us enjoy practicing the violent applications does not mean that we are violent people.  However, to enjoy practicing them and to be able to apply them effectively, one must be able to dig down into the darker part of our human nature.  We must delve into that part of us that is prepared to hurt, cripple and destroy another human being.  This is what I (tongue in cheek) loosely refer to as “turning to the dark side”.

I must emphasise that there is an enormous difference between being prepared to harm another human being (depending on circumstances) and wanting to harm another human being.

So why, when we are striving to become better people, do we actively look to engage and develop this “dark side” of our human nature?

Firstly, whether you are religious or not, Western society is dominated by Christian values and doctrine.  As such, so much of our behaviour is considered right and wrong, good and evil.  Basically it is a culture of opposites, you must be one or the other.  However, Eastern philosophies and even our own pre-Christian Pagan philosophies would often see things more as two sides of the same coin rather than opposites.  A balance.  Yin and Yang.

By engaging the “dark side” of our nature, we are actually more able to avoid confrontations by our outer confidence, as well as being more able to help others in distress.  To quote from Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility”.  The flip side is that you cannot assume the great responsibility if you do not have the great power.  Spiderman’s ability to help and save people in danger (light side) came from his enormous strength and his ability to beat the living s**t out of the bad guys (dark side).

Now I’m not suggesting that we will become superhero’s by practicing martial arts and save people from marauding villains.  However, along with our increased ability to defend ourselves (do violence to some b******d that seriously deserves it) comes a special kind of confidence.  A confidence which ironically will sometimes allows us handle situations more assertively, so that we actually don’t have to resort to violence.

When training in the nastier applications, even in a friendly environment, many people still find it difficult to delve into that dark part of their nature and hence find it more difficult to make the applications work properly.  As a youth, I was very timid, so I’ve been there.  Now at 40 something years old and with years of Karate training, it comes much more naturally to me.

For somebody who is (for want of a better word) “timid” or uncomfortable with these applications, I would like to make some suggestions.  When you look at a thug trying to intimidate someone, there is a big display of “peacocking”, sticking their chest out like Dolly Parton, jutting their head forward, arms loose from the sides like a cowboy about to go for his gun.  That part is not too important.  What is more important is that typically they invade the other persons personal space to intimidate and emotionally control them.  The victim will typically respond by drawing back, pulling their arms into their body and making their own personal space as small as possible.  This is actually quite a key tactic that thugs use instinctively.  Why?  Because it’s effective.

When practicing self defence techniques, experienced martial artists will happily move into their training partners space; whilst the more timid people will tend to pull back.  It is because the more timid person wants to get away, whereas the more experienced person will seek to take control (just like the thug/victim scenario above).

Using a bunkai/Chi-na example, imagine an “attacker” grabs the “defenders” wrist with a cross grab (right hand to right wrist – or left to left).  The defender traps the attackers grabbing hand with their own free hand, then moves both hands in a circle to apply the lock.  The more confident “defenders” move slightly forward as they perform the technique, circling their hand near to the attackers body.  This locks both the “attackers” elbow and wrist at right angles, making the lock easy to apply.  The more timid people tend to perform the technique by circling their hands much closer to their own body.  This resulted in both the “attackers” elbow and wrist not quite reaching the 90 angles and the lock being more difficult to apply.

The “victim” way of thinking, is simply to pull back and escape.  It makes the self defence techniques more difficult to apply and less effective.  I would suggest to anybody struggling with this, is that you have to think “control” before you think “escape”.  If you escape, but have not put your opponent out of action, they will simply chase you.  Think like the street thug, go into your opponent’s personal space and control them.  Then your escape will be much easier.

Having said that, how does a small or timid person actually manage to access that “dark side”, in order to move in and control somebody?  How do you turn your fear, dread and longing to escape into the will to move in and take control of somebody who is bigger, stronger and intent on hurting you?

Well if I can focus on women here for a minute, they are often told, “imagine somebody is going to rape you”.  I would respectfully suggest that this can be a bit counter-productive as any woman faced with a would-be rapist is just going to want to get away even more, rather than to invade his personal space and get closer; which unfortunately is what is required for many self defence techniques.  I would suggest a different image.  Imagine that your child (or niece, nephew, friends child) is in danger and you are the only one there to protect that child.  Now you have to go in rather than run away.  Nothing in the world is more ferocious than a Mama bear when somebody messes with her cubs.  To learn self defence against bigger, stronger men, sometimes you have to bring out the “Mama bear” in a woman.  Even professional burglars will avoid breaking into houses with kids, because they know that mothers will fight to the death to protect a child.

As much as your instinct may tell you to draw back, escape and run away when you are threatened, you may need to disable your opponent before you can run so that they don’t run after you.  That means you have to find your dark spot inside your soul, you have to access your inner “Mama bear” and you have to be prepared to go into your opponent before you go out.  And as mentioned above, training like this leads to confidence, which leads to assertiveness, which in turn can defuses a situation before it kicks off.

Although many senior instructors are very proficient in their martial applications, you can see by the way that they teach their students that many of them have a very nurturing and caring side to their natures.  Despite years of Karate training, I consider myself to be a very gentle person.  Some people may consider this to be contradictory.  Those who have trained for many years will consider it a natural consequence of our training.  That’s the paradox.  These traits are not opposites, they are the balance.  The Yin and Yang.

All martial methods come with a code.  The knights of old had their chivalry, to protect the weak.  The ancient Samurai would sacrifice themselves without question for their master or their masters family.

Many of today’s martial arts from Japan and Korea end in “Do” (Judo, Kendo, Aikido, Tae Kwon Do, No Can Do etc).  The “Do” means “way”.  And by “way”, they mean a way to self development, self improvement and even self enlightenment.

All of these codes mean that although the individual develops fighting skills which can potentially destroy other human beings, they are better people and better members of their society.  One might argue about the brutality of the Samurai (who would not hesitate to kill women and children of an enemy clan), but in the society that they lived in, unquestioning loyalty and total obedience was expected.  They were therefore, very good members of their society.  In today’s society, the “Do” expects you to be a more altruist and caring person.

It is the balance.