There are countless reasons why practicing self-defence is a useful skill for women of any age. As females we have not usually encouraged to build up and test our physical strength while boys are on the whole left to wrestle with one another.
Many women will have memories of being told things like ‘Girls shouldn’t get dirty’ etc. we are not encouraged to continue sports beyond a young age unless we are very good at them. This is because of our society think that girls should learn to be gentle and care for others in preparation for being wives and Mothers.
Because of this most women lose confidence in their bodies at an early age and believe comments such as‘ Girls are weak’. A lot of us begin to doubt whether we would be able to defend ourselves . Self Defence teaches us to how to defend ourselves using a range of methods we have been taught.
- DEFENDING OURSELVES WITHOUT USING PHYSICAL FORCE.
- PREPARING TO DEFEND OURSELVES PHYSICALLY.
- USING PHYSICAL CONTACT TO DEFEND OURSELVES.
MYTHS ABOUT LEARNING SELF DEFENCE
We have all heard stories about self defence and many women are put off because they believe they are not strong enough to defend themselves.
- You try and defend yourself , you’ll only get hurt.
- Even if you learn self defence, if a really big man attacks you, you wont stand a chance against him.
- If somebody attacks you with a knife or another weapon everything you have learnt will be useless.
- You are too small/ fat/ thin to defend yourself.
- Women should know their place, and try not be tough like men.
- If you get attacked by more than one person, you haven’t got a chance.
Learning self defence makes you more equipped to defend yourself without getting hurt in the process. We all have enormous potential, and don’t usually live up to it. As we explore a range of techniques we build up our confidence and can start to imagine how we might deal with particular kinds of attack, including those which are our worst fears.
No one can say exactly how they will defend themselves in any attack. We all hope when we start learning self defence that we will be taught foolproof ways to protect ourselves in a range of situations. This is not fully possible. Every situation is different, and there is always a chance that you may get injured. We always do the best we can to defend ourselves, but other people may not always see it that way. After all, at the time of an attack or abusive experience we have to make decisions instinctively. We deserve to have our judgement of the situation respected.
AWARENESS/ STREETWISE/ COMMON-SENSE
Awareness deals with avoidance and strategies. Awareness addresses the problem of looking after yourself when you’re out and about before you get into a situation.
TRAVELLING BY CAR/BIKE
Where possible try and always park your car under a street lamp. You will be able to see clearly at night. If there are no lights and its very dark get a colleague to walk with you. Always have your keys in your hand, so you do not waste time looking for them. Also they can be used as a weapon. If there is one or more people hanging around get security to accompany you across the car park. When driving alone always make sure your belongings are out of view and lock your doors.
TRAVELLING BY BUS/TRAIN
Plan your route in advance. Know the times of connecting busses/ trains. Sit in a compartment where there are a lot of people. Sit near the driver on the bus.
Walk purposefully and show that you know where your going. Take the safest route, don’t let the temptation of the shortest route lead you into danger. Walk facing the traffic. Never wear a walkman. Avoid pedestrian underpasses/ parks /car parks. Keep to the outside of the pavement, so its harder for an attacker to assault you. Never accept a lift from a stranger. Try and wear comfortable clothes, maybe change of shoes. You should always let someone know your plans; ie how your getting home, time you’ll be leaving and time expected.
PERSONAL APPEARANCE AND POSSESSIONS
Dress is one of the most hotly contested subjects in the self protection debate. Should we take the line of least resistance and cover ourselves up so that no one can accuse us [however wrongly] of asking for it. Women should be free to dress as they wish, it remains an inescapable that we are making ourselves more vulnerable if we do not take a few sensible steps. Change into shoes that you can run in if you have to walk home late. If you are wearing a short skirt or low cut top, take a long coat with you – especially if you are using public transport. You’ll feel more comfortable and much safer. Cover up expensive jewellery. Tuck away long hair. Not only does it attract attention , it can also be grabbed by someone approaching from behind. Transfer keys and some cash into a pocket – its safer. Carry in your bag only what you need – not the kitchen sink. Wear your bag across your body. Put your coat on. In that way its out of view. Don’t leave your bag dangling vulnerably on your shoulder. Avoid digging for things in your bag in the street. The effectiveness of all these tactics relies on consistently maintaning a high level of awareness whenever you are in a potentially dangerous situation. Listening to your own instincts and fears. Don’t ignore them or write them off as silly, they rarely are.
The signs of fear are unequivocal,
- Your stomach starts to churn.
- You may start to sweat although you actually feel cold.
- Your heart races.
- You find you are holding your breath.
- Your eyes and ears strain.
- You feel wide awake, poised for action.
LISTEN TO THE SIGNAL’S, READ THEM AND ACT
Sally found herself confronted by just such a choice. Six youths were hanging around her street corner as she was returning from work. She was dressed smartly and weighed down with bags of shopping. Her heart began to race, and she just knew it would b e foolish to carry on past the youths, especiallu as there was nobody else in sight. She went into a nearby shop and waited a few minutes. When she came out, they were still there, but some other people had now appeared, so she judged it a little safer to continue home. Still nervous , she took the precaution of crossing the road and adjusted her handbag so it was tucked under her arm. Her housekeys she had transferred to a pocket. She walked purposefully and tried to appear both alert and relaxed at the same time.
What happened next she’s never forgotten : She heard running feet and then saw the gang bearing down on a man on their side of the road. They beat him over the head, snatched his briefcase and wallet , and were away in seconds.
She says she’ll never know for sure why they went for him rather than her, but she has no doubt that by listening to her instincts and acting on her feet, she reduced the likelihood of becoming the victim. Nor can she precisely why she felt bad about those youths except that they conformed to her stereotyped image of young thugs. We all have those images and we should use them.
Its up to you to look after yourself, don’t depend on others. Learn to be aware of potential danger and listen to your intuition. Learn to respond to the signs of fear. Adopt a set of practical precautions and employ them consistently e.g. always carrying your keys in your pocket and keeping a hand pressed against your bag.
Being assertive is not the same as being aggressive.
The right to say no.
To respect themselves as equals.
Assertiveness is often mistaken for aggression and we are taught that aggression is unfeminine. Instead of suppressing our feeling and opinions we have to learn to say NO to contradict without being embarrassed. This is not being rude or unfeminine. Once you accept this, you will also accept
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO DEFEND YOUR OWN SPACE
Self defence starts with your own attitude to yourself as a woman, your self-esteem and your rights.
UNLEARN BEING EMBARRASSED
If you are being followed and you are unable to get to a public area, do not ignore the threat of danger in the hope that it will go away. First confirm that you are being followed cross the road and keep re-crossing. A lot of ‘followers’ will be embarrassed by your obvious awareness of their presence, and will drop away. Others may not, and in that case you have a series of options: Hammer on somebody’s front door. If your in a quite residential area, this may be your best option. Don’t lead the man back to your home, unless you know there are family or friends there. If that is not an option turn around, walk in opposite direction past him and tell him in a non friendly manner to go away. This may seem difficult to do but is important.
DO NOT IGNORE A THREAT
You lower the risk of being selected as a victim by being assertive in your manner. We find it difficult to defend ourselves because we are afraid of ending up looking like an idiot. This is a risk we take when we decide to stand up for our rights. There is no harm in acting to prevent something worse happening; Shouting for help may even stop something more serious happening. You may be embarrassed when someone comes to help you and the person who was trying to attack you says he was just going to help you with your bag, but it is far better than leaving yourself at risk. It is important to learn to trust our first instinct
USING YOUR VOICE
There are a number of ways in which using your voice can prevent an attack from developing further. Shouting at the attacker, in a firm voice. Using short and sharp words is more effective than long sentences. For example you can shout ‘ NO’ loudly in their ear. It is very disorienting to be shouted at, and it makes the point you don’t wasn’t to be messed around with [Remember to take a good, deep breath first, or it won’t work so well.]
Repeating a question or a statement is also a good way of taking control. You might ask ‘why do you want me to do that’ don’t get side tracked, just keep asking, even if you don’t get an answer. Or ‘I will not be bullied by you so go away’. It is difficult for the attacker to continue do do /say what they had in mind if you are firm in this way.
Summoning help, by using your voice., calling ‘HELP’ is not , in the view of many self-defence teachers, the best way of getting others to come to your assistance. Shouting ‘FIRE’ is supposed to be more effective.
Talking to someone who is threaten you is also known to work. If you can keep calm enough to ask what they want, or what the matter is, it will help them see you’re still in charge. Most attacks are about people trying to get attention or humiliate the person their attacking in order to feel more powerful. By talking to them you are showing that you won’t be put in a weaker role. It also stops you from freezing up and gives you time to make decisions about what to do next.
SECURITY IN THE HOME
Nobody wants to turn their house or flat into Fort Knox. If nothing else, the cost of adopting every measure available is prohibitive. What we must all try to achieve is a level of security that doesn’t draw attention to us, that we can afford that makes feel safe. The back or side door. The patio door. The front door.
CHECKLIST FOR SECURING YOUR HOME
The main points outlined above can be summarised as follows:
- Seek expert advice before you act.
- Secure the most vulnerable points first [doors and windows]
- THE FRONT DOOR: Have a good quality door. Ensure the hinges are strong. Fit two locks – a mortise deadlock and a rim lock. Use them. Fit a chain or door restraint, plus a viewer.
- THE BACK OR SIDE DOOR: Have a good quality door. Fit bolts top and bottom and a mortise deadlock. Any glass should be reinforced. Consider fitting a chain.
- PATIO DOOR: Fit a key operated locking bolt and a mortise lock. Fit anti- lift device. Seek specialist advice if in any doubt.
- WINDOWS:Fit good locks on any accessible windows especially important if your in a basement flat and on your own. Consider laminated glass or security grills if living in a basement. If you live alone, don’t advertise the fact that you do. Look at your outside lighting arrangements. Cut back bushes and shrubbery around your front door. Be suspicious about any stranger who arrives on your door step. Don’t be afraid of appearing rude. Teach your children never to let strangers into the house, however friendly they may seem. Beware of amorous plumbers ! keep a professional distance at all times, and keep your path of flight clear. If you wake to the sounds of a nocturnal intruder, get up and make a noise. Do not confront him. Install a phone by your bed, so that you can call the police immediately. Get to know your neighbours and your neighbourhood. Put the police telephone number on your speed dial.
Article written by Kevina Malone of ASKA