Women's self-defense class

The other night, I began attending a women’s self-defense class in DC, given by a great outfit named Defend Yourself. I registered for this class through WEAVE (Women Empowered Against Violence), where I’ve been getting assistance. I am so glad I’m doing this!

The women in the class were all having a great time learning to smash an attacker’s balls with our knees while shouting “NO!” We were all really getting into it; you could tell how each woman had enough reasons in her life to make that a satisfyingly cathartic exercise. It went really well. There was one Arab woman in the class; I really really felt glad to see an Arab sister learning this. Lauren, the instructor, is a veteran of the original Take Back the Night movement in the '70s. She was wearing a “Stop Rape” t-shirt which on the front had a diagram of a man’s body and marked in red were all the places to hit him where it hurts the most. On the back was a statement that 2 out of 3 rape attacks on women were stopped by the women resisting. Attackers and harassers expect us to be passive and not resist. When we do resist, they’re caught off guard and can’t deal with that.

It was all about how to handle harassment and physical attacks. We practiced going at each other and saying “STOP” “BACK OFF” “GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME” etc. How to be in control of the situation. How to shout in the right tone of voice, in a commanding steady pitch and not shrieking. I have a definite tendency to shriek, so I learned not to when being attacked. We learned various sorts of ways to hit and places to hit where it hurts. How to jab fingers into eyes, how to break a nose, how to slam the side of someone’s head one-two with elbows going both ways, how to stomp on toes, and–the unanimous popular favorite–knee into the balls. One woman pointed out how men are automatically guarding their balls all the time, so that can’t be the first hit-- rather, hit them in the face first and their hands will go up there, then go for the balls, and do it a bit sideways so that you won’t be hit by their heads moving forward when they crumple. How to stand, how to call for help, how to run after disabling the attacker, how to be assertive and say “NO.”

I feel so much more confident having done this. I will feel safer on the street now. I want all women to learn these skills. The proportion of women who get harassed is something like 98%, I read that on Feministing. This class was seriously hands on, we were hitting hard. The instructor brought a large padded shield so we could really hit, not just pretend.

I just wanted to express how deeply delighted I feel to see women helping women to defend ourselves. It was a beautiful, energizing, even spiritual experience.

Do guys unconsciously protect their balls all the time? Interesting. I’ll have to…check that one out. :slight_smile:

You used to be a man, right? Is that right–about the ball thing?

I think it’s true, I can’t say for sure, but it sounded intuitively right. I’m the wrong person to ask about being a man. I never got the whole male thing. That painful time in my life is thankfully fading from memory now.

Edit–I don’t mean to say I never knew what it was like to live in a male body, I know how much it hurts there, but I don’t remember ever talking about “guy” stuff with guys. I was never part of their world. And I was no good at faking it either.

I’d say consciously, but yes. My rugby buddies and I often fake a nut shot to get a flinch. It doesn’t matter if it’s happened 1,000 times with no accidents, you’re still going to get the flinch. Guaranteed.

My tae kwon do/self defense teacher said yes, guys expect and protect against the ball shot. So he recommended a knee to the solar plexus - the man’s protective reaction toward his crotch will actually bring the target toward your attack - neat.

Are women still taught to yell ‘Fire!’ instead of ‘Rape!’ or ‘Help!’?

One thing i always thought womens self defense classes should spend time on and almost never do is on how to take a hit. Most women have never been in a fight or really taken a hard punch in their lives, yes theres the whole childbirth thing but it doesn’t carry quite the same shock value that a hard punch to the face does even if the pain is greater. At least a day spent on “this is what being punched feels like, yes it hurts like hell but it won’t kill you so try to recover and keep fighting” would be more helpful than all the other stuff.

The one I took told us to forcefully shout stuff like “NO!” and “Leave me ALONE!” You get a much more deep and “serious” tone from those words, and the sound carries further and sounds much less like someone is goofing around. I have lots of memories of college girls screaming at night, only to have it trail off into faint giggling. Those ear-piercing shrieks are more likely to be dismissed as jokes.

I am incapable of committing rape. Aside from my moral convictions, I am physically unable to do it. I got divorced last year and for the last several months of the marriage, the wife was willing but not eager to do it. The result: the little soldier would not stand at attention. I just can’t make it work without a woman that wants it.

I think rape is one of the most despicable crimes. Rapists should be allowed to keep their penises, but not be allowed to wear them. :wink:

With all of that said, I believe these self defense courses are a waste of time and they endanger their participants. They offer a false sense of security. None of this stuff will work, if the rapist is armed. Your best defense, by far, is situational awareness. It’s not “What you do if jumped in a dark alley.” It’s “Dark alleys are dangerous places and best to be avoided.”

I’m 6’3" and 250 lbs. I have some martial arts training. If you are to defeat me, you must render me helpless for say, at least 20 seconds, in order for you to get away. The only real methods for you to do this would be to strike my testicles, eyes or throat. The solar plexus thing will only buy you a few seconds. I can still grasp you with the wind knocked out of me.

Get a friend and square off. Try to simply ‘tag’ These four areas:eyes, throat,gut and balls. It’s not easy and you’ll find it’s quite tiring, even after 1-2 minutes. If you’re serious and try really hard, it will quickly become a ground game. If you’ve ever seen a MMA bout channel surfing you will see that this is true. Once you are on the ground, you’re in very serious trouble indeed.

I believe that the only real defense is a firearm. Take it to the range monthly and practice real world scenarios. Fire from standing, kneeling, sitting and prone positions. Shoot while laying on your back. Unload the gun and practice a left-handed draw while sitting behind the steering wheel.

I just think that it is important for women to not be over confident. Rapists are evil predators. Predators are not looking to just catch their game; they want to catch it without a scratch upon them selves. They plan ahead. It’s unlikely that you will get the chance for the 1-2 punch and get away.

Lastly, I want to make it very clear that I am not, in any advocating ‘Lay back and enjoy it’. Any defense is better than none. Biting is good, as it leaves identifiable wounds. Head butts are good too. Don’t stop and don’t give up. Memorize his face. Just keep in mind that you’ll need a more comprehensive defense than a couple quick Jackie Chan moves.

Re: balls- various (large, muscular, otherwise intimidating) men in my self-defense class have encouraged me to concentrate more on the groin. I offer this for no great philosophical insight, just that it kind of amuses me to hear it.

“What do you mean you were going for my solar plexus? Lower, ferchrissakes.”

“Now, the groin kick is one of my personal favorites.” Yeah, I never thought I’d hear a guy say that, though granted he was talking about being on the delivering, not receiving end.

Can’t say my class (which is mixed gender, obviously) is a spiritual experience, but it’s definitely always an interesting physical experience.

While I DEFINITELY agree that self defense classes should include a lengthy segment on exercising caution and sizing up a situation e.g. alternating routes home, I hope they also emphasize that most rape victims know their attacker. I imagine a blow to the solar plexus or ball twist would have more of an effect on a horny date who won’t take no for an answer than a stranger who pops up in an alleyway (and may very well be armed himself, whereas even a woman who owns a gun may not bring it to a party or while sleeping at a friend’s apartment).

And the class I took emphasized watching your situation, moving away from potential danger before the person even gets close, yelling and running whenever able, fighting only when needed and then running ASAP. The majority of it was nothing to do with fighting.

Besides (not turning this into a gun argument, I swear), carrying a gun is not practical, legal, or even possible for me.

In the women’s self-defense class I took in high school (a million billion years ago) we practiced in tight jeans, high heels, short skirts, etc - because as my instructor noted, “If you are attacked on the street, you’re probably not going to be in your PJs.” We learned to use an attacker’s momentum against him, and to do things like step on an instep with high heels, or whack the back of your own head against an attacker’s nose, to poke eyes or Adam’s apple, and to hold keys protruding between your fingers to rake them across someone’s exposed skin or carry a lit cigarette and jab it out on an attacker.

But first, we were taught how to be aware of our surroundings, to watch reflections in windows, to routinely scan an area for potential escape routes. Also, how to gross an attacker out by nose-picking - seriously!

I wonder, now that so many people have cell phones, if anyone has managed to foil an attack by calling police when something seems off, or even during an attack?
(PS: we were also told that most rapes are committed by people known to the victim.)

I don’t know if it’s all that to me, but I do my best to introduce women to firearms by taking them to the range with me. Thus far, I’ve only had a couple of converts. But one convert became a CCW holder in the same class as me.

I wish that courses could help women to develop a “spidey sense” of impending trouble, and what to do when that happens, but I almost think that no matter how good the course, it’s only something that comes from experience and/or the way you are. I’ve avoided a lot of problems when traveling, especially in foreign countries, through paranoia, relaxed awareness, backup plans, and quick thinking. I’ll spare you all the anecdotes.

Someone did ask about that, and Lauren advised against it. She said to pick out one individual and yell “You in the green shirt! Call 911!” if people are around. As for when there’s no one else around, I hope to find out more in the next class.

Another good disabling move is to kick the inside of the attacker’s knee. It can be difficult to hit the right place, but if done correctly they will not be able to stand. If you’re only a little off you will still give them a pretty serious limp.

Depends on how they’re taught. Context is important. I had self-defense training, but it didn’t prompt me to start taking any risks I wasn’t already taking.

Actually, some of my more advanced training did cover what to do in those circumstances, and what your options are because, obviously, resisting may not be a good idea if there’s a shotgun held to your head.

That is possible. Difficult, but possible.

Actually, the most serious attempted rape I experienced (and I might add, the attacker actually WAS unarmed) ended when I broke his leg. Granted, I wasn’t aiming for his leg, my target was more centrally located, but it’s hard to be precise when you’re in a chokehold. Anyhow - when the bone broke he let go and I ran like hell.

That’s part of the point of these classes - to teach you to hit hard enough to, yes, break bones, dislocate joints, and otherwise cause intense pain and agony. It’s not just the pain, it’s also shock and surprise.

I’d also like to point out that not every attacker will be over 6 feet and over 200 lbs - some rapists are quite modestly sized and it is possible for even a petite woman to defend herself. It’s stupid to say “Well, some people are huge so these techniques are useless and we shouldn’t teach them” when they may actually have some utility. And that’s something a well-run self-defense class teaches - how to use the appropriate technique for a given situation. A well-run class will also teach that there should be no shame to NOT resisting someone who totally out-classes you since the point of the exercise is to SURVIVE being raped, not to kung-fu the attacker. If a woman thinks submitting gives her better odds then that should be a perfectly valid choice to make.

Carrying a firearm is a felony offense in some areas.

Yeah, well, the one that grabbed me wasn’t expecting me to fight back, that’s for damn sure. I only needed 1 hit to down him. Granted, there was some luck on my side, but if I hadn’t had the training I wouldn’t have known what to do and it would have been a completed and not an attempted rape.

It’s also important to emphasize the run like hell part of this whole scenario - if you get him down, or even just break his grip, get moving.

Broomstick has this one covered.

In my several years of Martial Arts training, I learned very early on to hate sparring or doing techniques or striking drills with women.

Because they largely fall into 2 camps:

1- Those that are still inhibited with the socially imprinted view that they are not supposed to hit, or yell, or be violent. They strike softly, if at all, often with poor technique, and are timid. Very annoying.


2- Those that have gotten past that, and are now hell on wheels. They are agressive, often faster than I am and most importantly, ruthless. The loss of that social conditioning goes all the way down for them. Very brutal, but fun.
I would rather my daughter learned some self defense, not necessarily to defend her against the 6’6" linebacker, or the guy with a gun, but from the boyfriend who won’t take no for an answer, or the average built guy who follows her out of a bar/class/job one late night.