When we think about women’s empowerment, we usually connect the idea to women’s behavior in society and business. We often forget that physical empowerment is also an important part of women’s self-confidence and strength. Self-defense for women is an excellent way to cultivate self-awareness and explore the power of the body.
Origin of self-defense for women
Classes specializing in self-defense for women are seen as a recent phenomenon, but the movement has a much longer history. In her book, Her Own Hero, Wendy L. Rouse explains such history. The origin of self-defense for women started during the fight for the right to vote, in the early 20th century. Industrialization and urbanization led women to conduct a life in the public eye. As such, they started to take space in places previously dominated by men. This created a backlash and women faced violent attacks. For the first time, they realized that men weren’t their “natural protectors”. And so, self-defense offered them an opportunity to protect themselves.
We live in a different time—women are now an established part of society—but they still have to deal with gender bias and harassment. Most women may feel scared walking alone at night. But, the reality is that most of the times, they have to defend themselves from people they know: violent husbands or dates that might become nightmares.
It’s essential to know a couple of moves to be able to fight back when attacked. But one of the most important things to remember is to try to talk to the person that is attacking you before responding with violence. Sentences like: “What do you want?” or “Why are you doing this?” can still have an effect and bring the person back to his/her senses. Try to engage in a conversation and ask the person to stop what they are doing multiple times—it’s always worth trying.
Self-awareness is essential
Awareness and self-awareness are essential in the practice of self-defense. You have to stay present. Pay attention to what is happening around you and be aware of your emotions and body at all times. When you fight you move fast. So, you have to learn how to coordinate different parts of your body and make sure your emotions don’t take over.
If words don’t stop your aggressor, take note of these key moves when you get attacked:
1. GO FOR THE EYES
If someone is trying to punch you, immediately lower your chin and make sure you are facing the aggressor with your forehead. If you get hit, this is the most resistant part of the head. Then, move your arms and hands towards the eyes of the attacker. You might feel disgusted by the idea, but it’s a great way block the person—gouge the eyes.
2. KICK TO THE GROIN
The front kick is a powerful move that gives you an opportunity to escape. Work with your hips and knees before delivering the kick. Coordinate the different parts of your body to get ready to hit. Drive your hips forward with your knee bent and heel back. Then, extend your knee and leg with force, pointing towards the groin area with the top of your foot. Practice knee-bends and lunging to make sure you are prepared for this movement.
3. KNEE KICK
If you don’t have enough space to go for the eyes or kick, you can still use your knees—they are powerful allies. Drive your knee straight up to hit the groin. Use the bony tip of your knee, not your thigh to cause more pain. Before you throw the knee kick, grab his/her neck and shoulders, and hold on to as much skin or clothing as possible. Knees are also important when you are on the floor, and the aggressor is trying to get on top on you. Push him/her back using your knees but lift your lower back and hips. The knees by themselves cannot do the trick.
4. BEAR HUG DEFENSE
If he/she grabs you, drop toward the ground and squirm to wriggle out. Lowering your center of gravity makes you more stable and gives you a new angle. Once the attacker is close to your body, it’s harder to get away, and you have to switch your technique.
Before, you wanted to create space to be able to escape. Now you also want to try to block his/her body and get into a position of power by using all of your body. For example, if you are wrestling on the floor and you grab him/her from behind. Wrap your arm around his/her neck to choke him/her (yes, you can go for the kill if your life is at risk). You will have to wrap your legs around his/her waist and push your chin and neck against his neck. If you want to block your attacker, before delivering the final blow, you cannot leave space between your two bodies.
Note: Please contact a professional trainer for advice on proper technique.
Feature photo: Scott Webb / Unsplash