Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Women's self defense classes are essentially useless

Let me start with this: My entire world view on fighting is has always been, and continues to be based on one simple concept: I fight to ensure that I or that those close to me survive a known threat.

It was recently brought to my attention that I should read a recent column by Susan Schorn, an author and a black belt who has written extensively on women and fighting, and has instructed women's self defense programs. The article, appropriately titled Fuck the dude up, hits the nail on the head.

The majority of my experience as an instructor can be broken out into 3 types of students:
1. The civilian who has recently been victim of an attack or intimidation, or anticipates the like
2. Operators, who, for a living, must fight to survive at one time or another. Attackers are not people, they're simply targets, and multiple attackers equate to a target rich environment in which, if you're efficient & given favorable environmental factors, you have a tactical advantage. This group can separate the human element of fighting, in which they tuck away any trepidation with regard to causing irreparable harm to another person. They can switch seamlessly between states of calm and ultra-aggressive.
3. Law enforcement and protection professionals who, by law, are constrained to how much damage they can inflict upon an another person... This is where escalation of violence and suppression, containment & control are the key goals.

My Wake Up Call
But then I volunteered to host a woman's self defense seminar at a InnVision, a woman's shelter in the Bay Area..

The group of women I worked with at the women's shelter, were by definition, feral. Most of them had been attacked, not by some random stranger roaming a college campus, but by their husbands, boyfriends, even their own children. The stories and situations that these women laid out before me as we went through the class blew my mind. Here are but a few examples:

We're covering basics of the ' what if your attacker has a knife." After going through some basic concepts about covering major arteries, some poses this: "What if the knife is already stuck in your back? It was between my shoulder blades. What should I have done?" HOLY SHIT! Remember, this is not some guy whose spent his adult life in active duty. This is a twenty-something year old girl.

Alright, so ladies, suppose you're on the ground and your attacker is on top of you? Um, yeah.  A question I fielded was the following: "So, I was knocked down and on my back, and my boyfriend had his boot on my chest and was punching me in the face."

I, literally walked away from that class with the scars to prove how violence was a significant part of their lives.

Now, I have 2 sisters, no brothers. I grew up with women. I have an overdeveloped protective sense for the women in my life. For me that was it. Fuck the rules. Fuck the need to speak to an attorney after-the-fact. If met with force, you must react with equal force. That's it. It is so important that I stress to women that you must first give off the air of someone not to be trifled with, but if you are attacked, you have to respond with an overwhelming act of aggression.

The Cornered Cat
Have you ever had to deal with a cornered animal? Even if you're trying to help, it perceives you as a threat. For example, a cat will shred you up and down until you back off. The mentality is a healthy dose of fight instead of flight.

The thing about classic women's self defense training covers basic stuff like go for the groin - news flash, when a guy is adrenalized, a shot to the nuts may or may not do anything, other than piss him off. Good job, now he wants to rape you, and he's pissed. I agree completely with her observation that law enforcement will not pursue your claims unless a) an officer witnessed the assault, or b) you captured it on video. Do you have any idea how much paperwork goes into logging a complaint?

I strongly urge you away from my blog - read Susan's article, it's long, but if you trudge through my posts, you'll have no problem with her article. It's well written and takes you through her thought process to a final conclusion that fending off to escape is not realistic. Reading her article is like receiving validation for what we've been preaching. Fuck him up, cause noticeable damage to connect him to his crime. Don't let him walk away - instead of becoming a victim, let your reaction be that of the aggressor. A man who tries to rape or sexually assault a woman deserves to be given a severely strong message that his actions can bring about unanticipated, and possibly permanent consequences.

I'll leave you with an excerpt from Schorn's article. Now go read.

"I’ve written before about research showing that fighting back, hard and immediately, gives a woman her best chance of surviving an assault. My own limited experience with fighting has tended to agree with the research. Now I’m starting to believe that a fast, committed, devastating response might also give other women their best chance of avoiding future assaults from the same assailant.
I keep looking for a downside to this theory, and I don’t see it. If I fuck the dude up, I’m more likely to survive. If I fuck the dude up, other women are marginally less likely to be his victims in the future. It’s a win-win."


  1. Good Article Donnie B.

  2. Good article Donnie, was wondering when you'd get around to stating what the operative state of being should be for anyone (not just women) who is attacked. Welcome to the club of KISS.

  3. Great article Donnie and another writer to add to my reading list. Discussed Women's SD with a good friend who is also a Corrections Officer. His opinion of "training" included body slamming a participant to the floor, stuffing her mouth and bagging her head, tie wrapping hands/feet and then tossing here in a car truck. That's realistic training. Needless to say, he doesn't teach Women's SD. I've taught victims, LEO/Military women, and housewives. Every class was different and not all women are capable of extreme violence (most I've found were not). I have been lucky though in introducing several women to Combat Pistol Shooting. What ever it takes.

  4. Excellent article Donnie. I enjoyed the read.

  5. great job done by Donnie keep up the great work. Post more articles about women self defense..

    Self Defense Classes for women

  6. Good points made in this article. If it were generally true and generally well-known that subduing a woman would certainly require lethal force and would likely involve severe injury to the person who attempted to do so, they wouldn't have to put up with anywhere near what they have to put up with today. Additionally, there's a high chance that a woman cannot outrun an attacker, and would be better off trying to incapacitate and mark him instead. That man who simulates a kidnapping should be teaching self-defence in that fashion. His classes would be hard to pass, but they would be the best to be had.