Women's Self-Defense & Empowerment Course PDF Print E-mail
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First WSDC 1988
Interest in women's self-defense training comes and goes whenever some highly publicized event catches the public attention. Whether it is a family massacre, a brutal rape, or a celebrity murder, people ask, "Could the attack have been prevented?" So, whenever there is a resurgence of interest is self-defense classes for women, the question always asked is, "Do self-defense classes really help?"

Many programs are taught by martial arts instructors who try to apply their techniques to defense. The  American Moo-Do Kwan (AMK) believes that a course that focuses primarily on physical techniques without emphasizing the psychological component of self-defense will not prepare the student for successful defense. There are several reasons why martial arts techniques fail. First, it is important to understand that attackers, whether muggers or acquaintances, are not honorable people. Martial arts technicians learn to fight in an honorable way. Second, many techniques learned in a martial arts school are too complex to be perfected by the occasional self-defense student. Third, women are not socialized to be able to hurt another person. Cultural biases are very difficult to change. Finally, and most important, the majority of courses taught currently are not realistic.

The AMK Women's Self-Defense Course (WSDC) does not advocate the concept of "model mugging", the wearing of padding and protection by attackers, as being a valid training method. The AMK believes that wearing the padding does not simulate realism, rather, it protects the attacker. Model Mugging courses seems like a good idea, as the attackers wear protection, allowing the participants to go all out. In fact, that is a misconception.

Yes, the women will go all out on a padded attacker. What about an attacker who is not padded? We have seen, from experience, that most women freeze up. Training with a padded attacker does not give the right visual cues to a potential defender. In our program, the simulated attackers wear no protection other than a groin cup. Our attackers act very aggressively to psychologically shake-up the participants. On the other hand, attackers are trained to take a beating without hurting the women. That kind of training is very hard, but it is effective. At each session, returning students often report that the training worked for them.

Equally important to realism is the understanding that any attack against a woman is an act of violence. Few people understand the psychology of violence. Violence is about control. People use violence to either control another person, or it is an emotional reaction to the feeling of a loss of control. Violence becomes the great equalizer to the perpetrator. The Women's Self-Defense training program instructors, all women, use techniques more often used by therapists. Over more than a decade of classes, we discovered that about fifty-percent of the women in the class were trying to work through some past abusive experience. As a result, the course was modified early on to give psychic support to those attendees. Now, the course is as much about empowering women as it is about self-defense.

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Nila SBN & Master Amsell
The program advocates several key concepts: One, don't be a victim. All law enforcement authorities recommend avoiding trouble rather than having to extract yourself from it. Two, have a sense of self sacrifice. If you plan to defend yourself, then you must be prepared to get injured or even killed in the effort. Three, if you must defend yourself, have full commitment. Similar to point two, once a person has decided that self-defense is necessary then the effort cannot be stopped until the defender escapes or, failing at that, that the attacker is disabled or killed. Four, each woman has the right to defend herself. This is one of the more difficult points for women to accept. There are a multitude of stories about women who allowed their partner to abuse them, even to death. Finally, we say, "No one has the right to touch you without your permission." This is a very difficult cultural bias for women to overcome.

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