Creating self defence courses for women

Discussion in 'Women's Self Defence' started by John Titchen, Oct 16, 2014.

  1. John Titchen

    John Titchen Still Learning Supporter

    Every year I deliver a number of single sex and (where my host will not allow me to deliver two different courses) mixed sex personal safety and self defence courses or lectures. Another moderator here at Martial Arts Planet recently asked me to write a short article about how I approach the subject of female self defence. The subject is far too large to sum up in a single article, but what I can do is give my opinions on the starting points for creating a worthwhile course.

    Planning and Preparation

    1. Know your audience.
    This is crucial for creating course content. The age group (or groups), ethnic mix and general social background will determine both content and approach. Regrettably there is a high probability that within your group you may have women that have suffered some form of violence or abuse, and while the participants will normally have opted to take part, they have not done so to get traumatised by off the cuff remarks or generalisations, nor may they wish to share any experience. The audience determines both the content and teaching style of the course.

    2. Trainers and the elephants in the room.
    (i) Experience. I believe that honesty is the best policy. A trainer should give a very short summation of their background to help put things in context. A trainer should be open about their experience (or lack of experience) and knowledge and the basis on which the course is designed.
    (ii) Gender. Can a man deliver a self defence course to women, as he is not a woman? Yes. I know some exceptional self defence trainers both in the UK and abroad of both genders. Their knowledge, experience and ability to empathise and teach are far more important than their gender. Some men will only listen to men talking about self defence and some women will only pay attention to a woman (or have suffered a degree of trauma that makes a same-sex instructor a better option for participation and engagement), but that does not mean that a trainer of your own gender is always the best teacher on this subject.

    3. Teaching style.
    Teaching style is a very individual thing and I have seen a range of different styles used effectively. Although self defence is a very serious subject, humour can be used, although I would advise against poking fun at students that you barely know. A good self defence course should be driven and paced by the instructor but provide the opportunity to include the students as what you say may encourage them to share something that has been weighing on their mind and such sharing may benefit both them, the other attendees and you.

    Regrettably the length of the course (and each session) is often decided by the host rather than the trainer. Most trainers still take on constrained courses on the basis that providing some training is better than no training, but in doing so there will always be compromises on both teaching style and content. As a result it is important to prioritise. The mental aspects of self defence are more important, more useful and more permanent than any form of physical training and should be prioritised.

    Personal Safety and Self Defence – the mental framework

    The mental side of self defence is about empowering your audience through knowledge and personal motivation. What needs to be covered will depend upon the age and social background of your group. The following list and order is flexible as in forming a course certain elements will naturally tie together and cross-pollinate.

    1. Use of force and the law.
    2. Accurate crime picture (including risk) based on government, police and ED data (where available).
    3. Natural human reactions to actual or potential abuse, aggression and violence, both in anticipation of, during and after events.
    4. Rationales and motivation for action or inaction in self defence both before, during and after events.
    5. Avoidance strategies.
    6. Deterrence strategies.
    7. Awareness – common tactics and patterns in abuse, sexual crime and violent crime.
    8. De-escalation and no contact escape strategies – body language, use of voice, phrasing.

    The list above is very much tied in with your credentials as a trainer. Being a martial artist or having personal experience is not enough. There is a huge body of high quality literature available for research (too much to recommend one single text) based on the experiences of large numbers of people.

    Self Defence – the physical framework

    Once again what can be delivered will depend upon the age and ability of the group and the time allocated. In my opinion the mental training is the key to unlocking the maximum potential of the physical training.

    There is an elephant in the room when it comes to physical training. Realistically not everything works all the time, no matter how good a technique is. Skill, motivation, adrenaline and the element of surprise give an edge but so do aggression, experience and strength. With that said it is important that what is taught is material appropriate to the context of real scenarios and relative positions, is simple to do (even under pressure) and has been shown (to the training deliverer at the very least) to be reliable under pressure.
    The following elements should form the basis of the physical part of the course.

    1. Biomechanics and weak points of the human body.
    2. Gross motor strikes that utilise otherwise natural and everyday movements.
    3. Impact training.
    4. Paired work based on HAOV (habitual acts of violence) to build confidence.
    5. Optional participation in scenario training.
  2. Hannibal

    Hannibal Cry HAVOC and let slip the Dogs of War!!! Supporter

    Good stuff as always John!
  3. Indie12

    Indie12 Valued Member

    As a fellow Women's Self Defense Instructor, I must say this is very impressive!!
  4. boothead

    boothead New Member

    That's a great overview.

    You mention a huge body of high quality literature (too much to mention). Could you pick out a few high points?

    I'd assume Gavin De Becker, Rory Miller and Geoff Thompson would be among them, could you recommend any other reading?
  5. John Titchen

    John Titchen Still Learning Supporter

    In addition to those you mention I would suggest as a starting point books by Grossman, Asken, Siddle and Christensen. I would actually place those ahead of Thompson and Miller, but that is a personal choice.

    Those predominantly give you starting points for psychology and physiology as it relates to aggression and violence. Do not neglect official violent crime literature pertaining to women.
  6. marjudo

    marjudo New Member

    Great idea. With all aggression against women today.
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2017
  7. Tom bayley

    Tom bayley Valued Member

    How much time/emphasis would you spend on talking about threats from strangers? and how much about threats from people that are known (people who may be trusted or in positions of authority etc)?

    What in your mind are the key differences in approaches to handling threats from strangers and threats from known individuals?

    Personally I feel competent to discuss appropriate strategies for threats from strangers but as a man I feel that I lack the life experience to properly understand and contextualize appropriate strategies to cope with aggressive sexual advances from people who are known.
  8. Adrastia

    Adrastia Valued Member

    Tom - are you planning to take this on? Why, if you lack the 'life experience, understanding and ability' ? Is this a theoretical question or practical preparation? When you've understood this more, I think you'll see what to do.

    Maybe first, spend a substantial amount of time researching and understanding 'sexual advances from people who are known' and learn what 'aggressive' means in this context. That may mean a year at least, maybe more.

    Start here perhaps: a sample of reality for women (and young men):
    Read as many pages as you can.

    Here's a good indicator of what one should know and be able to do successfully:

    with respect, A
  9. Adrastia

    Adrastia Valued Member

  10. Tom bayley

    Tom bayley Valued Member

    Thanks for the links very helpful. I did look at doing this a while ago. At the time I felt that I was not necessarily the right person for the job. It was the complexity of the underlying issues /situations.

    I appreciate that a self defense class on its own cannot realistically address many of these. I also appreciate that a self defense classes can have a beneficial impact along side other types of support.

    adrastia, For you, how do self defense classes fit in with other types of support? What kind of positive things do self defense classes offer? And why do you feel these can be helpful?
  11. wonglongwingchu

    wonglongwingchu Valued Member

    Great article John. Planning to do a seminar soon. This would come in handy, thanks :)
  12. Martinroy

    Martinroy Valued Member

    As an instructor, I must say this course would be perfect. Because it's different from what i was expecting.
    Thanks for sharing!
  13. Tom bayley

    Tom bayley Valued Member

    John can you give an idea of how much time you would expect to take to cover the above coarse?

    Also what would be the intended learning outcomes and how would these outcomes be assessed?

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