The Critical Flaws in Women’s Self-Defence Training

by | Nov 8, 2023 | Self-defence | 0 comments

In the realm of self-defence, it’s vital that training provides individuals with practical, effective, and actionable skills, especially for women, who often face unique dangers. Regrettably, much of what is being taught under the banner of “women’s self-defence” is not only ineffective but could even put women in greater peril. Let’s delve into the critical flaws in many self-defence programs today.

Misplaced Priorities: The Power Fallacy

Self-defence reality
  • Faceboo
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

A common sight in many women’s self-defence classes is participants hitting pads with weak palm strikes. Little emphasis is put into utilising body weight, hips and footwork to generate enough power for a 72 kg women to put down a 85 kg man, and these are just average weights, imagine a much larger man against a smaller women; the only answer is correct technique and tactical targets.

Without this, at best, you might ‘hurt’ the attacker, but that will just antagonise him to retaliate with greater force; it’s the equivalent of trying to control a violent dog with a rolled up newspaper! If you factor in your attackers potential alcohol or drug use, their pain threshold is increased, making it even harder to ‘hit and escape.’

Striking the Wrong Targets


Another bewildering aspect of many training programs is the instruction to strike the jaw and face; yes if you can snap the head back then this might be enough to give the attacker something to think about whilst you escape, but striking the side of the face with weak palm strikes is a missed opportunity when you can be hitting vital points like the carotid artery. While a slap might momentarily shock an assailant, a targeted strike to a vital area can incapacitate them, allowing for escape.

Irrelevant Scenarios

Many courses waste precious time teaching women to defend against unlikely attacks, such as under-arm bear hug or outstretched-arm strangulation. Men who attack women are despicable but not necessarily short-sighted. They are likely to know that the best way to better control their victim is restricting their arms by grabbing overarm, and pulling in close with strangles and other grabs. 
The principle of opportunity cost from economics applies aptly here: every minute spent on impractical techniques is a minute lost on teaching something potentially life-saving.
Self defence scenarios
  • Faceboo
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Compliant partners

A prevailing issue in scenario-based self-defence practices, especially seen in martial arts such as ju-jitsu and krav maga, is the reliance on compliant partners. While it’s essential for partners to initiate attacks in a controlled and measured manner to enable learners to grasp and internalise techniques, this cannot be where the training stops. There comes a crucial phase where one must simulate real-world, unpredictable, and intense attack sequences. Combat sports, like boxing and MMA somewhat have an edge in this regard, emphasizing this type of rigorous testing.

To highlight the depth of this ‘compliant partner’ issue within the self-defence and martial arts sector, let’s consider the training for knife attacks. In many training sessions, the “attacker” theatrically lunges with a knife, leaving it extended long enough for the “defender” to employ a series of blocks, locks, or twists. Such choreographed counters can create an illusion of effectiveness.
In contrast, real-life evidence indicates that knife assailants often use one hand to grab, steady, punch or distract their target while relentlessly thrusting with the other. The very thought of this is unnerving, let alone its representation in training. Yet, this disconcerting reality is frequently omitted from training, as it’s almost impossible to defend against and attempts to can lead to injury; in a nutshell, it’s not pretty. 


The Extreme Spectrum: The Larkin Dilemma
On the other extreme end of the spectrum, we have methods like Tim Larkin’s Target Focus Training, which emphasizes lethal counterattacks, like strikes to the windpipe, as seen with a student who unintentionally killed an attacker attempting to rape her.
The dilemma is this, if we know there is an ‘off’ button on a rapists do we focus our training time on teaching girls from fourteen upwards to skilfully hit that button?

The non-priority problem

‘Why bother with house insurance if you’ve never been burgled,’ an odd thing to say when discussing self-defence, but there aren’t many people left that would agree with that statement. Most people commit the funds each year to protecting there most expensive physical assets. But what about the human asset? and the protection of physical and mental wellbeing. Most people allocate very little resources to protecting the human asset, yet last year (2022) in the UK there were 1.1 million reported sexual assaults, and 1.5 million violent assaults.

Conclusion: A Call for Reform

In countries where carrying weapons isn’t permitted, self-defence courses, martial arts, and combat sports stand as essential insurance policies against sexual and violent assault. The critical question posed by this article: How comprehensive is the coverage provided by each training method?
A course promoting feeble palm strikes and simulating unrealistic attack scenarios provides only superficial protection, risking a false sense of security.
Four years—the typical duration to achieve a black belt—spent dedicatedly practicing disciplines like karate, judo, kung fu, krav maga, or kickboxing certainly broadens that protective shield.
Yet, arguably, the highest level of readiness might be seen in individuals who rigorously train 3-4 times weekly, engaging in randomized attack drills and competitive matches. This elite group often includes practitioners of boxing, muay thai, MMA, and certain Brazilian jiu-jitsu disciplines.
While this is a broad overview, many factors can influence a trained individual’s real-time response to a violent attack. Elements such as mindset and phenomena like tonic immobilisation (the paralysis experienced during intense fear) play significant roles. A candid conversation is overdue, especially if our aim is to offer dependable safeguards against violence and sexual assault for our loved ones.
There’s a pressing call to reassess and overhaul current women’s self-defence training. Practicality must supersede comfort. An emphasis on realistic scenarios, efficacious techniques, and a genuine understanding of the threats women encounter is paramount. This is the route to offering authentic and potent protection.
At Mu-shin Self-defence, we’re tailoring courses for every ‘time’ budget. From our holistic 4-month programme, Mu-shin Fitness, which integrates fitness elements, to our app-based Bushido Bitesize challenge—just 12 minutes daily over 30 days.
Our latest offering is a women’s self-defence workshop. This programme synergizes group training with app-driven refresher sessions. After all, to foster instinctive responses, it’s essential to periodically revisit and reinforce training drills for optimal muscle memory.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This