It seems only appropriate that on International Women’s Day, today’s blog entry focuses on women’s self defense. When I started martial arts back in the early 90’s, martial arts was mostly something only boys and men did. In fact, the disparity was close to 90% men! That would occasionally be skewed by some of the pioneer women in our industry like Linda Tomasello at our school in Belmont, or Gina Pinpin at our school in Foster City, who naturally would attract more female students, but even at those schools, it was still mostly men.

I am SO happy to report, that today there is very little disparity, especially at USSD, as it’s close to 50/50, and it’s not unusual to see more women in class than men. This is especially true in our kid’s classes, who are the future of the martial arts.

My favorite success story involves a woman (we’ll call her Mary to protect her privacy) who went for a jog at 1:00 in the afternoon at a local running trail. While on this run, a man jumped out, grabbed Mary by the breast and hip, and tried to pull her back into a secluded area. She dropped into a stance, turned and broke his elbow (according to her, she could feel his arm snap under hers), kneed him in the ribs (to which she said she’s pretty sure she heard a “cracking sound”), and ran. She called the police, who took a report, and told local hospitals to be on the lookout for a man fitting the description with a possible broken arm and ribs. A couple hours later, a man fitting that description came in with a broken arm and broken ribs, claiming he fell off a ladder. The police called Mary, and asked her to identify the man. Sure enough, it was him. That gave the police cause to collect DNA, and this man was responsible for raping six other women!

The story above is an extreme example, but there are so many other countless stories of women who have benefited from being able to defend themselves against sexual assault, an abusive partner, or simply who gained a level of confidence so they don’t have to live their life in fear. Another student of mine worded it beautifully, “I love being able to go to a Sharks game, and not have to be in fear of being groped when leaving after the game.”

In my 20+ years of teaching, I’ve taught hundreds of girls and women, and hundreds more in seminars that I’m happy to organize for groups. I’m obviously biased, but I truly believe every woman should have some sort of self-defense training. I want to make it clear, by my suggestion that every woman should train, I am in NO WAY blaming women for sexual assault, or placing the blame anywhere except where it should be, on the attacker! Sadly, the unfortunate truth is that sexual assault has always been a part of society, and it always will be. The simple truth is there are people who fight back, and people who don’t. You’ve heard of the fight or flight syndrome? There’s a third, which is most common, which is freeze. What I do is teach our students to fight, and get to a point of safety.

Attackers, whether it’s for sexual assault, robbery, or whatever, are looking for the target that won’t fight back. This may sound arrogant, but I can teach you to fight back. Please, allow me to fulfill what I truly believe is why I’m put on this planet, to teach you to fight back!

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