Written By: Stephanie Son
Full disclosure: I wanted to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I was a teenager. I know, not the most typical of heroines.
So after dabbling in a few different styles of martial arts, I’m working towards my black belt in Tae Kwon Do. It’s awesome. I love where I train, and my instructor and fellow trainees are supportive. I sometimes think that if I’d started earlier in life, I’d be able to do stuff like this:
But I’m guessing you’re not trying to become Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and instead you just want to know how to defend yourself. And self-defence isn’t about who can do an amazing flip, or kick, or flip-kick (Yes, that’s actually a thing).
All self-defence techniques come from some form of Martial Arts and the thing is, in my opinion, it’s the martial arts schools that offer the best form of training and give you the best set of skills. The best ones are not about brute strength or aggression, they’re about empowering the individual and offering a place to give you confidence.
If you really want to know how to defend yourself, you need to know what it’s like in REAL life (and no, this doesn’t mean going out there and picking a fight). I can’t do it in words, nor is watching a bunch of YouTube videos going to teach you how to protect yourself.
(Seriously, why were we taught line dancing in school and not self-defence or some form of martial arts?!)
But where to go? Where to start?
Well, whether you decide to take up Tae Kwon Do, Jujitsu, or a Woman’s Self-Defence class at your local community centre, these are my
TOP 10 things to consider when finding your Martial Arts of choice:
1) Know your strengths (or weaknesses)
Whatever your skill or fitness level is, there is something for everyone. If you have a dance background, martial arts such as Capoeira or Kung-fu is a perfect! A simple, easier form is Kickboxing and there’s some great female-only places around. If you’re petite and worried that your size is a disadvantage, give Jujitsu or Judo a go.
2) To commit or not to commit
It’s a good idea to know how much time you want to commit. Just remember, that like anything, practice makes perfect. So the more regularly you do something, the more confident you’ll be with it.
3) Try before you buy
Most places will offer a free trial class where you can see what it’s like and ask questions of the instructor. Make sure they’re qualified and have the experience. See what the other students are like and ask them questions before or after the class.
4) Feel the fear, and do it anyway!
Starting something new is a scary thing; you don’t know anyone, you feel awkward, or you feel like you’re not strong/fit enough. Whatever your fear is, I promise that you’ll feel empowered and amazing – even after the first class! It could just be the endorphins kicking in, but it could also be the feeling that it wasn’t so hard after all!
5) Phone a friend
It always makes it easier to start something when you have a friend that holds you accountable, and vice versa (see reason #4). It also gives you someone to practice with outside of class if you want. Your significant other might not always appreciate becoming a spontaneous training partner. Some schools might also offer a BOGO kind of deal through Groupon or something like that – so definitely ask and look into it!
6) Fitness for fitness sake
Don’t bother with a BodyCombat/TaeBo (If that’s even a thing anymore?!?)/any Fitness class disguising itself as a ‘Kickboxing Class’ that’s all about punching and kicking the air. Most of these classes don’t focus on technique, so it’s pointless, other than shedding a few pounds. PS: Did you know that martial arts can be a great source of HIIT?!
7) You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!
You’re never too old to start training in martial arts, and there are often Adult-only Beginner’s classes. Sure, you might start off thinking you’ll never be able to lift your leg above your knee, but the best schools allow you to learn and train in a safe, encouraging environment so that one day you might be able to lift your leg above your waist – or higher!
8) Do some homework
Try and watch a YouTube video or Google the style you’re keen on trying if you’re not sure what the difference between Karate, Kung-fu or Krav Maga. It’ll give you a better sense of the sort of thing that might come up in your trial class.
9) We ALL start at white belt
Every martial artist starts at white belt. Remember that when you watch a black belt do a 360° back flip-kick. It also means, the only way is UP! You can only get better!
10) HAVE FUN!
Martial arts and self-defence have some serious benefits in helping you empower yourself as a woman.
Martial arts and self-defence have some serious benefits in helping you empower yourself as a woman. I’m a strong believer of that. But it also should be fun! Again, it could be the endorphins from doing some exercise, but who doesn’t want to work out their stresses from work on a punching bag or sparring partner?! … Am I alone in that department?
After all that, you might be saying “I’m not a violent person and I don’t like to hit things and/or people.” But at the end of the day, it really isn’t about ‘hitting’ something or someone. It’s not about aggression or being ‘tough’. It’s really about feeling empowered and feeling safe. When you walk home with a level of confidence, you don’t look like prey. My instructor says that you should never have to use your martial arts outside of the dojo. (Phew!) But at least I know that, when I walk home at night, I have the skills to protect myself if I have to. Wouldn’t you want to feel that way too?
It’s really about feeling empowered and feeling safe.