One of the most obvious universal benefits of learning martial arts is self-defense. Many martial arts instructors, whether they teach traditional styles or focus on modern arts, will offer self-defense seminars or classes specifically for women and girls. In principle, this is a great thing and instructors mean well. However, there is a right and wrong way to hold these seminars. Remember, the material you teach can potentially save a life – you need to make sure you are delivering it as effectively as possible.
I’ve offered many women’s self-defense courses with Tactical Defense Systems. So without further ado, here are my 5 tips on how to run a successful Women’s Self-Defense Seminar.
1. Don’t be a PowerPoint – engage with your audience.
No one, male or female, wants to hear an instructor go on and on about how bad it is out there, or hear statistics read off a screen. People have paid good money (or at very least, invested their valuable time) to learn something from your seminar.
Statistics have their place, and if you want to provide your attendees a basic breakdown of the numbers, that’s fine. However, I’ve found you will get better engagement when you ask questions. For example, start the seminar by asking things like:
Based on their responses you can build interest in the subject, and then establish credibility by the expertise you give them. By having them talk, rather than you reading off numbers, they’ll be able to feed off each other’s energy and learn from each other’s responses.
I also make sure to include a Q&A section at the end of every seminar I give, in case anyone wants further clarification.
2. Ask about their specific experiences. Have they ever had to defend themselves?
I’ve always found this works very well in my seminars. It’s similar to my #1 piece of advice, but works in a slightly different way. When you can get one of the group to share an experience they’ve had, it makes the lesson more real and more relatable to other members. The fact someone they know has been attacked helps really bring home the purpose and reason why we train. Once someone shares a story, the instructor can then give his/her opinion of why it happened and how best to handle that kind of situation in the future. Situations change all the time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help set the group up for success.
Quick note: These stories don’t have to involve an actual assault to be effective. For example, a woman in the group may have experienced stalking, threats, harassment or other situations where there was a potential for the need for self-defense to arise. Also remember that if someone in your class is an assault survivor, she may not be comfortable speaking about her story.
3. Give realistic demonstrations.
Demonstrating exclusively on members of your group, as opposed to using an assistant instructor, has loads of benefits. Simply seeing a technique won’t help them translate it to real world application. As an instructor you’re obligated to provide the best training to your students. The best way for them to learn is for you to demonstrate in an as-close-to-real-world-as-possible way. This can mean doing things that might seem a little uncomfortable – for example, actually holding a participant on the ground and straddling them, and forcing them to use techniques to escape from there. But in real life, self-defense is not comfortable and you’re not doing anyone any favors by pretending otherwise.
Giving a realistic demonstration has the added benefit of building confidence with the group. When they see one of their own do it successfully they are quick to them jump to try and learn it too. Once they know someone else in the group can do it, they feel like it’s not too hard and they can learn it too.
My advice would be to up your attendees, and then walk though and make sure they are doing the technique correctly. The key is to give them something they can do easily, practice at home, and translate into real world application. This also sets up the student for success even if they don’t take another seminar – no energy ball super ki drain defense here.
Here are a few demonstrations. I'm using a friend, but you would use a volunteer from the class. Feel free to use these drills! Also, remember it is important to give context for the situations in which they will likely use these techniques.
Basic Wrist Grip Break
Collar Grip Break and Takedown
Speaking of other seminars, it’s okay not to teach every single technique you know in one session. It’s actually better to make sure they leave knowing to do a few things well, than having a vague idea of how to do many things. This also allows you to promote future seminars on different specific topics – for example, rape prevention, abduction prevention, self-defense in and around vehicles, etc.
4. Put the emphasis on deterrents rather than last resorts.
Women have signed up for a class to help keep them safe. As any self-defense instructor will tell you, the safest fight is the one you don’t get into in the first place. Therefore, any self-defense class you teach should include a discussion of threat indicators and situational awareness. We’re all guilty of doing things like looking at our phones, listening to loud music, or being otherwise distracted when we should be paying attention. If you can teach them what to look for so they can get out of a bad situation without having to throw a punch, so much the better.
However, sometimes there is no getting around the use of violence. In that case, in addition to teaching strikes and self-defense techniques, you may want to incorporate force multipliers. Force multipliers like flashlights, kubotons, tactical pens and self-defense keychains are all great deterrents, and it doesn’t take a lot of skill to use and deploy them effectively.
5. Make them aware of the gravity of the situation, but don’t be afraid to have fun!
There’s no doubt it’s a crazy world out there, with a lot of crazy people that want to do some really bad things – especially to women! Did you know it’s expected that 100,000 women across college campuses and universities in the US will be raped or sexually assaulted over the course of the next school year? That number is ridiculously high. The good news is with the right instructor, good training, and knowing how to look for pre-indicators, many of these attacks can be prevented.
The purpose of offering these classes isn’t to scare women into jumping at every shadow. If they leave feeling freaked out rather than empowered to protect themselves, they won’t be likely to come back. Training should be fun! Not all doom and gloom how the world is trying to kill you and it’s so horrible out here. If you make it fun for the students, they will WANT to take your class again, and then they’ll learn even more useful material.
There are too many McDojo instructors out there teaching false information, using scare tactics, and techniques that just plain don’t work. Don’t be one of those guys! The scariest thing you can run across is a fighter who is having fun. Martial artists are the only people I know that give compliments when you have successfully hit them.
On one final note, I would also like to look at what the Bible says about self-defense. Luke 22:36 – “Let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.” Biblically, you have a right to defend yourself and your family, but you should never seek violence for violence’s sake. Evil is an intensely personal thing, and the only thing standing in the way of evil succeeding are good people willing to fight back.
Christ himself was the greatest warrior who ever lived. He literally conquered hell, death, and the grave in one shot. As a Christian instructor I give the best information I can to my students. It might not turn them into the next Chuck Norris, but it will keep you safe if something happens. As Christians we’re called to do no less, and it’s up to good people like us to stand up. A phrase my first instructor always told me was, “There’s always people like us, for people like them –” “Them” being the bad guys who want to do harm to those who they see as weaker. Be that warrior God has called you to be, and stand in the gap! To God by the Glory. Thank you for taking the time to read, may Jesus bless you.