Beyond Weapons: What Women’s Self Defense is Really About
By: Elisabeth Green, Krav Maga Instructor
Nearly every woman has, at one time, been given well-meaning advice from a father, brother, or uncle about how to keep herself safe. While this advice is given out of a desire to help, it’s very often ineffective. Or at least incomplete. In my time as a self-defense professional, I’ve learned that there is no one miracle product that will keep you out of danger; no cure-all keychain or app that will make you invincible. Before I started training, I adhered to all of the well-meaning advice I was given by friends and relatives. I had the pepper spray on my keychain in college, I carried my keys between my knuckles as I walked to my car, and I felt like these things made me safe – and I’m fortunate that I never had to put those weapons to the test of an actual life-threatening situation.
As much as we might like to think these products make us safer, weapons like pepper spray, self-defense apps on our smartphones (yes, there’s an app for that), keys between the knuckles, and even knives may make you feel safe, but in reality they contribute very little to your actual safety.
I’ll use pepper spray as an example because it’s one of the most common items I hear about from my students (it even comes in pink… chuckle). Have you ever used pepper spray when your heart rate is skyrocketing? And your palms are sweaty? Most pepper spray comes with a safety nozzle that you have to rotate in order to switch to the ON position. Have you done sprints for an hour, and then tried to work that nozzle and aim it in the proper direction? What if it’s a windy day? (A dear friend of mine once tried to pepper spray a spider on a windy day – needless to say, it did not go well for her).
Get what I’m saying?
Keys, knives, stun guns– all of them are external, and all of them can fail you under stress. While I haven’t spent hours training with pepper spray or my keys, I have spent thousands upon thousands of hours training with kicks, punches, elbows, and knees. I know how those work, and I know that I’m in control of them. They can’t be taken away from me, they won’t malfunction, and they can’t be used against me in the wrong circumstances. I have them with me at all times.
What makes Krav Maga so effective is that it’s training under realistic stress. Your body memorizes responses in training that are designed to elicit a similar physiological response as you might experience in a real-life situation (heart rate spike, tunnel vision, etc.) In training through those stressors, your responses become more and more reflexive, lessening time wasted on hesitation and panic. When you decide to train, you offer your time, physical effort, and the risk of a little discomfort in exchange for an understanding of what you’re capable of and what you’re willing to fight through. When you decide to train, you’re making a decision not to outsource your safety to an object that may or may not work when you really need it.
By all means, take the firearms course. Buy that pepper spray. Get that keychain. Just don’t let that be where your investment ends. You’re worth the investment in physical training and knowing that when you throw a punch, it’s going to land. And it’s going to get you home safely.
Take your safety into your own hands. Carry it with you everywhere you go.