The five best martial arts for women’s self defense

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On this blog, I have focused on hapkido as a martial art and a way of self defense for women – obviously because this is the martial art that my wife teaches. Of course there are several other great martial arts out there. So I thought it could be interesting to make a list of what might be the five most effective martial arts for women’s self defense. So here we go!

Jeet kune do

Jeet Kune Do was founded by the famous martial artist Bruce Lee, who aimed at taking most effective martial arts techniques from several different of styles and mix them into a new martial art. Jeet Kune Do teaches its students to deal with attacks as quickly and efficiently as possible – and to not shy away from fighting “dirty”. Among other things, Jeet Kune Do students learn how to hit the closest target on an attacker, with the closest/fastest way available. As I understand it that for example means you don’t kick the attacker in the head, if your hands are closer to his head than your feet are. Striking an attacker in the eyes with the fingers would be an example of a Jeet Kune Do defense. Jeet Kune Do is a good art for women to learn because it teaches women how to escape dangerous situations as quickly as possible, before the danger has an opportunity to escalate.

Taekwondo

Just like hapkido, taekwondo is a Korean martial art – however it is much more widely spread and well known than hapkido. After all tae kwon do is even an olympic sport. The term Tae Kwon Do more or less means “the way of kicking and punching.”  However, taekwondo has many effective self-defense techniques. Taekwondo is particularly well suited for women because of the art’s emphasis on kicking. As everyone knows, men generally have more upper body strength than women, which can leave women at a disadvantage when attacked by a man. However, taekwondo equips women with an arsenal of devastating kicks that can help combat the upper body strength of male attackers.

Brazilian Jiu jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – or BJJ – has become very famous, since many competitors in the UFC use Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in their matches. The grappling techniques of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be very beneficial for women to learn for self defense. Sexual assaults and other attacks against women often end up on the ground. Because Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has a strong emphasis on ground fighting, it can help women learn how to defend themselves when on the ground and even when pinned underneath male attackers. You learn a variety of submissions. Chokes, cranks and joint locks are are examples of submissions taught to students. Chokes cut off an opponent’s air/oxygen supply, joint locks put add breaking pressure on a joint and cranks twist an opponent’s bodies into unnatural positions, which causes a great deal of pain.

Another reason why BJJ is great for self-defense is because the techniques use leverage instead of pure strength, so size doesn’t matter. Apart from the ground techniques, you also learn how to take an opponent to the ground using throws and sweeps. Through physics, you can turn a bad position into an advantage. Trapping the legs and arms of an opponent can put them off balance and move you from being pinned on the floor to being in charge. BJJ teaches fighters to use leverage and proper weight distribution to defeat larger and/or stronger opponents.

Krav Maga

Krav Maga is an Israeli art that has gained some popularity. It is the official self-defense system of the Israeli Defense Force and it teaches its practitioners how to deal with armed and unarmed attacks. Women can benefit from Krav Maga because it helps the students to keep calm and focused when under the extreme stress of an attack and how to use various parts of their bodies, like elbows and knees, as weapons when necessary.

Krav Maga was originally developed specifically for the Israeli military and draws on techniques from other martial arts, including jiu jitsu. It is very good for women’s self-defense because you are taught to go for the vulnerable parts of an attacker – like eye gouging, foot stomping, and kicks to the groin. Unlike some martial arts that spend time teaching students how to get points in competitions, the only goal of Krav Maga is to defend yourself.

Hapkido

As readers of this blog know, I can personally testify to the effectiveness of hapkido for women’s self defense, as my wife has showed me. One of the reasons is that hapkido students are taught how to redirect an attacker’s force and use it against him. This means it does not require the woman to be very strong in order for her to defend herself against a big and strong male attacker. Hapkido also teaches a wide variety of techniques for joint locks, throws, sweeps and submission holds, as well as Krav Maga style “dirty” fighting with strikes and kicks to the most vulnerable parts of an attackers body.

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The problem with condoms…

Condoms are a very good thing to have, even if you are in a serious relationship, as a way to avoid pregnancies. Personally – and I know many guys don’t agree with me on this one – I can’t say they take anything away from the sex either. Possibly it might take a bit longer to get “there” using a condom – but that’s basically just a good thing, isn’t it!?

My only problem with condoms – is buying them! Even now at 28, I still feel more ore less embarrassed buying them! Of course, the easy solution to that is just ordering them online. But occasionally there is a need to buy them at a physical drugstore… and it seems I never get  quite used to or comfortable doing that. I’d say the “worst” ones to buy are the flavoured ones!

This is not exactly a big problem in my life. Just a somewhat random observation… 🙂

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Non Resistance to Force – how smart skills beat size and raw strength

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I am a fit, healthy man – 184 cm (about 6’1”) tall and weighing 85 kg (187 lbs). My wife is significantly smaller, lighter and physically weaker, at 167 cm and about 57 kg. Yet, as noted before on this blog, there is no way I can overpower her, no matter how hard I try, because of her expertise in the martial art of hapkido. One of the main reasons this is possible, is the principle of non resistance to force – a fundamental concept in hapkido. 

Curious as I am, I’ve listened to my wife explaining how this non resistance principle works and I’ve also searched more information about it online, to better understand how it works. I find it very interesting! So in the post, I’ll try to explain the basics of it and how it can be so powerful and effective as a principle of self defense!

Behaving like water
In hapkido theory, the principle of non resistance is often compared to water, as a metaphor. Water is a simple substance, yet it is one of the key building blocks of all life on this planet. As a liquid, water has the ability to flow continuously in a steady stream and to adapt to changing circumstances it encounters. Ideally this is how the energy of a hapkido practitioner should work to! For example, if a big heavy rock is placed in its path, water adjusts its course to flow around, over, or under the obstacle. Similarly, the hapkido practitioner doesn’t try to force her defense against the power and momentum of the aggressor. Instead, she “fluidly” adjusts her own position and adapts to the attacker’s moves and momentum. While maintaining balance and adjusting to the speed or angle of an assault, the primary objective is to harmonize with the aggressor’s movements, using his own energy to counterattack. Thus, adding very little additional effort, the defending hapkido practitioner is able to re-direct the attacker’s power against him. This causes the attacker to lose his balance. Studying hapkido revolves a lot about the ability to adapt and respond to any given situation. With enough practice (and I would assume talent) the techniques will flow naturally, instinctively and effortlessly through the practitioner.

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Use the attacker’s own momentum and force
In other words, the principle of non-resistance, is very much about remaining calm and relaxed in the face of a physical attack and not directly opposing the attacker’s strength. As a practical example, if an attacker grabs the hapkido practitioner and pushes her in order to force her down on the ground, rather than resist and push back, the hapkido practitioner would avoid a direct confrontation by moving in the same direction as the push and utilising the opponent’s forward momentum to throw him.

The bigger they are, the harder they fall
Similarly if an attacker tries to hit the hapkido practitioner with a punch or knife stab, she would redirect the attacker’s force and thus adding the attacker’s own momentum and energy to her own. Once she has redirected the attack, the hapkido practitioner can execute any of a huge variety of techniques to incapacitate the attacker. If these principle and associated techniques are mastered and executed to perfection (which I understand is very much easier said than done) it then follows that the bigger the attacker is and the more energy he has, the better it is for the hapkido practitioner! Given the huge difference in skills and experience between me and my wife, this is exactly what happens when I face her. The harder I try to overpower her, the easier it becomes for her to defeat me!

 

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Yes I know, this gif doesn’t really have much of anything to do with this particular post, other than being really cool and kick-ass lol.

What is masculinity?

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a selfie in the mirror…

What is masculinity?
And what does it mean to be “a real man”?

These questions might seem easy to answer at first glance. After all, there are some obvious personality traits that are very much linked with being a man:

– Being competitive.
– Being in control and in command of any situation.
– Not showing emotions such as sadness, fear and pain.
– Achieving high status and success. 
– Being good at sports.
– Having high sex drive.
– Being tall and physically strong.
– Being muscular. 
– Being good at fighting.
– Not showing vulnerability.
– Courage.
– Willingness to take risks.
– Dominating.
– Being a provider for the family.
– Having great confidence in yourself. 

If you happen to not not fit into enough of these descriptions, you are likely to be judged as “not a real man”. Sure, the personality traits above can all be positive, or at least they are not necessarily negative. But what if a man is shy, kind and gentle, interested in fashion and cooking, likes taking care of children but doesn’t have a high sex drive and isn’t particularly interested in or good at sports, doesn’t wish to spend most of his time working to advance his career and making a lot money? These are also positive or at least not necessarily negative personality traits. Yet such a man would probably be judged to be very feminine. And in our society, for a man to be judged as “feminine” is generally considered shameful and emasculating – in other words, not a “real man”.

Boys and men are boxed in to a quite narrow field of definitions on how men “should” look and act to be considered as “masculine” or as “real men”. Success within at least some of these definitions – be it in terms of a high status and/or well payed job, sexual conquests or sports/physical prowess is extremely important to men – because it will to a huge extent determine their status and value as men in the eyes of our society. This leaves very little room, but lots of negative pressure, for men that have different personalities, talents and physical characteristics. I would argue that this negative pressure results in a lot of destructive and often violent behaviour among men, who feel like they don’t live up to these norms and expectations of masculinity.

Like most people I took these facts and values more or less for granted and didn’t really question or think about this issue. I just accepted that this is basically just “how things are”. I really only started reflecting seriously on the subject after I met my wife – a woman who happens to be a professional martial arts instructor. I (predictably) found out that because of her expertise in martial arts techniques, I stand no chance against her in a hand to hand combat situation, despite being significantly bigger and stronger than her. Especially in the beginning, I felt rather confused by finding myself in this situation. After all, according to the general definition of masculinity, being outclassed by a rather small female (like my wife) at fighting and wrestling was rather shameful and should make me less of a man. I remember, for example, one of my classmates (we were both 19 at the time) being teased, mocked and asked to “hand in your man card” after losing to a girl in a track & field competition. But I really don’t feel at all like less of a man just because my wife is better than me at fighting/wrestling. I can see no reason for that and this didn’t pose a big problem for me. But maybe that is in large part because I fulfil enough of the other traditional expectations of male traits…

I don’t have a clear answer to the questions I posed at the top of this blog post. But I’m sure the generally accepted definitions of manhood and what means to be “a real man” need to be much wider and much less constrained by stereotypes. On average, men and women are different – both physically and mentally. It would be ridiculous and counter productive to deny that. But we need to recognise and embrace that, as human beings, we are all unique individuals.

At least where I live, girls and women are constantly encouraged to express their personalities and be who they really are, even if that doesn’t conform to the traditional stereotype of how a woman should be – which is great. But I think much more work is needed to support boys and men in expanding the male gender role.

How do you define masculinity? And what do you think characterises a real man?

Seven reasons being married to a black belt woman is great

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Practicing martial arts has many benefits for women. That should be pretty obvious to most people. But dating or marrying a woman into martial arts also brings benefits for a man! Here are seven reasons why a man too benefits from being married to a woman with a black belt in martial arts!

1. She is confident

As a black belt she has worked long and hard for a goal and achieved it. This fact in itself generates self-confidence and empowerment, as any major achievements in life. Martial arts specifically also gives her the confidence of knowing that she can take care of her self and protect others. And a confident person is generally more pleasant to be around than a nervous and insecure person, right?

2. No big ego

Arrogance and a huge ego is more often than not the result of an attempt to compensate for and hide low self-confidence and insecurities. In other words, a huge ego is the projection of false confidence, and that is annoying and rarely a good thing. On the other hand, as mentioned above, a woman practicing martial arts will gain real confidence. Practicing and perfecting martial arts skills also requires lots of humility. So it’s a great way for a person to get over any ego issues. And an ego free wife is of course is of course something that’s very positive for any husband to have!

3. She is healthy and fit

Martial arts is a full body exercise and a person practicing it regularly over a long period of time is bound to obtain a healthy and fit body. My wife for example, works/practices hapkido for several hours six days a week – so she is in great shape! Martial arts training results in stamina, strength and flexibility. And as they say, a healthy body can also be a way to reach a healthy mind and a more harmonious and happy existance. So this is an obvious win-win both for her and  the guy she is married to!

4. She can defend herself – and you!

Of course it goes without saying that a as a martial arts expert, she can defend herself if she has to. For me as her husband, that feels very good to know and makes me worry less about her safety. And – provided you can get over any issues about not necessarily being the “protector” in the relationship, you’ll feel safer and more relaxed too having a hand to hand combat expert by your side!

5. She is calm

Martial arts training isn’t just about physical conditioning and exercise, but just as much about learning to keeping their feelings, reflexes and impulses under control. True martial arts masters have to learn to be in control of themselves at all times, keep calm and think straight in very stressful situations – and that obviously helps to achieve a very high level personal discipline. A common prejudice about female martial arts practitioners is that they are volatile and prone to use violence and would therefor constitute a danger to their husbands. However, nothing could be further from the truth. If a woman has achieved a level of martial arts skills where she is able to defeat a much bigger and stronger man in hand to hand combat, she has very likely also achieved a very high level of discipline, restraint and emotional control. She does not thirst for violence, picking fights or arguments, but knows that the best form of self defence is to avoid confrontation and fighting when possible. Thus a female martial artist is much less – not more – likely to get violent or throw fits of screaming rage towards her husband.

6. She is disciplined, patient and good listener

In order to excel at martial arts, you need high degree of discipline, concentration, patience and ability to focus. In hapkido, the black belt skills take years worth of hard training and taking in instructions to master – and the techniques often appear counter intuitive, so it takes a lot of disciplined and patient practice, to perfect them. Facing a male attacker, even a seconds lamps in concentration might result in a disaster. So it’s absolutely vital to keep focused. The same power of concentration that for example allows her to dodge and evade a barrage of punches and use a big, strong man’s own momentum and weight to lay him out flat on the floor, also enables her to be disciplined, focused and patient in order to find solutions in complicated or difficult situations in life in general – or to listen to you when you have something to say!

7. It’s sexy!

Confidence can make a woman more sexy and obviously so can being healthy, fit and flexible too. So in these ways, martial arts can add to the sexiness. In my opinion, her martial arts skills can also in themselves be a definite plus in this area! Sure, the fact that she has the skills to throw a man around like a rag doll or bend him into a pretzel without breaking a sweat can in a way represent a bit of a challenge to our traditional sense of manhood, or even lead to feelings of frustration and embarrassment. But I would argue it is also a really cool and very impressive skill for a woman to have -it makes me admire her more and that adds to her sexiness! If you let it, the “reversal” of traditional expectations and gender roles in this sense can actually also be source of very positive sexual energy!

Hapkido self defence against knife attacks

 

One of the most impressive – and coolest – hapkido self defence and fighting techniques that my wife has showed me, is self defence against knife attacks. She demonstrated how it works by handing me a plastic fake knife and then instructed me to try to “stab” her with it. All in all I got seven tries – and all seven times she managed to evade or parry my attack, force me to drop the “knife” and then put me on the floor and immobilised me. All within a couple of seconds.

As I’ve described in earlier posts (like here and here), when I fight her it feels almost like she can read my mind, because she anticipates all my moves and then counter them with a hapkido technique (often using my own strength and momentum against me). That was very much the case when she showed me the self defence techniques against knife attacks.

Apart from feeling somewhat frustrated from getting my butt kicked by her, in spite of being “armed with a knife”, I really enjoyed getting a first hand demonstration of these techniques. It was really amazing!

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It’s worth saying though that she was careful to point out that in a real life situation she would only try to resist and fight an armed aggressor as a last resort, given the huge risk involved in such a situation (if a technique would fail), even for a highly skilled martial artist with the odds very much in her favour.