Tag Archives: women’s self defense

Avital Zeisler – after experiencing a traumatic assault as teenager she became a martial arts expert

A while back I heard about a woman called Avital Zeisler. She is now a quite famous martial arts expert and instructor for women’s self defence. Avital decided to learn as much as she could about self-defense in order to overcome the trauma she experienced after being the victim of sexual assault as a teenager. After years of training not only did she became an expert at self defence – even developing her own system/practice for self defence for women – but also an inspirational writer and speaker, sharing her knowledge on this subject.

As she writes herself in one article:

Each and every self defense technique I learned brought me closer to my goal of reclaiming my being and having the practical knowledge of self protection. It was this part of the journey that led me to the realization that my healing process was intimately entwined with the depth of my self- defense training. I was eventually invited to train at the source of the self-defense system I was studying, known as Krav Maga.

As I have gained much practical experience and knowledge of self defense techniques, my definition of self defense has evolved to include aspects of physical, emotional and spiritual factors. True self defense is the ability to defend your right to create and live the best life possible, with the ability to protect your body and mind against a threat or act of violence — at all costs.

According to Avital the three tenets of her philosophy as a former sexual assault victim turned martial arts expert are:

  • I am no longer a victim of the threat of violence or actual violence – I know how to defend myself.
  • Emotionally, I am prepared to face life’s difficulties and know that solutions are possible – I am worthy of self confidence.
  • Spiritually, I believe that I can move forward in a positive and meaningful way and this is my right.

Here is a short TV interview with Avital and some self defence demonstrations from her.

Here is a one minute video of self defence demonstrations from Avita’s own Youtube channel.

And here is a longer 14 minutes video with her from TEDx Talks.

How Egyptian women are using martial arts to combat sexual harassment

I came across an article about a growing trend of women in Egypt that are learning silat, an Indonesian martial arts style (created by a woman, according to legend), to protect themselves from sexual harassment. It was pretty interesting so below are parts of it. The  entire article is found here.

silat egypt

Fighting Their Abusers: How Egyptian women are using martial arts to combat sexual harassment

By Karim Zidan

Pencak silat — an umbrella term for the ancient Indonesian martial arts practiced in the cultural centre — is a fighting style that incorporates full-body strikes, grappling, and weaponry. The sport has since gained notoriety across the region and is now included in the Southeast Asian Games. It also made its Asian Games debut in Indonesia in 2018. However, few could have anticipated that Pencak silat would have such a profound impact on women in the Egyptian capital.

The Indonesian Cultural Centre in Dokki holds weekly training sessions involving all age groups. The main focus is on performative aspects of the martial arts, though it has become popular with Egyptian women, mainly teenagers and young adults, interested in learning a different form of self-defence. Dressed in red silat uniforms paired with black hijabs (head scarves), they would train in hand-to-hand combat and weapons, and do so alongside their male counterparts. When one of the women successfully disarmed and took down her opponent, the others clapped in support.

Fighting Sexual Harassment in Egypt

During the holy month of Ramadan, the Indonesian Cultural Centre in Cairo hosted group iftars (evening meals) for the men and women training in pencak silat. More than a dozen women attended the meal, some accompanied by small toddlers while others looked as though they were still in school themselves. They seated themselves on the carpeted floor and waited for the call to evening prayer that signalled it was time to break their fast. Despite the differences amongst these women, they were all united by a common goal: to defend themselves against sexual predators on the streets in Egypt.

Sexual harassment is a notorious problem throughout Egypt. A 2017 survey by UN Women and Promundo revealed that nearly 60% of Egyptian women have been sexually harassed while a 2017 Thomson Reuters poll that surveyed experts in women’s issues, Cairo was named the most dangerous city in the world for women. There are also no official statistic for crimes of sexual violence against women in Egypt because the vast majority of victim choose not to report the crimes, either out of shame or fear.

New laws were introduced into the Egyptian Constitution in 2014, while others such as Article 306 of the penal code, were amended to make verbal and physical assault punishable by up to 50,000 Egyptian pounds (approx. $2980 USD) and a prison sentence ranging from six months to five years.

Despite the recent changes to the legal framework, sexual violence remains a significant concern for most Egyptian women. They continue to face potential threats, which is why some have turned to self defence as a possible solution.

While offering women the opportunity to learn how to defend themselves is a way to improve their physical health and fitness, it can also increase confidence and mental strength. By teaching women to fight, Indonesian Cultural Centre in Cairo is empowering thousands of women who would otherwise be defenceless in the face of their harassers.

“Of course there are problems in the street,” Egyptian teenager Rahma Hatem told Reuters during a break from training. “If someone comes near me, I’m able to defend myself well. I have confidence now and no one can harass me because I can face them.”

 

Martial arts vs other means of self defense

A couple of weeks ago I made a list of the five best martial arts for women’s self defense. When it comes to self defense, there are of course other ways to do it that learning a martial art – mostly weapons of different kinds, like guns, stun guns, maces etc. But I would like to point out some advantages of martial arts as means of self defense compared to other methods.

1) You always carry your martial arts skills with you.
Unlike any form of weapons, you always carry your martial arts skills with you wherever you go.

2) Your martial arts skills can’t be used against you. 
Guns and other forms of weapons are often stolen or otherwise used against the person they were meant to help protect. That can of course not happen with martial arts skills.

3) You can defend yourself without causing lasting damage to the attacker.
If for example you shoot someone, the person will very likely get killed or seriously injured, often with permanent damage. A martial art like hapkido on the other hand allows you to defend yourself, incapacitate or immobilise an attacker without causing any lasting damage at all.

4) You can use it instantly if/when you need it.
You’ll never have to look for your martial arts skills in a desk drawer, your purse or anywhere else. It’s there for you to use it in the instant you might need it.

5) It is not illegal.
Carrying and possession of firearms is very much illegal in many countries. As is carrying many other forms of equipment that could be used for self defense. Having martial arts skills is completely legal (to my knowledge) everywhere on this planet.

Ladies-Self-Defense-Classes

 

The five best martial arts for women’s self defense

Woman-Being-Stalked-500x310

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.

WSD-23-e1463697048280

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

hapkido throw

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.

Water wave

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!

 

skilled girl kick

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.