Self-defence against sexual harassment
Self-defence against sexual harassment
As someone who closely follows the US Elections, the latest comments by Republican nominee Donald Trump of kissing women without consent and “grabbing them by the pussy” are outrageous. However, more eye-opening for me has been anecdotal reporting from women who have been “grabbed by the pussy”, and studies that show that 17% women are likely to experience sexual assault, and 65% of women suffer sexual harassment.
I consider myself a feminist, so some of the things I could do is monitor my language and actions to ensure they do no make women feel uncomfortable, and to call out my friends, acquaintances and especially strangers who act inappropriately.
However, it is in my capacity as a personal trainer and martial arts instructor that I can truly make a difference. We often focus on the external benefits of exercise and training – gain strength, fitness, tone, more energy and less stress. However, as our Tagline mentions, we want our clients to build a Strong Body, but more importantly a Confident Mind, and Martial Spirit.
I don’t want this to sound like victim blaming, but it’s just an unfortunate case where perpetrators will target those victims that are vulnerable. This means victims with their eyes and head down, slouched shoulders, shuffling steps, and overall lacking confidence. There are several stages of escalation when it comes to a self-defence situation, ranging from passive through to active.
- Not to let yourself get into risky situations. This doesn’t mean locking yourself in at home, especially since many sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone known and trusted by the victim. This can mean going out with a group of friends, maybe starting a bit earlier in the night and then finishing up a bit earlier too. It could mean going to a restaurant for dinner instead of a crowded bar. On the way home take a taxi or Uber with a friend, and if walking to stick to well lit streets.
- Be alert and aware. Eyes up, chin up, shoulders tall and proud. Being attentive in a bar or public transport could be enough to make yourself less of a target. A confident and purposeful stride when walking the streets would go a long way to deterring someone seeking an easy victim.
- Reaction when confronted is not to be intimidated. Posture and demeanour, and a loud projected voice can deter someone who has approached you, and draw attention to you if you there are other people around.
- Escalation to potential danger requires a strong response. When threatened, animals will stand on rear legs, puff up fur, and raise forelegs/arms high to make themselves appear larger. An untrained person’s reaction would be to shrink and cower away from danger, so if you can respond in the opposite fashion with a strong stance and guard you may further deter an assault.
- Actual self-defence is a highly stressful situation. The body receives an adrenaline rush and thought processes go out the window. There is no time to consider which defensive move you will employ, there is only instinctual response that comes after months and years of training.
- As perverse as it is, during a self-defence situation, the defender has an onus to not use unreasonable force. A trained black belt martial artist is considered a weapon, so responses have to be commensurate with the danger. Consistent training provides a range of soft and hard techniques that can be utilised depending on the situation, from deflection and holds, up to near lethal responses if your body or life is in danger.
Having covered the stages of self-defence, I want to touch on how training in the right manner and mindset can naturally give you these characteristics.
Circuit training and full body workouts – squats, push ups, lunges, and other functional movements give you strong legs and core, and correct postural issues so that you move more athletically and look out to the world. Even without formal martial arts or self-defence training, you may prevent yourself from becoming a victim through external appearance and internal confidence.
Boxing and Kickboxing – strong legs and core form the fundamental power base for great boxing or kickboxing. Even though it might just be for fitness, knowing how to form a fist, and strike strongly and safely, you have someone that not only looks strong, they will have the confidence to know they can defend themselves if absolutely required.
Martial arts (Taekwondo) training – true self-defence capabilities can only come from months and years of training. Self-defence workshops are great to educate people on the fundamentals, but without constant practice of techniques, they will not be able to be applied 100% when required. It’s also why elite sports people train constantly so that they react instinctually on game day, or more applicably, special forces spend 95% of their time training and preparing so that when their skills are required they perform to expectations. The stances, striking, blocking and kicking learnt in Taekwondo in particular provide the foundations of all aspects of self-defence; posture, demeanour, attitude, reaction, and instinctual responses.
The takeaway from all this is that more than just the external and physical results of your workouts, you can also develop internal confidence and spirit when you train with the right intensity and attitude. I want to conclude with a testimonial from one of my boxing clients, Sascha. “One of my proudest achievements was learning to punch and do boxing. I never thought that was something I would be capable of, let alone enjoy. I really relish the feeling of strength and empowerment it gives me. I’m a fairly petite person, and as such the opportunities I get in life to feel strong and powerful feel very limited. Boxing allows me feel those things. I got assaulted a couple of years ago and I had no self-defence instinct or tools to draw on at all, and felt very vulnerable as a result. I’m confident that would be different now.”