Self Defence and Women’s Self Defence Are Not the Same

Self Defence and Women’s Self Defence Are Not the Same

You may think it’s a controversial thing to say, but, self defence and women’s self defence are not the same thing.

When I began my fight training journey many years ago I started training in the beautiful and powerful martial art of Aikido. However, it didn’t take long for me to realise that perhaps Aikido was not for me. Not because Aikido is not an excellent martial art and well suited to smaller, lighter practitioners such as women. 

The personal realisation I had was different. It became clear to me that I didn’t have a need to master a beautiful, ancient martial art. What I actually needed was women’s self defence skills.

My number one goal as a woman was to be able to keep myself safe in everyday life and to be able to fight my corner with confidence and skill if the need were to arise. Equally importantly, I knew that I needed that skill today, or at least as soon as possible. 

One Woman’s Self Defence Training Journey

That is where my Krav Maga journey began. I looked at many fighting systems, traditional and modern. It soon became clear that Krav Maga (Hebrew, “Close Combat”) was a front-runner for my goals; to be safe in everyday life and to be able to hold my own physically if it was ever needed. 

I wanted to be safe and confident both as a woman living in a huge, complex city like London and in my travels to countries and cultures I knew little about upon arrival.

I researched Krav Maga training clubs near me for weeks. Yes, the keyboard warrior. My first thought was, “Wow, I really need to get fit before I show up!”.  I then proceeded to waste two months getting fit. Turns out that was a complete misconception. I soon found out that every student starts their Krav Maga journey from a place that is unique to them. 

Just Start!

Why doesn’t it matter how fit you are when you show up to your first Krav Maga self defence class?  And for that matter how young or old you are, how big or small you are, how flexible you are, how strong you are… 

None of this matters because one of the hallmarks of an excellent Krav Maga club and top instructors is that they are skilled at supporting each student’s development from wherever that student may be starting. Qualified, experienced Krav Maga instructors provide just enough challenge at training sessions to help every student exceed their own personal best week by week. 

The second reason is that one of the huge side benefits of learning Krav Maga is that it gets you really fit along the way. Ironically, you don’t have to be fit to start training!

First Ever Krav Maga Session

It is worth saying at this point that my keyboard warrior research had made me quite certain that Krav Maga was the self defence system I was looking for as a woman. It was designed to be a simple, fast and effective form of real-life self defence. It was also relatively fast to learn.

I found a Krav Maga club near me in south London that was particularly interesting. It was a member of a large global federation, the FEKM-RD, and had direct lineage to the founder and master of Krav Maga, Imi Lichtenfeld. 

Well, all I can say at this point is that after my first session I was hooked! Energised, exhilarated, tired and sweaty too. I walked out of that training session knowing that the FEKM training ethos was for me. 

But the thing that really hooked me? I had learnt three different, fast, stunningly effective ways to counter an attacker in a single 90-minute training session. And it felt great. 

Let’s Fast Forward – Today

My love of Krav Maga went from strength to strength. I trained and got my belts to remind me of all the progress along the way. 

There have been bruises and bumps too! I’ve worn them quite proudly if I’m honest. Thrilling successes balanced by some humbling failures. I have met extraordinary instructors and students and have made enduring friendships both in the UK and internationally. And it has been fun!

Finally, I decided to qualify as an FEKM federation instructor and I had the honour of becoming the first woman instructor in our federation in the United Kingdom. In 2016 I opened my own Krav Maga self defence training club, EITAN Krav Maga with training locations across South London.

But Wait. Is Krav Maga Really What Women Need For Self Defence? 

So let’s get to the crux of our discussion. Is Krav Maga training really what women need for self defence? In other words, is self defence the same thing as women’s self defence?

So you’ve trained in Krav Maga – great. You know exactly what to do to neutralise almost any physical street threat that may come at you. 

  • A man grabs you in a chokehold from behind – no problem. 
  • Assailant throws a hard slap to your head – you know what to do. 
  • Someone grabs you hard pulling you by the wrist – you’re on it. 
  • Hair grab, thrown to the ground, punch, double handed choke against a wall… tick, tick, tick. 

But is learning Krav Maga enough for a woman to be able to defend herself effectively? Is self defence the same as women’s self defence?

I’m going to be somewhat controversial here. The answer is yes… and no.

YES… and No

There is absolutely no doubt; having the physical self defence skills of Krav Maga is vitally important for women’s self defence. Krav Maga skills give women both the confidence and the ability to defend themselves effectively and decisively.  Being able to quite literally turn the tables on an assailant in seconds is powerful stuff.

Knowing that you have the skills to fight physically an overcome an assailant if needed also makes you much more likely to intervene early and stop a threatening situation dead in its tracks. Not only for yourself, but for other women and girls too.

Krav Maga training also goes a long way to countering deeply socialised behaviour such as freezing, shrinking and looking away in the hope that the threat will magically disappear or slipping into that dangerous denial mode. Krav Maga training helps us to reverse the “be nice” tendencies that have been socialised into women and girls for centuries.

No doubt. Krav Maga skills are the essential cornerstone of effective women’s self defence. 

But now we also have a growing body of evidence-based research on the types of threats that face women and teenage girls on a daily basis. We also have hundreds of thousands of anecdotal experiences of women and girls who came forward as part of the #MeToo movement around the world. 

In the UK, the EveryonesInvited website has recorded over 54,000 testimonials of sexual threat and violence against women and teenage girls since 8th March 2021 alone. Of course that was the date the dreadful case of Sarah Everard hit our London and UK headlines. We now know that a police officer used his police badge to falsely arrest and handcuff Sarah. In this way he was able to kidnap her effortlessly as she walked from her friends’ house to her home in Brixton London.

So What Else Do Women Need For Real-Life Self Defence?

With this mountain of research, evidence and personal testimony, we now know with certainty that the safety and self defence needs of women, day in day out, in everyday life differ markedly from the needs of most men.

It certainly makes for uncomfortable reading. But it also puts us in a strong position to address the safety and self defence needs of women and teenage girls head on with evidence-based women’s self defence training. 

What follows is a short summary of some of the unique training I believe women need alongside their Krav Maga training for a holistic women’s self defence toolkit: 

  • Understanding and training to use the power of voice as a self defence tool
  • Assertiveness training – from commanding someone to move away from you through to stating your case for a pay rise powerfully 
  • Learning exactly when and how to set boundaries and stop others negating our “no” – with immediate impact
  • Training to build confidence and trust in our own instinctive judgement enabling us to act upon that judgement quickly and decisively 
  • Leaning to identify the predator and the predator’s signals and behaviour patterns before they become a problem 
  • Understanding the law – for example, what exactly is sexual harassment? 
  • Learning how to create and execute a safety plan with children and others in our care and household

Naturally, we’ll also teach you exactly how to deliver the perfect Krav Maga knee strike to the groin. And much more 😉

Women’s Self Defence Training – Next Steps

At EITAN Krav Maga we run specialist courses in Women’s Self Defence.

Journalist Sarah Rodrigues recently wrote a feature article in the Sunday Telegraph sharing her training experience with us when she joined us with her daughter. Sarah’s piece is titled “The Self Defence Moves Young Women Should Know”. 

Find out more about our 1-Day Immersive Women’s Self Defence Course here.

Victoria Kitson

Senior Instructor
EITAN Krav Maga