This year, I started learning self-defense for my high school senior project.
Up until this point, I had only ever taken two ill-fated karate classes; however, once I got the idea approved to start taking self-defense classes for my project last fall, I was eager to dive right in. I signed up for classes at a local studio, already feeling confident in my ability to go in and kick some ass. Once I actually arrived at the class though, I saw that most of the other students were grown men which was intimidating for an incredibly petite five-foot-three girl. Even the other women in the class had been taking it for quite some time, so they were already far more advanced than I was.
In each class, we practice the techniques we are learning on each other. Again, because everyone else was so much bigger, stronger, and/or more advanced than I was, I was terrified at first! However, I soon realized that if I wanted to know how to protect myself, I’d better learn how to do so against people at least twice my size. Once I started feeling more confident in my movements, I realized it didn’t matter how small and feminine I am; I could still defend myself against anyone, as long as I used the proper techniques.
It also helped that I had a great teacher; every time I mastered a new move, or learned to punch a little harder, he was there to cheer me on. Even when I was struggling, he helped me perfect the moves, and not berate myself for not learning as quickly as some of the other students.
Taking self-defense has been a huge confidence booster for me, in that I now feel significantly safer going anywhere alone than I did before I started the classes. I’m going to college across the country next year, so feeling safe while I’m by myself is massively important. As someone who reads up frequently on statistics concerning women and violence, I knew that RAINN reported that college women are, “3 times more likely than women in general to suffer from sexual violence.”
While this statistic still chills me, taking self-defense has helped me to feel more capable in case of an emergency. I realize not all sexual assaults are violent, but I figure if I can have any help at all in preventing them for myself, I’ll take it. Besides, in researching for my senior project paper, I also found that certain self-defense actions could reduce the risk of rape by 80%, according to the National Institute of Justice.
This is also why I would encourage any other women interested in learning self-defense to take up a class or two. Most communities have local studios, or classes available at gyms, schools, and community centers. Even a one-day workshop, or watching and practicing along with a YouTube series, can make a big difference in a person’s ability to defend his or herself.