Thursday, October 4, 2007

Kicking Like a Girl

After the blog post in which I discussed the value of kicks and the commitment required to become proficient at them, I decided to dedicate an entire class to training kicks. In our style of Jiu-jitsu, we don’t practice any fancy kicks, just practical ones. The ones we covered during that class included: front kick (to the groin or solar plexus), side kick, roundhouse kick, and lateral femoral kick (to the outside of the thigh).

For our warm-up we also did dynamic tension exercises using kicking positions. This involves holding the leg up in the cocked position of a kick, whichever kick you like. Then you slowly extend the leg out into the kicking position then back to the cocked position. We did this ten times slowly then ten times fast. We did these exercises for the front, side and roundhouse kicks. Inevitably, my students had sore butts after doing these exercises. In addition to the strength training one gets from doing these exercises, students get to practice emphasizing proper leg position while kicking.

For the rest of class, we trained our kicks in a variety of ways. The side kick, for example, we first trained from a horse stance to emphasize proper technique. We then trained it from a sparring stance (like the one used in boxing) snapping the kick out quickly using the front leg. I’ve used this type of side kick many a time during sparring sessions. When someone attacks me with their fists, the often open up with their ribs. They usually underestimate how close I can be and still kick with my front leg effectively, allowing me to snap my side kick out quickly under their punch, hitting home in the ribs (usually resulting in a bit of a grunt). We also trained the jumping side kick into the body shields. This allows you to cover a great distance and get more power, but has very little practical value. Unless the attacker is half unconscious, it’s not that likely that this kick will land since you can see it coming a mile away. Lastly, we trained the side kick from the boxing stance using the rear leg. This has practical value because it allows you to step into the kick. Plus, it is good for training balance.

During the class, I couldn’t help but notice that the women in my class showed considerably more natural ability with their kicks than the guys, even the ones that were learning these kicks for the first time. For some reason, they are generally more flexible and coordinated in the legs. I don’t like to make generalizations for the most part because it can cause you to see what you expect to see rather than what is actually there. But there is some truth to certain generalizations.

One exception to the rule was my student Dave. He has always been very nimble with his legs despite the fact that he is 240 lbs and top heavy to book. As I watched him kicking, I felt compelled to complement him.

“Dave, that is awesome. You kick like a girl!” I said, in an admittedly cheeky fashion.

“Hey! Them’s fightin’ words!” he immediately retorted.

I was making a point, however. “Why? Girls are generally better at kicking than guys.”

Dave opened his mouth, then closed it again. I couldn’t help but be amused by the look on his face that clearly indicated a struggle between enjoying the complement and being compared to a girl.

I made the remark in fun, obviously playing on the classic insult, “You punch like a girl!”. I’ve never been a fan of this comment. I’ve even heard male instructors try to light a fire under the asses of their female students by yelling this at them. The natural reply is a legitimate rebuttal. “But I am a girl!” Even though the instructors who say this are just trying to push their students, it can be frustrating to some women who don’t see the intent behind the remark, causing them to feel like they will never be able to punch properly because being a girl is the definition for punch badly.

I am by no means a femi-nazi, but I do believe in giving everyone, whether they are a man or a woman, every opportunity to be the best they can be.


Pyaria said...

lol... I started aikido this January, and your post bought to mind the smile my sensei had on his face when he started to correct my punch when I was acting as the attacker.
He didn't say that I "punched like a girl"... but it was pretty obvious what he thought. lol.

Lori O'Connell said...

Well, it's good that he was at least being helpful and not condescending. :)

Antipodean Charm said...

Hey... a girl taught me to punch!!! Of course I punch like a girl [cheeky grin]


Julian said...

I find these is a huge difference between kicking with shoes on vs. kicking barefoot. In a self-defense situation I'm highly unlikely to be walking barefoot. Having an extra 500g weight on the end of my leg makes my kicks much slower and clumsy. However, shoes also stabilize my standing foot and protect my kicking foot. Can you perhaps write a post about training kicking with shoes or leg weights?

Anonymous said...

I think in general your observation is correct: women pretty generally are more nimble than men (I think this has to do with having less muscle-tissue, among other things) so they tend to be better at kicking.

However, since in self-defence it’s not necessary and even dangerous to kick high I do not think this is such a big advantage. Aslong as people are able to stand on their legs they can in principle be taught to kick the groin or the knee, in reality this is enough (more than enough even). High kicks are pretty easy to defend against (at least against anyone other than a taekwondo-champion or professional kickboxer) and on the street I will make you pay when you try to use them.

Arts that habitually teach high-kicking (mainly for competition and for show) truly are doing their students a disservice self-defencewise: in stressful situations you’ll do what you trained most and performing a high-kick will most likely land you in a very bad situation (unless you got lucky or he just doesn’t know what’s doing). You wouldn’t be the first karateka or taekwondoka who got knocked flat on their ass or worse.

In general hand-attacks (punches, strikes) are much more useful than kicking (even low-line kicks) since they are much faster and more controlled (plus they do not affect your balance which is a great thing in a fight) and it is equally true most men can punch better than women or at least harder): in general men are more muscular and I don’t know why but men just seem to pick it up more easily (like it comes more naturally to them, even if they never practiced any type of martial-art).

I’ve seen alot of students just starting training and for most women it simply seems to be much more difficult to develop a decent straight-punch (which technique-wise is fairly easy compared to others), while for most men it comes quite naturally.

This is a very strange phenomenon but I’ve seen it reocurring time-and-again so this is not just a random generalization and certainly not a cheap mysogenic comment. We have a few relative newcomers in our dojo (both women) and after more than 6 months they still can’t punch properly (eventhough we do our best to correct them and teach them proper form and we do train on focus-mitts and the heavy-bag)… maybe it would be better to just teach them open-hand strikes (nukite or tiger-claw) instead, perhaps that would be more up their ally.

In reality if you cannot strike hard it’s a bad idea to try it: even when you do make contact it’ll just infuriate them more and it’s a fact even trained female boxers will never be able to hit as hard as their male counterparts (although still hard enough to knock someone out). Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for women learning to defend themselves and there are certain techniques that do not need alot of force but I think in general it’s just more difficult for a woman to learn how to effectively defend herself than it is for a man (owing in large part to the difference in height, weight, strength and agression-level… women do have less testeron and are generally less inclined to use physical violence or end a confrontation decisively).

Probably the reason why there are far less women in the martial-arts than men (except in stupid, so called ‘self-defence’-classes which is a complete misnomer since it’s simply impossible to learn to properly and effectively defend yourself in just 10 classes).

However: women that do stick with the martial-arts and achieve a relatively high level (black-belt or higher) tend to be extremely efficient: they actually learned never to rely on strength and thus are very proficient with their techniques.

Just my opinion on the matter.


PS: On a side-note and totally unrelated: I’ve never had a female instructor, I’m actually quite curious what that would be like.

Lori O'Connell said...

Thanks again for your comments, Zara. In our style, we don't teach kicks to the head... ever. Kicking to the head is generally a fools game. A friend of mine who held a second degree black belt in Taekwondo even said that in a real fight he would never consider kicking to the head more than once if that. And if he were to do it at all, it would only be that very first strike as a strong fast surprise attack, in hopes of catching the person off guard and finishing things quickly. That being said, he always maintained that you have to have a very high level of skill even to pull that off.

In our style, we mostly teach kicks below the waist. Our favourites for self-defense purposes are kicks to the shins and groin, which as you say, don't require as much coordination. We also teach a leg kick very much like the one used in Muay Thai to the side of the thigh. This one does take more balance and coordination and women do tend to pick this one up faster than men. And when they do, it's a solid, very useful strike for self-defense.

I agree with you that men tend to pick up punching better, however, women tend to pick up open-hand strikes equally well, if not better. And open hand strikes are much more useful on the street than punching, particularly when striking to the head. The ones we teach most are almost the same as boxing punches but with open hands. When you strike someone on the street, you don't have the protective benefits of gloves. Anyone who has watched the early UFC fights has seen the bloody knuckles that result from punching to the head with bare knuckles. And once those men had destroyed their knuckles with punches, guess what they turned to... open hand strikes! That being said if a person is going to hit the body, punches are generally more effective and there isn't the same worry about hurting the knuckles.

I very much disagree though with you when you say that unless you can hit "really hard" it's a bad idea to try it. I also disagree with you that short-term women's self-defense classes are "stupid." Women's self-defense is 90% about personal awareness, preventative/de-escalation tactics, and safety practices.

When it comes to teaching women to defend themselves (as a last resort of course), it's more about attitude than anything else. 80% of attacks are deterred simply by yelling and making a lot of noise. A woman's first goal in physical defense is to make herself an unappealing target. Men who attack women are looking for an "easy victim", someone that won't fight back. If they attack a woman and she fights back aggressively and draws a lot of attention to the attack by making noise, the attacker is likely to give it up. It's not worth getting caught.

Most women don't have the time or inclination to take up a martial art as I have (though this is the best thing a woman can do for physical defense if they have the interest). But that doesn't mean they shouldn't bother to learn anything just because they can't learn a high level of skill in a short time. The truth is, they don't need a high level of skill to learn enough to defend themselves against the most common types of attacks. The basics being (in order of importance): 1) personal awareness and safety practices, 2) de-escalation and preventative measures, 3) making noise, and 4) physical defense. Note that physical defense is the least important of the four.

When we do teach physical defense, we insist on the 3-minute rule. no matter what we teach, if you can't get the hang of it in 3 minutes or less the student should throw it out as it will be pretty much useless in a real situation. As a result, everything we teach to women uses gross motor skills only (the easiest skills to learn quickly). And even though the women in my self-defense classes won't usually learn it to the same effectiveness as my jiu-jitsu students, when they combine it with all the verbal/non-physical tactics, what they learn will help them be safer on the street.

Thanks again for your comments. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Lori,

I guess we both aren’t great minds or at least one of us isn’t, lol. While you do have a point about the women’s self-defence classes (teaching awareness can prevent potentially dangerous situations and assertivity-training might de-escalete the situation) and I may have used too strong a word I still maintain you cannot possible learn to fight effectively in just a few lessons. Awareness and prevention (known as zanshin in ju-jutsu, btw this is something that results from years of training too and not just a few theoretical lessons) are necessary but they will not stop a determined attacker who is hell-bent on hurting you: just a few classes (with most of the time being spent on verbal and non-verbal communication not physical technique) will not equip you to deal with that type of situation (or any real physical attack for that matter).

That takes years of training or at the very least a few months of effective, military-style drilling (krav-maga style) and while the majority of cases may not be that violent or serious (in that respect those classes can be useful) it still happens and quite frequently too, unfortunately.

My main problem with that type of self-defense training is that it’s a) either highly unrealistic and ineffective or b) it creates over-confidence which may lead to even greater dangers. Allow me to elaborate on that: correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t most self-defence courses almost exclusively populated by women (hence the name women’s self-defence)? I think it would be safe to assume most attacks on women are committed by men (men are by nature more agressive than women and the majority of prisoners are men, eventhough in most countries the population is about equally divided between the sexes): men by their very nature are stronger, taller, heavier… and thus make more dangerous opponents than women (in general, there are exceptions).

Now how can a woman learn to effectively defend herself when she only trains with other women and not big, strong guys who at the very least resemble potential attackers?

From experience I know that in order to practise a wrist-escape effectively you have to train with people stronger and bigger than you. This forces you not to rely on strenght but on technique: I can muscle my way out of any hold when the person is weaker than me but this simply will not work if he’s stronger. This applies to almost all martial-training: if you do not train with experienced, physically superior people you will not get better and you’ll never know wether or not your techniques will actually work.

Now I don’t know what you curriculum is so I cannot judge but alot of self-defence courses teach totally unrealistic defences/techniques: now this is true for alot of regular martial-arts schools too but with the very limited time available it’s even more of a liability (certain techniques, while not terribly effective in themselves, can be made to work with time and effort). I once witnessed part of a women’s self-defence class and they actually taught a wristlock to ‘effectively restrain and control the attacker’. What? This is crazy and totally irresponsible: it takes years to learn to effectively lock someone’s wrist (that is under operational, realistic condition not in the comfort of a dojo) let alone control them. I must say I was tempted to step onto the mat and show them what would happen if they didn’t manage to do the lock perfectly (and the great majority completely sucked at it). This doesn’t mean I’m agresssive by nature or wanted to prove my superiority but I just felt they were cheating these women and actually made life more dangerous for them.

With a wristlock both your hands are tied up (while it is possible to lock with one hand it’s not very common and really quite advanced) and if you make even the tiniest mistake he’ll be able to counter and you’ll be in a world of trouble (especially if you’re not trained like these women will be).

The same goes for strikes really: although they are much easier than locks the hand still needs months of training to develop into a decent weapon and even when you’re just using teisho (as you said it is a very good, and much safer, alternative to punches) you still need to develop and train proper body-mechanics to be able to generate any power. On this I stand by my opinion: in self-defence if you cannot hit hard enough to injure or at least stun the attacker it’s a liability and it will cost you.

Sure, you can use finger and claw-like techniques and for women this is probably preferable since they do not need alot of power to be effective but they still need to be trained properly before they can be used instinctively. Now poking someone in the eye seems easy enough and in most cases it is (especially when he’s holding you with two hands) but if he throws a punch or kick and you’re moving around it can be quite difficult (the eyes are a relatively small target and the chin can be tucked in to protect the throat).

The last comment that I’d like to make is about over-confidence: alot of these women think that because they have learned a move or two and it all worked perfectly on the mat against only mildly or semi-resisting partners they will be able to use them in any circumstance and against any attacker. This is just flat wrong: fighting in a dark alley against a big guy who will not be holding back while you yourself are scared, tired… is completely different from what they practiced and most likely they’ll end up making things worse or just freeze-up.

I see this in training and especially in beginners: I try to always attack with real intention (they only way my partner is ever going to learn something from the exercise; if I just give him my hand or aim beside his head it’s no good and will breed bad habits later on) and eventhough they know the technique most beginners just flinch and completely forget what they were supposed to do (even if it’s just for a second: a second is all a good attacker needs).

This is a valuable lesson: in training one should always attack with intent and try to recreate dangerous situations as good as possible (within safety-limits of course) to get a feel for the intensity of a real fight. Now intensity isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when I think of a women’s self-defence class.

Also: it’s not because you’re a small woman and can do the techniques perfectly and efficiently they can too. You’ve got years of training behind your belt, they don’t. Either do something right or refrain: in dangerous affairs such as self-defence you don’t mess around and do things half-assed.

Amateurism is what’s going to get you killed in a life-and-death struggle (and this should be what you train for: worst-case scenario’s not a drunken friend who playfully hits you in the biceps or tries to wrestle with you).

Either you’re effective or you’re not and I highly doubt the format and the very limited amount of training-hours offered in a standard self-defense course will make you effective in a fight. Even trained martial-artists get knocked out on the street by common street-thugs, how then will a small woman with only some wise words from her instructor and a few training hours behind her belt (which she’ll likely just forget under stress and the endrenaline-rush) fare any better?

Now I didn’t mean to sound rude or deride what you’re doing , it’s just something I feel quite strongly about.


Lori O'Connell said...

Hello again, Zara. I am happy to address your points.

The funny thing is, I used to think the same way as you. I used to think that women's self-defense classes were a waste of time. That was because my experience of them was very much like the one you had described.

The first women's self-defense class I ever took was before I had taken up a martial art back when I was 15. I had the same complaints you had, the techniques were too complicated and it was too short a time for anyone to become competent with them. There was no awareness training. I also thought that someone coming out of that course would be overconfident because they only experienced attacks by other women. And because I thought the program to be largely ineffective, I took up Jiu-jitsu to fill the gap.

But that course was just badly designed and I have the knowledge and experience now to understand that.

What you refer to as 'zanshin' is a much higher level of the basic personal awareness that is required to prevent the most common types of attacks. Many women (and men) these days have the bad habit of tuning out the outside world. They plug into iPods, talk on their cell phones, or just become so absorbed in their own thoughts that they become oblivious to their physical surroundings. The personal awareness portion of my women's self-defense class focuses on simply not doing this. When walking around in any surroundings in which you haven't full control (which is most of the time), they should switch off their personal electronics, keep their head up and eyes actively scanning their surroundings. Yes, a martial artist with years of training would be better than this, but just being told not shut out the outside world is useful and a teachable habit.

Another awareness concept I teach is the "bad feeling" concept. Much of the information we receive from our senses is on a subconscious level. We often get a "bad feeling" when something is dangerous in our physical surroundings even before that danger becomes apparent. Everyone gets this feeling, but many people logically talk themselves out of reacting to it. I teach my students that if they are ever somewhere and they get that bad feeling, they should do what they have to to get away, whether it means getting off the street and going into a public place, leaving a party abruptly, calling a loved one in the middle of the night to be picked up somewhere, or calling the police. Yes, a trained martial artist might be better at listening to their instincts because of their years of training, but just learning not to ignore 'bad feeling' when they arise is an important concept to learn and is useful for preventative purposes.

I agree that a short self-defense class is not likely to be sufficient against a determined attacker against whom noise and simple resistance strategies are not enough to deter their intentions. But then, as we both agree, the majority of male attacks on females aren't of this nature. Sure, these attacks can and do happen but their frequency is not as common as news media might suggest. People are statistically much more likely to hurt themselves from some kind of fall, but you don't see everyone rushing out to take breakfalling classes, male or female.

The overconfidence issue should be addressed, however. In a proper women's self-defense class, women should be made aware of the what the course will teach them, but also what it will NOT teach them. I teach that while my class will help prevent attacks before they occur, and will help them deter the types of attacks a woman is most likely to be faced with, it would likely not be enough against a determined attacker.

I always tell my students that no one can tell you whether or not it's worth it to defend yourself or whether you're better off being entirely compliant. It's a judgment call that each woman has to make when faced in that situation. I tell my students that if they're being mugged simply for material items, it's not worth it to fight back (whether they are in my women's self-defense class or in my Jiu-jitsu class). Material items can be replaced and you don't know what your attacker might be capable of. But if an attacker's intent is a sexual assault of some kind, it may be different.

Only the person receiving the attack can decide for themselves how risky the situation is. I tell my women's self-defense students that if they are being raped at gun or knife point, they may very well decide to accept their fate if they think it may result in their not being harmed (as rare as these cases are). However, police statistics say that 62% of sexual assault victims are harmed in other ways during an attack, even if they're not fighting back. And someone who is serious enough about attacking to use deadly force may also be serious enough to kill the woman afterward to remove any possibility that he might be identified. So even though attempts at self-defense against a determined attacker don't have a great chance of working, against this type of attacker, a woman might want to take her chances. All these points should be covered in a proper women's self-defense class.

As for your point about women's self-defense classes that they only get to apply their skills against other women, this is quite valid, but easily fixed. At every women's self-defense class I teach, there is at least one man who circulates and applies the attacks so that the women can apply them in a more realistic fashion. I would question the quality of the course if it didn't have this.

When you mentioned that you saw a class that taught wrist locks to women in order to control their attacker, I laughed. A woman should only be focused on creating an opportunity to get away, not trying to control a bigger, stronger person using a skill that takes years to become proficient enough at to be effective. That's both ignorant and dangerous and I agree that those women were not learning what they paid for. As I mentioned before, with everything I teach, I tell my students, "If you can't learn to do a move reasonably comfortably in 3 minutes or less, throw it out because it will be useless on the street when you're under the heightened stress of an attack."

As for strikes, their are a few basic strikes/ defensive techniques that are easier to learn than others. Now when I say 'learn', I mean learn the simplest mechanics of them, like a simple kick to the shins, which is fairly intuitive, or even just grabbing and squeezing the groin area, which takes little to no skill at all. And while a trained martial artist will be better at all strikes, a woman can learn to use very simple methods well enough to deter the most common types of attacks. Bear in mind now that fighting back at all in 80% of cases is enough to deter a male on female attack situation because of the psychology of the attacker.

Most male attackers of this nature don't want someone who will put up a fight and make a lot of noise. It has been statistically shown over decades that fighting back at all (even if the strikes aren't effective enough to hurt or stun the attacker) is enough to stop these types of attacks.

Considering the statistics, your opinion that it is not worth it for a woman to defend herself if she can't injure or stun her attacker, I believe, is misplaced.

As for freezing up in a real situation, that can happen whether you're a trained martial artist or not. I've heard tales of black belts who froze in the moment even. That does not mean it's not useful to just TRY to learn something. We do teach women psychological tools to help combat this, to use anger to overcome fear, by telling themselves to imagine that they're not defending themselves, they're defending a child or other loved one. That if they are killed in this attack, they won't be there for their child, etc. Anger and adrenaline have been known to help women tap in to a power and aggressiveness they often aren't even aware of. But as you say, there are no guarantees.

As I said before, any woman coming out of any self-defense course, should realize how important it is to avoid dangerous situations at all costs. They shouldn't expect that just because they took a simple course they'll be able to apply it should the need arise. But they should also realize that the most common types of assaults can be stopped just by trying to resist and making a lot of noise while doing it.

I agree with your point that students must learn to practice with intensity and a good women's self-defense class will address this. No one who has ever seen one of mine in session has doubted its level of intensity. It is my job to make sure that the women in my class learn that or at least try to learn that.

Yes, I do have many years of training and understand that this very much increases my chances at surviving an attack. I've also got many years of teaching and study of the nature of attacks on women, so I have had access to information that perhaps you may not have been exposed to. I know that women in my self-defense class will likely never be anywhere near as effective as me in a defensive situation, but that is not what I expect. I am simply offering them a few basic tools that will help them in the most common scenarios. I also tell students at the end of class, if they're interested in evolving these skills to a higher level for the much more dangerous, yet much less likely situations, they are welcome to join my regular Jiu-jitsu classes.

Don't worry about sounding rude. You make very valid points and it's true that many women's self-defense classes have the problems you address. But keep in mind the additional information I have provided about the nature of attacks on women, as well as the fact that there are some self-defense classes that are better designed than others.

Thanks again for your insightful remarks. Keep them coming.

Anonymous said...

Well, I’m certainly no expert on women’s self-defence so I’ll take your word for it (hard to argue with statistics although it has been said anything can be proven with them). Those comments were just my thoughts on the subject, not the result of an in-depth study.

You seem to know what you’re doing, that’s a good thing since there are alot of cham/plain incompetent instructors out there (especially in the area of women’s self-defence). I’m not a teacher yet but if I were I would feel responsible for my students (at least up to a point) and it’s shameful there are instructors out there who either don’t take their job very seriously (mostly looking to cash in) or just don’t know any better: thinking certain techniques will actually work while it’s perfectly clear to anyone with half a brain they don’t, at least not for the intended audience. Ill will or in incompetence, I don’t know what is worse. This reminds me of the opening lines from the Hagakure:

“Although it stands to reason that a samurai should be mindful of the Way of the Samurai, it would seem that we are all negligent. Consequently, if someone were to ask, "What is the true meaning of the Way of the Samurai?" the person who would be able to answer promptly is rare. This is because it has not been established in one’s mind beforehand. From this, one's unmindfulness of the Way can be known. Negligence is an extreme thing.”

Negligence is an extreme thing indeed, shameful even. Now I’m not claiming to be a samurai (this would be foolish since it is an historical term for a social class that was abolished with the Meiji-restoration) but we as martial-artists (especially from Japanese traditions) can learn alot from these past warriors and should try to emulate their ideals/way of life as best as possible (of course in keeping with the times and customs: living in a western country anno 2009 isn’t the same as living in medieval Japan, let alone living in the Sengoku-Jidai period). Now in the absolute sense we are all negligent (due to the fallibility of human nature and especially since in this day-and-age it’s almost impossible to devote one’s entire life, including making a living, to the martial way) but there are degrees of negligence and incompetence, greediness or laziness is unforgiveable, especially in a teacher.

I’ve always had a special connection with my sensei: having a good teacher and being respectful and mindful of what they’re teaching (technique/strategy and about life in general) is the way to learning true martial-arts and becoming an effective fighter (and that’s what the arts ultimately are about: fighting and surviving, not mere technique, sports or playing around). I greatly admire true teachers and masters: it’s not an easy feat to become both proficient at the art and being able to translate that knowledge to others and pass it on in a respectful and efficient manner.

That being said I’m quite convinced teaching can be very rewarding (eventhough it’s a huge responsibility too, at least if you take it as seriously as you should) and you can actually learn alot from it yourself.

My sensei has asked me if I if I would be willing to take over the class on occasions when he’d be ill or otherwise unavailable and I said I would, although I’m also a bit apprehensive about it (it’s a huge responsibility after all). I’m confident I know my techniques and I’ve seen him teach plenty of times so I know what a class should look like but from experience training with lower belts it’s just not that easy to exactly describe how to execute a certain technique or correct what they’re doing wrong. If you can correct another’s technique it’s generally a sign you have truly mastered it yourself.

I’m actually thinking about teaching my brother a few things (not ju-jutsu or martial-arts per se but basic self-defence): he has gotten into trouble a few times when going out and even got beaten up once. It’s his call wether he wants to take me up on the offer but I’m quite confident within a few months I could bring him to a level where he’d be able to defend against most types of attacks and attackers.

I’ve even drawn up a plan for it: I’d concentrate on about 10 basic techniques (mainly palmstrikes, hammerfists, groinshots and knees/elbows) and drill them over and over on focus-mits and in several different applications. More in detail this would mean basic fighting stance, footwork, a kata with the basic techniques (to study the technical details and to give him a way to practice them on his own when he wants to), hitting focus-mits and lots and lots of defensive drills.

Since most people on the street basically don’t know anything or at least very little I think this would be effective and it would be interesting for me too: both in terms of extra training/teaching-experience and a chance to spend more time with my brother.

One last comment about your last post: I didn’t say a woman should do nothing when attacked if she couldn’t hit hard enough to do real damage (that’s her call not mine), I merely suggested this would be a liability in a serious fight (especially since in my opinion a few lessons do not suffice to teach really effective techniques and there is a very real danger of further antagonising the attacker).

Hence it’s way better to actually take up a martial-art (as you did) than simply choosing an easy solution which still is doubtful to me, even with the context and explanation you provided. I’m sure this is better than doing nothing about it but still, I have my doubts.

This has been a rather interesting discussion, it’s always fun/educational to converse with people who actually know what they’re talking about.



PS: if it’s not too much trouble I’d like to know your opinion on something. Since it’s rather personal (meaning it has to do with a very specific situation) and does not really fit in the context of this blog/post I’d like to ask your permission to send you an email. Only if you’re willing of course.

Lori O'Connell said...

Zara, I am very impressed with your commitment to learning all the philosophical aspects of martial arts training. I've always found the study of the topic both fascinating and rewarding.

If you have the opportunity to teach, embrace it! Nothing has taught me more about the martial arts than teaching. Even when you don't exactly know how to explain concepts yet. Scratch that. ESPECIALLY when you don't exactly know how to explain things yet. You'll learn your techniques with so much more depth and it's very rewarding to help people understand and love the art as you do.

If you want to ask me a question via email, you can email me at westcoastjj [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thanks again for the interesting discussions!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the compliment Lori. I am a student of philosophy so I guess that sort of carries over into martial-arts aswell (nothing like combining two of your biggest interests). I’ve always been interested in strategy and military ethics: martial-arts are about training the mind aswell as the body and next to meditation frequent reading and thinking are the best ways to do just that. Also, discussing your interests (in this case MA) with people is always fun and as I said talking to someone with experience can truly help to understand certain concepts better. Of course very few of my friends are truly interested in the martial-arts so thank god for the internet! (lol)

Guess what: my sensei has just emailed me asking if I would be up for training this evening. Would I? This just made my day, there’s nothing better than training one-on-one with sensei! Of course it’s quite tiring and painful too, aswell as frustrating sometimes (he literally sees every tiny mistake I make, which is of course why he’s such a great teacher) but it’s so worth it and I probably learned at least as much in those two years training with him (in class and outside) as I have in the previous 6 years at my old club. Of course as you improve your learning-curve gets accelerated (the first six months to a year of training are hell: you learn so goddamn slow and you always have to mind every single detail, not to mention everyone else hurts you but you can’t do it back, not properly anyway) but still: personal tuition is the best and I’m very lucky he’s willing to take time out of his busy schedule to train with me and actually thinks training with me is worthwhile for him too.