Self-defence and martial arts SHOULD be taught in schools. (Long)

(42 Posts)
ThreeEdgedSword Fri 05-Oct-12 11:12:01

It may be a little early for this, but I didn't want to wait till later...

I have just finished a phone call with a friend who was sobbing her heart out, telling me she was raped last night. She had been dancing with a friend of a friend, they all went back to someone's house, and he forced himself on her. I duly told her to report him to the police (before going home and showering, yucky as it sounds, to preserve physical evidence).

She repeatedly told him no, but he apparently responded with comments such as "you know you want to". At this point my nasty insensitivity kicked in (thank goodness she's a very good friend, who understands me!) and I asked her...

"Why on Earth didn't you fight back?"

She responded by saying he was a lot stronger than her and she didn't want to wake the rest of the house by screaming. I understand not wanting to cause a fuss, but surely in cases of rape it's ok? I would be horrified if somebody was raped in my living room and they didn't wake me by screaming.

I fully understand her concerns as a similar thing happened to me in my teens. In my case he forced me to the point where he was inside me shudders then told me not to say no because "that makes this rape" hmm. I just accepted this and tried to forget about it afterwards. But I did decide to take up martial arts again.

Years later, a man attacked me on a night out. He tried to pin me up against a wall. Reflexes and muscle memory took over, and this encounter ended with him carted off by the police with a broken nose, while I continued with my night, albeit a little shakily. Without the training I received, this encounter could have ended very differently.

My point is that, while martial arts classes are freely available, they are something you choose to do or not do. I fully believe children, both male and female, should learn self defence and martial arts as a matter of course so that these situations are, if not eliminated, at least reduced. And women should remember that, as male friends (!) are fond of saying, "kick them in the stones and they'll drop like any other fucker!"

OneMoreChap Fri 05-Oct-12 11:59:45

I really, really approve of martial arts classes. For everyone, as it happens.

It gives you a great deal of enjoyment and personal confidence.

Don't think it will make you safe from rape. It won't.

Some people (me included) think that your own self confidence can make you a less likely victim, as will situational awareness. I believe I should say possible triggers in the link I quote See for some suggestions - no, not blaming victims I'd add.

If you are going to do SD classes - I'd suggest if there's any chance of working with a "red man" suit. It will let you full force strike, but make it really, really clear what male strength is like. I'm an old unfit bloke, but as far as upper body strength goes it's huge compared to most women.

As far as "kicking 'em in the stones" - nice in theory. Men know it hurts and are quite smart about protecting them... I'd suggest a fist or knee rather than a kick, FWIW, as if someone grabs your foot... possibly game over.

You might be able to stop a man pinning you, but if he chucks you across an alley a couple of times you'll slow up.

AGoldenOrange Fri 05-Oct-12 12:03:30

You asked a rape victim why didn't she fight back? Really?

meditrina Fri 05-Oct-12 12:08:06

There are violent crimes other than rape.

I think situation awareness and self defence are important things for all our DCs to learn. My DCs have done junior martial arts programmes, and I think what it taught them is valuable (also in terms of general bodily confidence).

Nothing can guarantee you will not become a victim of a crime. But I do agree that getting DCs to take the time to think about risks and whether they can be reduced/managed/mitigated is important.

CaseyShraeger Fri 05-Oct-12 12:17:23

I approve of martial arts classes. My Dcs do martial arts. But surely if you train everyone, both male and female, in martial arts as a matter of course then situations such as the one in which your friend found herself will still come down to a bigger, stronger, heavier man against a smaller, weaker, lighter woman? Just this time both of them would know some martial arts rather than both of them knowing none?

Self-defence is a separate issue to an extent; that's more about incapacitating the attacker for long enough to give yourself time to run. BTW, when we had a self-defence class at school we were specifically told NOT to try to "kick them in the stones" because it puts you dangerously off balance and it's far easier for the attacker to grab your leg and tip you over onto the groubd than it is for you to connect with the target. Far more effective to stamp on foot or (if you can reach) go for eyes or underside of nose.

I do hope she's still a very good friend after you asked her something so crass at a time of crisis. You should do some serious grovelling.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 05-Oct-12 12:20:15

OMC thank you for that thoughtful post.

OP the "not make any sound" reflex is quite a common one, regardless of relative strengths etc. a man who had already dehumanised you to the extent that he has penetrated you when he knows you do not want it could well have dehumanised you to the extent that punching, kicking, smothering you etc would be no great leap further.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 05-Oct-12 12:22:51

PS OP I am sorry you were raped when you were younger. You and your friend might both like to call Rape Crisis to talk through your experiences.

OneMoreChap Fri 05-Oct-12 12:32:01

CaseyShraeger as you say, SD is very different from MA.

Possibly something like modern combatives or possibly silat would be a better choice than a trad martial art. Krav Maga would be an interesting approach, if you can find classes.

The only problem is unless you put in a lot of practice you won't get good at it.

ThreeEdgedSword Fri 05-Oct-12 12:38:30

I shall pass on the info about Rape Crisis to my friend. As for me, well, this is the first time I've spoken about it in years. It's dead and buried. And I plan to leave it that way.

Another point I'd like to make is that martial arts helps a lot with confidence, respect and discipline, both in yourself and towards others. These are at the core of most eastern martial arts. So perhaps, in teaching them, instances of violence in general would be reduced? I know it wouldn't eliminate it completely, but it might help?

After all, doesn't any type of violent crime indicate lack of respect for the victim from the one who commits the crime?

It's interesting to see the opinions of others on this subject, I understand that rape and violence can be very personal issues, so I thank you all for your honesty and sincerely apologise if anything in my OP offended anyone. Everyone has different reactions to these situations, and I did not mean to be insensitive, I was simply expressing my opinion.

FWIW, my friend wishes she had been brave enough to fight back. I wish she had. I wish I had been there to help her. I wish it had never happened to her. All I can do now is be there to help her through it.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 05-Oct-12 13:20:50

YY Casey. The first thing we did at the start of every self defence clas was sprint up and down the gym - we were taught over and over that your first form of defence is to run, and your next form is to do enough to get free and then run.

Your friend might regret not fighting back because she feels it would have given her a bit more 'agency' but honestly it might not have made a difference and could have made her injuries worse. I hope that the police are supportive to her.

Remember that in your friend's case, her attacker had selected her, danced with her, made sure they were going back to the same house - effectively cornered her. He had already 'befriended' her and made it hard for her to leave, whereas in your case a street attack out of the blue might have meant your 'fight' instincts were more predominant. Just a thought.

ThreeEdgedSword Fri 05-Oct-12 13:30:57

Doctrine I think you might be right, it is a very different situation.

On a side note, coming to mind on your comment about running, please ladies, if you must lose your nice/expensive/new shoes because you can't run in heels, do it. Town centres can have some horrible examples of girls who don't run because of this basic piece of common sense.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 05-Oct-12 13:34:48

TES, another difficulty is that, just as most men are stronger than most women, most men can run faster as well. Heels could exacerbate this but won't be the only factor. I think Sheila Jeffries talks about heels and their constricting effect in Beauty and Misoygny.

ProphetOfDoom Fri 05-Oct-12 13:46:38

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LurcioLovesFrankie Fri 05-Oct-12 13:49:17

I did a bit of tae kwondo and remember the instructor asking us early on in the course (after asking how many were there because they saw it as an aid to self defence) "what do you think would happen if someone threw a punch at me as I was walking down the street?" More experienced members pitched in with "such-and-such a block", "so-and-so counterpunch", etc. The instructor said "actually, no, I'd end up with a broken nose, just like you would, because in normal social circumstances you just don't expect that to happen to you". He was very keen on instilling in us the idea that MA aren't a simple fix to dangerous situations, and also that running should be your first response.

Also agree that freezing is a common reflex response to a scary situation.

But remember, most rapes aren't stranger-in-a-dark alley. We also need to think about social cues, because most rapes take place in social situations, where the rapist has befriended the victim and manipulated our natural social instincts to be conciliatory with people to get the victim alone (having first set up a situation where it looks to witnesses like the couple are getting on great, so that when he moves on to an attack in private there will be witnesses to say "well it looked like it was headed somewhere consensual"). Someone posted a great link a while back to a blog which was essentially about how society puts great store by socialising women to be conciliatory, nice, cooperative, not to make a fuss, then turns on them and rips them to shreds for not fighting back when some arsehole uses that socialisation as the background against which to rape in the knowledge that he'll then get away with it. If you know of the link, please post, 'cos I didn't bookmark it!

OneHandFlapping Fri 05-Oct-12 13:49:38

I agree that women should be encouraged to do martial arts. I train regularly, and men outnumber women by about 5 or 6 to one - and I think our club is unusual in having so many women.

Women should feel they do have the right to be strong, fit, fighters.

However, what OneMoreChap said about the strength difference is true. After five years of training, my only hope against a taller, stronger opponent would be surprise - and getting in a devastating technique to a weak point before he could react. If he got a chance to retaliate, I'd be done for.

meditrina Fri 05-Oct-12 14:02:45

One bit I appreciated in my DCs martial arts class was the instructor telling them: never try to fight an assailant - a child cannot win a fight against teens, let alone adults, as RL is not the movies. All you can do is buy the time to run away; screaming and shouting is OK and don't get drawn into talking to people who approach you; move away or run away. The instructor said that he might be able to win a fight, and added extremely clearly that he'd been training and fighting competitively for 30 years and was a tall man but he wouldn't try to fight either. He'd be following his own advice, and would aim to surprise the assailant then run.

Uppercut Fri 05-Oct-12 14:15:17

A police officer once told my sister that balling your fist around your house keys such that the keys stick out between your fingers (like a spiked knuckle duster) would be highly effective. He did caution against its use though in anything other than extreme circumstances; proving that it was appropriate to pop someone's eye out with your housekeys is paramount if you wish to avoid going to jail.

KRITIQ Fri 05-Oct-12 14:15:55

I think martial arts can be beneficial to children and young people generally because it involves focus, discipline, physical fitness, commitment, responsibility and can help build confidence. It's also a chance to make new friends, get involved in displays and competitions, even opportunities for leadership. All those things can contribute to well-being and help build a young person's resilience.

But, it should never be considered as a reliable method of self-defence. For starters, even people well-trained in self-defence methods can freeze in a situation where they are attacked and have no opportunity to put the skills into place. One never knows how they will react to a situation like that. Also, an assailant could have a weapon or catch someone by surprise, already having the upper hand so these skills will won't help. There's also a risk that it gives a false sense of security - "I'm trained in self-defence, nothing will happen to me." And, if something DOES happen, you could feel even works because you THINK you should have been able to prevent the attack.

Most sexual assaults (of men or women) are carried out by people known to the person, often in situations where self-defence techniques probably wouldn't help, even if you were able to use them.

I think it's a great idea to have martial arts training, but not for the purpose of "preventing" rape. Sadly, that's not something within the powers of the potential victim.

ThreeEdgedSword Fri 05-Oct-12 14:17:33

Lurcio I try not to "rip people to shreds" if they don't fight back, it is simply my first reaction (now, anyway). But then I also don't believe a woman should feel like they can't make a fuss or must be nice and agreeable. I do happen to come from a family of strong, no-nonsense female role models smile

OneMoreChap Fri 05-Oct-12 14:21:57

That's the thing I liked - well, one of them - about nononsensenseselfdefense; it's not all about blows and strikes lots of sensible stuff. Including signs about behaviours that should give you concern... from the man who wants to date you, even.

ThreeEdgedSword Fri 05-Oct-12 14:26:51

OneMoreChap do you have a link to that? Sounds like it would be something useful to have around, as well as interesting to see if it's anything we know or didn't realise!

OneMoreChap Fri 05-Oct-12 14:30:46

It's a really complicated link. grin
Trigger warnings, yadayada

chibi Fri 05-Oct-12 14:34:59

hoo boy i typed out a long post which didn't register so i will try again with a shorter version.

asking someone who's just been raped why they didn't make it stop, or fight back is shitty behaviour that fails to meet the minimum standard of human decency.

CaseyShraeger Fri 05-Oct-12 14:36:35

Uppercut, the nuns at school taught my mother that trick with the keys!

chibi Fri 05-Oct-12 14:38:17

what about when the person who grabs you is armed? when they say do what i'll say or i'll kill you? when you fight back and they overpower you?

has it never occurred to you that some women don't fight back because they reckon it is the best strategy at that time which will allow them to live through it?

ThreeEdgedSword Fri 05-Oct-12 14:38:19

That looks really good, thank you smile

I do agree that MA as a fighting style is nigh on useless if somebody attacks you, I included it more along the lines of respect and confidence, prevention is better than cure etc. After all, if everyone had proper respect for each other, there would be no crime.

Ah, to live in a perfect world...

LurcioLovesFrankie Fri 05-Oct-12 14:53:19

Three-edged - my comment wasn't directed at you, it was meant to be a summary of the blog (which is discussing the whole issue of victim blaming, in the context of society as a whole investing a lot in expecting certain behaviours from women as a group, then blaming them when exactly those behaviours leave them open to exploitation).

Though, in response to your original post, if I were you (I realise you may handle it differently) having blurted out "why on earth didn't you fight back?", once I'd realised that in fact freezing is a very common reflex response to attack, I'd probably want to apologise for being so insensitive next time I spoke to my friend. (And I have been in the situation of supporting a friend who'd been raped - I spent a month or so of my first year at university sleeping on a friend's floor so there'd be someone there for her when she woke up with nightmares).

CailinDana Fri 05-Oct-12 15:21:44

I was going to write a measured response but I can't.

You should be absolutely ashamed of yourself OP that you asked a person who had just been raped why she didn't fight back. What do you think the answer could be? That she wanted to be raped? That she was too lazy or stupid to fight back? Maybe she didn't fight back because she couldn't perhaps? I mean why else wouldn't you fight back? Really, I'm asking, because I'd love to hear the answer.

ThreeEdgedSword Fri 05-Oct-12 15:31:32

It was a blurted out comment, which I apologised for. And I did state that she said she wished she had fought back. I do not think it was the right thing to say, and considering my own experience I feel bloody stupid for saying it.

Am currently waiting for her to call me to pick her up from the police station. Clearly she isn't angry at me. After the initial flippant/shocked comment, I have been as supportive as I can.

Don't we all say stupid things, even sometimes in horrific situations? At least I don't think she deserved it or asked for it. That would make me a disgusting excuse for a human being.

CailinDana Fri 05-Oct-12 15:38:58

Fair enough Three. Sorry for being harsh. FWIW every survivor wishes they fought back, or did something different as I'm sure you know.

I think martial arts etc are great, but I don't agree it should be taught in schools because I don't agree that women should change their behaviour or do an activity that they don't necessarily want to do (doing MA or SD would be my idea of pure hell) to protect themselves. When it comes to it, rapists use a whole arsenal of manipulation to get what they want and MA or SD often aren't useful anyway. Men are the ones who rape, if any group need to change their behaviour, it's them. Yet, if anyone suggested something like "all men should do such and such to prevent rape" there would be an outcry. I will not accept double standards especially ones that put the onus on women to prevent something that they are not responsible for.

OneHandFlapping Fri 05-Oct-12 15:45:25

I always used to wonder why women didn't fight back when they were raped. I'm better educated now, but it's a rape myth because so many people believe it.

grimbletart Fri 05-Oct-12 16:03:17

I agree with everyone who says it is not as simple as fighting back, that the odds are against you, that scream, run whatever other reaction - even complying if you think it will save your life - are appropriate.

But could I just say that though fighting back won't necessarily save you, and could leave you worse off or dead, sometimes it can.

Two personal experiences: first I was attacked in the tube subway while I was hurrying for the last train - arm put round my throat. I used the little finger technique to snap him away (whether or not I broke his finger I don't know and I don't care - I hope I did). When he let go I slammed him up against the wall and clouted him round the head with my laptop bag. He ran away.

Second time I was grabbed from behind on the tube escalator - again hurrying for the last train - that time I used an elbow in his throat and send him back to the bottom of the escalator. Reported it to a guard but the guy had gone. I agree that is not a particularly good example as by being on the escalator he was already off balance.

Third happened to my daughter on her Asian travels. Man broke into her bedroom and tried to rape her. She threw him bodily over the balcony. Unfortunately it was only on the first floor so he only (apparently) broke his arm. Pity it wasn't the 4th floor. I should say she is just over 5ft and 8stone soaking wet. When I asked her how she managed to do it she said it was her self defence/marital arts training plus as she "Wanker - I was bloody mad - how dare he?"

OK, maybe we were lucky on all three occasions and our situations were untypical, but both of us, and my other daughter, set out to take confidence from physical strength and training and - most important of all - don't ever feel you have to be polite. Bugger being socialised. If your guts tell you he's a rum un, go with your guts.

The other common factor I think was the element of surprise. These wankers think they are home and dry with some feeble woman - they are not ready for someone who will go for it and not give a damn if she half kills them.

I don't expect posters to agree with me, but there you go: I can only speak of our personal experiences.

OneMoreChap Fri 05-Oct-12 16:12:56


I remember talking about some techniques like this one here and being called a ninja wannabe.

If you smack a street criminal, you may well be lucky. You may also very easily get knifed.

meditrina Fri 05-Oct-12 16:18:34

Fighting back is a risk. It might be better to throw a mugger your bag and run away than it would be to wriggle to hang on to it.

But these are scenarios and risks that can be discussed in a competent self defence class. It's as much about thinking about the risks, and how you reduce or mitigate risks, as it is about physical defence.

meditrina Fri 05-Oct-12 16:19:17

'wriggle' sorry - that should be 'struggle'

CailinDana Fri 05-Oct-12 16:19:57

Grimble - it's worth remembering that there's a difference between being grabbed on the street by a stranger, and having someone you know slowly push your boundaries until you find yourself trapped. The first situation is a very clear cut "flight or fight" scenario, the second is more complicated because of the fact that we're so well trained to be polite and not to make a fuss.

That said, I am very impressed at the abilities of you and your daughter smile

grimbletart Fri 05-Oct-12 16:26:42

Yes Cailin - I do agree - they are not typical situations and I tried to precede it with a health warning grin

I do believe that whatever works in that situation, works.

I was just trying to balance the slight impression here that one is always helpless with the view that sometimes one isn't.

meditrina and OneChap - I also agree fighting back is a risk. Maybe my daughter and I are natural risk takers grin We were both the sort of kids who spent too much time in A and E after falling off high or fast things and at my ancient age now I'm a bit to old to change personality.

grimbletart Fri 05-Oct-12 16:28:10

the second is more complicated because of the fact that we're so well trained to be polite and not to make a fuss.

Meant to add Cailin: Yup like all little girls I got that training too. The difference being my attitude was "sod that for a game of soldiers" grin

LurcioLovesFrankie Fri 05-Oct-12 16:41:46

Grimble - I think I have a similar personality. When some teenage boys grabbed my bag on a rural station platform (I was sitting cross-legged on the floor in the sun), my instinctive response was to leap to my feet (lots of practise jumping up from a sitting position in football training) and chase them. Ended in a stand-off at the end of the station, at which point my brain kicked in to say "don't engage physically, you'll lose". My wallet had bounced out half way along the platform and I'd scooped it up, so I shouted "you might as well give the bag back, all it's got in it is a book and some tampons" (it didn't but I figured that mentioning "tampons" to teenage boys might embarrass them sufficiently to get them to drop it). They chucked the bag back and ran off. Afterwards I found myself thinking "that was a fucking stupid thing to do", but it was my instinctive response - like you I'm one of life's risk takers, have been climbing and mountaineering for nearly 30 years. Also had a "fuck that for a game of soldiers" attitude to being socialised into appropriately feminine behaviour.

But it's important to realise that most people aren't like that most of the time, nor is it a particularly good strategy (what if the teenage lads had had a knife).

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Janet12345 Mon 07-Oct-13 06:55:28

I have to agree the whole groin attack thing is a bit of a myth it is far from easy to pull off and even when you do it isn't very effective, it's not like the movies at all. It's better to learn some proper moves like getting out of grips and freeing yourself to get away.

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