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Why don’t more women do self-defence training?

I have found doing reality-based self-defence training one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done. The system we are taught is CROSS (Combat Ready Offensive Survival System) Krav Maga.

The thing I have noticed since I started training in self-defence is that there are many more men doing it than women. As around 90% of violent crime is committed by men and violence against women and girls is a big problem worldwide, this seems a bit back to front.

I thought I would investigate various articles to see if this was something that other people had noticed and yes, they most definitely had! Please read on for some quotes from some of the key articles I found.

Woman flexing muscle - women empowerment

The most common reasons women don’t get self-defence training:

  1. My boyfriend / partner / husband will protect me. Every time I’ve heard this, the boyfriend / partner / husband was not present.

  2. I’m too weak, I’m not strong enough. This second most common excuse, when examined with logic, you will find it completely erroneous. Can you pick your kids up? Move furniture? Do any type of sport?

  3. I’ve never done self-defence or martial arts before. What could be the downside of learning to defend yourself?

  4. “I’ll just stab them” I hear this from women and men. This is short-sighted and could land you in prison or worse.

  5. We shouldn’t have to teach women self-defence; we should teach men not to rape. I 100% agree women should not have to worry about being raped by some excuse for a man but the way the world ought to be and the way it actually is, are two different things.

There are a few different reasons these excuses are given.

  • Fear. Violence is an ugly, bloody, confusing thing. There’s nothing pleasant about it.

  • Denial. This is based in fear but ignoring the danger doesn’t make it go away. The belief that these things happen to “other people, not me” is a real thing but wrong.

  • Over confidence. Unless you’ve tested your skills in training, how can you be so sure that you can successfully defend yourself?

  • PTSD. This is an actual reason, not an excuse. Perhaps you’ve been attacked before.

Michael Tucker (

I have heard most of the reasons above given by my female friends. I know from personal experience that PTSD is a real thing that can make it difficult, initially, to take part in self-defence training but if you persist and push through it, it can feel amazing and free both your body and mind.

Woman letting go - empowerment

By now, many know the health benefits associated with being physically active. Avoiding heart disease, depression, obesity, diabetes, the list goes on. Exercise participation and barriers to physical activity have been widely researched for many decades. Some of the most commonly reported barriers include lack of time / enjoyment, lack of social support and past exercise behaviour. However, we are neglecting the fact that intimidation exhibited by male counterparts in the gym environment may account for a large quota of female drop out in physical activity.

Traditional public perceptions of a male are strong, independent and athletic whereas females are often deemed to be the “weaker sex”. When these gender norms are violated at the gym, it is common for labels to be given i.e. “She must be a lesbian”. For this reason, females are left feeling vulnerable in a gym setting, thus discouraging them from pushing themselves to become in great physical condition and potentially exceed the condition of males.

I am not someone who really goes to gyms but I have heard females say that they go to a certain type of gym or at certain times of day, in order to avoid men in the gym. However, I have to say that my main instructor is a female and all the male instructors we have met through her have been really encouraging and positive about promoting women doing self-defence and feeling safer.

Approximately 97% between the age of 18-24 have experienced some form of sexual harassment. The charity Rape Crisis claim that 1 in 4 women have experienced rape. This staggering figure brings no surprise as to why many women’s confidence has been shattered. Simple tasks such as walking home alone are now feared and avoided by many. Surely there must be a way forward – Krav Maga in particular. It is a style of martial art which promotes self-defence from real life situations. Krav Maga works on rebuilding the confidence and self-esteem so people, women and men, can feel safer through being taught to handle situations of different intensities and these are very adaptable.

Self-defence moves

Women’s self-defence training aims to arm women with the skills to avoid, interrupt and resist assault. Early second wave feminists aware of the pervasiveness of violence against women and critical of society’s reluctance to address it, took their safety literally into their own hands, adapting martial arts techniques to suit women’s needs, adding verbal, psychological and emotional skills and integrating a critical gender consciousness into their training.

Telsen, 1981 cited Hollander (

I think the second wave feminists had the right idea and were ahead of their time. We should offer proactive training to young women and girls rather than them turning to training later in life because something has happened to them and they want to feel stronger. Why not arm them with the tools they need before they need them and hopefully then, they never will.

Author: Max James (February 2024)

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