Training women in self protection is hard. Not because of anything they themselves do. Women are far more receptive to the message than men and “get it” much more quickly.
The problem lies with the men they must train with and the ignorance and prejudices those men bring to the process.
Women are precisely as capable as men at causing injury. When a thumb goes into an eye socket, the universe doesn’t stop everything and check if the cells in the thumb have XY or XX chromosomes before deciding if the forces exerted are enough to destroy the eye ball.
Either the forces exceed the elasticity of the tissue or they don’t. Male vs. female is not a part of that equation.
In a physical world where a five-year-old can rupture a grown man’s spleen by simply falling on him, injury is anyone’s game. The person who gets it right first wins. In the artificial world of competition, size, speed, strength and training matter. Put that kid in the ring with the grown man and he’ll get one-shotted with a swift kick into next week.
Women tend to be smaller and physically weaker than men, which is why we teach them (and everyone, really) to injure instead of fight. Training to take punches and overpower grown men is difficult as hell.
Busting one square inch of critical anatomy is easy. And in my experience, women are receptive to this message—they understand the equalizing nature of making an end-run around size and strength, issues of which they are acutely aware.
When given a through-line to winning that is straight, direct and independent of perceived physical inequalities, they dive into it, and enthusiastically so. (I can relate—this is what initially attracted me to the training, the fact that instead of going toe-to-toe I could simply “cheat.”)
So the problems in training women arise not from desire, motivation, or ability. It’s the men they train with thinking they know better, that violence is a man’s world. The men try to avoid working with them, give ongoing instruction, and “go easy” on them.
MAN’S WORLD FAIL #1: THINKING THEY HAVE TO WORK WITH ANOTHER MAN TO GET ANYTHING OUT OF THE TRAINING
It happens every time—I’ll tell everyone to grab a partner so we can begin the physical training and the guys will all glom together, leaving the women alone like a sixth-grade dance.
And when we forcibly split them up to integrate the women into the class the men will roll their eyes and sigh.
And it really pisses me off.
On the one hand it tells me the men have the completely wrong idea of what we’re up to—they’re thinking in antisocial terms of fighting with other men instead of practicing the destruction of the human machine.
Personally, I can get the exact same quality of practice with any flavor of human machine. I don’t care who it is because the “who” doesn’t matter. The arrangement of targets is the same on everyone.
When I hit the mats I don’t see people or faces, just targets. This is because I leave the social bullshit behind and focus on what matters in violence.
And it’s not the set up, the story, the “OMG I’M HITTING A GIRL,” but smashing targets.
When the school dance shenanigans start, it tells me I’m in for a long weekend of prying men’s fingers off their egos.
MAN’S WORLD FAIL #2: THINKING THEY KNOW BETTER
We have a simple rule for training: no talking. Maintain that asocial environment with the only sounds being breathing and bodies hitting the mats.
As soon as you start communicating during the physical work you’re putting the information into the wrong box—you’re telling yourself this stuff is social.
Worse, you’re screwing with your partner’s ability to put this stuff in the right place. So the rule is shut up and hit targets.
And then I look over and see men giving instruction to the women they’re working with. Not only is what they are saying most probably flat-out wrong, but now they’re compromising her ability to put any information in a usable place for asocial violence.
I’ll assume that this comes from a desire to help, rather than simple arrogance or prejudice, but what men must understand is that this isn’t helping. You help by shutting up and giving the best reactions you possibly can so she can build good sight pictures for successful injury.
So if it is coming from a desire to help, shut up and give better reactions. Instruction is what the instructors are there for.
MAN’S WORLD FAIL #3: “GOING EASY” ON WOMEN
I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve had women come up to me during training and say, “The guys won’t make good contact or follow through. I keep telling them to hit me harder, to use their body weight so I know how to react and they just won’t.”
Here’s the deal: having this stuff done on you is more than half the equation. Sure, you get your two turns of doing it, accessing targets, driving your mass all the way through and seeing the results of injury after injury all the way to nonfunctional—but it’s the other side that really locks the information in.
When it’s your turn to be the reaction partner you get to feel how it works, feel how intractable the position of the injured person is, and build your confidence because what’s happening to you is all stuff you know how to do.
If your partner won’t make contact with targets and move their mass through you lose that confidence-building portion of the training. It also makes it confusing: which target are they accessing, and how am I supposed to react?
With no contact and drive it’s unclear. If it’s undeniably neck and you move me with your mass, I have no choice but give a good neck-shot reaction.
This is why we like to make sure, staffing permitting, that the women get to work with instructors during the latter part of the seminar. The instructors see no difference between men and women in violence, only what works and what doesn’t.
And they can provide a bullshit-free experience for those last few practice sessions.
Over the years I’ve found that women don’t want to be coddled or treated differently in the physical training—they want to figure it out and get it right because they understand, more so than men, the seriousness of what we’re up to.
And being generally devoid of macho fantasies of kicking much ass they tend to “get it”—and get better at it—faster than men.
That baseline understanding that bare hands can be just as serious as a gun and that you can’t rely on size or strength—and that you should always assume the other person will be bigger and stronger, and train to make none of that matter—are things men could stand to learn from women…
… For these are not just female truths, but universal truths that have a direct affect on who wins and loses in violence.
Everybody should “get it” so clearly.