“I want to be able to protect myself.”  From the hundreds of fellow martial artists I’ve talked with about why they train, this phrase sticks out at the top of the list. Over the years, I’ve become less and less convinced that martial arts actually does relate to “self protection” goals.  There are ways in which almost everyone who does martial arts may be “safer.”  (Exercise is healthy, improving balance and learning to fall safely will protect against common accidents…).   Some people, like law-enforcement officers or people who live or work in really bad neighborhoods, may have specific risks that martial arts can help them address. For the rest of us…it’s a great hobby.  It’s nice to feel like a badass.  It’s good for bonding with people.  Discipline, strength, confidence…it’s a hobby (or lifestyle, or obsession) worth pursuing. I can’t recommend it highly enough.  Many martial artists train for those reasons, for sport, or just because it’s fun.  Wonderful reasons.

But the “self-protection” delusion is a problem.  I would like to see that delusion sliced open and its guts strewn in the dirt: in martial artists, in school marketing, and in the general population.  I would like to see women’s self-defense training that addresses the real risks taught more widely, and see things that are not women’s self-defense marketed accurately “women-only martial arts class” rather than “women’s self-defense” for instance.

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