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06-13-2003, 06:37 AM
Hello friends.
I just saw something on the news I'd like to read your opinions on. In the backlash of fear following the Holly Jones murder; many women (the news reports) have taken to the martial art called 'Wendo'. The story showed a bit of the training; and left me with some grave concerns.
Just for your information; I take self-defence very, very seriously. It is not synonymous with martial arts as some would believe; nor is it fighting - it is the flat-out attempt to save your own life. (Sorry; that was just an aside to clarify my position. :) ) Everything I do in martial arts is geared towards self-defence; if it doesn't work - and work against a maddened and determined attacker - then it has no use other than for esoteric training, in my opinion. I think I frustrate my Sensei from time to time because of this attitude; but I do try to be nice about it. :-)
Anyway; what I saw on the tube had me shaking my head a bit and I promptly wanted to write to the Aikiweb about it.
Has anyone here taken Wendo? If not; does anyone know anything about it? Because to me; the techniques the girls in that class were learning looked totally useless - light, popping strikes, easily defeatable breakaways, half-hearted blocks. All delivered with a firm, decisive "NO!" as a kiai. And THAT was from the instructor.
Let us be under no illusions - I believe very strongly in women learning to defend themselves; it is an important consideration in today's unfortunate society. BUT - while I could be wrong about this; what I saw of that class did nothing to teach women defence - quite the opposite. As one woman said, "I feel a million times more confident than before I took the class." Even allowing for exaggeration; that's a dangerous attitude; while confidence is good, overconfidence can lead a woman - or anyone - into a deadly situation.
Another woman said; "I was walking out to the parking lot and there was a car with guys in it parked beside mine. I instantly thought of Wendo; and was glad to know I could break their collarbones if I had to."
OK; I'm going to be blunt about this: No, girl; you can't. You think that way; you're going to get into SERIOUS trouble by trusting something you don't have - like trusting your life to an unloaded handgun.
I know, I know - I can't know anything about Wendo or see its effectiveness from a 2-minute segment on the news; but really - if you were an instructor with a CBC camera in your class; wouldn't you be showing the world the absolute best you've got? I sure as Hell would be.
Weekend self-defence classes have always made me nervous - they're primarily a quick moneymaker for the instructor and little else. I remember one woman - expensively dressed; jewelry obviously displayed; a quite attractive middle-aged lady - who overheard me talking about self-defence with some friends at a restaurant one evening; and informed me (quite smugly) how wrong I was - all one needs to know is the right place to pinch.
"Yes", she was all too happy to explain; "all you have to do is pinch a man under his arm here..." she pinched the skin on my right tricep, "he'll let go. No-one can take that kind of pain."
I asked her to provide a demonstration - again; she was happy to oblige, and found herself shocked when it didn't seem to bother me at all. I explained to her about pain tolerance, voluntary suppression, and the effects of adrenaline. I pointed out to her just how strong a fully aroused (not the sexual sense) male can be; that someone my size (6'4", 210lb) is perfectly capable of bending steel when beyond the bounds of rational thought. None of her little tricks - stomping the instep; rapping the knuckles, etc. would have any effect whatsoever if someone wanted her purse; her jewelry or the body to which they were attached.
Well; it was a closed book to her - I was an aberration; after all, her Instructor had told her it would work, so it would; no rational mugger or rapist would attack someone who'd taken a weekend self-defence course!
Would they?
That's the difficulty I see with this Wendo; again, I may be wrong. It's just there was nothing I saw there that would in any way dissuade, deter or prevent me from exerting my will on any of the women in that class; if I decided to do so. Therefore; it seems to me less than useless; it seems dangerously illusory.
Does anyone have any comments on this? Thanks.

David R. Organ

06-13-2003, 06:47 AM
Dave, I'm always in two minds on these things.

While I agree with you regarding some of the effectiveness of the technique, a course which stops a person looking like a victim can be very beneficial in preventing the attack in the first place. So, from a mental point of view, I'm sort-of in favour, from a combat point of view I'm very iffy.

The only self-defence courses I've been involved in have mainly concentrated on how to avoid the situation in the first place (general awareness, recognising danger etc.) with the techniques being almost an "only use in case-of-emergency" with no guarentees on success.

As regards a 6'4" steel bending (trained) barbarian such as yourself, can I use a shotgun? :D

06-13-2003, 08:00 AM

Rofl! I agree with everything you said, Ian; the danger is that too often, these courses are being advertised as be-all and end-all self defence instruction. Too often, the students accept this and - like the woman in my example - close their minds to the potential reality.

You're absolutely right; personal awareness should be the prime concern of a self-defence course; and to be fair, most courses do teach exactly that. However; there is a large and growing community that say things like "A woman should be able to walk into a biker bar naked without fear".

Well; just for the record she should be able to, but this is reality we're talking about. (If you don't believe me; look at this link: http://www.worldywca.org/young_womens/onthemove/yw2001/may/truth.htm ) Again; I agree with the basic belief of the page; but the language is so hate-filled, inflammatory and prejudiced; the true message is lost.

A course that teaches a woman to be able to walk the street with confidence is a good thing; a course that teaches a woman to strut down the docks at 2 a.m. (because hey! I can defend myself!) is not - and that does happen.

I do NOT lay that tag onto Wendo; that was just an extreme example. I am absolutely certain that the instructors of Wendo are not charlatans; that they have a real desire to teach self-defence to women; I'm just not sure that they really know - or can teach - just how violent a man can be under those circumstances. An assault does not happen like it does in the movies - 2 or 3 guys jump and dance around the woman going "Kissy kissy!" just long enough for The Hero to leap in and save the day. It (generally) happens with the force of an avalanche - a sudden, full-power crushing attack without hesitation or inhibition. While teaching confidence and awareness is good; my question I guess is can such courses teach a woman the physical and psychological skills to a) avoid such an attack and b) to defend against it?

(Oh, BTW; I know you were kidding about the 'barbarian' crack, I got a chuckle out of it; :D but that amount of force is very real; and [iis[/i] on tap in the majority of sudden attacks.)


06-13-2003, 08:14 AM
I don't know what things were like in Canada, but in my neck of the woods, after 9/11 there were a number of McDojos that began offering "free airline self-defense classes for flight attendents". From the local news clips what was demonstrated was pretty poor, for a host of reasons. Go figure.

My own bias on self-defense is strongly avoidance based.

Judo Coach Mark Tripp, suggests his Four Rules

1. I will not drink to excess and I will avoid ALL persons and places where people will be drinking to excess.

2. I will not use illegal drugs and I will avoid ALL persons and places where people are using them or they are to be found.

3. I will avoid ALL ilicit sexual contact of ANY nature.

4. Stay out of the danger zone

Mark's thinking behind these may be found in this article (http://www.jm3.net/archives/tripp/mtcombat3)



06-13-2003, 08:44 AM
Personally, I wouldn't walk barefoot in a biker bar, never mind naked (have you seen the floors after a good night?). Joking aside, I almost, very nearly totally agree with your sentiments. One niggle I have regards practicality. Not with the course/techniques itself, but how you could "sell" a completely honest self-defence course (or martial art?). Imagine the choice, "McCourses offer deadly fighting skills with every childrens happy meal" whereas "Honest John's says you may be able to bleed less after 6 months"?

I agree, overconfidence is deadly, but where I'm not in full agreement with you is (I suppose) on how likely even a badly run course will provide this to anyone who is essentially non-combative. It was one thing for the woman in your story to feel brave in a civilised setting with friends (and loads of witnesses), how brave she is likely to be in a bad situation is another matter. That's why I'm more concerned by a courses emphasis on how to avoid in first place than the actual moves taught.

Could a course train someone correctly to handle true attacks? Yes, I sure they could, but would take more time and dedication than the groups they're aimed at would normally invest.

Paul, good article, but I think I'll have to remain a sinner and just take my lumps.

06-13-2003, 09:09 AM
Dave - with you 100% on your definitions. I have a huge problem with teaching any group confidence in their "self defense" skills that far outstrips their competence. It's dangerous and unethical.

I will suggest the confidence should come from teaching one how to handle high risk situations - not lying to them about the effectiveness of a move whose physics is deeply flawed.

06-13-2003, 09:39 AM
I have the same attitue to women training in Aikido.

Unless they get to about yondan, they are not really, and I mean really, capable of much in the way of self defense. Men are mean, dirty, disgusting , big, violent, abrasive, cruel, and unpredictable.

So you do the best you can, and hope that letting them know their limitaitons will help them stay out of harms way.

Of course this causes unbelieveable amounts of denial and accusations of all sorts of things.

So you do the best you can and hope that letting them know their limitations will help them stay out of harms way.

There are, of course, exceptions. But women's self defense classes are rarely for the women's benefit anyway, really, don't you think? Once again, they are the victims of men's greed, desire, and opportunism.

Sharon Seymour
06-13-2003, 12:59 PM
First, here is a link to the Wendo website: http://www.icomm.ca/wendo/pages/home.htm

Although it is not possible to evaluate the training without experiencing it, the statistics, philosophy, and training concepts presented on the site reflect good self-defense thinking.

Self-defense programs for women vary widely in quality, from the ego-gratification practices mentioned to very effective programs taught by dedicated experts. There is no way to make a blanket statement about all self-defense training programs.

As someone who has both taken and taught short-term self defense workshops, the same range of quality certainly applies. Short-term training can be effective. Considering the appalling prevalence of violence against women in our society, any means of reaching out that women will respond to is important. Just raising awareness of the statistics is of benefit. Teaching everyday preventive strategies is of benefit. Raising awareness and improving posture & presence is of benefit. I have heard enough success stories based on short-term training to know my work is effective.

Differentiating street self-defense skills from the long-term process of the Way is important. I might liken street self-defense to basic first aid, and long-term Practice to a long-term commitment to a healthier lifestyle.

"They're all 20 year techniques, and the 20 years starts now."

Dave Miller
06-13-2003, 01:01 PM
...a course which stops a person looking like a victim can be very beneficial in preventing the attack in the first place... The only self-defence courses I've been involved in have mainly concentrated on how to avoid the situation in the first place (general awareness, recognising danger etc.)...I gotta agree 100% with that. If an attacker sees you looking about, being aware, he'll move on to another, easier target. It seems that I read somewhere that most attacks on trained martial artists happened to people who were green-belt and below, again related to zanshin.

The other thing to keep in mind is that most of time, you're not dealing with the "drugged out, irrational attacker" but just a simple mugger trying to make a quick, easy score. In many cases, a simple tenkan might be sufficient to resolve many "self defense" situations. Many of these guys are just looking for easy targets. They don't want to have to fight too hard for a purse that might have $40 in it.

McDojosI like that! I gotta remember that one. ;)

Kevin Wilbanks
06-13-2003, 01:29 PM
I agree with Dave O, and in fact posted something similar after I saw a TV piece on Krav Maga a while back. Something about watching a 115 pound office worker practicing handgun takeaways just didn't sit right with me.

As far as the mugger who wants $40 goes, I'm going with the advice given to me by a very hardcore cop I knew. He said that if he was out of uniform and off duty, he would take out the money, throw it in one direction and run in the other, calling 911 asap. This from a man who would be carrying a Glock .40 at the time and who is trained and experienced in real street altercations. His bottom line was that petty change isn't worth fighting someone who presumably has a weapon over.

Kevin Wilbanks
06-13-2003, 01:43 PM
Judo Coach Mark Tripp, suggests his Four Rules

1. I will not drink to excess and I will avoid ALL persons and places where people will be drinking to excess.

2. I will not use illegal drugs and I will avoid ALL persons and places where people are using them or they are to be found.

3. I will avoid ALL ilicit sexual contact of ANY nature.

4. Stay out of the danger zone
This guy sounds about as fun as a pile of old dishrags. Putting aside all the absurd ramifications of basing one's moral choices on whatever happens to be legal or illegal at a particular time and place (2 & 3), this raises a serious issue about defense of self, country, or whatever: at what point does the measures one takes in the name of defense and minimization of risk ruin the value of that which one is trying to protect in the first place? Personally, I'm not about to follow #1, #2 isn't a big issue any more, I'm not sure about #4, but when it comes to #3 - considering oral sex, the enjoyment of pornography, and any kind of sexual activity besides the missionary position for married couples is technically illicit in many places in the US - no need for assailants, I'd kill myself first.

06-13-2003, 03:14 PM
Hi guys,

Thought I'd give my 2cents. Yes, I believe as well that 2 days does not make a martial master. Yes, there are some unscrupulous jerks (men and women) who take advantage of the fear in weaker people and sucker them with poor courses. Yes, I believe that to truly enable one's self to survive a fight/assault whathaveyou, it is an ongoing process of training and experience. Certainly, from a website or second hand account I couldn't judge the effectiveness of a class, but I think there is something important about the presence of these classes.

There is a difference between the gender norms amongst men and women. If a boy comes crying to his dad and says 'that boy hit me.' it is more likely that that dad (not every dad thank -insert deity here-) will send his son back to hit that kid back. If a little girl is hit, she is not encouraged to hit back. Traditionally (not in every case) girls are taught that fighting is detestable, and they should never do it, they are encouraged to be nice, nurturing, and in some cases passive.

Now, when forced into a violent situation, girls/women will respond (generally) in one of two ways. She will either give in and hope for the best, or she will see that you have caused her to resort to stepping outside of her 'lady-like' roll and fight like a banshee, no rules. Sadly, I have seen and heard mostly the former.

Women are also not well exposed to these situations and often have frighteningly bad advice. My grandmother used give me awful self-defense advice like 'if you get surprised by a stranger, just wet your pants, it will confuse them enough that you could run.' or 'carry a raw egg with you and throw it at them, then run.' along with the 'use your keys' stuff. I would always smile and thank her for the advice.

So what is the most important element of a class like this? I think it is a will to survive and get away. Any SD class worth its salt will spend a significant amount of time discussing avoidance and diffusion of a situation in addition to the physical stuff. Another important part is having a physical confrontation. In too many of these classes the assaulter plays dead too easily and does not give the woman a run for her money, that's where the false confidence comes in.

I once saw on television a program where they put women through a two week course and told them that some weeks after the class the women would be ambushed by a member of the training staff. I saw the videos of these women getting ambushed and they went banshee. I hope that the guys were giving them a run for their money.

The organization I've heard of most is BAMM (Bay Area Model Mugging), I've not been through the class, but I envy the model muggers their gear, it looks like it'd be fun to suit up and go at it.


I don't know anyone who's been through the class personally, I hear it's a good one.

:ai: :) :ai:

06-13-2003, 03:42 PM
My own bias on self-defense is strongly avoidance based.

Judo Coach Mark Tripp, suggests his Four Rules

1. I will not drink to excess and I will avoid ALL persons and places where people will be drinking to excess.

2. I will not use illegal drugs and I will avoid ALL persons and places where people are using them or they are to be found.

3. I will avoid ALL ilicit sexual contact of ANY nature.

4. Stay out of the danger zone I'd agree with these 4 rules from a woman's perspective.

Yes, it would be nice if a woman could go anywhere, wearing and acting however she wants, but reality illustrates that she is safer if she practices some common sense.

Rule 1: I might have a single drink if I am out, but not if I am out alone or with people I hardly know. I have had acquaintances who have been groped and worse while drunk in a crouded night-club.

Rule2: I don't use illegal drugs, but don't believe so much that some of those drugs are any worse than alcahol. However, if I am with friends and they are using, and one of us is assaulted, when the police come, they will not be so sympathetic to the group if drugs are present.

Rule3: Uh, I hope this is meant to say no ilicit sex with acquaintances, or in public, because the private stuff at home with a loved-one shouldn't affect law-enforcement judgement.

Rule4: Amen! There is a great book by Geoffry Canada called Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun that discusses various things about survival, but the most important is that people who train in martial arts or carry a weapon often foolishly put themselves in more dangerous situations because they feel that their fists/weapons act as a free pass.

okay 4 cents

:ai: :) :ai:

Mary Eastland
06-14-2003, 05:55 AM

If you are really interested in the subject of WSD there is a great book called "Her Wits About Her". It provides many examples about how women have defended themselves sucessfully using many different strategies.

Women have been defending themselves since the beginning of time. We would not be here if we had not developed ways to defend ourselves. Just because the way we defend ourselves may be diferent than men's ways doesn't mean that they don't work.

A small Japenese woman in my beginners Aikido class shyly raised her hand after I talked about the concept of ki. She wanted to affirm that ki is important. She said when she was a schoolgirl in Japan she had to take the train to school. Several times men would reach up under her skirt and grope her. She told her mother about what was happening. Her mother told her it was her fault because her dress was so short.

One of the other girls told her about getting a hat pin and how to use if a man groped her on the train. She got her hat pin and made the decision to use it if she needed to. She said after she made that decision she was never groped again. She attributed this to the fact that she made the decision.

I am glad I train at a dojo where the head instuctor is open to the fact that women can get strong.


Mary Eastland

Berkshire Hills Aikido

Everywoman's Self Defense

06-14-2003, 12:24 PM

Women have been defending themselves since the beginning of time. We would not be here if we had not developed ways to defend ourselves. Just because the way we defend ourselves may be diferent than men's ways doesn't mean that they don't work.
Sure I agree, having one's witts can get one out of quite a few situations. I was once talking with a cop from the Oakland Police Department and he told me of an elderly woman being in a bad part of East Oakland, waiting for a bus at night, and spotting this young man across the street. He was nervously pacing back and forth, looking at her, then around, then back at her. She was sure he was going to cross and mug her. Eventually he started to make a bee-line for her. Once he was weithin a few feet, she gently smiled and said "Don't your mother and I go to the same church?" and it disoriented him. He said "uh, I don't know, maybe." and walked away.

I think though, it should be said that there is no fail safe way to defend one's self. Witts, will, practice, skill and such can be good preparation and meditation, but if we get too obsessed with it, we lose our sense of peace.

:ai: :) :ai:

Lyle Bogin
06-18-2003, 12:15 PM
I find those four rules by that Judo Gentleman to be dehumanizing.

It's sounds to me like he has removed the choice of measured risk taking.

06-19-2003, 01:18 AM
I find those four rules by that Judo Gentleman to be dehumanizing.

It's sounds to me like he has removed the choice of measured risk taking.
Hi Lyle :)

I'd agree, but I think that's the point. There are some people who have a solid understanding of the risk they are taking and take chances with 'eyes open' as it were.

There are some who live less consciously and find themselves in circumstances which are far beyond their ability to navigate.

Still there are others who live by 'shoulds'.

One form of the 'should' people is the 'I should be able to go anywhere/do what I want.' person. Though I agree that we could strive for a community which allows for such, there are places in both San Francisco and Oakland where I would not go at night, alone, drunk, or whathaveyou.

Passing on rules-of-thumb for those who live less consciously isn't such a bad idea. For them, it's another way to C_Y_A.

:ai: :) :ai:

06-19-2003, 03:49 AM
I think this thread highlights the fact that womens selfdefence is, on the whole, different from mens in that men are usually challanged for status or to defend something/someone, whereas for women it is either mugging or rape. Although women generally fear attack more, men are more likely to be attacked; however the psychological repercusions may be worse for women.

Any self-defence class has to teach simple things that can be learnt quickly and retained well (since many people will then give it up).

Although false belief in mysterious techniques (esp. pain related ones) I believe is very dangerous, I think confidence in the face of danger is a prerequisite for self-defence. Also important is awareness and an understanding of common self defence situations. Many altercations can be prevented through confident yet controlled responses to a threat. Unfortuantely I think many self defence classes fail to focus on these (possibly because of the martial arts origins, which served a different purpose).

In sudden attacks I think intuitive body movement is the only way to survive/avoid it. Unfortunately this usually means there is no easy fix and constant training is required.

Reasons I think aikido is applicable as a basis for self-defence compared to other martial arts:

1. it does not require a pre-emptive violent or negative response, and therefore it gives the practitioner calm confidence in any altercation which may avoide subsequent physcial aggression.

2. it is non-competitive. Since everyone has different physical abilities, it can aim to maximise an individuals self-defence capability rather than assess who is the better fighter.

3. its philosophy helps you to emphathise with others. Psychologically projected hate can stimulate a negative reaction (e.g. if you scowl at a drunk person they may hit you)

4. it trains in instantaneous reaction

Personally I also believe there should be some discussion of after effects from attacks. Many people are psychologically scared from even minor attacks (in fact some studies have shown that women who were brutally beaten during rapes fared better psychologically than those who were not harmed - possibly because those who were not harmed felt guilty 'for letting it happen'.) From personal experience, I think the hate that someone projects towards you during an attack is far worse than the physical damage (in many cases at least!)