View Full Version : Self Defense and Self Esteem

Please visit our sponsor:

11-30-2005, 11:15 PM
Here's an interesting article which briefly mentions aikido that reports, "Learning self-defense skills benefits women in ways that extend beyond discovering how to protect themselves. It also boosts their self- esteem and positively affects their personality, according to a new University of Washington study."


The primary investigator of the study says, "Skills are important, but so is the perception that you have the skills to take care of yourself. What may be the most valuable lesson these women learned is not the expertise they picked up -- like how to break a choke hold or kick someone in the knee -- but the knowledge that they have the skills to keep a situation from escalating into violence and, if necessary, protect themselves."


-- Jun

12-01-2005, 01:40 AM
Good article. I don't think there's any secret to the thinking that a person who displays an attitude of quiet confidence (not to be confused with a boastful or arrogant one) is less attractive to a would-be attacker. It reaches perceptions on many levels, some of which are not even fully understood, such as body language, the tone of eye contact, the aura, and (some say) the scent. A bit weird, but interesting.

Nick Simpson
12-01-2005, 01:48 AM
Confidence go's a long way.

12-01-2005, 01:55 AM
The founder said, aikido is not about technique, it is a study of the spirit - or something to that effect. I think what that means is that the study of aikido or any martial art for that matter should engender the mental and spiritual composure to not be in a situation where your physical skills have to be called into play. Use of technique in a self-defense situation should always be used as a last resort.

People like Marc MacYoung have been saying this for donkey's years...

12-01-2005, 03:45 AM

I think that there may be a boost in self-esteem to be had from many different activities. I've known a few people who seem to have gained confidence from rock-climbing, for example.

Taking a self defence class for the first time is a bit daunting for a woman (or man) lacking in confidence, and I wonder if the confidence boost is more due to the process of overcoming that trepidation, taking the plunge and enjoying it than it is to the activity itself.

This leads me to think that the "self defence" aspect of taking self defence classes may be somewhat over stated as the cause of this boost in self-esteem. It could be that learning *any* skills would have similar results, as long as there is that process of a person achieving something they weren't sure they could do. (Which may be merely attending the classes, let alone learing the skills.)

I hope thats the case anyway, because for most people who've attended a short self-defence class, the feeling that they're now able to defend themselves is somewhat illusory.


Mark Uttech
12-01-2005, 04:15 AM
Before I started Aikido, I used to despair of all the day in day out tales of rampant violence in the news. Now I continue to despair, but not out of a sense of helplessness, or hopelessness. Even growing older does not carry the fearfulness it once did. In Aikido, there is no male, no female. The practice of Aikido takes one on a journey that is true. It is much like the poem that goes:
"She moved in circles, and the circles moved..."
In gassho

12-01-2005, 04:15 AM
The article does seem to reflect that 'Self Defence' is far more than a physical matter. After all who among us, even if we were so inclined, would even try to hit someone we believed would give us a well deserved smack in the mouth. I know i wouldn't.

12-01-2005, 09:23 AM
People like Marc MacYoung have been saying this for donkey's years...
Gotta agree with the Animal here, and usually do.

Some one once said is wasn't how big the dog is in the fight, but how big the fight is in the dog.

This support that our ability to learn and do is related to our beliefs about ourselves, not just the technique and task at hand.

12-01-2005, 09:37 AM
I once took a 6 hr self-defense class offered here at work. It had been established to address concerns of staff working - and going back to their cars at night - in a Civic Center area. There had been a couple of assults and people were a bit rattled. I was about one year back into aikido at the time. Quite frankly, it was exhilerating - the only time I've made real contact with someone in aikido, it resulted in a big red welt on his head, and me feeling absolutely terrible about it. This time, I could safely pound away a big guys all padded up. The biggest change over those 6 hours was that in the beginnning, all participants (incl yours truly) expressed doubt whether they could dig their thumbs into someone's eyeballs. At end of class, no problem (with the padded heads, at least). For some reason, overcoming that (going all out in defending yourself with no regard for your opponent - how un-aikido) felt really great.
One thing was weird, though - they were showing us how to kick to knees, groins etc., and at first it was kind of fun. But after a while, I really wanted to explore other options... At one point, the guy had me at both wrists, and my entire being was going "Tenchinage! Tenchinage!" - but being a "good" martial arts student, I thought "well, that's not what we're training, so let's kick the guy". It felt wrong, though. I hope the same hesitation does not happen should I ever need any of those skills outside the dojo.
The instructor showed us how to defend against knife attacks, and it looked a lot like aikido. I know I got one guy with a sumiotoshi-like move - but then of course, they were fairly easy to throw off balance with all that padding on... Oddly, as the class progressed, it became much easier to engage physically than trying to talk your opponent down (which often would be the preferred approach for women). Setting up a mental/verbal defense seemed a lot harder...
Anyway, all participants felt great and really thought that the class was well worth it - they definitely strutted out of there, and not in an obnoxious or challenging way.
I think the big difference between self-defense classes and learning how to shoot a gun is that in the classes, you actually deal with real live people touching you and pushing all your buttons- they are not just an abstract target far away. Hence you must deal with a series of other emotions and reactions than if you're just aiming a gun. I never learned to shoot, so I don't really know what it does for you. Perhaps someone here can enlighten me?
What has given me the most confidence in aikido is learning how to roll. It was what got me hooked originally, and learning it was a very real accomplishment. In my old dojo we never used to practice randori, but in this one we do quite frequently. At first, I thought "ooh, that's too advanced for little me, oh no", but when I tried it, the fear went away completely. It's still overwhelming at times, but that's the real challenge.

12-01-2005, 09:49 AM
On another note I love the phrase

"It isn't how big the dog is in the fight, but how big the fight is in the dog." - It's a very popular S Wales saying.

I'll bet on the dog aganst the talented any dayof the week.

John Boswell
12-01-2005, 09:59 AM
Learning self-defense skills benefits women in ways that extend beyond discovering how to protect themselves. It also boosts their self- esteem and positively affects their personality

Self-esteem for women is a very important subject. My wife and I discuss this quite often. It seems the world is constantly attacking women's self esteem and it keeps the defensive a lot of the time. Simple things like magazine covers and ads, commercials, store displays, everyday products... all put out a specific image of women that, in turn, they try or desire to match and live up to. And should they fail to look like a supermodel (or whoever it is they admire) then their self-esteem takes a hit.

For each time your self-esteem takes a hit, you are that much more vulverable to attack: physical, psychological, spiritual... whatever the case may be.

Bringing up the fact that "Self Defense" classes are good confidence boosters is a very valid point and should a prime directive of the class! Criminals are cowards and are acting out in order to feel more in control or in power. When confronted with two women... one looking you in the eye, and the other looking away, who would you feel you could take in a fight?

If a boost in self esteem is all that is gotten from self defense classes, then that class was not in vein. Just in my own training, my wife's confidence has come up because she feels safer with me, she's learned things through observation, and she knows she's not alone in the world with no one coming to her aid. Even if I am not around at the moment, she knows I'm a phone call away and she knows I would support her in doing whatever she must to protect herself.

(I'm dragging on, but I'll try to wrap up soon... :D )

When I first met my wife, and we were in the initial stages of dating, she was totally defensive and very back-offish. Head down, hurry get in the car and lock the doors, she wasn't aware of her surroundings. Nowadays... she's got her head up, she sees things, she's learned from me to take notice, be bold, park where everyone can see you, look for lighted areas, etc. Not to say she was ignorant before, but she's definitly more confident. Makes all the difference.

Men AND Women could benefit from a boost in their self-esteem... everyday in everyway, if you can make someone more confident, you are granting them power which will help them out in life and creates one less victim. Getting them into class... arms them with the tools needed to back it up, of course... but every little bit helps.

Okay, I'm done babbling... ;)

12-01-2005, 10:00 AM
I had to give an unexpected scientific talk recently--about 40 minutes' warning. I griped about this to the sensei of the dojo where I visited that night. He laughed and pointed to one of his larger students. "If you can stand calmly while this guy tries to slug you, a scientific talk should be no problem." I think there's a lot of truth to this.

Visiting different dojo has been a particularly strong confidence builder for me. At my home dojo I know the other students and what to expect from them, I have no hangups about whether I'm welcome there, and so only the occasional class is really scary. Visiting a strange dojo is *always* scary. Will they resent my presence, will they throw me into falls I can't handle, will I make a fool of myself because of the style difference? So far none of this has happened (well, a few bruises) but I still feel some fear each time. So I get lots of practice launching myself into a scary situation. It's got to get easier over time.

I also remember the time the senior instructors stepped off the mat during a break and left me with eleven kids ages 6 to 12, impatient for lunch and full of energy. I always wondered if I could cope with little-boy energy as a parent (don't have children yet) but this and similar experiences have gone a long way toward convincing me that I can. (Also that I am not cut out to have eleven children!)

I don't think that one has to learn full-fledged self defense skills in order to feel a justifiable increase in confidence. Any experience in handling scary situations is going to lead to better performance next time one comes around. My earthquake-response team coordinator says, "In an emergency rational thought goes out the window. That's why we train." I know that in my first try at randori rational thought went *right* out the window, and that it's improving over time. This is probably more generally useful than the improvement in technique.

Mary Kaye

12-01-2005, 11:51 AM
I always wondered if I could cope with little-boy energy as a parent (don't have children yet) but this and similar experiences have gone a long way toward convincing me that I can. (Also that I am not cut out to have eleven children!)
Not many people are... One thing's for sure... By the time #11 dropped, you would certainly have learned how to "keep one point". ;)