Self defence courses for women who've dealt with violence

Discussion in 'Beginners Corner' started by LeanneR, Jul 6, 2016.

  1. LeanneR

    LeanneR White Belt

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    Does anyone have information about self defence classes aimed at women who have been through a violent experience in the past? I'm looking for something local where I live, in Western Canada. Eg a course that is taught by a trainer with background and training in trauma recovery; or at least someone who stays calm and doesn't make a big deal of it if a student got upset or overreacted to practising a move or something.

    If I just pick any course, I might pay a lot of money for it and then end up walking out in the first 5 minutes if it's too difficult for me to handle emotionally.

    Thanks!
    Leanne
     
  2. MAfreak

    MAfreak Purple Belt

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    typically clubs and schools offer free trying lessons.
    instructors also should typically can deal with such students, at least when you talk to them and explain the situation.
    you could also ask them of their education and experience in this what is often also listed on the clubs or schools homepages.
     
  3. oftheherd1

    oftheherd1 Senior Master

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    You might also want to look for Rape Counseling services to see if any of them know of any courses, or maybe can help you overcome some of the trauma and the reactions to it. I think if you or anyone else can't get over that trauma, or at least learn to control it, no course will be of value. You might learn some really good things to do, but be unable to use them because the memories of the experience will re-traumatize you and make you freeze up.
     
  4. Steve

    Steve Mostly Harmless

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    Canada is a big place but there are organizations that specifically focus On women's self defense. Wen Do is one.

    Home
     
  5. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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  6. LeanneR

    LeanneR White Belt

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    Thanks folks for all the replies - that's very helpful. I will look up Wen Do, Safe International and local rape support groups to see if they provide or can recommend a course. Not sure about schools, since I'm an adult? And "clubs" is a bit vague. There seem to be some martial arts available locally but I don't know which martial arts groups are best for my particular situation. Thanks MAfreak for the advice that a group might offer a free first lesson - I will ask folks if that's available. Or even just to watch a class first, so I can decide if the instructor has the kind of personality that I'm looking for.
    oftheherd1, I have been doing counselling already (but not locally) so I'm moving towards getting past the "trauma and reaction to it" stage. Doing self defence training is one of the next steps in my healing. I think it will be hard to do (because it will likely trigger memories), but I think it will be good for me. You are right that there is a possibility of freezing up, but I'm also concerned about the possibility that I might overreact and hurt someone. Eg if I misunderstood that someone was threatening me, or during a practise session if I went into panic mode. I'm very good at running away. I need to get better at feeling safe in a larger range of situations.
    FYI what happened was that I was drugged and kidnapped by a man, and then taken into the woods where I was raped and choked unconscious repeatedly over several hours, until I nearly died. It happened a long time ago, but I didn't deal with or process the experience in any way at that time, so I've been doing all the healing in the last few years. I believe that doing self defence training now will help me feel safer and hence I won't run away from situations as much. I've never been able to feel easy for long when alone with 1 man, which puts a crimp in my ability to settle down and get married lol. Since the self defence training is another emotional hurdle for me to work through, it would help if I start with an instructor who stays very calm and doesn't freak out about my story or make a big deal of it if I get stressed out during the class.
    So, if anyone knows a "guru" of self defence or martial arts instructors (in Western Canada) please let me know. By guru, I mean someone who's very chilled out and doesn't get stressed about pretty much anything.
    Thanks again folks for your kind advice.
     
  7. Flatfish

    Flatfish Black Belt

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    Sorry to hear this happened to you. I can't really help you with your question but I wanted to wish you best of luck in your search.
     
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  8. LeanneR

    LeanneR White Belt

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    Thanks!
     
  9. oftheherd1

    oftheherd1 Senior Master

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    Yes, I see your concerns. You do need to find a teacher you can confide in, and hopefully help in some way. If you get into a martial art class, you may have more men that women, and they will sometimes act toward you in aggressive ways. It is what we do in martial arts, as a way of preparing ourselves to deal with imminent violence. You are going to have to accommodate yourself to that type of action. A certain amount of aggression back is OK. Freaking out over it would not be good for yourself, and not for your training partner. If you can talk about it with strangers as you have here, I have hope that you can indeed overcome your trauma and any possible negative reactions. But I don't know you or how you would react, so I do recommend going slow at first, and with full knowledge of you teacher. I think that will be key, finding a good teacher for yourself.

    I also don't doubt that studying a martial art can be healing for you as long as it is channeled properly. Hopefully you will gain ability and confidence to the point where the memory of what happened won't haunt you to the point it does now. Has your counseling included sessions with other trauma victims, especially rape victims. Sometimes it helps to hear others' stories and what has helped them. You might also look for any councilors who specialize in PTSD if you haven't already done so.
     
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  10. Buka

    Buka Sr. Grandmaster

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    Welcome to MartialTalk, Leanne. Glad to have you here.

    You are a survivor, and I applaud you. I'm so sorry for what happened to you, but you are a survivor and are taking positive steps going forward. That's great and shows such courage.

    What do you have around you for training, you know, within a reasonable distance? We could take a look and maybe offer some better advice.
     
  11. aedrasteia

    aedrasteia Purple Belt

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    Hi Leanne,

    Here are 2 contacts in Canada (both in Ontario). I can absolutely vouch for the organization they are part of:
    the National Women's Martial Arts federation. National Women's Martial Arts Federation - Home

    INSTRUCTORS OUTSIDE THE US Canada
    Janet Heffernan Sally Datars
    • Patricia Anderson-Fievoli
      Waterloo Kung-Fu Academy
      620 Davenport Road
      Waterloo, ON N2V 2C2
      Telephone: 1.519.574.7646
      patricia.af@rogers.com
    Please contact them for information about instructors in your region of Canada. They will know.

    * Please go here: National Women's Martial Arts Federation - Certification Requirements
    This page describes our requirements for our instructors; you can see what is necessary for instructors
    to know and be able to do.

    * This page: National Women's Martial Arts Federation - SD Instructor Core Competencies describes the competen requirements.
    NWMAF instructors must demonstrate and be able to effectively _teach_ these to girls/women before certification.

    * This page describes the approach of SD4W we have developed. We never had to add or modify the existing form of SD4W we developed because we've always understood that any group of women/girls will have survivors of abuse and sexual assault in it. Some disclose their past experiences to others, some do not. All are respected and the curriculum, skills and techniques, teaching methods, activities and exercises, 'homework' and discussions are all built around that understanding. All of us have had past experiences that influence our teaching styles and content.

    Please go to other posts I have contributed in the past to see my approach. I am a long-time SD4W instructor and have worked directly with survivors like yourself. I'm so glad you are taking this next step. Are you still in touch with the counselor you've seen? I've found that its a good idea to keep in contact with the counselor to talk about your experiences. I have a great deal of material for you or them if that would be useful. I'll be posting some of that in this thread because I think it might be good for everyone on MT to understand more about working with survivors. My approach is that we all should consider doing this _only_ after extensive and additional learning, training and education beyond any martial arts.

    Please send me PM (private message) if you have any more personal issues to talk about. I'm looking forward to hearing from you.
    with respect/ A
     
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  12. Paul_D

    Paul_D Master Black Belt

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    Learning to spot the warning sings of a potentially abusive relationship might go a long way to keeping you safe.
     
  13. aedrasteia

    aedrasteia Purple Belt

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    oftheherd1 - thanks for your good, seensible comments

    This is an excellent discussion of self defense and survivors of assault.

    Neurobiology, sexual trauma, and Empowerment Self-Defense: Research Paper - Lynne Marie Wanamaker

    For instructors like myself, this expands on and explains what I've learned 'on the job' over 30 years.
    Before Martial Arts teachers decide to do 'self-defense for women', I believe they must be just as knowledgeable
    and competent about sexual assault, trauma, survivors experiences and learning/teaching skills as they are
    in their martial art. There's no shortcuts.

    w/respect A
     
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  14. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    One thing that I have found to be very, very useful in my Women's Self-Defense Seminars is the use of suit that allows participants to go all out utilizing the techniques they have trained on.

    We utilize the Predator Suit:
    [​IMG]

    Note the woman utilizing this firearm disarm is an advanced practitioner and this was shot from a Scenario Based Training Intensive. (I do not teach firearm disarms in a short Women's Self Defense Class}
     

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  15. LeanneR

    LeanneR White Belt

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    Wow, thanks guys for all the useful advice and kind feedback. You guys are very nice - I'm glad I asked here.
    Thanks oftheherd1, your comments make sense. Regarding your question about group counselling, I have done some but only with a very general group, not aimed specifically at rape or violent experiences (and I didn't do this in Canada). It's been hard for me to let go of control in terms of processing this experience, so I've been wary of group settings where the subject matter and conversations are tightly controlled.
    Thanks Buka - I live in Calgary, Alberta. My google search of "self defense for women calgary" found womenscentrecalgary.ca who I emailed yesterday (they haven't replied yet), fightwize.com who sound great but I've tried to contact them a year ago, and again recently, with no success, Studios Group Martial Arts Calgary, Street Effective Hapkido Women's Self Defense, www.streetsensesafety.ca, Self Defense Courses in Calgary (who I think are the same fightwize group who I haven't succeeded in contacting so they may not be active anymore), and Self-defense YMCA Calgary (whose website doesn't show any calendar or listing of self defence programs). As I said, it's pretty confusing for a newbie to decide which all options I should consider. Ideally I'd like 3 or 4 I could attend (for free, just to watch) to decide which one seems right for me.
    PaulD that makes sense for many folks, although in my case I run a million miles away from very safe relationships, so I don't think I'm at much risk of an abusive relationship lol.
    Aedrasteia, thanks heaps, I'll look up these links you sent, and I'll send you a PM (if I can figure out how lol). And (speaking as the student here) I agree with you that it would be helpful if martial arts teachers who plan to teach self defence to women, also get themselves a bit of training in the emotional side of healing from trauma.
     
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  16. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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  17. LeanneR

    LeanneR White Belt

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    Thanks folks! I'm out of town next 3 days (to climb a mountain); I will check back into this forum when I get back next week. Can someone tell me how to send a PM? It doesn't seem to be like meetup where you click on someone's name. Thanks!
     
  18. Monkey Turned Wolf

    Monkey Turned Wolf MT Moderator Staff Member

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    After you click on their name, click the "start a conversation" button.
     
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  19. Brian King

    Brian King Master of Arts

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    Hello Leanne,

    No matter which martial art you end up exploring there are many things that you can do to get all you can from the training to help further your recovery. Many arts well give you the opportunity to experience firsthand various interesting methods of exploration and understanding even if they do not literally cover them during practice.

    For example, some study of Somatic practices – (of or relating to the body, especially as distinct from the mind. Greek word that literally means “the living body is its wholeness”), neurobiology – the biology of the nervous system and phenomenology the study of subjective experience, any of which can completely change the perspective and results of your training, no matter the specific style.

    Even the most ‘mundane’ physical practices can prove very cathartic and provide quiet time from negative self-talk and also a means of accessing and experiencing raw emotion safely. The very act of practicing and moving will give you deeper and fuller understanding well beyond academic knowledge of physiological responses. Many successful therapeutic methods can be added to your own training with just a shift of perspective, purpose, and intention. “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”-Goethe

    That said, it would still be a really good idea to talk to your prospective instructor about your fears of hyper-arousal, intrusions, and break downs. An aware instructor will notice and your coming forward will speed up clarity in your training and help you define purpose moving forward.

    Martial training can provide many benefits. One of the first can be feeling secure in awareness of one’s own sensations. This is huge and cannot be overstated. Another often unsaid benefit is that the training can help mature personality and generate positive emotional states and responses and control negative states and responses. This can be learned, practiced, and managed.

    Depending on the instruction, you will learn how breathing can be a bridge between the various body systems (especially the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems) and as a tool to help deal with acute, chronic and repetitive stress, both of which can be important means to a more productive and satisfying life. For many in the art that I study (Systema), focusing on this type of work is major area of exploration.

    Breaking down (either escaping an intrusion by shutting down attention and awareness or uncontrolled crying due to a trigger response, over-reacting, fleeing, all are opportunities to practice recognizing and dealing with ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ responses. This is great for you and really, where better to practice than a martial arts school with trusted peers and instructors? This can also greatly benefit your fellow students and instructors as they learn to recognize, emphasize, and deal with the ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ responses in others. A good program will understand this and will be well able to help you learn to control these type of responses. Over-reacting (as long as not with a fellow new student) should not be a problem for senior students to safely deal with. If the student has enough experience they will see it coming and deal with it mitigating the reaction. Your instructor should be able to team you up with the proper students. And again, what better place to learn to deal with this than a martial arts school? The perspective any student should cultivate is that no problem ever comes that does not have teaching in it, that cannot contribute to the students and the programs growth. That problems should be seen as an opportunity not a ‘failure’.

    Do not overly concern yourself with worry, Leanne. Every student walking through the door has their own baggage and concerns that they are dealing with. At a good school, students soon learn that they are there to help both themselves and their training partners learn. Students working and growing together help to reinforce the primacy of good healthy relationships.

    Picking your school; Interview your perspective instructors, pay attention to your ‘gut feelings’ while talking to the instructor. Talk over your concerns – they are valid. Be greedy for answers – meaning if you are not sure what they mean or do not understand what exactly they are saying – ask for clarification. If the instructor minds or is impatient, that also provides you with feedback. Watch how the students interact with each other and the instructors. The school should be near enough that you will actually go to it.

    There is Systema school in your town and although I do not personally know the instructor I would encourage you to research the school as a possibility for the training that you are seeking.

    Please think about continuing to read and posting to our forum. I do not need to be the one to tell you that you have hard won experiences, your courage and honesty can be an inspiration for many. We all have history, experiences, and needs. These make up our ‘stories’ – and all of our combined ‘stories’ and the willingness to share, explore, and learn is what makes Martial Talk a worthy place to visit.

    Regards
    Brian King
     
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  20. RMShilpi

    RMShilpi White Belt

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    I'm not an expert in martial arts at all, but I do have some experience with trauma and sexual assault counseling, so I've got some suggestions from that angle. (I'm extrapolating from sexual assault support on university campuses, and a ton of reading on McDojos; if any of this is grossly incorrect, let me and the OP know loud and clear.)

    First and foremost, if you pursue Asian styles, you'll at the very least dodge the teachers most likely to cause trouble by following those "how to spot/avoid a McDojo" guides. McDojos are largely run by teachers who see themselves as superior beings to everyone else and who demand conformity or obedience - either way, not an environment conducive to healing. Seriously, a lot of the 'red flags' of McDojo instructors are basically the professional versions of toxic relationship red flags. i.e. Obedience, isolation (preventing a partner from seeing friends and family vs preventing students from cross-training), fear/"respect" (your partner making you 'respect' them without giving you any in return vs McDojo masters demanding respect and worship), controlling behavior, limiting resources and knowledge, etc.

    Once you're certain you're not dealing with a McDojo, talk to the instructor and ask if they have any experience with students who have PTSD or other forms of trauma. If they do, then ask if they can put you in touch with those students. (I'd be wary if the instructor openly gives you their names or information. Rather, they should ask for information to pass on to those students in question, to preserve privacy. That said, if they do just give you their names upon request, it's an orange flag, not a red one.)

    If they do not, explain your situation with as much detail as you feel comfortable with...and ask to sit in on a few classes, especially beginner ones, and to speak to other students. If the instructor refuses, walk away. A decent dojo should be willing to at least let you sit in on a few classes, if not even take a trial class or two. Talk to the students to ask what the instructor is like, if they're the kind who overreacts a lot or if they're generally pretty chill.

    It also might not be a bad idea to look for a place with a lot of female students or teachers. That way, you can ask your instructor to predominantly pair you up with women to minimize the likelihood of being triggered.

    Also, if the facility doesn't have a multi-stall bathroom, ask if there is somewhere quiet you can go if you do panic and need some time to collect yourself. (I bring this up because I know some universities have single bathrooms per lab, and getting to a less-frequented one means going clear across the building or to another one entirely). A panic attack or flashback can take some time to recover from, but if people are waiting in line to use the bathroom, then you may end up feeling pressured to recover, which will backfire and slow you down and create a downward spiral that makes recovery difficult, if not impossible. It's better to have something like an alcove, office, closet, etc. you can go to, a place where you aren't going to be pressured to 'get out' as fast as possible.

    If you have somewhere quiet, then you create for yourself the opportunity to panic, recover, and get back into what you were doing. Panicking and needing to leave can end up reinforcing the feeling or making it difficult to come back, but if you can return in the same lesson - even if it's just for the last minute or two - you'll feel much better. You'll be more likely to return for the next lesson, and over time, even less likely to panic in the first place.

    Stay strong,
    -Mia123
     
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