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updated on: November 23 2018

Empowering Women Through Martial Arts Training

Written by Genevieve Heineman

Notwithstanding the progress made by #metoo, a new ruling which allows people in Ontario accused of rape or sexual assault to once again use excessive intoxication as a criminal defense has set the movement back by decades. It is clear that self protection for women is more vital than ever and that ...

Martial arts training is the key to female empowerment.

Superior Court Justice Nancy Spies' found that a federal law preventing the intoxication defense was unconstitutional. This is a clear example of how in many cases of violence against women, the law protects the perpetrator and not the victim.

According to Amanda Dale, executive director of the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, "If women needed any other reason not to turn to the law to protect them, this will surely send that message..."

A study done by the National Institute of Justice in the US showed that “Most self-protective actions significantly reduce the risk that a rape will be completed. In particular, certain actions reduce the risk of rape more than 80 percent compared to nonresistance.”

There are plenty of statistics that show violence against women including domestic violence, rape and sexual assault in Canada continue to be a major problem.

The question is what can we do about it?

Women have long been taught not to resist an attack alleging it will provoke the assailant to greater levels of violence. We’ve been told to rely on the police, good Samaritans or seek protection from the men in our lives. For many women that’s not an option considering in many cases the perpetrator is their own spouse or partner.

We also hear a lot of talk lately about how men should be taught not to rape. That’s simply unrealistic especially with this new ruling. It’s true that our culture needs to correct the power imbalance between genders, do away with patriarchal entitlement and address the lack of respect for female bodies, but more importantly and more realistically women need to empower themselves. Not just financially as is the prevalent theme of many pop songs but most importantly on a basic physical level.

Women are capable of much more than we’re taught to believe about ourselves. We are strong and we can fight back. I’m not talking about woman on reality shows throwing drinks in each others’ faces and scrapping over petty disputes. I’m talking about understanding how to use leverage, how to find and exploit an attacker’s weaknesses and to use to use size as an advantage.

Women need to be smart about how we use our bodies. Going to the gym and working out to look good in jeans is great, but understanding the mechanics of human anatomy and how to use them will not only help you look good in jeans, but it could save her life.

According to Dr. Jill Cermele of Appalachian State University, “Self-defense offers women an option for risk reduction and maintaining their safety in ways that increase their freedom to the world, rather than limiting their freedom and options the way that relying on avoidance strategies and male protection does.”

With self defense training women become more assertive and courageous. They don’t feel obligated to say yes to a man when their gut tells them “NO!”. They are more in tune with their intuition, more confident and no longer feel the need for male approval.

Kung fu and other types of self defense training teach women the “skills that facilitate the setting of healthy emotional and physical boundaries. Self-defense is empowering, and can change women’s beliefs about what they are capable of and what they are entitled to” -Dr. Jill Cermele

Women put themselves in vulnerable positions when their self esteem is low.

I first joined Bamboo Kung Fu after emerging from a deep depression that left me feeling powerless. I had been in an emotionally and potentially physically abusive relationship with a man who threatened me, punched holes in walls and threw all of my belongings into the building hallway.

I never knew what would set him off and I was constantly walking around on eggshells, monitoring what I did and said for fear of making him angry. I blamed myself for many of these episodes and felt like I probably deserved it. After he threw me out for the second time I finally left and never went back.

I was starting over and working out and was part of my recovery process. Initially I thought my reason for beginning kung fu training was simply to improve my physical health. But after practicing for a year and a half, I realized that I was led to martial arts training out of a deeper internal need for personal security and inherent safety.

Growing up as a female in a world where the possibility of being harmed by a so called loved one is a fact of life, my kung fu training has become a source of great empowerment. Bamboo Kung fu has changed me from the inside out. I have rediscovered my true self and the confident woman who was buried under the layers of self doubt has re-emerged.

I now understand my own power and I will never allow myself to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t treat me the way I deserve to be treated, with the utmost respect and love.

When people watch films showing female martial artists like Wing Chun fighting off bullies and standing up to sexual harassment, it inspires, lifts the spirit, and raises the consciousness of everyone who sees them.

We need to bring that message from the big screen and apply it to real life.

That is how we end rape culture.

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