Is personal defence gender specific issue?
Take a search through the Internet and you'll find a whole raft of information on personal defence. One popular area for apparent differentiation is made by gender, with personal defence classes/courses for women being a common offering. The question is however, can a physical attack ever be considered to be truly gender specific? Moreover are the approaches we use to defend ourselves different of you're a female or male?
#1. Physical attacks are the same
Aside the obvious anatomical differences between male and females, we are all broadly similar animals. We only have only two arms and two legs. This is immutable fact. We move in similar ways and physically express ourselves in similar ways. With this in mind, there is can be no specific difference in a punch, kick or grab thrown towards a female or male target. There is no gender difference in the effective technical ranges or physical techniques available. When standing, kneeling, sitting or ground FIGHTING a female human has the same defensive techniques available to her, as compared to a male human. Additionally, the method of attack is not defined by gender, it is defined by opportunity, intention, environment and size. A truly functional approach to personal defence must therefore account these individual physical and environmental factors, which are consistent for all demographic groups.
#2. Awareness, alertness, avoidance, escape and de-escalation are not gender determined strategies.
Being aware, alert and understanding the potential threats and environmental dangers is equally possible and relevant to females and males. The principle strategies for all individual personal defence will always remain avoidance and escape. There's no gender preference existent in the fact that if you identify a potential issue, before it becomes an issue, then you are more able to assess it, decide and act to avoid it altogether.
#3. Motivation for attack varies, intention to defend is consistent. It's entirely the case that statistics suggest a gender difference between types of physical assault. Females, for example, are 5 times more likely to be victims sexual assault as compared to men.(source: Crime Survey for England and Wales 2017 ONS) However regardless of motivation of the attacker (s), the physical methods of approach (diversion, distraction and deception) and attack are likely to be broadly consistent (for example, an aggressive grab is an aggressive grab regardless of the ultimate motivation). The requirement for a functional personal defence response is therefore consistent regardless of the motivation of the attacker. The individual need to rapidly assess, decide on action and action that decision to the best of your capability is the same in all incidents.
Note concerning multiple attackers: The same report detailed that 74% of all recorded violent crime was perpetrated by a sole individual, with the remaining 26% involving incidents involving multiple attackers. For incidents with more than one perpetrator, victims most commonly reported that 4 or more attackers were present(11%), with the next highest group involving 2 attackers (10%) . The highest incidence of reported attacks by multiple attackers was in regards to stranger attacks (43%) where the victims had no previous relationship with their attackers. (source: Crime Survey for England and Wales 2017 ONS)
A functional personal defence programme MUST take into account the potential presence of additional attackers and provide responses appropriately.
#4. Individual differences matter not gender differences. In the determination of a functional physical response, gender is not the consideration. There are tall women, there are small men, the issue of physical size and strength is not gender specific, it's individual. Sure its possible to draw generalised physical differences, but these are general, many exceptions therefore exist. Size and weight of the attacker has to be a consideration in the assessment process. This is the same for males and females. Equally the primary physical defensive responses required (primary targets) remain constant - eyes or throat. Primary physical defensive responses should be reflexive, simple, direct and fully intended. This factor remains consistent for all individuals and is not gender exclusive, Clearly we need to understand our own physical strengths and limitations. The fundamental point is that this is the same issue for all people, it's not defined or necessitated by gender.
Often the phrase 'women's personal defence' is used as marketing strategy. Its use is directly related to the sale of a course or object. There's maybe an argument for the provision of a ladies only personal defence classes (in the same way as ladies only swimming boxing or fitness sessions, to accommodate the more reclusive, less confident members of this demographic group) the content of these sessions should be no different to any other. The provision of a variant programme with physical responses exclusive for females is however misguided and potentially belies an ignorance towards what functional personal defence actually involves. Whilst it is the case that the presence of a physical response is good and knowledge is power, it is also the case that an inappropriate physical response could be more detrimental than it is useful. A truly functional personal defence programme is a set of principles and responses which are flexible and adaptable enough so as to fit for all and retain their effect. Our approach and personal defence method is fundamentally founded from this basic principle.