In the current climate of negative media coverage and attention towards Muslims and Islam and the targeting of Muslims via governments with legislation and policy, it has created Islamaphobia, particularly in the west. Especially against overtly looking Muslim women that don the hijab (head scarf) Niqab (face veil) and Islamic attire because we are the weaker more overt subject. Self defence has been brought up with people saying that women should now learn it so they can defend themselves if they are attacked, this is due to the rising number of physical attacks on women.
It is scary the number of attacks that have been happening on women by mainly males, white males at that. This is extremely psychologically damaging, in a lot of cases more than an attack itself is the fear that something may come your way when you leave the house because of the way you are dressed, making women feel especially vulnerable, so I want to talk about self-defense and Martial Arts for women.
I started Martial Arts at the age of 15, my mum took me to a class or two of karate when I was younger but I never stayed. My best friend asked if wanted to attend a TaeKwon-Do class near us so I went. I didn’t know what it was about, I wasn’t into martial arts and the hype had died from the Bruce Lee days. We went, I wasn’t into it, I found it funny what they were doing/wearing but I joined the class. I liked it but didn’t take it too seriously. I would skip classes, I was doing gradings to achieve belts but I was taking much longer than necessary and I wasn’t that good.
My teacher was annoyed by me and my attitude, I would be doing patterns poorly to the point that other students would laugh but I never left and persisted for some reason and something clicked for me. I had a Mr Miyagi Wax on Wax off moment (for real) and I just got it and became super dedicated, also a black belt (male) broke my nose with an axe kick when we were sparring and this seemed to be some sort of catalyst for me.
I came back to training two weeks after I had it realigned in hospital and I went HARD. I figured it out with lots of training and practise. My body just got it being tall, lean with long limbs were an advantage.
My Training Schedule
I trained a lot, many many hours and by my ridiculously high standards it wasn’t enough. I would go to school, go for a jog after school on the street for a short period, I also started boxing because I love boxing. It was in a male club, my best friend did it also (we were the only females) and the teacher’s son from TKDO who was the best martial artist I had come across in real life.
I would box (I had braces at the time so I couldn’t compete) spar, do bag work, skip for 20 minutes minimum, speed ball, shadow boxing, sit ups (many 100s), medicine ball etc.. That would be Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
I would go to TKDO on Monday and Thursdays. I would attend the kids class to help to teach or train with other members – warm up, stretching etc.. Then I would go to another class afterwards with some of the members which was a more intense class for sparring, boxing, kicking techniques etc.. I would train from 4pm-10pm and on Saturdays go to the gym to do cardio vascular, running machine, rower, cross trainer, light weights etc..
I would also do regular park runs and when I started work go for runs in the summer, wake at 4am go at 5am in the street then go to work at 7am and to TKDO after work. I was seriously dedicated and I loved it.
I also did circuits classes, boxercising and other martial arts a little bit but those were the main ones and I did it for YEARS. My friend stopped after a while, she won some boxing competitions and trophies and got to Green Belt. I competed in TKDO and won some medals, I loved the buzz and adrenaline off of competing. The TKDO I did was for the world championships (ITF) and the other one you see at the Olympics is UKTA which has more padding when you fight and is semi contact, my one was less padding more contact.
I achieved my Black Belt and I am a certified instructor. My goal was to get to 3rd Degree Black Belt but after I achieved that goal there wasn’t much to train for in lessons and I was helping to teach children etc.. There was squad training lessons on a Sunday for black belts only which were intense, to train up for the world international competitions.
At that point my hunger for the sport was diminishing and I had many other things going on, I had to up my training even more for world competitions so I ended up stopping TKDO, I still enjoy boxing and do it minimally and I still have a love for TKDO and miss it. I’m hoping to get into practising Gracies JuJitsu/Brazilian JuJitsu at some point as well as putting my son into it soon God Willing. UPDATE – My son has started BJJ in my local area at the age of 7 and is going to classes once/twice a week. He’s not keen on it but he’s just started and has to persist for a while to see if he will like it and pick it up properly. It’s a Gracie affiliate and I’m happy with the club.
I’ve seen posters on social media and around showing images of what to do if a man attacks a woman or tries to grab her hijab to pull if off;
A WOMAN WILL NOT BE ABLE TO DEFEND HERSELF BY JUST LOOKING AT THAT AND THINKING SHE WILL COPY THAT, NO. Let’s get real about this.
Yes it is good to show what you can do but I am extremely skeptical that anyone will remember much In a surprise attack, you are not Jackie Chan, it will not be choreographed fight scene, there will be a lot of variables.
A woman will NOT be able to defend herself by going to a couple of self-defence classes against a man that is stronger, you need to do CONSISTENT training and practice and be dedicated to it like anything to put it to use.
I do advice women that if they ever get attacked, you must try to do whatever you can do to get out of that situation, using whatever means you have to hand – bag, an object, clawing at eyes – whatever goes, I’m serious!
So What Do I Recommend
When I did martial arts I wasn’t practising Islam so I trained with men, there wasn’t that many women doing martial arts either compared to now, I didn’t find many good enough and I wanted to be good so I would train with those better than me and that was men.
Women will have to do it in the correct setting and with it being much more popular with women, God willing it will be easier to find the appropriate classes and the younger the age the better, ideally age 7 so it will be easier for them to learn it and for it to be built into their muscle memory but you can start at any age.
TaeKwon-Do is very expensive to do, monthly costs, the suit, grading money etc.. I loved it but to be able to defend yourself on the street you really have to be an excellent martial artist and that consists of a lot of training, from a very young age with superior teachers and most street fights end up in close contact with grabbing and on the floor.
Boxing – I would recommend, it’s great for learning how to punch and fight with your fists and becoming more strong with your arms and understanding the best places to hit an opponent, with all there are pros and cons.
Judo, Karate, Kung Fu, Krav Maga, Muay Thai, Wing Chun et al – All are popular martial arts around the world and popular in different areas. They have their pros and cons and it’s a personal preference. What is local/popular or people do it because family/friends are doing it and it’s passed down. It’s a persons own preference and these with other martial arts should be looked into and decided upon what they like and what’s best for them.
Kick Boxing – Good for basic training of kicking and boxing, high energy and fast paced, less theory and more practical, I would recommend.
Self Defence that will help you practically
Gracies Brazilian JuJitsu, Brazilian JuJitsu, JuJitsu, Mixed Martial Arts – I came across a video on The Deen Show on YouTube – Royce Gracie, he was talking about Gracies JuJitsu and I was blown away.
GJJ started the ultimate fighting championships in Brazil pre 1990s. All of the top fighters across the martial arts would come to compete and ultimately see who and which martial art was the best overall and who came out on top. There was no weight division, no rules, no time limit and Gracies purposely put the smallest guy in to compete to show the effectiveness of it against guys that were much bigger. He won in a fashion where he didn’t smash the guys face in but he submitted him and controlled him and I was completely sold.
It is the most complete martial art that is especially good for women who are smaller and weaker. By using techniques to disarm and submit an opponenent and control the situation. It specifically has self-defence for women, anti bullying for children (I’ll put links at the end) there are clubs in the UK. Gracies, Brazilian JuJitsu or the sort would be best to practise to learn a self-defence to be able to use in a real life situation.
It is also the least violent and allows a person to get a hold of a situation with proper technique, you just want to protect yourself without having to suffer the consequences of doing damage.
Martial arts gives you confidence and gives children confidence because they have the know how of what to do. It gives you confidence in your stance, walk, talk, it certainly gave me a ton of confidence and doing sports is good for ones mental and physical health and martial arts are one of the most popular in the world for a reason.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
Prevention is indeed better than cure and women need to be smart about it. Obviously when possible travel with a mahram (male relative) I can tell the difference when I’m by myself and when I’m with my husband.
Be aware of your surroundings, don’t go to places you don’t know of that are isolated or when it’s dark e.g. the park. Plan ahead and plan your journeys and let people know where you are going, be prepared and be organised with your belongings – keys have them ready, phone, if you carry an umbrella or such in your bag because it is illegal to carry mace or weapons in the UK.
These are just the times we live in and we have to adapt and ultimately Allah is our protector, say your duas before you leave the house for protection and you WILL be in his protection because whatever is going to happen to us is not going to miss us by his decree and try not be scared, be confident because a more confident self-assured person is less likely to be attacked.
Some Links – More Gracies videos on YouTube and channel
Graciesuniversity.com – Home study programmes (so we have no excuse).
The Deen Show – Royce Gracie talking about the beginnings of Gracie jujitsu and winning the ufc defeating a HUGE 3rd Degree TaeKwon-Do Black Belt by putting him in an arm bar and he tapped out (this is where I submitted because TKDO is my sport).