All too often, women are burdened with the fear of being robbed, molested, raped, or kidnapped be it while we’re driving alone late at night, waiting for the bus, or simply on a night out with friends. The thought is ingrained into the back of our minds along with reminders such as “carry pepper spray on your person” or “hold your bag on the opposite side of the road.”
Those who travel often are in even more danger as foreign lands hold many unwelcome surprises that we may not be used to. For instance, countries like India and China are worlds apart in terms of culture, and each hold their own dangers. Tourists are especially easy to spot and tend to get preyed on more. This is why it’s sometimes important to try and blend in with the locals as best as you can to avoid becoming a target.
Learning martial arts awards us with the ability to protect ourselves to a certain extent if we do happen to find ourselves in these situations. Here, we share five martial arts that can greatly benefit the solo female traveller:
Initially developed for the Israel Defense Forces, Krav Maga is a military-style fighting system that focuses on aggression to simultaneously defend and offend. Krav Maga incorporates the simplest and most practical techniques of older martial arts such as Aikido, Judo, and European Boxing in order to make the sport simple enough to be taught to large volumes of military recruits in a limited period of time.
This martial art emphasises on finishing a fight as quickly and aggressively as possible in order to prevent unnecessary confrontation that can result in injury. It also teaches how to strike the most vulnerable parts of the human body, such as the eyes, groin, and throat. Krav Maga is very efficient in real-world situations, especially for women, where speed and tactic play an important role in gaining the upper hand.
If you didn’t already know, Muay Thai is a combat sport that originates from Thailand and was first practiced around the 18th century. It has since flourished as the national sport of Thailand and seen global recognition. Unlike most martial arts, Muay Thai is characterised by the use of unconventional body parts and joints such as the shins, knees and elbows besides punches and kicks. This is also known as ‘The Art of Eight Limbs’, as it utilises eight points of contact.
As beautiful as that may sound, Muay Thai is a highly demanding and competitive sport. Most places focus on training you towards fighting in the ring as opposed to self-defence on the street. You could however, find a coach that can help emphasise the defence elements. In short, don’t give this sport a pass as it’ll still come in handy in improving your overall physical and mental strength, which will reflect in real-life situations.
Sometimes referred to as Kali or Eskrima, Kali is the national sport of the Philippines and emphasises using weapons such as knives or other bladed weapons as an extension of the arm. However, the most common tool used is the dual-wielded sticks you see pictured here. Arnis is also taught without the use of any weapons to ensure the fighter benefits from knowing techniques in how to fight when unarmed.
This martial art is one of the most suitable for women and younger children, seeing how even the smallest of hands can grip the weapon and wield it with dexterity. In real-world situations, Arnis does very well. While you may wield sticks or other weapons in training, the skills can be carried over to using pretty much anything from your credit card, car keys, or your umbrella.
Just like Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – or BJJ – has gained popularity in recent years. BJJ focuses on grappling, locks, and chokes, and a lot of it takes place on the ground instead of while standing. The sport is suitable for women as even a smaller, weaker person can take down a larger opponent by using technique rather than strength. Seeing as to how most women have a disadvantage in strength and size, BJJ is, therefore, a highly recommended form of self-defence.
But like all martial arts, there are drawbacks. Though well-suited for close-combat, one-on-one situations, it may not be the most efficient for group attacks or opponents wielding weapons such as a knife or machete. Then again, being able to take down a big beefy guy twice your weight isn’t something to be overlooked as well.
A martial art originating from Japan, Judo is a competitive Olympic sport where the objective is to take down an opponent and pin them on the ground. It’s centred around throws, locks and chokes, much like BJJ. The reason why Judo is such a great form of self-defence for women is because anyone can participate in it. In fact, Judo is the only martial art included in the Paralympics.
You may be under 50 kilograms standing at a mere five feet, but with the advantage of proper knowledge, technique, and a little help of physics on your side, you can throw a grown man onto the ground! This comes in handy considering most assailants will realistically be much larger and physically stronger than most women.
With the vast array of martial arts out there, it’s important to note that not all martial arts work well for everyone. Either way, all women should arm themselves with the knowledge on how to better defend themselves, especially when travelling alone. The dangers that come with it are all too real, but shouldn’t be a reason to hold back.