Are Women Doomed on Street?
Imagine a tennis player judging power and accuracy of her serve solely by its form. Visualize a volleyball player sharpening her "spiking" skill by hitting only air. Also finally, picture a pole-vaulter competing in today's event while refusing to use a fiberglass pole? Ridiculous; you say? As farfetched as above scenario may sound, many women martial artists, unlike their female counterparts in other sports, have not availed themselves of modem training methods. Instead, they are still relying on so-called "traditional" training methods that are all-but obsolete when applied to sell-defense situations on today's urban streets.
What's wrong with tradition? Nothing at all, as long as we distinguish between stylized forms of kicking and punching, with their emphasis on pre-arranged or choreographed kata, and combat-oriented martial arts that stress actual contact over aesthetic or ceremonial considerations. Furthermore, most classical martial arts have a preponderance of "passive" blocking movements that women can ill afford to use against much larger, stronger opponents when precious seconds can mean difference between life and death. So we can further distinguish between "blocking-type" martial arts regimes, and hitting, or "striking-type" martial arts training.
At this point, it should be understood that we are not discussing "this" style versus "that" style, but rather, evaluating a methodology of training. This approach to training has an underlying premise: All martial arts training should parallel actual combat as closely as possible. With this premise in mind, we now have a checklist with which to analyze whatever martial art we are presently studying, so we can be confident our training is truly applicable for someone of relatively small stature in realistic fighting.
Women's marital arts study must incorporate impact-training from inception of program. After all, how else can you know? How hard you kick and punch unless you are making solid contact with something? Impact training can be broken down into three progressive stages. At first stage of training, practitioner develops power by striking (or kicking) stationary targets, be it a focus glove, air shield, heavy bag, etc. which will also acquaint her with her own reach (distance) and body mechanics.
The second phase of impact training requires female martial artist to hit moving targets, such as top and bottom bag, air shields, focus gloves, Thai pads, etc., which an alert coach or training partner can move randomly at a variety of angles, thereby compelling student to deliver strikes while moving. Unlike performance of forms, nothing in this stage of training is pre-arranged, since coach moves her targets in an unpredictable manner. This phase not only enhances mobility and precision, but also acquaints her with attribute of timing, since targets are constantly moving. The third phase of impact training is unrestricted force brought to bear on an "opponent" who a wearing full body armor. This is not a self-defense mode of training, because partner wearing protective gear will not cooperate, but rather be hitting, kicking, and striking you as well. The "assailant" is not a model "mugger," but an aggressive adversary changing combat ranges with no consistent pattern of attack.
This brings up another item on our checklist of combat-oriented training; a method of training that encompasses all four ranges of combat. How often has a well-meaning male martial arts instructor encouraged female students to develop their kicks since "legs are much stronger than hands?" Yet, statistics show that most assaults on women occur in "in-fighting," or close-quarter range of combat. While back-spinning kicks may-be beautiful in gym, it is unlikely that you will have time to even launch any kick, since range of combat closes in less than one-tenth of a second. To restrict oneself to a martial arts method that emphasizes long-range kicking is to limit one's coping abilities in other ranges of a violent confrontation.
So important is this in-fighting range for women that it is imperative we have necessary "tools" to deal with aggression in this "war zone." Strikes that convey most damage in shortest time must be perfected. This means hitting, and not blocking, on first move. Since no referee will say, "break" when combat range closes, women must launch damaging shockers so that assailant cannot continue his attack. (This concept eliminates most restraining-type arts that were developed when professional warriors were clad in armor, thus prohibiting striking or kicking of any sort.)
Some of most efficient (if not artistically pleasing) strikes are: finger jab, which should be cultivated on something harder than a pillow since you will likely run into facial bone. (You can build up to striking padded diving goggles by starting to finger jab your shower curtain.); elbows, knees and headbutts can be perfected on focus gloves or Thai pads; low kicks (below waist) should be directed to groin, knees, femur bone, or shins and can be practiced on a partner wearing shin guards or long "banana bags."