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Our Approach to Teaching Women's Self Defense at Girls Who Fight

Our mission is to provide the best possible training program for a woman who wants to learn how to defend herself against a physical attack, and learn what she can do to lower her chances of being attacked in the first place.

Here's our approach and what makes us different.

1. Effective Combat Training with a Self Defense Objective

Effective combat training..

Our program is based on techniques from Mixed Martial Arts, including Kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and Wrestling. At the highest level of combat sport (The UFC), these are the disciplines that professional fighters spend the most time training because they are the most effective.

Each one specializes in a different element of a fight. Jiu Jitsu specializes on the ground aspect, Kickboxing on striking, and wrestling on take downs. Because you don't know what attack you'll be faced with, it's important to be well rounded. At Girls Who Fight, we train our students in effective skills from all three.

..with a self defense objective

Our objective is self defense, so our priority is to reduce risk and engage only as much as necessary to create an opportunity for escape. Success is defined as survival, not winning a fight.

We only practice the elements of kickboxing, jiu jitsu, and wrestling that are applicable to street attack situations. If it’s an intricate move that mainly applies to sport but not street we don’t spend one second on it. On the other hand, there are attack situations that aren’t addressed in any combat sport because they’re against the rules (ex. hair grabs) that we do include.

Objective dictates training. Our objective is to train women in the most effective combat skills that apply to realistic self defense situations.

2. We focus on the threats women face

When men think about self defense they typically think about street fights. When women think about self defense, they typically think about abduction, rape, or sexual assault.

According to Federal Crime Data from the FBI:

  • 90% of rape victims are female

  • 76% of kidnapping victims are female

  • 70% of victims killed by an intimate partner are female

  • 67.5% of stalking victims are female

Context is extremely important when considering defensive options to these types of predatory crimes. There's much more at play than the physical element. Training to defend (or prevent) an abduction is very different from training to win or defend a street fight for example. Context matters.

As a self defense program specifically for women, we are completely focused on the threats that women face with the context of each scenario in mind.

3. We teach women strategies that can reduce their likelihood of being victimized

Not all predators are rational actors. But those who are make decisions about who they target and where they attack. They don’t look for fights, they look for opportunities. Learning how to be seen as a non-target and deny attack opportunities are of the highest importance to self defense strategy, because it’s what has the power to turn a predator away from you.

“You don’t need to destroy your enemy, you only need to destroy their willingness to engage." -Sun Tzu

In every Girls Who Fight program we teach our students what they can do to destroy an attackers willingness to target them. Lessons include:

  • Situational awareness

  • Making noise, yelling, and using verbal warnings

  • Training to use emergency SOS on your phone under stress (call 911)

  • Presenting yourself confidently

  • Knowing the lures predators use to get close to you

  • Identifying danger signals and red flag behaviours

  • And other strategies that can help you fail the 'victim interview'

Street smarts are just as important to our training as combat skill. They're what has the power to save your life without you even having to fight.

4. We meet beginners where they are and provide a structured path forward

Most women who want to learn self defense are starting out as a complete beginner. It’s very important that the program they join:

  1. Meets them at their level of skill and physical ability/fitness

  2. Respects that their objective is self defense and is transparent about the objective of the training

Too often beginner women are thrown into a sport/competition oriented class and are expected to catch up with people far beyond their skill level, and treated like they and their self defense objective is of secondary importance. This is the reason so many women quit training and give up on learning self defense all together.

Our approach is to provide the complete beginner with a structured, safe, and enjoyable path toward skill progression. Our Self Defense Fundamentals Course is specifically designed to give beginners fundamental combat skills for self defense. Women learn from square one with other beginners and follow a structured, tracked curriculum.

Because we respect beginners and design the course specifically for them, they get better, faster, and want to keep learning. In our Women's Mixed Martial Arts classes students expand on their skills with new kickboxing, jiu jitsu, and wrestling techniques that keep them growing in confidence and capability.

These are the women we are here for. No one else. We will keep developing and improving so that these women always have the training that puts their goals and experience first. If that sounds like a training you’d enjoy, we’d love for you to see it in action at one of our classes in Dallas Fort-Worth, Texas or Toronto, Canada.


Thanks for reading! You can stay up to date on our blog posts by following our instagram and facebook page.

Written by Gemma Sheehan, founder of

Girls Who Fight.

Our mission is to help women and girls lead safe and confident lives. Learn about our programs >

1 commentaire

very informative.

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