Is it Scary to Learn Self-Defense?

Posted by on Dec 10, 2012 in Self-Defense | 1 comment

Is it Scary to Learn Self-Defense?

This column talks about things learned in good self-defense classes for women, and for men as well.

There is an exercise done in good self-defense classes called “woofing.”  Someone plays a stranger (the woofer) who starts a seemingly normal conversation, often by asking for the time.  Then, the stranger takes offense at the answer, or proceeds to give a creepy compliment like “Thanks.  Hey, you have nice knockers, lady.” The student then responds with words and body language to back off the woofer.

With this exercise, we train our emotions to notice when what seems like a chance meeting might be turning into a self-defense situation. After my first experience with woofing, I developed the feeling that everyone who asks for the time is about to attack me.

I doubt my experience was an uncommon one. For many, the first step to learning self-defense is to admit that any given day holds the possibility we may face danger from another person. This can increase a person’s feelings of fear, but is only the truth.

After a while (time varies by individual) a new student’s instincts settle down and they can go about their business, trusting themselves to know when normal conversations ends and the interview of a predator begins. This is where the benefit of studying self-defense kicks in: They will know what to do when it happens.

So, although the initial result of self-defense study may be an increase in fear, the long-term result is both a decrease in fear and an increase in actual safety.

Some of the larger self-defense teaching organizations encourage past students to share experiences they have using their self-defense skills.  Occasionally, there are stories of someone beating up a bad guy.  But, more common are stories of women narrowly avoiding dangerous situations and then recovering from the stress more quickly than they would have if they had never studied self-defense.  Having practiced feeling fear facing imaginary danger in class, the fear they felt when facing real danger was something they could handle better.

One woman also reported that she was now happy to be able to donate money to panhandlers without fearing one might be a predator in disguise; because she knew she could defend herself if she needed to. I have had women in my own classes report being braver about going interesting places after receiving self-defense training.

The author of Beauty Bites Beast, Ellen Snortland, studied why most women don’t take self-defense classes and found that many choose to be in denial about the dangers they face from others; some believe it unladylike to protect one’s self (Notice that we are the only member of the animal kingdom with this issue.); and some feel their fathers, husbands, and the police are responsible for their safety.

Remember though, that a predator is unlikely to choose a person as a victim when they are part of a group. So, unless they are willing to commit to never going anywhere alone, every man, woman, and child, may someday benefit from knowing how to protect themselves.

Any time a person steps out of their comfort zone and learns something new, they are likely to be excited about it.  The feeling of excitement is easily confused with the feeling of fear. Especially in the area of self-defense however, I hope everyone logically realizes that what they learn in class should reduce their fear as it increases their safety.


self defense classes for women Marcy Shoberg is the creator of “Bring Out Your Inner Bodyguard in Two Weeks or Less” home study course for adults and seniors. See

One Comment

  1. Excellent analysis… It probably applies to men as well as women. The confidence that comes from taking self defense classes changes the way we walk, talk and best of all, live.