BEIRUT: Safety, confidence and discipline; those are the first words that come to mind when thinking of self-defense – and for women in particular, such training can add to a sense of security.
In a world filled with violence and chaos, it is a must to learn some form of self-defense to keep yourself and your loved-ones safe, experts advise.
Many people have been skeptical about the use of learning self-defense, claiming that it wouldn’t change anything. But, it could most literally define the rest of a person’s life, according to a number of women’s rights advocates.
"I decided to take a self defense class because I wanted to try something different, I used to take dancing classes and when I was done with that I thought it would be good for a change to discover a new sport," says Tala al Kurdi, who takes Mixed Martial Arts at the American University of Science and Technology, "indeed it has been a good change for me, I have learned very easy techniques, very simple methods to defend myself if I was attacked or robbed, and it's not what people usually think that 'MMA is a sport only suitable for guys', it works perfectly for girls too."
Based on a study of the Battered-Woman Syndrome by Lenore Walker, the most difficult thing for abused women is admitting that they did not deserve it, and acknowledging the fact that the abuser was the one at fault. While the second is overcoming their fear of the attacker.
“Self-defense gives women a sense of empowerment,” says Joe Habis, the founder of the Dojo School for Martial Arts, in Achrafieh. “We teach our students how to use their heels, along with other everyday objects, to defend themselves.”In addition to women’s self-defense, the school offers classes in Filipino Martial Arts, yoga, and the “Little Dragons” program for kids.
Experts say that the feeling of empowerment and the lack of helplessness is what gives women the push to stop allowing abuse to occur. Self-defense training gives the victim a valuable set of skills like awareness, assertiveness, safety strategies, and physical techniques that enable victims to be prepared for a possible confrontation before they become victims.
It may also decrease some of the psychological damages that may have occurred to the victim during the abuse. Martial arts expert Hassan Al Ghadban, founder of Black Belt Academy in Aley, believes that self-defense “hones the skills of the mind, body, and soul.”
Dojo and Black Belt Academy offer classes for adults as well as adolescents. These classes teach survival skills for real-world situations that anyone can encounter no matter the age group. Habis believes that “people think they do not need self-defense until they are forced to face a dangerous situation that makes them realise they don’t know how to protect themselves.”
In hopes of fighting back against abuse, KAFA, a locally based women’s rights NGO, was launched in 2005 and has since strived to fully stop violence against women. It aids women and children who were involved in traumatic events, and uses therapeutic means, such as, art, psychotherapy and life skills sessions to help them deal with trauma.
“The ISF (Internal Security Force) works with KAFA to create awareness campaigns and advertisements, in addition to using social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, to remind women every once in a while that they can call 112 if they need help,” says an ISF source.
The security official told Annahar, “Women need to call in a complaint to 112. The ISF responds instantly to any complaints and witnessed crimes when they are received, we also respond to social media complaints. We make sure to train our 112 respondents on how to deal with such situations.”
Also, according to Rabih Klayaany, an ISF officer, “women can report any abuse as soon as it occurs to the Public Prosecutions Office, where legal action is taken against criminal offenses.”
KAFA also works alongside the Public Prosecution Office to appoint lawyers for abused women, and according to appeals attorney Akram Eid the women also have "the entire judicial branch at their service and a judge appointed specifically for urgent matters, without any payment necessary."
“Self-defense would help protect their own rights in case they are aggressed by someone who is close to them, or when they are walking in the street or in a nightclub,” says Noura Khaled, a coordinator at KAFA’s support center. She also mentions that they will be holding an event that will include teaching children self-defense, as well as any women who may be interested.!”
“The more you know, the less you fear,” said Black-Belt Academy founder, Ghadban, adding that his major concern for the last 30 years has been “the society, community and the country as a whole.” He attempts to raise awareness among his students by teaching them the ways of Martial Arts and self-defense which in turn teaches them better communication, discipline, encourages them to raise awareness among others, and gives them courage to defend themselves.
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