Women’s self-defense part 1

I see this morning as I roll through my favorite blogs that Pissed Off Housewife has tossed me (and Uncle) a link. Referring to me as being “up for debate” is quite kind, and entirely correct. I quite enjoy a good debate, as much as I enjoyed contact martial arts and boxing in my teens. If you’re inbound from PoH, and you’re not a “gun person” or even a gun owner, the following two part entries are for you. We’re going to be discussing self-defense for women, part one will deal with a hypothetical scenario in which force is going to be used, part two will deal with actual real world options available, running the gamut from retreat all the way to force.

For this discussion to have any merit whatsoever, two basic assumptions must be made and agreed upon. Those are as follows: 1) In the situation presented, the potential victim has no avenues of retreat from the threat, and 2) has decided to resist her assailant with her own violent force. The assumptions are necessitated in the hopes of removing the “she should have just run away” or “violence never solves anything” counter arguments. The reason those arguments should be disposed of is that this discussion is about the use of force – while I agree that if retreat is possible that should be your primary option, unfortunately retreat is not always possible. In those situations when you cannot retreat, the potential victim has the option of submission or resistance. As I stated above, for the purpose of this entry we’re assuming that the potential victim chooses (and I believe rightfully so) resistance to her (male) attacker.

So, in this situation a woman is being assaulted by a man, and has no options to retreat. First, let us look at some objective facts. Generally, a man is physically stronger than a woman. This is not a condemnation of women, nor saying that women are weak – my wife is quite strong, and is the same height as I am, yet I could easily overpower her.

Assuming that the woman offers resistance to her male attacker, she has two options as to how that resistance is presented, option A is hand to hand combat, option B is use of force multipliers (which is a nice phrase for weapons). Now, because this is the internet and you have no reason to believe me, you may feel free to disregard the following – however in the past I have taught martial arts including women’s self defense classes, I have also taught shooting classes and classes on carrying a handgun for personal defense. Like I said, you don’t have any reason to believe me, you just have my word.

Option A
In this option, the female is armed only with her hands and her wits. Despite the proliferation of women’s self-defense classes, 99 times out of 100 a woman is not going to “win” a hand-to-hand encounter with a man. It is an unfortunate fact that’s born out by thousands of battered wives and girlfriends across the nation. Enough was a nice movie, but it was just that – a movie. The conclusion of Option A is that hand to hand combat is less than an ideal solution.

Which brings us to Option B.
This involves the use of weapons, which run the gamut from improvised weapons such as combs and keys; up to less-lethal weapons such as tasers, pepper spray, and contact weapons; up the final rung of lethal force weapons such as knives and guns. I’ll break these out under sub-headings to examine the pro/con of them.

  • Improvised weapons – These are generally the least effective weapons to be used on an attacker, as they’re not originally designed to deliver force. Stabbing someone with a comb or raking them with your keys causes a woman to close to hand-to-hand distance with her attacker, which places squarely in the most dangerous position she can be in during a hostile encounter with a male assailant. Again, contact fighting with someone who is most likely larger and stronger than you are is considered a “bad idea”, for a man or a woman.
  • Less-Lethal weapons – This is a preferable option to “jab with your comb” or “whip with your keys”, as less than lethal weapons are actually tools designed to offer force to an attacker. I’ll even include the venerable baseball bat in this category, as it has deterred many a home invasion in its day. When you’re looking at self-defense options as a woman, I generally recommend weapons that allow the potential victim to gain distance from her attacker, and put herself out of his reach. The taser that deploys a tethered projectile is the ideal weapon for this situation, and has been used with great effectiveness by law enforcement officers. Next on the list I’d put the various anti-personnel sprays, such as mace and pepper spray. These require caution for a few reasons though. Their effective range isn’t as long as that of the taser, a strong wind can actually blow the spray back in your face (very unpleasant), and a determined attacker can fight his way through the spray. Finally, we have contact weapons such as baseball bats, collapsible batons, etc. I am actually a big proponent of contact weapons, as they allow you to deliver damage much greater than you could with your bare hands. The problem with contact weapons is well, the “contact” portion of the event. You have to hit your enemy, and at pretty close range. For our hypothetical woman defending herself, she’s once again at short range with a stronger attacker which puts her at a disadvantage.
  • Lethal force – Guns and knives are the contents of the “Lethal Force Envelope”. I’ve made my thoughts on knives as self-defense tools pretty clear in the past, suffice to say I’m not a big fan. Knives have an extremely high learning curve, and once again our potential victim is at very close range with her assailant. So, we’re left with firearms. A pistol is a compact firearm designed to be fired with one or two hands. It has very simple controls, and does not have a high learning curve – although training under stress is extremely beneficial. The point behind a firearm is that it allows our potential victim to deliver the greatest amount of force against her attacker, and at the same minimize her disadvantages. Even at close range a firearm is a better choice than a taser or an improvised weapon. This because the amount of force that can be delivered with a firearm has nothing to do with the physical strength of our potential victim. Ideally, a firearm can be used to prevent a violent encounter from closing to extremely close range.

From above, it could be easily extrapolated that the woman in the scenario is better off using a weapon to resist than she would be fighting with her bare hands. While arguments can be made about guns in the homes being used against their owners, a firearm allows someone to deliver force that is not proportionally related to their personal strength, and is more effective than pepper spray or tasers.

My question then to the “no guns for home defense” crowd is quite simple. In light of the above, and bearing in mind that humans as animals have only thrived since we discovered tools, why would you not choose the most effective tool for defending your life from violent encounters? I’m not here to argue about gun control (today), but I do
t (and cannot) understand why someone would feel that a woman (or a man) is better off defending their life with an inferior tool.

Part 2 of the series (tomorrow) will look at actual self-defense situations (no hypotheticals) and cover a variety of options from retreat to lethal force.