Katie Skibbe, IMPACT Chicago Instructor-in-Training
If you are interested in reading a book about self-defense for women, an excellent choice would be Real Knockouts: The Physical Feminism of Women’s Self-Defense by Martha McCaughey. Real Knockouts offers a comprehensive analysis of self-defense options for women including: padded attacker courses (e.g. IMPACT), martial arts, firearms and self-defense oriented fitness classes, and ties it into a broad view of what these courses mean to women collectively. The author attended and participated in each type of self-defense course, interviewed students and instructors, and provided facts about women and violence.
The author, Martha McCaughey, was once a self-described “frightened feminist.” Her background in Women’s Studies and Sociology had taught her a lot about violence against women, but not about stopping it. In fact, while researching convicted rapists she found herself coming home and checking her closets and other hiding places before she could relax. This led her to seek out a self-defense class.
In the beginning of “Real Knockouts,” McCaughey provides an analysis of why self-defense can be so difficult for women as it involves much more than learning how to hit, kick, or shoot a gun. Women must also learn how traditional female attributes (kind, docile, polite) make it easier for men to take advantage of and attack women. Martha found that it isn’t uncommon for class participants to apologize for hurting their attacker or smile while they are telling a man to “get away from me.”
The belief that women can’t defend themselves against men is deeply ingrained in our culture, but the truth is men don’t need to be particularly aggressive, strong or violent to rape they just need to convince women not to fight back. Self-defense training involves learning that women are valuable and worth fighting for.
Overall, I found “Real Knockouts” to be an excellent resource and a great book. I found myself identifying with many of the things McCaughey said and appreciated IMPACT training so much more.