As Empowerment Self-Defense (ESD) instructors talk more about their work, other self-defense practitioners and students raise questions. ESD Instructor Clara Porter answers some of those questions below.
Is any self-defense training better than no self-defense training?
No. If you are taught physical self-defense in an environment where success means being able to fight through something every time and being able to power over another person every time, it is unrealistic, doesn’t address the realities of violence that women face, and it can damage women’s self-confidence.
Teaching solely physical skills does a disservice. From street harassment to sexual assault by strangers or familiars, physical tools are not always the best or safest option. There are many reasons women may choose not to fight back physically, particularly in situations with people they know and love. Women who have had a self-defense course with a narrow approach to every situation are not realistically prepared. Failure in the real world after taking such a self-defense course can result in self blame causing psychological, emotional, and physical damage that is more harmful than if they had not taken a self-defense course.
By promoting Empowerment Self-Defense, are you disrespecting other systems of self-defense?
Promoting one thing is not necessarily tearing down something else.
Most self defense systems do not have the data to support their approach. We have the data to show empowerment self-defense works and is rooted in knowledge and experience built over the last 40 years. There is a basis for the claims we make.
The ESD model can be achieved by anyone who wants to teach self-defense and whose goal is to make people’s lives truly safer.
What are the benefits of Empowerment Self-Defense?
What I find most compelling is that after taking an ESD program, people experience increased confidence and feelings of self-efficacy and are more likely to intervene early in situations. They are also more likely to use their voices, to de-escalate, and to interrupt inappropriate behavior. Further, people with ESD training are more likely to report and are less likely to blame themselves.
One of the things I find very fascinating and we need more data to understand is the dramatic reduction in attempted sexual assault when comparing college women who have had ESD training with those who have not. What are the particular ways that women are embodying their ESD training that reduce attempted assault?
Clara Porter is the Director of Prevention. Action. Change in Portland Maine. She is certified by the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation and the Center for Anti-Violence Education. She is also a member of the Empowerment Self-Defense Alliance.