A lot of people equate martial arts training with self-defense. While there is so much more to martial arts than that, the training statistically keeps people safer. And most of the reasons are not about punching and kicking.
Through the training, students learn to be more aware of their environment, are more conscious of risks and safety issues. Not fear-filled, but alert and able to negotiate around risks more of the time.
Martial arts training should build confidence. This is not empty pride, but confidence won through learning new skills, putting the work in and seeing the rewards. We get more connected with our bodies. These things cause us to move down the street differently, which makes us less likely targets. Women with martial arts training are less likely to be assaulted in the first place.
If an attack is initiated, the training provides us with immediate resistance: speaking up or shouting, pushing back, pulling away. These make it very likely that an attacker will break off the attack.
While you may never need the full range of skills to defend yourself, and there is so much more to martial arts than just defense, getting started will make you safer – less likely to be picked, and less likely to get injured if an attack happens.
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I was working on kenjutsu last week and was moving with my training partner changing kamae (position based on what my spirit is sensing in relation to a changing environment). This requires the mind and body to stay sharp, because if your mind floats for one moment you could be in over your head. A good starting place on how not to get in over your head is “Stay in the moment, not before or after.”