I took an empowering women’s self-defense workshop at a boxing gym, and here’s why everyone should try it

We’ve all been there. It’s after dark and you’re walking alone to your car parked in an empty lot. You hear footsteps behind you. Or maybe you see your attacker standing in front of you, watching you and waiting. You may not know who they are, but most likely, you do. You feel that horrible drop in your stomach, that itchy, sweatiness in your arm pits, the hair on your arms standing on end. You sense you’re in danger, but what do you do?

According to Jarrett Arthur, one of the world’s leading experts in women’s self-defense, listening to your gut instinct is critical.

“I’ve worked with survivors for over 14 years,” said Arthur during an instructional workshop at Los Angeles’ BoxUnion boxing studio this month. “And the thing I hear [from them] over and over and over again is, ‘Something didn’t feel right, and I did it anyway.’”


Recently, Arthur and Lynn Le, the founder of women’s boxing glove company Society Nine, led the empowering two-hour self-defense intensive for women in L.A., breaking down the basics of understanding verbals, body language, and commanding space, and coaching the 30-plus women in attendance in physical engagement, reviewing fighting stance, striking, and ground situations.

The inspiring event was a first for BoxUnion, a brand new boxing studio in Los Angeles that boasts state-of-the-art facilities and a community-building approach to boxing for fitness. The studio invited Jarrett to not only offer hands-on physical instruction, but also to engage participants in necessary conversations about the importance of establishing boundaries and self-advocating, imparting techniques that are particularly useful in situations where you know your perpetrator (which, Arthur pointed out, are the most common).

During the workshop, Arthur laid out the three stages of self-defense: the Pre-Fight (the moment when you believe a physical altercation is about to take place and the moments preceding the encounter), the Fight (a person has already engaged you physically), and the Post-Fight (the physical, psychological, emotional, etc. aftermath of a physical confrontation). Arthur said she does not provide Post-Fight instruction, but strongly suggested seeking help following a violent encounter and offered to connect participants with references and resources.

"Nobody finds themselves in a situation where they have to deal with violence and [then] they [just] move on," said Arthur. "This is something that stays with us forever and ever, so it’s important we talk about that piece of it because it’s hugely significant."

And according to Arthur, it is because of that Post-Fight piece of the experience that she stresses the importance of Pre-Fight boundary-setting using vocal tone and forcefulness, body language, and verbal commands.

“I will literally go to all the ends of the Earth to avoid having to actually test my physical skills,” said Arthur. “I do not want that for me, and I really don’t want that for you, so any way you can avoid being in a confrontation, shut it down and set boundaries, that is definitely what you want to do.”

Should women find themselves in situations where fighting is necessary, however, Arthur offered a handful of simple strikes to cripple an attacker and create time and space for women to get away and find help: kicks and elbow throws to the eyes, nose, throat, and groin.

Though Arthur has found personal and professional empowerment in training and teaching self-defense, she admitted the everyday grapplings with self-doubt persist. “I [still] deal with situations that are universal for women, in which someone makes you feel a little bit smaller, a little bit quieter, and takes away your power. I’m not, like, this hulking she-wolf walking around with it all figured out,” said Arthur.

"But I know I always have a choice to do something about it. This is the power of self-defense. Ultimately [it's about] increasing your personal power, using your voice, and getting really and truly serious about your self-worth."

No matter what your course of action when confronted with assault, though, there’s no victim-blaming here. Arthur insisted whatever choice you make is the right one.

“Nothing that you can do or cannot do can warrant being targeted for violence. Nothing. Not what you wear, not where you go, not how much you drink, not who you’re with. Nothing.”

So get yourself to a self-defense workshop, stat!