Be your own hero through learning self-defence

Michaella at the Dojo

“Tonight, we want you to walk out of this women’s self-defence class, feeling empowered, having tapped into your fighting spirit,” Ron Amram, Co-Director of Combat Arts Institute of Australia (CAIA) said as he begun the class with seven women at the dojo in Leederville on Tuesday night.    

Ron said it was important to acknowledge that the class was not a fitness class, and women should not have to run a marathon to be able to defend themselves.

“Women live in a constant state of fear – is someone following them, are they safe at night, are they wearing the right clothes – nobody should have to live like that; it’s just not fair. I have a 14-month-old daughter and I want her to grow up without that fear,” he said.

Chatting to one of the instructors, Michaella Mansilungan before the class, she said that it was important for the women to face real-life scenarios so when they are panicking, they can slow down and breathe and remember what they need to do.

“Many of the women who attend the class can find it quite cathartic, especially if they have been in a violent relationship. It’s a way they can end that chapter of their life,” she said.

“We need to help women build confidence and give them the permission to act if they end up in a threatening scenario.”

“We can make them fight like hell and know exactly what to do to defend themselves, if they ever need to.”

Michaella Mansilungan

Ron said the self-defence class focused around Adrenal Stress Scenario Training (ASST) and tapped into the ‘fight or flight’ reflex.

“Fight or flight is good because it prepares your body for a fight, but it can also be very bad, as you can completely shut down in a stressful situation,” he said.

“The goal for the class is to get the women stressed and teach them how to react.”

Throughout the two-hour class there was a progression of building up from self-awareness and observing very basic aggressive body-language in staged muggers, and assessing the surroundings, to asserting confidence, physically and verbally, and basically empowering the women to kick butt.

Pictured: Michaella with the ‘muggers’, looking at various types of aggressors

The class looked at different types of aggressors and what that could look like but also how it could make them feel too as they explored different kinds of boundaries. Both physical and emotional.

The techniques employed were simple enough to apply in a stressful and threatening situation, but what made this different was the psychological connection to what the women were doing, and the real-life scenarios that were staged in the class. This element of realism made a big difference in how the women responded.  

Throughout the class, the transition of the women was evident. From beginning so gently as they introduced themselves to the group, they then were able to embrace their fighting spirit.

According to findings from the Department of Communities’ ‘Key Issues for WA Women’, 28% of WA women avoided walking alone after dark in the last 12 months because they felt unsafe.

Michaella said that women should choose to be their own hero.

“Nobody is going to rescue you – you need to rescue yourself,” she said.

Pictured: One of the class participants, fighting off a ‘mugger’

Co-Director of CAIA, Noah Greenstone said that feeling unsafe can colour a person’s entire perception of life and the world around them, especially in terms of domestic violence.

“When violence occurs on a regular basis in the home, it can create lasting damage that takes a long time to learn how to deal with,” he said.

“Repeated violence in the place where someone should normally feel safe, loved and protected can imbalance our understanding of reality, and strip away the joy in life.” 

Noah Greenstone

Noah said the ultimate goal of self-defence was self-empowerment.

“Now that society is becoming more evolved and people regardless of gender are being recognised as equals in our society, self-defence as a tool of personal power is exceptionally important for everyone – not as a tool for aggression, but as a vehicle for establishing self-confidence and empowerment in every situation,’ he said

“At a base level, humans need to know they are safe in order to thrive, and it’s about time that more women felt that.”

The women’s self-defence classes are currently being held monthly in Leederville. Groups can also make a booking separately if they would like to do some team-building activities. Find out more on CAIA’s website.

Words by Jacqui O’Leary

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