I started self defense training as an 11 year old after my Dad told me about Taekwondo, a martial art that was similar to Karate. Yes, I was a big fan of The Karate Kid and I was obsessed with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles so getting me involved in martial arts wasn't hard.
In fact, as soon as I saw my first sparring session I was convinced that I would also be fighting in competitions. Now, I look back, and there were many benefits of learning self defense as a child / teenager. Learning basic self defense moves gives some confidence in the ability to skillfully fight back an attacker but there were so many other benefits.
The benefits of learning self defense for teenage girls There are lots of benefits to gain when learning self defense techniques, these benefits will not only make you feel more secure, it will also increase security-awareness and fitness. Here are the major benefits of taking self defense courses
1. Acknowledging Safety
I can never over-emphasize how important is it that teens feel safe in their homes and when they are out and about. When they feel safe, they will feel more comfortable to develop and be themselves. In most self defense classes, teens will learn how to escape quickly by disabling attackers but the most important safety tip they will learn is, the levels of safety they feel is measurable.
For instance, if teens feel uncomfortable, they must acknowledge this and do something about it. An example would be, if someone gets too close them physically, they know they can speak out and have a verbal barrier and to move away to have a physical barrier.
Knowing what a safe distance is and acknowledging the feeling of being unsafe bodes well for their self protection. When teens train regularly, they start to understand what their bodies are capable of, how their bodies respond to threats and stress, and what others are capable of. Knowing these things help decrease the risk of being surprised and freezing up.
2. Confidence in physical abilities
I remember going through my early teenage years as a very awkward tomboy with extremely crooked teeth. While I was socially awkward, I did always know that I had martial arts skills that not many people my age had. So, I suppose I would call this a silent confidence. This confidence for me was undercover, because it was never exposed. The physical training of martial arts really enabled me to be good at other sports.
I was involved in every team sport we had like netball, football, cricket, soccer, tennis and volleyball (for which I was co-captain). All the practice drills involved a lot of balance and precise striking so it translated well into other sports. I also knew that, if there was a physical confrontation, I would be able to handle myself well.
3. Confidence in mental strength
Martial arts or self defense classes push you to break through uncomfortable situations and positions while training. Sometimes, you have set backs in classes and get "tapped out" or "scored against" but within seconds you're back in the same training situations trying to figure out how to solve the puzzle. It teaches teens that every "fail" is an opportunity to learn. Resilience was key in my development.
The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties produces mental toughness. While I wouldn't say that I had the utmost confidence as a teen (mostly because well... I was a teen) I did know that every problem I encountered had a solution. Self defense training prepared me to face the unexpected. As a young woman or teenager, the ability and the willingness to tackle any situation I found myself was what made my high school years a breeze and FUN!
4. Overall Fitness
When partaking in self defense classes or self defense courses, overall fitness will improve by practicing along with other exercise activities. Nowadays, most self defense courses don't just stop at emotional preparedness for an attack, the courses also train physical preparedness.
Partaking in intense warm-ups to get adrenaline pumping, along with other fitness techniques will definitely improve overall body fitness while also learning self defense skills. Instead of just learning exercise techniques, you will be learning how to exercise and also learning to improve your security.
5. Street Awareness / People Awareness
All good self defense courses should enhance awareness of surroundings. Attackers don't announce themselves before attacking; so you never know when it might happen. These courses will prepare teens to be on the lookout of their surroundings.
You will also learn how to spot situations that could potentially escalate to fights/violence. Statistically, teenage girls / women are more likely to be attacked by people they know compared to strangers. So, the emphases shouldn't just be on environmental safety but also safety within core groups of people.
In class we were taught how to politely introduce ourselves, reach out to people who might be in need of help and also firmly set boundaries if we were uncomfortable. Being able to have a clear voice is the biggest confidence booster and deterrence to attackers.
6. Meet New People
Participants will get to meet new people when taking self defense classes, and become more socially engaged in the community. Teenagers will learn from each other and about different ages and cultural backgrounds. These classes can help to create lifelong friendships. I was 11 when I started training and about 13 years old when I really got involved in sparring (competitions).
This required a lot of dedication because I was training about 6 days a week. During this time, I met some really wonderful people who played important roles in my life. We're still close now (20 years later). I was lucky enough to be mentored (informally) by some really terrific women and men who were at least 10 years older than me. Suffice to say, they taught me a lot about culture and the importance of connection.
As a teenager self defense classes are important. It's especially important to help increase empowerment in the early stages (like the teenage years). The benefits of learning self defense can never be over-emphasized. Help teens by encouraging them to enroll in some sort of self defense course. They will learn more than you think.
The writer is a martial arts instructor
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