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Empowering Women Through Self Defense: My Journey with NYMAA

Written By: Anna Thorne, Astoria Member


As a single woman living in the city, the need for self-defense became clear after a close call at a train station. The incident, though it didn't escalate, was enough to make me realize I needed to learn how to protect myself. This realization led me to search for self-defense, and that's when I found New York Martial Arts Academy (NYMAA).

What initially attracted me to NYMAA was its long-standing history and the experience of its instructors. The school has been around since 1985, and all the instructors have over 10 years of experience. This assurance of expertise made my decision easy, and now, after over two years of training, I can confidently say it was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Overcoming Initial Nerves

Starting at NYMAA, I was naturally nervous. With no prior experience in martial arts, the idea of stepping into a dojo was intimidating. However, during my trial class with Sifu Carlos, I was made to feel completely at ease. He patiently taught me the basic mechanics of Jeet Kune Do, and the welcoming environment made all the difference. Despite having four locations, the experience felt personalized and tailored to my needs.

Beyond Self Defense

What I truly love about NYMAA is the holistic approach to training. It’s not just about learning self-defense or gaining physical fitness. The academy emphasizes the connection between body, mind, and spirit. This isn't a place where you just hit pads and go home; it's a space for personal development. The confidence and discipline I’ve gained have profoundly impacted my life, both on and off the training floor.


Addressing Common Concerns:

Scenario-Driven Training

One misconception I had when I started martial arts was thinking that what I need to learn should be scenario driven. After only a few classes, I realized how incomplete scenario-driven training is, because there are innumerable ways you could be attacked (Unfortunately, we don't get to ask our attacker "Can you actually attack me in a right-lead stance while attempting to grab my left arm with your right hand because I know how to defend that scenario?"). Rather than knowing what to do in a specific circumstance, you need to know what tools (kicking, punching, grabbling, trapping and/or weapon) you have available and how to use them in order to stop the attack and get home safely. Once I started training at NYMAA, I began to learn the basic footwork and stance that is based on kinetics and physics, designed to best protect yourself while also putting you in the optimal position to hit. Jeet Kune Do is a comprehensive martial art that covers all elements of combat, giving you a full arsenal of tools designed to be used for real-world scenarios. 

Why Isn't There a Weekend Seminar Option?

One common question is why NYMAA doesn't offer a weekend seminar option for self-defense. The answer lies in the nature of the training. Learning self-defense requires discipline and commitment; it’s not something that can be mastered over a weekend. It takes time to embody the skills of self defense so you are prepared to use them in a real life situation, a high-intensity situation where there is no bell to stop the fight and where your life could very well be on the line. It's one thing to work a drill in a controlled and supportive group setting, its a whole other experience to be on the street against someone who doesn't have good intentions. Simply put, becoming good at anything takes time, discipline and commitment. Jeet Kune Do is a comprehensive martial art that covers striking, grappling, trapping, and weapon defense, all essential for real-world scenarios. The training teaches efficient movement, giving me peace of mind knowing I can handle dangerous situations and get home safely.

Are There Women in the Academy?

As a woman with no prior martial arts training, I understand the apprehension of starting something new, especially in a male-dominated field. It was comforting to meet other women at NYMAA, many of who are also here for the same reason as me (i.e. Self Defense). I'm happy to say that many of the other women here have now become my close friends. However, training with both women and men has been crucial for my development, as it simulates real-life encounters where an attacker could be of any gender. This diverse training environment has helped me understand the most effective tactics depending on my opponent.

Will I Get Hurt?

Safety was a major concern for me initially. However, the classes at NYMAA are very safe, and the facilities are clean. There is also no direct contact during regular group classes. We use equipment like focus mitts, kicking shields and Thai pads, ensuring that we can practice effectively without risking injury to ourselves or our partner.

Is There Sparring?

After a few months of training, there is an optional sparring class. While the idea of sparring made me nervous, full protective gear and the supportive environment has made it a positive experience where I can get as close as possible to a real-world street encounter without actually being in real danger. Sparring is about learning and developing the skills you learn in class, not about getting hurt. It’s an excellent way to practice staying calm in high-energy situations, preparing me for real-life scenarios.

No Prior Experience Needed

One of the best aspects of NYMAA is that no prior martial arts experience is required. Many students, myself included, start with no background in martial arts. Jeet Kune Do is designed for the everyday person to learn self-defense. The emphasis on body awareness and efficient movement makes it accessible to everyone, regardless of fitness level. The instructors encourage us to listen to our bodies and work at our own pace, making the journey enjoyable and fulfilling.


Training at NYMAA has been transformative. The skills I’ve learned, the confidence I’ve gained, and the community I’ve become a part of are invaluable to me. For any woman considering self-defense training, NYMAA offers a supportive, safe, and comprehensive environment to begin your journey. It’s not just about defending yourself; it’s about empowering yourself in all aspects of life.

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