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More Women Should Learn Self-Defense by Taking Up Martial Arts

By Jessica Militello

A woman practices a self-defense technique during a martial arts class.Martial arts has seen a gradual rise in popularity for women over the years for myriad reasons. With the rise of professional mixed martial arts in the mainstream and the prominence of female champions like Valentina Shevchenko and Amanda Nunes along with the confidence that learning self-defense provides, it’s not surprising to see more women walking into martial arts schools to enroll in classes.

Despite the fact that martial arts have grown in popularity for women, men are still overwhelmingly the majority on the training floor. Martial arts have physical and mental benefits for everyone, however, most martial arts schools don’t go out of their way to make an effort to market towards women. Occasionally you can spot one-day “women’s self-defense” classes or seminars, but these one-off events are more of a disservice to women than a benefit because it gives the false sense of confidence that learning a few techniques just once will somehow stay with you. 

In this article, we'll go over several of the reasons martial arts is a great tool for women's self-defense.

Motivation for women's self defense classes

Imagine being in danger of being attacked on the street when you are scared, your adrenaline is pumping through your body, and your brain is working in fight or flight mode. It’ll be difficult if not impossible to remember that one technique you learned at a self-defense seminar weeks or months ago. 

The only way to learn to defend yourself is to sign up for a martial arts school and train on a regular basis, that way, what you are learning over time becomes a habit and you can remember some of your training if you find yourself in a situation where you need to defend yourself in order to get home safely.

While every art has something to offer for its students, Jeet Kune Do is a martial art designed for self-defense in the street that teaches you to be well-rounded for any situation in order to get home safely, so you don’t have to worry if what you’re learning on the training floor will help you in real life, because students are not being taught within the parameters of rules or a weight class. Making the decision to take up martial arts is a great idea, but it can feel tricky to decide which one is right for you and which school is best for you as well. Jeet Kune Do has many benefits for women and New York Martial Arts Academy is a great place to begin your training. 

Feeling seen and being represented 

It can feel intimidating to walk into a martial arts school and realize you’re the only girl in the class, especially if it’s your first time coming to train. It can be easy to have an idea set in your head beforehand of what to expect or how you might be treated as a woman in a predominantly male environment, but students and instructors are welcoming, and everyone is treated like they matter on the training floor. We have a good share of women here at all levels and years of experience which also offers the chance to meet some friends and make training more than just getting a workout or learning self-defense tools. Everyone at the school is friendly and helpful, but seeing other girls training, especially if they’ve been at it for a while can be really inspiring and give you something to work toward. Things like this may seem like they only matter at a superficial level, but it really makes a difference especially when you first start training. Women of all ages come here and it makes class a more fun experience when you have people from all groups and walks of life.

Designed for the street

Every martial art and combat sport has benefits and something to offer, but Jeet Kune Do is meant for a real-life self-defense situation where you have no idea in advance who your attacker may be or what skills and strength they bring to the table. Oftentimes people will say arts like BJJ are the best for women’s self-defense. While it is definitely important to know how to defend yourself on the ground, it should not be your goal or the only skill in your toolbox, especially in the street. Being on the concrete on your back in close proximity to your attacker is a detriment when you have no idea what they are willing to do, and if they have a knife, all the BJJ skills in the world won’t protect you. JKD teaches grappling, but for the event that you end up on the ground, so you can get out of the situation and get back on your feet, which is where you are most in control. We also focus most ground skills on wrestling which prioritizes being on top if you do happen to get on the ground with your attacker. In the street, distance is your friend-it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been training, you have no idea what your attacker might try to do or how far they’re willing to go. Doing enough damage in order to get away is most important, and the wide range of tools from punches, kicks, elbows, knees, and foul tactics like eye-gouging, headbutts, oblique stomps, and groin kicks are taught in order to help you get out of danger.


Regardless of your age or gender, taking up martial arts is great for boosting your confidence. Physical activity boosts the happiness chemicals in your brain and is proven to help with anxiety and depression as well. Pair all that with being in the company of great people while working hard and having fun and you’re bound to feel a difference in your overall mood and view of yourself. A lot of students notice a difference right away and will admit that they feel calmer, happier, and are able to deal with stressful situations in a better way. That isn’t all from kicking and punching pads, its also from being around good people which boosts happiness chemicals and lowers levels of stress and loneliness that adults can suffer from paired with knowing you have a place to go to get away from tension and stress while learning martial arts. 

A safe place with positive energy

Anyone can go to a gym and hit a bag to relieve stress or go to a fitness class and have small talk with the members there. The school prioritizes having good, well-intentioned people in the school and most of the instructors are lifelong martial artists who have many years of training at NYMAA and prioritize maintaining a high quality of students and a positive energy in the school because the school is also their second home. This is also important for women who want to make sure that they are training somewhere that they’ll be taken seriously and valued without having to worry about what types of guys are training or if they can feel safe there. 

Find out why martial arts is good for you

Anyone can sell you different reasons on why you should train or how it could benefit you, but until you come to the school and see the great environment and feel the mental and physical benefits of training, it’s all just words. Taking up martial arts isn’t just about fitness or gaining confidence, at our school you are able to find a second home and learn a great art that can help to change your life. For some people, working out might not always seem fun, but learning Jeet Kune Do is a great idea for women who want to learn practical self-defense tools in a positive environment that will help you get in better shape and learn to protect yourself.