I am watching a really lousy video of Muslim women learning self defence in a defence class. Either this footage was taken in a lousy manner or the dojo is a bad one.

I have one year of martial arts experience from both Taekwando and Karate dojos, which I acquired through Canadian instructors. I have sparred with men, women, and children. I have also taught other students martial arts under the guidance of my instructors. Here is some advice to Muslim American women as they attempt to learn martial arts.

  1. Do not enroll for bullshit type of training. Choose a better dojo and better team members. For instance, a typical Taekwando dojo requires 50-100 kicks per type of kick. I can tell this dojo is pretty bad because the instructors aren’t really watching their stances. Whether you will free yourself or get killed really depends on your stances.
  2. Realize that some Muslim male instructors won’t be interested in teaching you while others will. Do not feel depressed because of that. Walk away and find someone else.
  3. Spar with men because you must learn how to use their body type against them. Men have a different body type and thus different methods of tackling their opponents. This is why you will never find me in a women-only class.
  4. Stick with aggressive teachers and team mates. They can show you better and faster tricks.
  5. Study everyone in the dojo. Assess their body strength, swiftness, dodges, and attacks. Remember those moves as you spar against them.
  6. Remember that you are under strict discipline as you spar. This belt and uniform isn’t for fooling around. One move can prove more disastrous than you can imagine. For instance, a specific move that one of my teachers taught me can easily remove Adam’s Apple if performed with too much strength. So be careful of how you use your abilities.
  7. Do not feel frightened to assess your strength against men or larger women. There is a way of shifting the body weight to nullify their attacks. For instance, when I was sparring against a very muscled guy, I could sense that his physical energy would shift with each of my attacks and that he felt compelled to tackle me professionally.
  8. Do not let your opponent get to you even if you are fooling around. Stay at a safe distance and make sure to dodge and block properly. That’s the first rule of sparring in a Taekwando dojo.
  9. During a real fight, know when to run away by freeing yourself. If you can do so at the very first move, then know that that’s exactly what’s required by your instructors and team members. Key is to stay out of trouble.
  10. Practice martial arts in your spare time. Push yourself till you sweat and fall to pieces.
  11. Combine it with other exercises to create peace within yourself because that’s required to launch self defense. For instance, I combined Yoga and Tai Chi with Taekwando and Karate.
  12. Add to your knowledge base. For instance, I have been slowly reading a book on “Dim Mak” on my own. Never learn this art completely on your own unless you already have some sort of martial arts training. Dim Mak is one of the deadliest martial arts; and if you have learned it properly, you should able to do KOs really quickly given that doing a KO is the only escape out of trouble.
  13. Scream to challenge and frighten your opponent. One of the Kung Fu Black Belts once told me a real story of sparring where the opponent fell off the stage due to the intensity of the scream of the other guy.
  14. Hit the parts of the body that aren’t covered by muscles; for example, lower parts of the legs, feet, face, and neck are easiest to attack.
  15. Dance often to increase flexibility and relax yourself. I dance whenever I feel like it.
  16. Learn martial arts weapons. If someone attacks you, then you should be able to use a stick or pencil to defend yourself.
  17. Learn how to use your environment as a weapon. In the movie, Hush (2016), actress Kate Siegel uses a corkscrew to kill the villain who has managed to dodge and survive all of her attacks, get on top of her, and attempt to strangle her. In real life, hiding behind a van to confuse an attacker is just as good as what is happening in this movie.
  18. Have fun at the dojo. If you aren’t having fun, then you are more likely to lose.
  19. Remember that there are no real belts. I borrowed this philosophy from a Kung Fu Black Belt. I believe he taught me this because he noticed that sometimes White Belts can possess and demonstrate stronger knowledge of the principles of martial arts than the more experienced martial artists. For instance, my entire mind transforms as I wear the Gi (uniform). It’s like I become a different person altogether. Something alive found inside the Gi (uniform) literally enters my body, and I experience changes in my thoughts and actions.

Copyright © by Arzoo Zaheer. All Rights Reserved.

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