It's Saturday morning at our local aikido dojo. Girls and boys of various ages, as well as a few parents, are learning a technique to free themselves from a double-arm grab. A four-year-old girl grins as she bends and "throws" one of the dads away from her, and her female sensei gives a thumbs-up as the next "attacker" approaches.
Like all parents, we want our girls to feel secure, with both mind and body ready to ensure their own safety. We’ve enrolled our girls in the martial arts training of aikido, but many approaches use self-defense techniques to strengthen a girl’s sense of security and confidence and help her set boundaries and speak up for herself in everyday situations.
Boston-based Girls’ LEAP is one such program in which girls learn to resolve conflicts, develop courage, and build healthy relationships along with self-defense skills. “Through self-reflection and open discussion, girls learn to advocate for themselves and more widely apply safety skills in daily life,” says program manager Tracey Gridley. A similar program in Austin, Texas, the Girls’ Empowerment and Leadership Program, frequently partners with Girl Scout troops and other groups to train girls to stand up for themselves physically and mentally.
You can often find out about local self-defense courses for girls through self-defense or martial arts programs in your area, through women’s and girls’ organizations, and through national organizations such as the American Women’s Self-Defense Organization. And even reading a self-defense book can teach you and your daughter a few key moves and open up conversations about personal safety.
Think about what self-defense option best fits your daughter’s objectives. Would she get more from a self-defense course—which could range from a one-day workshop to a multi-week class—or from martial arts training, which typically requires a long-term commitment to reap the full benefits? Would she do better in an all-girl class or in a mixed-gender program?
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