All women may be at risk of sexual assault, but risk is not evenly distributed across the ages. Younger women are at higher risk, with those ages 17-24 and in college at the peak of peril.

Among the several reasons that younger women are at higher risk is that they are more often more trusting, and more easily misled. So when I read this article on why some* men in their late 30s/40s say they prefer to date younger women, the similarities were quite impressive. Each respondent phrased their answers more agreeably, but each one came down to “because younger women are easier to control.”

Some select quotes, and my interpretations:

They don’t (yet) have a laundry list of what they want in a partner, in a career, in a life. . . . I think that kind of attitude appeals to thirty-something guys who want a relationship to really be on our terms.

Interpretation: Because she doesn’t have strong opinions of her own (or I can safely ignore them and she’ll go along), I get to call the shots.

They tend to be untainted by experiences that have hardened older women. Like when a woman’s been lied to a lot after years of dating, she always thinks you’re lying to her. And that’s a turnoff. Younger women are less cynical and that’s a big draw.

Interpretation: I can get away with lying to her.

She’s interested in the here and now, in going out, in having fun. It may sound like a cliché, but it’s reality. I’m not anti-marriage, I’m just anti-agenda.

Interpretation: I’m not really anti-agenda, I’m for my own agenda and only my agenda.

You can play ‘cruise director’—show her all your secret favorite places that she probably hasn’t experienced yet. They’re easier to impress and very willing to be escorted around.

Interpretation: I get to call the shots.

In short, it’s all about the power.

And that is the connection with sexual assault. I’m not asserting that the guys interviewed for this article are rapists, not at all. What I am saying is that there’s a LOT of overlap in what these middle-aged men were looking for and what most serial acquaintance rapists are looking for. So if you are a young female, and find that you’re attracting attention from somewhat older men who are happy to take control (however they care to phrase it), please give some thought to your own desires and plans (your “agenda”), and how you express them.

Nobody will give you power and control over your own life. You just have to take it.

These critical life lessons are covered in Self Defense 101 as well as the intensive Self Defense Weekend Workshop.

*This definitely un-scientific survey reflects the views of only a small group of men specifically selected to make a point (and a pseudo-news story), and is not intended to make global assertions about Mankind.

In light of recent attacks on women joggers, I was interviewed on KOMO Radio live! We aired Tuesday, December 21 at 12:46 in the afternoon, and you can listen to it here:

One point of contention is whether women should be running in the early morning hours or in the evening, when it’s dark outside. I say yes, many runners enjoy the calm and solitude at those times, or that’s really the best time for them. I also say recognize that you are at higher risk for assault, so be prepared and aware. The bare minimum self defense skills you should know are (1) which are higher-value targets on an assailant’s body (eyes, throat, groin, knees), and (2) use your voice LOUD (give direct commands, such as STOP! or LET GO! or BACK OFF!).

To date, those women who have been assaulted succeeded in fending off the attacker. They fought back and used their voices. And prevailed. You can too. The next round of self defense classes will begin in about a month, see the schedule at And have a safe holiday shopping/jogging season!

Do you have a story to share? I’ve noticed some outstanding self-defense stories in the news lately.

One was this 12 year old girl who heard a noise downstairs, went to investigate, and came face to face with a hooded intruder. Not only does she kick him in the crotch, after he runs she draws a sketch to make it easier for police to find the guy.  Read the story at

Then there’s the 13 year old girl who fought off a guy with a knife! Read her story at

And a third happened here in Seattle, when a woman jogging in Seward Park fought off an assailant. Read her story at This woman was reported to have said to her assailant, “not me, not here, not now.” Many students in my recent classes read about this attack, and took this woman’s mantra to heart.

“Not me, not here, not now.” The power of the story.

Over twenty years ago women were dismayed to see virtually no self-defense success stories in the news. They reached out to the community — posters, ad in papers and on campuses, word of mouth — and were rewarded with an overwhelming abundance of first-hand reports of successful self-defense.  The results became Her Wits About Her: Self-Defense Success Stories by Women, edited by Denise Caignon and Gail Groves, and is a classic in self-defense studies.

An article in the current issue of the academic journal Violence Against Women explores the power of the successful self-defense story. Author Jill Cermele notes these critical benefits of telling women’s self-defense stories.

  • First, they are real examples of real women successfully defending themselves. When more of us know what other women have done successfully, we are more inclined to use resistance.
  • Second, by telling successful resistance as an event that happened, rather than a non-event, we recognize that women have positively acted and DONE SOMETHING POWERFUL.

[from Telling Our Stories: The Importance of Women’s Narratives of Resistance, by Jill Cermele.  Violence Against Women, 16(10): 1162-72, 2010,

Please share! I’ve begun posting stories I find, or that others have found, on my Facebook page. If you come across any stories, please email them to me or post to my FB page. I can assure you that other self-defense instructors will re-share them. The more the word gets out, the safer we and our communities will become.

I was not a musician. I can’t carry a tune in a paper bag. I’ve never learned to read music or play an instrument. I’ve only enjoyed music as a fan and listener. A consumer.

I donated self-defense classes to a girls’ summer camp this July. This was not just any summer camp, this was Girls Rock! Camp, where in one week girls ages 8 – 16 learn to play an instrument, form a band, write a song, practice, and play to a raving audience. They also learn about the herstory of women in rock music, media and female body image, electronic music, DJing, zine making, song-writing . . . and self-defense.

AWESOME!!! I was thrilled to work with these girls, as well as also a tad envious. Where was this camp when I was that age?

Then one of the organizers just happened to mention Ladies Rock! Camp. My ears perked up. “Oh, there’s another event?” Yes, a long weekend where women (ages 19+) learn to play an instrument, form a band, write a song, practice, and play to a raving audience. No experience necessary.

I signed up. I didn’t think twice, and that was alright.

I picked drums as my instrument. As a self-defense and karate instructor I already know how to hit things, so I figured this would be a natural extension. Playing drums was still a stretch and a challenge, and it was one of the most outstanding weekends I’ve ever had. I learned a lot, and found there’s common points between learning to play rock music and self-defense.

First, both are DIY. Do It Yourself, really. Sure if you want adulation and admiration from throngs of adoring fans you’ll have to practice a lot and get super-good, and that’s just the beginning. But if you just want to hang and jam with your friends, you don’t need the chops of Ringo Starr. Similarly, for self-defense you don’t need the chops of Jackie Chan, you just need awareness, some evasion strategies, and a few basic moves which will get you out of 99.5% of the badness you’re likely to encounter.

Second, both happen in the moment. Practiced musicians often create impromptu lyrics and melody lines. They improvise. And if you should find yourself in a threatening situation you too will have to improvise. You have to be continuously paying attention and adjusting your tactics. And it will help that you’ve taken a self-defense class and have the basic skills.

Third, you get out what you put in. That means participation, really getting into it. Few things fall flatter than music played without feeling. In learning self-defense, you train like it’s for real. So, if it ever does get real, you are ready.

Finally — and if you’ve been reading this e-newsletter for a while, you could probably guess this one — both are LOUD. Rock musicians, even “soft” ones, WANT to be heard! They DO have something to say! And guess what: so do you!

Okay, so maybe Ringo Starr needn’t worry about me. And maybe you don’t want to put in the time and work to learn how to become a ninja assassin. But, with a little help from your friends, you too can discover your inner rock star self-defender.


Fall self-defense classes are now open for enrollment.  Visit for more information and registration on the 5 week Self-Defense 101 courses, for one-day seminars, or for the November weekend workshop.


Maybe you saw a demo at a health fair or shopping mall about women’s self-defense,  and you’re considering taking a class.  The group putting on the demo seemed friendly and knowledgeable, and now you’re wondering if their program would be a good fit for your needs.  Here’s two important keys to watch for.

In many self-defense demos, you see a male instructor as “attacker” and a female instructor as “defender.”  So far, so good.  Now, who does the talking?  Is it a male instructor, or female?  Yes, this IS important!  If you are teaching women to strongly face a real-life assailant, she should be the one talking to the women in the audience.

Second, watch carefully for either (or both) of these two things to happen:  the female defender does her moves but in a tentative manner and a male instructor describes her as being “nice” to her attacker,” and over the next 10 minutes the demo actors get shifted so a male instructor has taken over showing the moves.

Is this empowering for women?  (Hint: the answer is no.)

I’ve seen this scenario happen several times now.  I have no doubt that these are very nice and well-meaning people, and their techniques can be effective.  However, until the women show a real lead in their demos I have a hard time believing that the women they are trying to recruit as students will get two of the most essential self-defense lessons.  Which are, of course, to take charge and use your voice.