Bnonn Tennant (the B is silent)

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Should women learn self-defense?

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4 minutes to read Maybe, but they shouldn’t rely on it, and there are more important things for them to learn to keep them safe.

In response to my article on why women bearing the sword is an abomination to the Lord, one reader asks:

What are your thoughts regarding women learning how to use guns or to do martial arts in order to be able to protect themselves & their kids, if there are no men nearby(eg Hubby is at work or deployed overseas in the military)?

This question comes up often enough that I think it’s worth having a canned response ready, so here it is:

I think it’s good for women to learn to use guns, and I don’t have a problem with them learning self-defense in principle. However, there are serious caveats to consider:

Firstly, you have to acknowledge up front that using violence to end conflict is an inherently masculine methodology. This doesn’t mean that women aren’t violent—in terms of domestic abuse, for instance, women are actually more likely to strike their husband. What it means is that women don’t naturally use violence to end conflict.

The reason for this is simply that they aren’t designed for it, and it will usually go badly for them if they try. As I noted in the linked article, women respond to pain with fear and flight, rather than anger and aggression. This means that if you are teaching them to use violence (whether with their bodies or with a firearm) in response to danger, you are teaching them a method at which they are naturally handicapped.

This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t learn self-defense, but it does mean they should learn feminine strategies for avoiding danger first. Staying in groups, not wearing slutty outfits, avoiding dangerous areas, maintaining situational awareness, proactively defusing potential threats with “wiles,” etc. Women are good at using communication to their advantage; a repeated pattern in Scripture is how the seed of the serpent is deceived and defeated by women in ironic reversals of the fall.

Secondly, in terms of martial arts, it’s very hard to find a self-defense class of any real worth that’s targeted to women. Mostly they’re just nonsense that make women feel more powerful, without making them genuinely competent. That’s both bad for their femininity, and dangerous for their safety. In order to get serious self-defense training they will have to do something like mixed martial arts, and they’ll have to do it for quite a while. I think that’s generally a bad idea both for psychological and health reasons.

That said, doing full-contact MMA with a man even just one time is likely to disabuse almost any woman of the segacity of relying on martial arts in a genuine self-defense crisis. The physical dimorphism between men and women is much greater than most people appreciate, and making up for such a massive power differential with skill is an extremely dubious proposition—especially without extensive training, and especially while undergoing an adrenaline dump that causes tunnel vision and a loss of fine motor control.

Thirdly, there’s the psychological dimorphism between men and women to consider as well. It’s great to train your wife to use a gun, but it’s not great to teach her to rely on it. This is because women respond differently to fear than men. If she is relying on the gun, she will be less likely to flee when she can, and more likely to use the gun even if she doesn’t need to (I’ve read that female policemen resort to their firearms much more readily than their male counterparts because they are more easily intimidated). Once flight is off the table, either she is more likely to attack prematurely, escalating the situation instead of escaping it, or she may find herself unable to attack (I’ve anecdotally heard of several men who have trained their women to shoot, but discovered that they simply froze up when they had to do it in a real self-defense situation). Either way, she is worse off than if she hadn’t had the gun at all.

Incidentally, it’s also important for a woman to have a firearm that “fits” her. Most women have panic reactions to firing heavier pistols without wearing ear protection. Again, the psychological difference between men and women is not to be underestimated; the report of a firearm can overwhelm the nervous system of any shooter (this is how you get trigger flinch), but the effect is much more pronounced with women.

TL;DR: women are likely to lose in a fight with a man no matter what. The best defense is good training in situational awareness and proactive safety strategies.



Excellent points here, many of which I had not previously considered.

I, a woman, studied martial arts for many years, and it doesn’t take more than a couple of encounters with the physicality of an adult man to realize that all of the techniques that one is learning are basically useless in a female-to-male situation – although the shadow of the feminist mindset prevented me from seeing that truth at the time.

The reality is, I believe, that martial arts give women the ability to make a brief defense and then run. But even a woman well-trained in martial arts is no match for an aggressive male in a real fight.

Thanks for this post.


As a wife and mother who also carries a concealed firearm very often I found myself nodding in agreement while reading your article.

First and most importantly I completely agree that women respond to threats differently than men and women are by far physically weaker than men. A gun is not a talisman that will protect you from every danger.

Perhaps my perception of firearms is different than yours because of where I grew up. Texas is a gun saturated state and I love firearms and shooting sports. I was gifted my first gun at 7 and my fondest memories are going shooting with my father.

I’m a realist and know that if I’m out shopping with my 4 children and danger comes then my God given job is to care for my children and that means finding the first exit to safety BUT I carry a firearm with me and will use it IF necessary as a last resort.

So I’ll leave you with a quote from one of our conservative congressmen who gave this answer when asked about the growing violent riots here in the U.S and his faith in Jesus:
“I believe love is the answer but I own a handgun just in case”.