How to add self-defense to your repertoire

Last week, the World Health Organization published a study showing that 35 percent of women worldwide endure physical or sexual violence.

IMG_7692This was the first study of its kind to look at violence against women on an international scale, according to a recent news release.

The report used global population data to document the physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health effects of violence toward women.

Teaming with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the South African Medical Research Council, the WHO found that domestic violence—or from an intimate partner—is the most common type of violence against women.

In response, the WHO produced guidelines urging healthcare providers to ramp up training for recognizing and treating domestic violence and sexual abuse victims. The main reason—nurses and physicians are likely to be the first professional contact for those assaulted.

Those involved with the study aim to raise national standards for healthcare training and future treatment of women who have experienced such violence.

Being your own defense

Instructors like John MacFarlane of Citizen Defense Training (CDT) in Rochester teach former domestic violence victims to be confident with their safety through a few basic techniques.

“A person who has a skill set to avoid a violent encounter before it happens and has simple effective techniques that work against a larger attacker has the necessary skills to not allow fear to paralyze them and to truly be in charge of their own personal safety,” MacFarlane said.

Providing basic to masterful defense training to men, women and children alike, CDT offers the three basic tips for everyday safety:

Avoidance—Trust your instincts:

“Too often, men and women both ignore danger signs or bad situations because they don’t want to believe their instincts are correct,” MacFarlane said, “Trust your gut.”

Remove yourself from the situation:

“You have to give yourself permission to defend yourself, even if (it’s) just using your words,” he said. “Too many times strangers are allowed to enter our personal space simply because we are afraid of appearing rude.

“The bad guys don’t wear t-shirts that tell them apart from the rest.  If you are uncomfortable, act on it and remove yourself from the situation.”

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Know how and where to strike:

When someone attacks you, MacFarlane said, chances are good they will be larger than you.

“In order to defend against a stronger person you don’t use strength—you attack how their body functions to weaken them, allowing you to escape,” he said. “We attack how the body functions—using balance displacement, leverage to disrupt the (situation), allowing for your escape.

CDT instructors have varied military, law enforcement and martial arts backgrounds. While they coach who they call the “average Joe and Jane, they also work with domestic violence victims during recovery, MacFarlane said.

“We educate for prevention and awareness in all of our programs—the confidence that is gained comes from these skills,” he said.

“We teach you how you have the advantage in these situations and how to make the most of it.”

More background information on CDT

The basic CDT course is a two-hour seminar. But advanced training is offered as well for those who wish to continue learning, MacFarlane said.

“Our adult training course begins at the age of 11 and up,” he said. “And since we don’t use fear to teach, it is age-appropriate and relevant for all.”

CDT programs are also held in hosted locations, such as in your home, at a church, school or even in the workplace for companies.

“We travel to you for your convenience,” MacFarlane said.

For more details on programs offered by Citizen Defense training, be sure to visit You can also email your questions to or call 248-652-2222.

To learn more about the WHO’s study, you’ll want to visit and



About Jen Bucciarelli

Veggie lover and aspiring word chef, reporter Jen Bucciarelli covers all things health and medicine for Rochester Media and The Community Edge. She is always on the hunt for local experts who can help improve the lives of our readers. Send her a note at

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