"So, I'd Better Behave, Then" and Other Responses to Our Career Choice

​​"So, what do you do?”

“I teach self-defense.”

More often than not, upon hearing our answer to a seemingly innocuous question about our choice of career, people respond by making fists and mimicking boxing motions, which are sometimes accompanied by an uncomfortable laugh.

Every profession sparks its fair share of comments, questions, and stereotypes.

When it comes to teaching self-defense, the picture most people have in their heads is of a male martial artist or police officer training a much smaller woman.

That may be true in some cases, but that’s not what empowerment self-defense looks like. And this misconception can lead to some pretty interesting (and sometimes maddening) conversations.

We recently polled a group of ESD practitioners and asked them about the most common responses they get when they say, “I’m a self-defense instructor.”

Here are the top 10.


10. Oh. So what martial art do you teach?

Our response:

“Traditional martial arts were designed by men, for men’s bodies, for the way men fight. ESD was designed by women, for women and is based on the strengths of women's bodies against the weaknesses of the male body. In empowerment self-defense classes, women learn verbal and mental techniques along with the physical.”

Some of us do teach at least one martial art. And while there is some overlap, we take the difference between the two forms of self-defense very seriously.

9. Why don’t you just buy pepper spray? Or download an app? Or carry a big bag you can hit people with?

Our response:

ESD Global’s president and founder, Yehudit Zicklin Sidikman, came up with what she refers to as the “shower test:”

“If I don’t take it with me into the shower, it can’t be my primary prevention protocol.”

She also likes to tell people that:

“Unless a ninja pops out of my phone and fights a battle for me right there and then, I have to put my trust in myself.”

ESD training empowers women to put their trust into their own bodies and not rely on phones that can go down to once percent battery power or gadgets that may or may not work, much less always be with them.

8. Women shouldn’t have to take self-defense. It’s victim blaming.

Our response:

“We shouldn’t have to. But we believe in taking responsibility for our own safety. We take swimming lessons so we can be safe in and around water. We wear seatbelts to protect ourselves from other drivers.”

We believe strongly that a victim is never responsible for the choices of the person who initiated violence.

However, we also believe that ESD training provides us with tools for stopping violence in its tracks.

7. Really? What does your husband think about that?

Our response:


Honestly, there’s really no way to dignify that with a response. We shut the conversation down immediately.

6. But you’re so small / nice / feminine.

Our response:

“Everyone is capable of defending themselves. Everyone has a right to defend themselves.”

And then, under our breath, we might mumble:

“Go ahead. Underestimate me. That’ll be fun.”

Personality, size, etc. has nothing to do with our ability to defend ourselves. It’s also important to note that ESD techniques can be easily adapted to meet people’s individual needs.

5. I've heard all about that from my wife / brother / friend. That kind of training doesn’t work because. . .

Our response:

“Actually, empowerment self-defense is the most researched and most proven violence prevention intervention that exists.”

It’s true. And every day, we see how ESD benefits the women we teach.

4. I can show you what really works.

Our response:

“No thanks. I’m fine.”

Why waste our breath telling them about our years of education, training, and experience?

(That said, some of us have admitted to occasionally offering to very gently demonstrate a few techniques that "really work.")

3. I could never do any of that.

Our response:

“Yes, you COULD!!!”

We believe that we ALL have an inner lioness within us who is ready and able to help us defend ourselves.

As empowerment self-defense instructors, our job is to help women discover and connect with the strength and power that’s already within them.

2. I wouldn’t want to meet you in a dark alley.

Our response:

Sensei Wendi Dragonfire has figured this one out.

“You would be lucky to meet up with me in a dark alley, as I would be helping you.”

1. So you could kick my ass? I’d better behave, then!

Our response:

“You should behave anyway.”

Enough said.

* What comments and questions have you had to deal with as an empowerment self-defense practitioner?

📷 Photo courtesy of El HaLev

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