8 posts / 0 new
Last post
Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture
Not today M.F.er!

A powerful story about just how useful good self-defence training can be! Jordan Giarratano of Fighting Chance in Seattle (the instructor who ran the course, and a member of this forum) is a thoughtful and skilled teacher who cares greatly about his students. He’s a regular at the seminars in the USA and I always enjoy talking with him about all things martial … and our shared taste in music :-). The right training can be very empowering and this is a great illustration of that! Good job Kelly and Jordan!

All the best,



Wastelander's picture

I was definitely happy to hear how she was able to take control of the situation, when I first saw the story. I didn't realize that Jordan was a member of the forum--that makes it even better! I'm glad it worked out okay for her, despite the fact that it happened!

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Wastelander wrote:
I was definitely happy to hear how she was able to take control of the situation, when I first saw the story. I didn't realize that Jordan was a member of the forum--that makes it even better! I'm glad it worked out okay for her, despite the fact that it happened!

Jordan has been a member for a long time. You’ll all recognise him when you see him (see pic) as he’s also been uke in a few of my videos.

A good guy with lots of very important things to say on the subject of female self-defence. For example:


Self-Defense Class Selection Tips

The recent media attention around Kelly Herron's story has brought issues of personal safety and self-defense for women to front of mind for many people. However, this spotlight shines on dangerous and irresponsible self-defense programs as well as the good.

We have had an unprecedented surge in sign-ups. We are doing our best to meet demand, but we are a small business and we pride ourselves on personalized instruction. We cannot possibly meet every need and honestly, there should always be multiple options for self-defense for women classes offering different viewpoints.

Here are some questions for you to use to vet potential instructors before attending a self-defense class:

1. Is the program rooted in the reality of violence against women and does the instructor have a clear sense of the context of self-defense situations? Ask the instructor about their source material, training, and background. Is the instructor open to being challenged or asked tough questions about the material?

2. Does the material reinforce patriarchy and rape culture or does it seek to understand and fight back against it? Ask the instructor if participants are allowed to "opt-in" or out of training, if instructors and teaching assistants get consent before touching participants, if efforts are made to ensure that participants with past trauma around sexual assault are considered and provided for.

3. Does the class teach realistic solutions to violence against women or do they re-purpose tournament karate and sport jiu-jitsu without a clear understanding that sport martial arts are not meant for real world self-defense. The goal is to KEEP IT SIMPLE. During an adrenaline response the body is limited to gross motor skills and is not terribly precise. And remember, the goal is to escape and fight your way to your feet NOT STAY ON THE GROUND!

4. Is the goal to survive or to win a fight? I just watched a local Krav Maga class that was promoted by KOMO news reporter Suzanne Phan, in the video participants are learning to break free from an attacker in a giant padded suit AND THEN GO BACK TO KEEP FIGHTING HIM, RATHER THAN TO ESCAPE. The goal of self-defense IS TO ESCAPE AND SAVE YOUR LIFE, not to fight like a martial artist in a bad movie. This is 100% irresponsible training and it is UNACCEPTABLE.

5. Do they teach grappling escapes that would require complicated scenarios of "if/then" reasoning (i.e. if you stomp on their foot, they will release their grip) or escapes that would not work against a much stronger attacker (ask for clarity on their methodology)? In self-defense, there is NO GUARANTEED SOLUTION, however instructors should be able to give a clear sense of whether something may or may not work based on size, strength, and level of technical difficulty. They should also give honest answers around size, strength disadvantages, etc.

6. Do they advertise a guaranteed solution? Do they use fear-based marketing? Is their marketing gender-reductive or sexist? Is their marketing completely and totally irrelevant (i.e. what the HELL does claiming your art is the self-defense system of the Israeli army have to do with violence against women)?

7. Do they advise you to not go out at night, dictate what you should and should not wear? Do they reinforce victim-blaming by putting the responsibility for sexual assault on the person who is attacked and not the person attacking?

8. Is the material developed FOR women with feedback and ongoing practice with women or is it what a male martial artist would do in a hypothetical situation? Is the material grounded in research and best practices? Are female instructors and teaching assistants present for you to practice with? Does the instructor have an understanding or awareness of their privilege and potential blindspots?

9. Does it feel like cosplay? Does the instructor keep coming up with wildly unlikely scenarios and inventing solutions for them? Does it feel like martial arts fantasy rather than real world, practical skills? Do they teach complicated knife and gun defense that seem unrealistic (hint: if they seem unrealistic, they are).

10. Are they so focused on stranger-attacks that they forget the overwhelming majority of attacks against women come from people they know? Do they emphasize and teach "soft skills" i.e. understanding the predator mindset, breaking down the interview process, trusting intuition, creating boundaries, etc?

Trust your intuition. If something doesn't feel right to you, then please, listen to that instinct.

I wish no ill-will to local martial arts schools - I know and like lots of local martial artists and gym owners. I believe all martial arts have value and improve the lives of participants and I would love to see ALL Seattle Martial Arts flourish. However:

Not all martial arts are applicable to self-defense for women. Being a martial artist in and of itself is not actually a qualification to teach this material.

I understand that anyone teaching self-defense is most likely doing it from the good of their heart. But that is not enough. Instructors need to be fully-educated and aware of what they are teaching and why and to fully understand the context of their curriculum choices.

If you are a local instructor or school owner and you have concerns about your program or there are any items on this list that are unclear to you or that you'd like to ask questions about, I will make myself available to talk confidentially. Message me your name, number, and school and I will call you and offer help in any way that I can.

- Jordan Giarratano


Marc's picture

That is an excellent and quite extensive checklist!

Thanks for sharing it.


Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture

Excellent stuff.

mike23's picture

Self-defense techniques merely give you a stragety and are not etched in stone. They may give you an advantage over an attacker compared to randomly flailing your arms and legs, however having learned that certain techniques "can" work, instills the confidence one needs to believe they can and should fight back and survive/escape.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

The model below has always struck me as being very true:

Most important to Less important

Mindset – Strategy – Tactics – Technique – Tools / Weapons

The mindset is by far and away the most important; and I think we can see Kelly had that down i.e. “not today MF-er!”.

Any self-defence training (particularly short courses) that focusses primarily on technique (and sadly a lot of it does) is not going to be very successful.

Jordan’s sound advice to Kelly: “Make lots of noise and fight like a savage!” (mindset).

That’s what we should be emphasising.

All the best,


Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture