Feminist Self Defense


by Allison Branston

May is Sexual Violence Prevention Month

I’ve done self-defense classes before. A large man in pajamas taught the girls of my high school gym class how to flip a grown man over our hips if he grabbed you from behind. We left with sore backs, unsuccessful. Male instructors modify Judo, Muay Thai, Jiu-jitsu to fit the mythical parking garage at night where women wander alone, vigilant and vulnerable. I was relieved to finally discover recently that there are feminist self-defense classes being taught.

Wen Do was developed by women for women. Wen Do recognizes fight, flight and freeze are all valid responses to threats; that in the vast majority of sexual assault cases the perpetrator is known to the victim; and that more assaults take place in the afternoon than at night.

After so many recommendations I did a 3-hour Wen Do workshop. We discussed self-defense and the law, what abusive relationships look like and practiced saying no.

What overwhelmed me was the feeling of how real it was. The strategies used are based on factual evidence of women’s experiences- not rape myths. Real anecdotes of folks using Wen Do are shared. The feeling is that it’s a terrible injustice that women must learn Wen Do, but anything to make us safer must be done and taken seriously.

Wen Do recognizes you might not want to gouge the eyes out of your attacker- he’s probably your boyfriend, co-worker or creepy uncle. Wen Do teaches us where to hit people and what kind of damage it will do. Knowing that a certain strike could save your life but will only leave bruises means increased confidence that could eliminate that moment’s hesitation.

Being in a room full of women yelling and punching and sharing stories was a wonderful few hours. It reminded me that we are not alone in our experiences of sexual violence, and there is a supportive community of women all around us. I felt my own strength and resiliency highlighted, and I felt even stronger with the support of my sisters.

There is a Wen Do workshop this weekend (May 9-10) in Guelph.

There is a Wen Do workshop this weekend (May 9-10) in


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