By Michelle October; Photograph by Jamie Chung
Tammy Fry, marketing director of Fry’s and self defence coach, breaks down why every woman needs to get self defence lessons — and why they could save your life.
Across the board, being a woman is risky business. In South Africa, around 142 sexual assaults occur every day, many of them perpetuated against women. That’s not even taking rape into account: between 2015 and 2016, over 42 000 rapes were reported. That excludes the ones not reported. Added to that, women are generally at a higher risk of being attacked or robbed than men are. And then there’s the issue of women being attacked or harassed while on their run. All in all, it’s surprising more women aren’t schooled in self defence. “Every woman has to spend time on self defence,” says Tammy Fry. She’s the marketing director for Fry’s, but she’s also a karate champion and teaches self defence classes in Australia, where she now lives. The funds from those classes go towards running a self defence programme, Tough Love, in Durban for free.
You Need To Be Physically Prepared
“We [women] spend so much time on everything else; we should go and learn how to strike, block and be in the physical space of aggression,” she says. Tammy says often in her classes, women are pinned down and feel uncomfortable, and just give up. “You have to expose yourself before it happens to you,” she says. Being physically fit and taking some form of defensive lessons, like karate or jiu jitsu will help you if you’re ever in that situation.
Self Defence Gets You Ready
“Attackers win you over by surprise,” says Tammy. “Most women just crumble because they’ve never been been personally exposed to violence.” Herein lies the power of learning to fight back: your reaction can surprise your attacker and turn the element of surprise back on them. But, a caveat: unless you’re a bone fide pro, don’t fight with an armed attacker. On one occasion, a friend of Tammy’s, with no skills, bravely faked an epileptic fit when confronted by an attacker. He was so surprised he ran away. “If you have no skills, having a trick like that can flip the script on your attacker,” she says.
READ MORE: SA Women’s Day Self-Defence Workout
You’ll Be Nikita-Level Alert
Learning valuable self-defence skills gives you great awareness of the space you’re in. You’d text less; use your earphones less: it slows your reaction time down if anyone comes up to you. And, most importantly, being alert means you can visualise the possibilities. “You must visualise the situation to know what you have to do,” says Tammy. Like athletes who visualise the game before they play, looking at the elements makes you less of a target. “If you’ve seen it all before in your head, you’re better prepared,” she says.
Want lessons? Truekrav in Cape Town gets your Israeli combatant-ready; in Gauteng and Mpumalanga there’s Elite Defence, and there’s also Reebok’s free self defence classes, Pretty Lethal, at Fight Clubs in Joburg.
Looking for more? Here are four moves that could save your life.