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Women's Martial Arts and Self-Defense

This section containing books relating to women in the martial arts. Both as beginners and as experts, these books discuss all types of topics that women deal with as martial artists.

First section: Beginner's Books

A Woman's Guide to Martial Arts, by Monica McCabe Cardoza.

Martial Arts for Women : A Practical Guide, by Jennifer Lawler.

Many people interested in starting martial arts are sometimes overwhelming by the number, variety, and type of schools out there. Many schools will say they teach self-defense, build cardio, AND allow competition. Others will say you can't do them all. Some say you must have full-contact sparring to learn self-defense, others will say you must do forms to properly learn technique.

Many of these sayings contradict each other. To people not informed, picking a school can be very confusing. The above two books are pretty good about giving a good amount of helpful informtion specifically tailored to women interested in the martial arts. I have both of them, and many of the women in my classes have read them, and found good things in them. I'll note that Lawler's book (while all right) occasionally comes from an exceedingly TKD-centric point of view, which can be annoying, particularly when she assumes that other arts work in the same way.

Overall, though, both books are worth getting.

Second Section: Women as Parents

Parent's Guide to Martial Arts, by Debra Fritsch and Ruth Hunter.

Parent's Guide to Children's Martial Arts: What's the Right Style for Your Child?, by Len Losik and Sandra Losik.

I have the first book, which is a good book for people interested in starting their child in a martial arts class. Very good info here. I have not read the second book, so if anyone has, and would like to email me and tell me about it...

Third section: Martial Arts Writing for/by Women

Women in the Martial Arts, edited by Carol A. Wiley.

Sharp Spear, Crystal Mirror, by Stephanie Hoppe.

Women in Aikido, by Andrea Siegel.

These first three books are all compilations of essays or interviews written by various women in the martial arts. The first one, edited by C. Wiley, is probably my favorite. In it, the women who wrote essays were all practicing martial artists who had something to talk about relating directly to themselves and their growth in the martial arts. Very interesting.

The second book by S. Hoppe contains interviews in a similar vein, though some of the women interviewed weren't really talking about martial arts directly---more about how martial arts changed other parts of their lives. Interesting, though the section about the person who worked in a prison annoyed me---as a correctional officer, I see her attitude quite often: that of someone who has been taken in by the inmates, and believes what they say, over what the record (and their past) says about them. Setting off a fire alarm inside a prison isn't a laughing matter, considering what emergency response is required. Anyway, that is just a personal thing. Overall, a decent book, with some interesting insights.

The third book---well, it is out there if you want to try it. I found the author's premise interesting---that of talking to a group of women, all of whom were black belts in aikido, and finding out what that meant to them---very intriguing. However, I must admit that I was highly unimpressed with the people she choose to interview, though. (However, I haven't read it in a couple of years, I might have a different opinion now.) I would probably suggest finding this in a library, THEN if you like it, getting a copy for yourself.

The Way of the River : Adventures and Meditations of a Woman Martial Artist, by BK Loren.

I don't have this book, though it is on order. If anyone has read it, I would appreciate an email with any comments you'd like to pass on.

Fourth section: Women and Self-defense in the Martial Arts

Many martial arts classes purport to teach self-defense. However, not many actually do. While I do have a number of very good books on self-defense on my Self-Defense Books page, the ones below are particularly focused on women's self-defense.

Awakening the Warrior Within, by Dawn Callan.

Beauty Bites Beast, by Ellen Snortland.

These first two are similar in that they specifically talk (in a emotionally understandable and gripping way) about active self-defense actions for women. Discussing both the mindset, the physical actions, and the emotional changes that self-defense training initiates, these books WILL make you think.

Real Knockoutes: The Physical Feminism of Women's Self-Defense, by Martha McCaughey.

Similar to the two above, this book is a much, MUCH more scholarly and academic look at the same topic. A bit more dry (due to the precision of academic language) this book is highly recommended for people who are interested in a more intellectually rigorous treatment of women's self-defense.

Armed and Female, by Paxton Quigley.

If you don't like guns, you should think about it. This book will help.

Strong on Defense, by Sanford Strong.

The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker.

Verbal Judo, by George Thompson.

These books aren't quite specifically for women, but nonetheless, I highly recommend them. The first and second ones hit perhaps the most important thing about about self-defense: the mindset. Without it, even with physical training, your percentage chance of safety just isn't high. With it, even without training, you have a chance.

The third book is recommended for anyone who has to deal with people. Ever. Thompson's Verbal Judo is a book that teaches you the verbal side of confrontations, and how to deal with them---something many self-defense classes never hit on---which is bad, since the verbal confrontation before any physical action is necessary is where you can derail said physical action. Worth getting for anyone.

I have some more books to add later, but my students have them, and I want to re-read them before I add them here. If you have any suggestions for me, please email me and let me know!

Hope you find some useful works in the above!

If not, you can use the below search box for attempt to find specific titles not listed above----good luck!