Mothers of the students who learn Krav Maga at Jarrett Arthur’s Los Angeles martial arts school often tell her stories about how vulnerable they have felt driving into desolate, unfamiliar neighborhoods. Often, they’ll joke, “If anything happened, I’d have to hide behind my kids.”
When Arthur encourages them to study martial arts themselves, few follow up. Some are intimidated by the athleticism they see in the classes or don’t have the time. But she also realized it was hard for them to see how the classes would actually help them protect themselves in the real world. Many programs don’t teach strategies that apply to situations in which parents commonly find themselves, like walking to their car with a bunch of kids while laden down with soccer equipment.
“Almost all of the traditional self defense systems and techniques across the board are geared toward when you are by yourself, ” she says. “It is a completely different ball game when you’re with your kids.” Many women feel especially vulnerable when they are pregnant or traveling with a small child who is in a stroller or car seat, she found.
To help women–and parents in general–defend themselves when they are with their kids, she drew on her ten years of teaching to create a DVD, “Don’t Mess With M.A.M.A. The Foundation.” (M.A.M.A. is short for Mothers Against Malicious Acts), earlier this month. It offers practical, streamlined strategies that women can use to protect themselves and their kids, whether or not they have studied martial arts. “I love traditional martial arts,” says Arthur. “I do not think traditional martial arts are the best option for women only concerned with learning self defense.”
Women may feel like easy targets when they are with their children, but she believes they actually have a powerful advantage in such situations. “With the mama bear instincts, you are more hormonally prepared to take care of business,” she says.
It’s too soon to tell how the DVD will do, but my guess is that there will be a healthy demand, especially among women who would never be inclined to take a martial arts class–and men who want to know that the mothers of their kids are safe. “I wanted to create something that, even if if you’re not a martial artist, speaks to everybody,” Arthur says.
Arthur’s system focuses on teaching parents simple principles like keeping their kids a safe distance behind them if accosted, so the kids don’t get within reach of the assailant and the parent can make a quick escape with the youngsters. When you’re face-to-face with someone who wants to harm you, it’s better if your kids don’t try to join you in fighting them off, she says. “If an attacker gets their hands on your child, that is the ideal bargaining chip,” she says.
Right now, Arthur runs a one-woman business. However, she is writing a book and eventually looking to train other instructors in her methods, and it will be interesting to follow her as she scales up. She has an ideal RD laboratory: the classes she runs. It was here that she tested her methods with mothers who spend a good part of their time with kids. “The main focus has been really trying to listen to what moms want and, instead of putting out what I think moms need, to really put it out there in smaller chunks, so I can make adjustments to the program,” she says.
Anyone who has taken martial arts classes knows that they can bring many benefits outside of self-defense. Arthur believes that her system can be a valuable confidence builder in one’s career and beyond. Feeling vulnerable to attack, at the most primitive level of thought, holds women back in subtle ways, she believes.
“Not having answers, not having a plan, not having the confidence you can truly survive a violent attack–I think that for women, that hole there that’s not filled does hold us back to a certain extent from accomplishing what we want, on whatever platform it is,” she says.
Although Arthur’s mother, a surgeon, raised her to believe she could do anything, Arthur says that learning Krav Maga has boosted her own confidence. It is the official defense system for the Israeli Defense Forces and has been used by law enforcement agencies in the U.S. such as the New York City Police Department, FBI and Armed Forces, according to the Krav Maga Federation.
Her own training has not left her feeling invulnerable, but she says, “I know in my heart of hearts that I have the skills to fight back and survive, for myself and my family. I really do think it permeates every other aspect of your life. It’s a type of empowerment and confidence I don’t think you can get any other way.”
Clearly, that confidence has helped her overcome a challenge that holds many would-be entrepreneurs back: Fear of taking their big idea and running with it. That’s the first step to building any successful business. I’m looking forward to seeing the response to her DVD.