October 3, 2019, Israel
This is not about how one should dress in a Krav Maga class, this is how Krav Maga views how one should dress - Outside.
This is a sensitive topic, the core of the issue is should one modify their dress code based on the circumstances.
Should a woman modify how she dresses in certain areas. Should an Orthodox Jew, or Muslim, modify how they dress?
Let's lay down some ideas:
No matter how one dresses it is never a justification for anyone to attack them. The person being attacked IS the victim, no matter how they dressed or behaved.
The question now is, looking at it strictly from a self defense perspective, what are our best options?
One of the basic rules of self defense is - Do not look for trouble. Do everything possible to avoid trouble.
Here I shall offer my personal perspective.
Where to go - Avoid certain areas. These include not only high crime areas which are dangerous for everyone but also areas which are dangerous for you personally. For a woman this would mean avoid certain bars perhaps where a single woman walking in alone might invite unwelcome attention.
Let's stop and analyze this for a moment before I get crucified by women.
Some women will say, rather than focus on the woman's behavior why don't we teach men not to rape or attack women. The answer is we do. The answer is we always work from two directions.
In Israel we work on creating opportunities for peace with our neighbors, but hand in hand we also work on creating the best army we can. There is no contradiction.
One might say, Why work on building our army. Why don't the Arabs simply learn to accept a Jewish state in the Middle East?
Well, we do work on that, every day, all over the world. But it is not enough because the reality is that certain people will not be convinced. Similarly, we try to raise boys to respect girls, and girls to respect boys, but the fact of life is that some will not. We can only raise our own kids, not those that belong to others. We do the best we can. Violence is a fact of life.
We must always work from both directions: we work to create a society where no one should live in fear, where children can hang out on the street, in the park, by themselves, as they do here in Maaleh Adumim. But we must also train for self defense. We can never assume that all people will be good and kind.
Back to the women. Yes, we must train men to respect women but until that lofty goal is accomplished we must also train women to defend themselves.
We must educate society to respect those who dress differently; Orthodox Jews, traditional Muslims, Catholic priests. But we also must train these groups to fight back against hate crimes that will surely come their way.
This is a fact of life.
Now the question here is, how much should one modify their behavior and clothing to defend themselves.
I advocate that all should dress in a way that allows the ability to fight back. I.e. if you are wearing dress shoes you might not be able to run so well, if you have on a tie that could be used to choke you. If you are wearing high heel shoes and a mini skirt, this could make self defense very challenging, putting you a great disadvantage.
Looking at clothing from a self defense/fighting back perspective, we should chose clothing for the street or travel that we can fight, or run in. It terribly disturbs me to see people boarding flights wearing flip flogs, crocs, mini skirts, high heels etc. I know that if there is an emergency landing, or a terrorist attack, these people will be a liability, these people will get in our way of doing what needs to be done.
The next point is from the point of "provoking" an attack. Should an Orthodox Jew walk into a hostile environment wearing traditional "loud" Hasidic clothing? Should he avoid areas that are hostile, and if he must be there perhaps tone it down a bit?
Most Jews I know who live outside of Israel will wear a baseball cap rather than a yarmulke (Kipa, Jewish head covering), women will wear clothing that "fits in". I can always spot them but the average Gentile cannot.
A woman walking into a bar alone can be a target, even though of course it is not justified. Wearing provocative clothing while doing so, as we said can invite unwelcome attention. Now I know that many will say, I want to look attractive, I am not doing this to draw men to me. And yet one must look at this from a self defense perspective. An Orthodox Jew may say, I am not wearing this outfit to challenge an Anti-Semite to a fight, and yet it is wise to be careful.
When traveling in groups one is safer, there is strength in numbers. And yet one must take all precautions. In a synagogue in Austria I saw a sign in Hebrew that warned the worshippers not to gather in large numbers outside the synagogue, which does not look like a synagogue from the outside, just an ordinary building. The sign warned that they are trying not to draw attention, and that careless behavior can put all in danger. Do not hang out near the door in the synagogue in your Jewish Sabbath outfit. We do not want unwelcome attention.
I feel the same should be true of all groups. We would like to live in an ideal world but sadly that is not the case at the moment. We do not need to announce to all where we stand on every issue. Wearing a shirt with a political message, well, you can expect a reaction, that is your choice.
Personally I am willing to take some risk and I have dressed the same all over the world, but that is a personal choice. I do make every effort to avoid hostile environments. I avoid provoking others.
Bottom line, we do not blame the victim but each and every one of us who is concerned about personal safety must ask ourselves: Will my clothing or behavior provoke unwelcome "attention"? Is it worth the risk? Do I want to be Daniel in the lions den?
It is a choice each one of us has to make on a regular basis.
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