Woman: You're intimidating. I feel like I can't do anything.
Man: Not true. You're a much better martial artist than me. You have more moves, you move better and you're crisper.
Woman: But if you decided to take me out, there's nothing I could do...
Man (dumps her quickly, double leg takedown): Decision stick.
So, first thought: Gender, size and skill aside, making decisions will always overcome weighing options. The decision stick is faster than the decision tree. Moving beats thinking about moving. Later, the woman described the man as "implacable" which ties in with something E and I were talking about last night. Skill levels, strength, speed and size are all quantitative differences. The more you have, the more the odds shift in you favor.
Making decisions is a qualitative difference from weighing options. Moving and thinking are qualitative differences. So are fighting and hunting (or social and asocial violence, if you're just catching up on the language.) Skilled fighters and skilled killers are not at different levels of skill, they aren't even playing the same game.
That was the first thought, not really new, but this is something I keep trying to say in new ways because it seems that this thought brings up a lot of resistance and ego-defense.
The second thought is about gender, and this is something we will hit heavily in the "Logic of Violence" seminar. There are a limited number of very specific types of violence. Many of the most dangerous are predatory. When the people in the class do their self analysis most fit male martial artists (who don't go clubbing, get drunk, go regularly to unfamiliar cultures or have old enemies) are not at risk for much. What they are at risk for, especially if they do go to places of drunken revelry, is largely social: low stakes and easy to avoid.
The women, on the other hand, are at risk for more things, a wider variety of things and the types of violence with the highest stakes. No one is going to pick a former bouncer and Muay Thai fighter with a shaved head out of the crowd and decide to lure him to a secluded place for an act of sexual violence and murder. Victims are chosen for safety.
People forget that their world is not the world. Men teaching self-defense, even with a lot of real-life experience, sometimes forget how limited their experience is. If you have thrown a hundred people out of bars, 100% of your experience is with drunk young men challenging with a dominance display. It is easy to come to believe that your 100% must at least relate to 90% of the world's experience. Surely...
Gender. Women are attacked differently and for different reasons than men. They are even intimidated differently. The average women can be knocked flat with a single blow from a fairly athletic men. Women know this. Athletic men teaching self-defense tend, it seems, to forget. When a guy gets knocked down, we don't like it, but it has happened before-- playing football or rough-housing as kids.
When a woman gets knocked down it is often new, a blatant expression of power she can't match and with an emotional element men rarely grasp. You knock me down, I'm a guy. This is now a contest. The message is, "This is what I've got. What have you got?"
You knock down a woman, it is a stark affirmation of something she knows: men are powerful. The message received is not about a contest. It is about worth and power and inconsequence.
Are the messages true? Doesn't matter, because they are often received, true or not. When you are teaching self-defense to women it is not merely a matter of overcoming a 5-to-1 power deficit and a 3-to-1 size deficit as Teja points out. It also happens in a sometimes crippling psychological milieu. You can't ignore that.
In sparring and drills, I watch big people ramp back on strength so that they play skill against skill with the other students. It's very natural, but it's not true. There is a piece missing. That piece has to be brought out occasionally and looked at.