Assertiveness & Confident Body Language
In some Girls Who Fight courses we teach students how to speak assertively and present themselves confidently. These are preventative aspects of self defense, that also help girls face the world with strength. This content is also available upon request for private groups, and workshops for organizations.
Assertiveness is about being able to stand up for yourself effectively, and speak your mind confidently. It is about being able to ask for what you want, say no when you mean no, and yes when you mean yes. Many girls struggle with speaking assertively, especially when faced with an uncomfortable situation.
Confident body language is about presenting yourself in a way that projects confidence and power. It is not about size, but about how you hold yourself in a room. Confident body language looks like this: head up, shoulders back, standing tall, with arms at your side - not crossed tightly in front of your chest. How one walks is also important, specifically for self-defense. We want to tell people that we are not to be messed with, that we will put up a fight if attacked, and that we have somewhere to be. To do so, we want to walk with the confident body language mentioned above, with naturally swinging arms, slightly wider strides, and a faster walking pace. There are many studies that have analysed the connection between body language and victim selection, to read our review of the studies click here.
Examples we’ve seen
What we often observe in our work with girls is a hesitation to answer questions, to say what they want to practice, to go first in line, or ask another girl to be their partner. When speaking, they might use a quiet voice. When walking, they may keep their arms folded in front of their bodies. When we start movements in a line, girls often put themselves at the back, or yield to others even if they want to go first. When asked what they want to practice, they might put their hand down when they realize no one else wants to practice the same thing. They are hesitant to make a decisive decision or statement. We believe that these behaviours are self-destructive for girls, creating a character that is too shy to advocate for herself.
How we change this
In our camps, we provide training on assertiveness and confident body language. We teach girls what it looks and sounds like to make an assertive statement, why it is important, and when we might need to use it. We teach girls about a strong tone of voice, speaking firm and clear, holding eye contact, and maintaining confident body language. We have girls practice this voice in different exercises, which includes serious and fun games.
For confident body language, we show girls what ‘open vs closed’ body language is, and how to walk confidently. We practice these with walking drills, where we add fun and creative walks, as well as ‘shy’ and confident walks.
One way we practice assertiveness and confidence is with our ‘audition game’. Girls audition for a character in a movie, who starts off very shy, and then becomes super confident and powerful by the end. Girls act out the shy character in a scene, and then the confident character in a scene where she has to stand up for herself against a bully. This allows girls to practice both voice and body language, using it in a situation that is common for their age group.
Another game we do is a stare down championship. We have girls walk in and face off against each other, holding a powerful stance (think superhero or fighter), maintaining eye contact as long as they can. Their objective is to stay strong and not back down, even in the face of discomfort or intimidation. This helps girls learn about what it really feels like to stand their ground, in a fun and safe environment.
In our weekly classes, assertiveness and confidence is part of class culture. We see girls transform from the ‘shy girl behaviour’ mentioned above, to girls who are assertive and comfortable being themselves within weeks. They run to the front of the line to start class, they shoot their hands up when asked a question, unapologetically and decisively stating what they think or want. They walk straighter and speak louder. They start practicing right away, without the ‘do you want to go, should i go, who should go first?’, passive dance that is common with many new students.
We truly encourage our students to be confident being themselves, to speak their minds and advocate for themselves. This makes us so proud to see, and when we hear from parents how this has translated into their private and school lives, we are thrilled. Our training has helped students deal with bullies, with body image issues, and with being more assertive in general.
"Sofia begun to be self aware, and in past few years begun to cross arms when she walked. One week with you and what you taught the class about walking with confidence and this behaviour is gone. She used to be upset when I tried to explain that to walk hunched and with arms crossed is a sign of weakness. Now all I say 'Walk with confidence how Gemma showed you,' and she stands tall and strong."
Barbara, summer camp 2019
"I did a women's self defense seminar here and my 7 year old daughter did the week long camp. Both were exceptional. Gemma, the instructor, is warm and knowledgeable, with boundless energy. After completing the camp, my daughter now has confidence that will help her in *all* areas of her life, not just in self-defense. And although she was a bit younger than most of her campmates, she can now do things like escape a choke hold, kick, and knock an opponent off balance. She also learned about situational awareness and how to stand up for herself and uses it in her daily life. I love that she learned these valuable life skills while also having the time of her life. We owe Gemma and Girls Who Fight Inc a debt of gratitude!"
Jacqueline, summer camp 2018
"Our daughter took the gwf summer camp, and we couldn't be happier with how much she learned in just one week. She learned how to physically defend herself, but more importantly she learned how to stand strong, say no, and walk with confidence. We have seen a total change in how our daughter speaks and walks, she sees herself in a new light as someone strong and capable. We can't thank Gemma enough."
Evan, summer camp 2019