A new self-defense project in Czechia is uniting and empowering women

Entrepreneur Linda Štucbartová teaches self-defense courses that also raise awareness about violence against women.

Ioana Caloianu

Written by Ioana Caloianu Published on 22.11.2022 13:27:00 (updated on 22.11.2022) Reading time: 4 minutes

“Being able to defense myself is not violence. It is a human right, it is my right," says Yudit Sidikman, Founder of ESD Global.

Expats.cz talked with Linda Štucbartová, who is an entrepreneur, lecturer and activist, about self-defense and the best ways for women to stay safe during the dark winter months ahead.

Štucbartová's latest project is Empowerment Self Defense Czechia, the Czech chapter of ESD Global. Promising "confident self-defense for everyone," the self-defense courses it offers are based on a "unique self-defense concept" that originated in Israel and went on to spark a global movement.

Being awarded Heart project of the City of Prague Award
Linda Štucbartová was awarded the Heart project of the City of Prague Award.

For her activities, Štucbartová was nominated for Woman of the Year 2022, Heart warmer of the Year 2022, and ESD Czechia project was a semi-finalist in the SDGs competition in the Development Cooperation, Peace and Partnership category. She offers private sessions as well as group workshops in Prague 8.

Anyone can become a target to violence

Data from the World Health Organization shows that one in three women suffered domestic violence, which makes it "endemic in every country and culture" and "devastatingly pervasive." Additionally, one quarter of all adults say they have been physically abused as children, according to World Vision. Violence is thus one of the most prevalent social issues today.

Although Prague is one of the safest cities in Europe, the lockdowns related to the Covid-19 pandemic led to another phenomenon that UN Women, the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, called the "Shadow Pandemic." This is the increase in violence targeting women and girls, such as domestic violence, that came as the pandemic put a strain on health services and essential services, such as domestic violence shelters and helplines.

The good news is that women can use certain tools to defend themselves when they become subject to such violence, Štucbartová says.

Self-defense workshop for expats at HubHub in Prague in September
Self-defense workshop for expats at HubHub in Prague in September

ESD stands for Empowerment Self Defense, a method that provides practical tools to prevent or respond to unwanted situations, from stalking to rape, from verbal harassment to life-threatening situations. Its five principles – Think, Yell, Run, Fight and Tell – teach you how to think about potentially dangerous scenarios and how to respond to violence.

Prepared for any situation

If attacked and you decide to fight for yourself, can you guess your chances of not being a victim?

Well, you have more than an 80 percent chance to succeed, since aggressors usually look for an easy target, according to a study by the U.S. National Institute of Justice.

The bad news is that more than 80 percent of violence originates from people we know. We should therefore not only be prepared for a stranger danger scenario, but also make sure we are secure in our homes.

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.

Chinese military general Sun Tzu

Think, Yell, Run, Fight, Tell

Therefore, Empowerment Self Defense starts with the principle Think, dedicated to prevention and awareness. Do you listen to your intuition? Do you pay attention to your environment? Avoid wearing earphones at night, which block out noises from the environment. Have you mapped your way home? Is there an evening store opened late? Is your street well lit, and does your building have cameras? When in a bar, keep an eye on your drink, know if there are any cameras, and if alone, stay close to a bartender and make yourself known to a security guy.

Yell is about using your voice. Do you know how to scream? Try to yell "Stop" at the top of your lungs when alone. We often freeze as a reaction to threat. By yelling, you prompt the flow of adrenaline through your body, and attract the attention of other people.

Run refers to both physical escape and de-escalation. End unpleasant conversations, avoid crowds, and if followed by a car, run sideways instead of in front of it.

Fight in self-defense. Use hard areas of your body; ESD teaches palm heels strike that is safer than a fist strike, and targets soft parts of the opponent's body. Aim for the face, throat or shin and knees.

Tell is the most important factor in the equation, and can be connected to any principle. Share your plans with friends. Share a car when coming home late. Share a strategy that works. Ask for help if needed. 

Bringing women closer together

And consider taking an ESD class. As a host mother to Grace, a 16-year-old exchange student Grace from Canada, Štucbartová made sure she attended one of her workshops.

Grace said that, as an overseas exchange student, she had to adapt to many things, such as not only "a brand new culture and language, but also feeling safe in an unfamiliar setting." After her first session of ESD, Grace "felt more confident and comfortable" in her abilities to protect herself, as well as "much more vigilant and aware of my surroundings." The course also helped Grace relate more to her host family, as well as to "other women who feel the same as I do."

Last but not least, the self-defense skills she acquired included "an effective palm-heel strike," and the ability to break a taekwondo practicing board after a three-hour session.

Linda Štucbartová offers both individual and group self-defense courses in English. You can contact her either via through the ESD Czechia webpage, or through Facebook.

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