For thousands of years, women were forced to depend on the men in their families for protection. Protection that was flimsy at best. Yet, in the last fifty years, women around the world have broken the self-defense glass ceiling. They are empowered to protect themselves, their loved ones, and even those around them. Regardless of what might be holding you back–age, insecurities, false sense of security–everyone has a right to feel confident and capable of protecting themselves. Fortunately, there are plenty of reasons to train.

1. It Improves Self-Reliance

Self-reliance is the first step to feeling capable and competent. Learning mechanics and physics of the human body makes anyone, even the small 5-foot tall woman, a threat if she knows what she’s doing. Your body is your greatest weapon. Learning to use it in whatever form of self-defense builds your foundation for self-reliance.

Start with something that is non-combative, like yoga and meditation. You need to be aware of all the extensions of your body before you can really use it for protection. That’s not to say you need to be overly flexible. Rather, being self-aware of your toes while your body is in an uncomfortable position means you can rely on those toes to do something else (figuratively speaking). Being able to focus on those small muscles will help with building muscle memory. Each minuscule muscle has the potential to build muscle memory over time, which will significantly help in the long run.

Next, start a workout routine if you don’t already have one. It doesn’t need to be intense, but being strong is a part of being self-reliant. You’ll eventually want to join something as simple as a kickboxing class or take a self-defense class.

There are other techniques out there, like Mui Thai (personal recommendation), jujitsu, ground fighting, boxing, MMA… the list is endless.

2. Builds Confidence

Welcome to never being concerned about traveling alone. Being self-reliant means having the confidence in your body and mind for all situations and circumstances. Not only does it help with being confident, but it also helps you stay fit and functional. You can now improve upon your health, and be able to protect yourself–how’s that for killing two birds with one stone?

Now, we get it. Learning how to fight doesn’t sound like something that might make you feel confident. Many women believe what they look like or what they wear will make them more confident. But take it from many women who have been victims of assault–they’ve never felt more confident than when they knew they could protect themselves.

Strength is the new sexy, ladies. No man or woman out there should take away your confidence based off what you look like or how you dress. Women of all ages, shapes, and size can and should learn self-defense.

3. Great Discipline Practice

Discipline is something that many people struggle with, and struggle to teach their children. For both parents and young kids, learning the responsibility to save yourself, protect others, and have the ability to inflict real injury on another person is a huge step.

You might not put two and two together just yet, but strength is for both the body and the mind. As you learn to take care of your body, your mental toughness soon follows. You use that discipline to work through other problems in your life, as well. As a former rugby player, there was nothing better than hitting people for two hours a day to blow off some steam.

4. The Art of De-escalation

When you know you can harm someone with your body, you are a lot less likely to do it in a way that shows force or power when it’s not necessary. Your techniques and strengths become a weapon that you must take very seriously. They are a hidden secret that will help you when the rubber hits the road but you’ll become skilled at learning to talk down another person before resulting in violence and injury. You will also be held accountable by the law should you use unnecessary force when protecting yourself or others.

5. The One Weapon You Will Always Have

You might not always be armed or comfortable being armed (knife or gun), and that’s okay. Your body is the only weapon that you will have with you all the time. When the bullets run out, when the perpetrator drops his/her knife, all you’ve got left is you. Hand to hand combat is the great equalizer and if someone gets you unarmed, their problems are just starting.

Taking care of this “weapon” (i.e. your body) and training with it just like you would a firearm or other weapon will keep it sharp and strong. So if you ever need it, although we hope never, it will act accordingly. Plus, there are so many benefits to being strong, agile, and in shape for the long-term anyway. Taking care of your body starting today ensures a longer, healthier life in general.

Remember, being strong and capable is the new sexy. Truly loving yourself and those around you means being able to do what’s necessary for protection. Take that pent-up energy–from work, being an assault survivor, road rage, whatever–and put it towards learning a skill that will quite literally last you a lifetime.