I’m a seventeen year old girl and I haven’t fought or done anything like that before and I was just wondering if you had any tips you were willing to share for a complete beginner?

I’m sorry, the focus of the blog is fight scene writing advice, not fighting advice.

There’s a really simple reason for this: you can’t teach someone how to fight by talking about it. Sooner or later, you need to be there. A lot of hand to hand training depends on muscle memory, get that wrong, and you’re screwed.

The only way that’s going to work is if you go out, find a dojo or school, and start taking lessons. Many four year colleges offer Karate as a physical fitness requirement, so if you’re planning on going off to college this year or next, you can start there.

If you’re not, Karate schools are all over the place, if you’re in a larger metro area you can probably find Krav Maga, Jujitsu, or any of the dozen other martial arts that bill themselves as “self defense” forms.

But, actually teaching you just isn’t something we can do in this format. I’m sorry.


Starke is right, training for fighting is a very hands on experience. For a complete beginner, you really need an instructor there to correct bad posture, fix your stance work, and adjust your punches and kicks. This isn’t something we can do by remote, or frankly that you can learn from a video. This is why I get so irritated with the self-defense videos that occasionally float around, it isn’t that the information in them isn’t good, it’s that a raw beginner won’t get what they need from them. Combat is no good unless you practice.

However, if learning martial arts is what you want to do, whether it’s for self-defense (you’re seventeen, you may be going off to college this year or next) or just because you’re interested, then I can give you some advice on how to get started (and how to convince your parents to pay for it, if you can’t yourself).

1) Spend some time researching different martial arts styles online before you approach your parents with the idea, if you decide to start when you’re eighteen then legally it’s not a problem, but your parents will probably want to be informed anyway. Know what you want (and how much it’s going to cost) before you ask, be as informed about it as possible. If you can, try to find some different schools in the area that support the style you want to learn and visit them with one or both of your parents. Spend some time talking to the instructor (have a list of questions ready) and chat with the dojo students after class (they’ll be in a rush before class). Decide for yourself if this is a learning atmosphere that will fit you. Since you’re seventeen, you’ll probably be in the adult class in the evening, so check to make sure your class schedule will fit with the school’s hours. Because you’re a minor, your parents will need to be present to sign forms with you if you decide this is what you want and having them get to know the school’s instructors will give them another reason to pay for your lessons if you can’t afford them yourself.

2) If you take Starke’s advice about physical fitness programs at your college then disregard this. So, you’ve found your martial art but you haven’t visited a dojo yet with your parents or your guardian. I don’t know them, so I can’t give you any specific advice on temperament, but here are a few options that I know have worked for other students of mine and their families in the past:

a) The self-defense reason is a big one, as a young woman you’re going off to college or in your final year of high school, where you’ll be alone without your parents or guardian possibly for the first time. Any parent would feel uneasy about this with their children, but it’s hard for girls. I know I worry about any future daughters I might have and I don’t even have kids yet. The threats you could face in college are a real, honest reason to want to learn to protect yourself and one your parents can probably relate to (if they’re good parents who worry about your safety). By doing the ground work yourself, you show them how serious you are about it, which puts you in a better position than just saying “I want to learn how to fight”.

b) If this is your last year of high school or you’re going to a college that’s close to home, suggest taking lessons as a family bonding exercise. I know a lot of parents who signed up with their children or their teens (and who kept practicing long after their kids stopped coming). It can be a great, stress free way to get to know your parent and them to know you. If you don’t think it will appeal to your parents and you have siblings (who are of a similar age and you can convince to go with you) then recruit them to help gang up on your parents. It’s easier with two, especially if you have research to back you up. (This is not how my brother and I did it, I started and then my parents thought the school was so good that they enrolled him, but my mother used it as a sibling bonding exercise. I can’t say it worked, but we both got to third and fourth degree respectively, so who knows.)

Look, martial arts are something you can start at any age, I’ve seen everyone from twelve year olds to cancer survivors earn their black belt.

I don’t know if that answers the question, but I hope it helps.


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