Plan International Australia, an NGO, surveyed about 500 Sydney women last year and found that about 90 per cent of those aged 18-25 said they felt unsafe on the city’s streets at night.
Women’s enrolment in self-defence classes has surged from 10 per cent to almost 50 per cent in the past decade, Krav Maga Defence Institute instructor Ron Engelman said.
There has been a “spike” in women’s enrollment since January this year, an increase Mr Engleman puts down to Ms Maasarwe death and a wider cultural shift of women wanting to “take claim of their safety”.
“Women want to be badasses too, and they can be,” he said.
Tristan Fung, a senior instructor at the International Wing Chun Academy in central Sydney, has also noticed an increase in women enrolling in self-defence courses.
“Recent events or personal experience make women evaluate their safety,” Mr Fung said. “That’s no doubt a motivating factor for women to learn self-defence.
“We’re lucky to live in a safe country, but violence occurs.
“You can’t carry on with the attitude that it won’t happen to me,” he said.
The academy has had a women-only class since 2012 but two years ago Mr Fung redesigned the class to teach women how to evade the most common types of attacks, such as strangulation.
The women’s class started with a handful of participants. But because of its popularity, the class is now taught twice a week by four instructors.
International Wisdom Knowledge Association Kung Fu Sydney instructor Melanie Hanner said she had not seen a sharp intake of women in her class following violent attacks; rather the growth was more gradual.
The reason that women join self-defence classes varies but Ms Hanner said what matters is that they are signing up.
Learning a martial art not only helps make women feel safe but it can also “make a massive change to your mindset,” she said.
Laura is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.