Wen Do Women’s Herstory

Wen-do is the longest running Women’s Self Defence organization in Canada.  It all began in 1964, when Anne and Dr Ned Paige saw a story in the media that had widespread coverage in Canada and the U.S.A about a woman named Kitty Genovese.  She was murdered in New York City by a stranger with a weapon as she walked home from work.  Anne and Ned were impacted in particular by the news reports that suggested neighbours heard Kitty screaming for help. Some of those neighbours said they saw through their windows the actual attack and thought that ‘everyone else would be calling the police.’  This lack of support from witnesses was named the ‘bystander effect’ because of this situation.  The Paige family decided to take their martial arts expertise to begin developing physical self defence techniques based on the concept of that women never have to use strength against strength to successfully defend themselves.

The first Wen-Do Women’s Self Defence course was taught at Don Mills Collegiate in Toronto.  The Paige family stood on the stage with over one hundred women in the auditorium and proceeded to teach them effective strikes, blocks and body hold releases.   At our 30th anniversary gala one woman told us she had been in that first class that night in the auditorium.  She told us that the energy was amazing and women loved the experience.

Within the second year of Wen-Do we became a woman only organization.  There was a clear and strong understanding amongst the women instructors in Wen-do that the training was so effective and impactful when taught by women only.   Our bodies, our experiences, our expertise!

From that time our feminist, anti-racist, anti-oppression values and analysis have continued to develop and underlie all of our classes.  Today they are inclusive of transgendered women and women and girls of all abilities.  We work in every class to debunk victim blaming, racist, oppressive internal and external messages that we as women often are exposed to.   We celebrate women’s resilience, strength and determination.

Our classes have been taught in Japan, South Africa, Europe, many parts of the U.S.A. and throughout Canada.  Since that first class in 1964, over 100,000 women and girls have participated in Wen-do workshops and courses.  We have been informed and shaped by the women and girls who have instructed, volunteered, and taken classes with us for more than four decades.