After the Home Office announced that tackling the "relentless" harassment women across the UK face on the streets, Beth Hughes underwent a women's only self-defence class at Toe2Toe martial arts gym in Holywell...

IT HAS been conceived by the Women and Equalities Committee in Westminster that it's now "normalised" for girls growing up to face harassment and verbal abuse on the streets across Britain. From cat calls to sexual assaults, women across the UK are increasingly becoming accustomed to not batting an eyelid when tormented walking home from work, the gym, or perhaps a night out.

But for Matt Inskip and Mike Thomas, martial arts experts at not-for-profit boxing gym Toe2Toe, women and girls of all ages should not have to be subjects of assault - or any uncomfortable situations that put them in danger. The pair, with their years of expertise, decided to offer advice to local females by holding a free, women-only self-defence class at the gym.

Matt explained: "We held a session about a month ago in the day time which was a big success, but a lot of people couldn't make it. With the dark nights coming in and the way things are at the moment, we thought it would be good to offer these free sessions in the evening. It's more appropriate now.

"People can't afford martial arts, and we want to stress this isn't martial arts or a fitness class. We want people to associate self-defence with the gym, and let women know that it's here and that it's also a female-friendly gym. We don't want to just specialise sessions for kids during the summer - everyone is entitled to a free session, but not everyone can afford it but it's that important to give them a little taste of self-defence.

"One of the things we're trying to do is make women think. A lot of people aren't going to come to Thai boxing or jiu jitsu."

"You hear about incidents every day, so hopefully they will never need to use these moves. If the day does come, it would be nice if women had the piece of mind and confidence to know what they are doing. It's an important thing for women, as horrible as it sounds."

Matt explained that it's "really basic common sense once you're told," such as using things like an umbrella, and even a magazine to ward off unfriendly attackers. And these aren't just stereotypical attacks of males attacking females, Matt believes. "It's getting worse," he said, "it's women attacking women. It's more than one night, it's on a monthly basis."

The session started with Mike Thomas, who has been prominent in the martial arts world for over three decades, explaining to over two dozen women and girls ranging from six to 60 years old some basic advice. Don't walk too close to alleyways, and don't walk around with headphones blaring or with your nose in your mobile - and for runners, even ponytails can be an unexpected threat as attackers can grab the hair and yank the neck.

Mike said: "Park your car in a well lit area where you have an easy exit and have your key ready before you reach the car. When you're in the car, lock all doors and if you're followed by an unmarked police car and are told to stop you need to be sure that is is the police - they should be in uniform. If you have any doubts put your hazard lights on so they know and drive to the nearest police station or even petrol station."

As the party season approaches, Mike is concerned about the vulnerability consuming alcohol puts on us. He said: "Preparation is important: make arrangements for any social event when sober, avoid leaving a single person alone in a vehicle, and always have some money separate from your purse or credit card for a taxi home."

Mike advised when on public transport to sit on the outer seat as not to be "trapped or squeeze past anybody" to exit. The same applies to the workplace - try a bit of feng shui and place the desk in a way that provides an easy exit.

Amanda Mossman, from Flint, said the session gave her basic skills that made her feel more confident and self-aware: "It was a valuable lesson to be learning in this day and age. Women are more out and about and are more vulnerable now. All the stuff I've learnt today, I didn't know before."

Mike added that the hour of his time could help someone, and that remembering the target areas when defending oneself are the eyes, nose, fingers, groin, shins, and knees.

He said: "We've kept it to an hour here because if we get in to the technique, it will help. We did one in the day as a start, and others said they would love to come. I think it's needed because you hear about a lot of incidents from people going out. It's about making people think more about what they're doing."