national Women's
Martial Arts Federation

How To Choose A Self-Defense Class

In a good  empowerment self-defense program, students learn awareness, assertiveness, verbal and physical skills. These skills can help defenders prevent, escape, resist and survive assault, abuse or harassment. 

In choosing a class, look for a program or an instructor who:
  • Knows the facts about abuse and assault aimed at women, and tailors classes to this reality. For example, a good class will address situations involving acquaintances and romantic partners as well as attacks by strangers.
  • Knows the realities of women’s lives and is able to work with each student where they are. For example, a good teacher adapts verbal and physical techniques to each student’s strengths and challenges; they will not have a “one-size-fits-all” program.
  • Respects people's decisions on how to handle dangerous or threatening situations and does not blame or judge survivors.
  • Offers techniques, knowledge and strategies to help students make their own decisions about how to handle situations instead of telling students what they should or should not do.
  • Takes an empowering approach not only to the practice of self-defense but also to teaching the program. For example, students should be able to determine their own levels of participation in the class, and no one should feel pressured into doing specific exercises.

(Thanks to the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault for some of this material.)

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