Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Self-Defense?
Self-defense is a set of awareness, assertiveness, verbal confrontation skills with safety
strategies and physical techniques that enable someone to successfully escape, resist and
survive violent attacks. A good self-defense course provides psychological awareness and
verbal skills, not just physical training.
Does Self-Defense Work?
Yes, Self-defense training can increase your options and help you prepare responses to
slow down, de-escalate, or interrupt an attack. Like any tool, the more you know
about it, the more informed you are to make a decision and to use it.
Is Self-Defense a Guarantee?
No. There are no guarantees when it comes to self-protection. However, self-defense
training can increase your choices/options and your preparedness.
Is There a Standard Self-Defense
No. There are many formats for training. They may be as short as two hours or as long as 8
weeks or a semester. Whatever the length of the program, it should be based on maximizing
options, simple techniques, and respect for people's experience.
Is There a Course I Should Stay
Only you can answer this question. Find out about the philosophy of the program and the
background of the instructor. Observe a class session if you can and talk to an instructor
or a student. Is the instructor knowledgeable and respectful of your concerns? Is it a
length of time that you can commit to and at a cost you can afford? You deserve to have
all your questions answered before taking a class.
Who's Better--A Male or Female
There is an advantage for women to having a female instructor as a role model--who has
similar experiences surviving as a woman. All-women classes tend to provide an easier
atmosphere in which to discuss sensitive issues. On the other hand, some women feel having
male partners to practice with can add to their experience. The quality of a class depends
on the knowledge, attitude and philosophy of the instructor, male or female, not
necessarily on gender. The most important aspect is that the instructor, male or female,
conducts the training for the students geared to their individual strengths and abilities.
Feeling safe and building trust comes before learning.
Must I Train for Years to Learn to
No. A basic course can offer enough concepts and skills to help you develop
self-protection strategies that you can continue to build upon. Self-defense is not karate
or martial arts training. It does not require years of study to perfect. There are women
and men who have successfully improvised and prevented an assault without having taken a
class. People often practice successful self-defense strategies without knowing it!
If I Use Physical Self-Defense,
Could I Get Hurt Worse?
The question to answer first is what does "hurt worse" mean? Rape survivors
speak eloquently about emotional hurts lasting long after physical hurts heal. Studies
show a physical self-defense response does not increase the level of physical injury, and
sometimes decreases the likelihood. Also, women and men going along with the attacker have
sometimes been brutally injured anyway. The point of using self-defense is to de-escalate
a situation and get away as soon as possible. Knowing some physical techniques increases
the range of possible self-defense options, but the decision to choose a physical option
must remain with the person in the situation.
What Does "Realistic"
Words like "most realistic", "best", "guaranteed success",
etc., are all advertising gimmicks. Choosing a self-defense class is a serious decision
and is preferably based on some research. No program or instructor can replicate a
"real" assault since there are so many different scenarios, and because a real
attack would require a no-holds barred fight which would be irresponsible and extremely
dangerous to enact. Responsible self-defense training requires control. It is important
that each student in a class is able to control his or her own participation in the class
and never feel forced to participate.
What Is the Role of Mace or Other
Aggressive "Devices" as Self-Defense Aids in Harming an Attacker?
Any device is useless to you unless you understand how to use it and have it in your hand
ready to use at the time of the attempted assault. There is nothing "guaranteed"
about any of these devices. None are foolproof. None of them can be counted on to work
against all possible attackers (no matter what the labeling may say). Realize that
anything you can use against an attacker can also be taken away and used against you.
While some of these devices have sometimes helped people escape to safety, it is important
to be aware of these devices limitations and liabilities.
How Much Should I Pay?
Paying a lot of money for a course does not mean you automatically get better instruction.
On the other hand, don't assume all programs are the same and just go for the cheapest. It
is always beneficial to be an educated consumer. Shop around the same as for anything else
you buy that is important to you.
Where Can I Find a Self-Defense
Check with your local rape crisis center. Some centers provide self-protection classes or
can refer you to one. YWCA's. and Community Colleges sometimes offer classes. Some martial
arts schools provide seminars and workshops. Check the phone book. If there isn't one in
your community, get involved and try to organize one.
Am I Too Old? Out of Shape? What If
I Have Some Disabilities?
You don't have to be an athlete to learn how to defend yourself. A good program is
designed to adapt to every age and ability and provide each student with the opportunity
to learn. Each individual is unique and students should be able to discuss their own
needs. Some programs have specialized classes for specific groups.
How Can I Tell a "Good"
Course From a "Bad" One?
A good course covers critical thinking about self-defense strategies, assertiveness,
powerful communication skills, and easy-to-remember physical techniques. The instructor
respects and responds to your fears and concerns. Instruction is based on the belief that
people can act competently, decisively, and take action for their own protection.
Essentially, a good course is based on intelligence and not muscle. It offers tools for
enabling a person to connect with her or his own strength and power. These courses are out
there. Good luck in your research. Taking a self-defense class is one of the most positive
acts people can do for themselves!