Frequently Asked Questions

What is Self-Defense?

Self-defense covers the concept and topics of awareness, assertiveness, verbal confrontation skills, safety strategies, and physical techniques that enable someone to successfully prevent, escape, resist, and survive violent assaults. A good self-defense course provides psychological awareness and verbal skills, not just physical training.

Does self-defense work?

YES! Self-defense training increases your options and helps you prepare responses to avoid, slow down, de-escalate, or interrupt an attack. Self-defense also empowers you to prevent violence through these de-escalation techniques. It is important that the strategies and skills you learn in a self-defense class help you to deal with potential situations from acquaintances and intimates as well as strangers. Based on research, many women know their attackers, so it is essential that a person is trained in how to deal with the violence that can come from someone you

Is self-defense training a guarantee that you will be safe?

NO. There are no guarantees when it comes to self-protection. Be aware of advertising hype, or exaggerated claims of success from marketers of guns, alarms, devices, and self-defense training programs. Be a smart consumer and find a self-defense training program that increases your choices/options and preparedness and is committed to helping you develop a wide range of strategies that can be used in a variety of situations.

Must I train for years to learn to defend myself?

NO! A basic self-defense course can offer enough concepts and skills to help you develop self-protection strategies. These basic strategies can then be used to build upon if you so choose. Self-defense training is not karate or martial arts, although techniques are derived from them. Certainly, practice is important and investing the time to review and perfect your skills can build confidence and increase your abilities. The key is to make a commitment to participate in your own safety and to do what is necessary to reduce risk and become empowered to act, rather than to be acted upon.

What is the difference between martial arts and self-defense?

Traditional martial arts is an art and sport that may have been effective in fighting centuries ago, but ill-suited to modern realities. Martial arts emphasizes forms or kata (the memorization and performance of a specific sequence of techniques) and perfect execution of techniques. Self-defense emphasizes awareness, de-escalation oral techniques, and if necessary, any physical means to stop the attacker and escape.

Do I have to practice a lot to be effective?

Not necessarily. You should practice enough for the techniques to become automatic in response to an attack. Make the training realistic and make it count. After you can easily perform the techniques without thinking too much, then spend some time every couple weeks to maintain your skills.

What about carrying a weapon like a gun, knife, or mace?

Any weapon is useless to you unless you understand how to use it, and you 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 state to the contrary). 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 their limitations and liabilities. You must be trained to use them and store them safely when not in use. For most people, weapons are not necessarily recommended, due to the risks and training involved.

If I use physical self-defense could I get hurt worse?

The question to answer first is what does “hurt worse” mean? Assault 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 of incidents occurring in the first place. Also, going along with the attacker does not guarantee that you will not be 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, ultimately, the decision to choose a physical option must remain with the person in the situation.


What should I consider before enrolling in self-defense training?

Different methods of self-defense require different types and degrees of mental preparation and/or training. If you want to improve your knowledge of self-defense and your preparedness to defend yourself, you may want to enroll in a self-defense training program. Keeping those thoughts in mind, here are some questions to ask when considering a self-defense training program:

– Have the techniques used in the class been adapted for street defense?

– Has the program been developed with attention to the training safety needs of the students?

– Are the physical demands of the class within your capabilities?

– Is the training likely to advance your self-defense abilities in the time that you can devote to it?

– Do you have the time to practice what you learn in the class at home?

– When learning the techniques, are you willing to use them in a real-life attack situation?

How common is rape?

It is a lot more common than most people realize. You probably know several women who have been raped, though they may not have told you. One in three women will be attacked with the intent of sexual assault in her lifetime.

What is the average age of a victim of sexual assault?

Eighty percent of victims of sexual assault are under 30 years of age:

– 15% are under 12 years of age

– 29% are between 12 and 17 years of age

– 36% are between 18 and 30 years of age


How much should I pay?

Paying a lot of money for a course does not mean that you automatically get better instruction. Going for the cheapest course may not be worth your time. Don’t assume that all programs are the same. Invest your time and money wisely and become an educated consumer.

How can I tell a “good” course from a “bad” one?

A good course covers critical thinking about 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 the students can act competently, decisively, and take action for our own protection. Essentially, a good course is based on intelligence and not just physical aptitude. It offers tools for enabling a person to connect with his or her own strength and power.

What does “realistic” mean?

Words like “most realistic”, “best”, and “guaranteed success” are at best positive opinions of a course aimed at selling the class to more individuals. There is no one class that is the best of all self-defense courses since every person will have a different response to a given situation or have a different set of skills to work with. Choosing a self-defense class is a serious decision and is preferably based on some research and your own preferences. No program or instructor can, or should, replicate a “real” assault since there are so many different scenarios in the real world. Additionally, 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 is able to control his or her own participation in the class and should never feel forced to participate.

Data from the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the NCASA Self-Defense AD-HOC Committee

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