Gain practical skills to protect yourself in daily life

Want to be ready to respond with confidence if someone says or does something rude, disrespectful, or threatening to you?

Then you’re in the right place.

Two students holding their hands up in the "stop" position

You deserve to feel safe.

No matter where you are — at home, at work, at school, walking down the street at night — you deserve to feel safe.

Yet fact that violence exists leaves many of us feeling fearful for our safety … just for existing in our own bodies.

Violence such as uninvited comments about our bodies, racist and sexist slurs, unwanted touch, or even physical assault.

On top of this, too often, we’re made to feel small. Pushed to stay quiet.

Unfortunately, this violence can come from anyone: a partner or other family member, a co-worker, a neighbor, an acquaintance, or someone you pass on the street.

Which means to protect ourselves we have to be ready to respond in the moment.

A woman grabbing another woman from behind, both yelling, to demonstrate how to get away from an attack

Say no more to feeling frustrated and helpless …

… in emotionally draining conversations with people who don’t respect you, or if someone tries to physically attack you.

A group of teenage girls learning to defend themselves
Handwritten note: "I learned to say NO!"

If someone drops a micro-aggression in conversation or harasses you on the street, it’s not your fault.

That behavior is completely on them. The responsibility lies with the person who harassed, abused, or attacked you.

So if it is on them, why might you learn to protect yourself?

First, you simply shouldn’t have to wait around for other people to change to be able to live your life free from fear.

Let’s focus on what you can control: the skills you can learn to protect yourself.

Second, you deserve to feel—and be—safe.
Studies show that learning skills to protect yourself helps reduce anxiety and fear.

Better yet? It helps boost your confidence.

So you’ll move through the world feeling a lot less afraid.

Studies also show that people who learn these skills are also less likely to experience sexual assault or attempted sexual assault.
 

So you’ll be more prepared to prevent an uncomfortable situation from escalating to a dangerous one.

We’ll give you practical tools to use so you know exactly what to say or do in the moment …

… an uncomfortable situation or an attack takes place.

When we talk about protecting ourselves, you might think that means having to suit up and attend a martial arts class in a stuffy old gym.

Empowerment Self-Defense isn’t like that. We prepare you for real-life situations. Not a sparring match or a tournament.

We use an evidence-based approach called Empowerment Self-Defense. This gives you both verbal and physical skills to empower yourself in the face of violence.

It’s based in a social-justice framework. This means we take into account the realities of what it means to exist within systemic harm, such as patriarchy and White supremacy.

This means you’ll learn and practice responding in the moment to everything from rude or disrespectful comments to full-on attacks in real-life situations. Such as with a family member, friend, coworker, or someone random on the street.

A Defend Yourself teacher showing a student how to hit
A Venn diagram of 3 intersecting circles: the first one says "Awareness & Prevention: understand your risks". The second one says "Verbal  Skills: assertiveness + boundary-setting". The third one says "Physical Strikes: hit if you have to". Where the 3 circles intersect, it says "Empowerment Self-Defense". Beneath the diagram it says "Empowerment Self-Defense is all of this in a social justice framework applied to everyday situations: Work, home, street — and everywhere else."
Handwritten note: "Just because you're a little girl doesn't mean you can't beat down the big man."

The best part? You don’t need to throw down Lucy Liu’s moves or be an athlete to protect yourself using Empowerment Self-Defense.

That means no matter your size, physical ability, fitness level, or health —there are things you can do to make yourself safer.

 

So you can show up fully as you are to learn, heal, and claim your confidence with us.

You’ll find our classes useful if you can relate to any one of these situations. If you:

  • Stay silent even when you have something to say. Because you don’t want to “rock the boat” or be called a b*tch.
  • Start to say what you want, then trail off because “it’s not worth the fight” or you’re afraid you might make things worse.
  • Put other peoples’ feelings first .. .sometimes even at the expense of your own comfort.
  • Don’t set a limit or ask for what you want because you want other people to like you.
  • Say “sorry” way too much. Even when you haven’t done anything wrong.
  • Feel afraid of saying something for fear of your safety. (Completely valid, by the way.)

Here’s some of our Defend Yourself students have to say about learning these skills with us:

“Thank you for such an empowering, confidence-inspiring class. When you first announced that the class would teach both verbal and physical defense, I was a bit hesitant – I presumed I already knew how to verbally defend myself, and thought I was ready to get down to more hard core self-defense moves.

To my surprise, I found the verbal parts of the class the most beneficial. Instead of just preparing us for the chance of an all-out attack, we learned skills that have been helping me to navigate more assertively through everyday situations. You helped all of us to view self-defense holistically, and asked us to question our role in making this world less violent.”

Logan

“What an empowering, enlightening class! You gave me a wonderfully empowering gift – the ability to speak! You helped take away some of the fear that I had by having me realize that I have some power within.”

Aarti

“This class not only showed me how to defend my body, but it taught me how to express myself as well. It nurtured my soul and showed me that to be a woman does not mean that I am physically helpless.

Deya

“I didn’t know that I felt totally incapable of taking care of myself before the class, but I definitely often felt like I was grasping for tools that I knew existed but didn’t have.

I feel so much more confident now that I know what those tools are and how to access them. I am able to respond to microaggressions and difficult situations I wouldn’t have known how to handle before, and I feel like I am able to move through the world more freely.”

Hannah

“Setting boundaries has been hard for me. We women are conditioned to put others’ needs before our own. When I tried to set boundaries in the past I’d be called names, told I was ‘selfish,’ and was guilt-tripped until I caved. Caving worked in the short term, but it doesn’t work in the long run. Resentment gets built up, which is not healthy. I didn’t like being a pushover.

Through Defend Yourself, I learned the tools to set and maintain boundaries. At a recent job, one woman who I worked under grabbed my wrist when I was about to stamp a document in the wrong place. I would be afraid to speak up in instances like that at jobs in the past because being in a shaky financial situation I could not afford to lose those jobs. However, something in me sparked though I may be on the bottom rung at many of these jobs, I still felt I deserved respect.

I used a firm voice and told her, ‘You do not have to touch me like that.’ I set another boundary when she touched me again in another instance and reiterated that she did not need to touch me. She has not touched me inappropriately since. I have continued to set boundaries in other ways at this job and am proud of myself for doing such.

Setting boundaries is a two steps forward/two steps back thing. It’ll take time and repetition until it becomes easier for me to do. I realize that people will continue to call me names, lay guilt trips, and throw tantrums when they don’t get their way and it hurts, but that’s on them, not me. Setting boundaries is about putting oneself first, and I’m glad that I learned to put myself first.”

Kendra

Register for a Class

A group of teenage girls learning to defend themselves

Get Ready for College

Finishing high school? The bad news is that the late teens and early 20s are a high-risk time for sexual harassment and assault. The good news is that research shows empowerment self-defense training can make a huge difference!

Join us to learn skills to be safer and more confident as you head off to school or work. Since most attacks are by someone you know, we focus on prevention, boundary-setting, assertiveness skills, and physical strikes as a last resort in a college setting.

Who: Rising high-school juniors, seniors, and college students who identify as women, trans men, or non-binary
What: 3 hours of interactive learning with practical exercises based on real-life situations in a small group
When: Sat., Aug. 3, 1-4 pm
Where: near the Takoma metro station, Washington, DC (full address given when you register)
How: $85 per person. Register using the button below. 

Slots are limited, so register soon!