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.”


“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.”


“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.


“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.”


“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.”


Ready to respond with confidence?

Through Empowerment Self-Defense you’ll learn how to respond with confidence if someone says or does something rude, disrespectful, or threatening to you.

Here’s what you’ll learn in the 3-week live course:

  • Common misconceptions about how and when violence happens and where the actual risks lie
  • Early signs to look out for to know if you’re being targeted for harassment, abuse, or assault — and how to stop it from getting worse
  • How to respond quickly when someone threatens your safety
  • Leave, set a boundary, get help, use physical strikes? You’ll learn how to decide what to do.
  • Ignore it? Walk away? Fight back? Learn when to use each response along with additional techniques to stop someone who is bullying you repeatedly
  • 5 phrases you can use to get the person harassing you to leave you alone
  • Prepare for the worst case scenario: Learn how to get yourself to safety if you’re being physically attacked (even if they are bigger or stronger than you)
  • Effective ways to respond if someone says something racist, homophobic, sexist, or otherwise oppressive
  • How to adjust your response to violence at work, at school, or at home — whether you’re dealing with an annoying coworker, boss, family member, or anyone else.
Students at a DY workshop saying "no" and holding up their hands in the "stop" position

Resist: Skills for Stopping Harassment, Abuse, and Assault

In partnership with The Outrage

Have you been harassed at work (virtually or in person), on the street, or on public transit? Is a family member intrusive, either with words or physically? Is there anyone you want to set a limit with, but aren’t quite sure how to say it? Do you want to know what to do if you’re ever attacked? You’ll learn your options for these and other situations.

You’ll find the power in your body and mind to practice boundary-setting as the foundation of self-defense, and effective strikes as a last resort.

You’ll learn:

  • Understanding where risks lie (it’s probably not what you think!)
  • The 5 basic elements of assertiveness and boundary-setting
  • Simple physical strikes for the worst-case situation, and more!

Who: Open to everyone age 16 and up, registration required. Register via EventBrite.

What: 2.5 hours of interactive learning with practical exercises based on real-life situations

When: Sunday, Oct. 23, 9:30 am – 12 noon

Where: In person at The Outrage: 1811 14th Street NW, DC. Masks required.

How: Sliding scale; register via EventBrite.

Slots are limited, so register soon!

A teacher demonstrating at a workshop

Holidays with Family: Skills for Difficult Conversations

Soon, many of us will have to (or choose to) sit and break bread with someone who disrespects us – or with whom we strongly disagree. Some of us will even be sitting with someone who’s abused us.

Join us to learn coping strategies and skills to get through — or maybe even enjoy — your family time.

You’ll learn:

  • How to use assertiveness and boundary-setting to establish firm limits in a respectful way designed to avoid escalation.
  • 5 options for dealing with stressful situations that give you choices and help you feel your personal power.
  • 5 alternatives for managing a problematic dinner companion when you choose not to set limits.
  • 3 de-escalation techniques you can use if needed.

Who: Open to everyone age 16 and up, registration required.

What: 2.5 hours of interactive learning with practical exercises based on real-life situations

When: Saturday, Nov. 5, 2:30-5 pm Eastern

Where: Online via Zoom, so people from almost anywhere can join!

Fee: $65. Contact us if you can’t afford the full fee.

Slots are limited, so register soon!

We center your needs

This program is inclusive to all identities and trauma-informed.

All our in-person classes are held in wheelchair-accessible spaces.

Feel free to let us know if you have any questions, if you need ASL or Spanish interpretation, or if there is anything else that would help make it possible for you to participate.

All of our classes have a handful of flexible fee spaces for those who can’t afford the full fee. Just get in touch; we don’t want money to be an obstacle to you getting the skills to protect yourself.

Have questions? Contact us.