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A self defense class is a workshop which provides the people who attend it with basic skills to defend themselves. Typically, these classes are sponsored and led by a women's group or law enforcement, although they are open to all members of a community. Depending on the type of class, the workshop may take only a few hours on a Saturday morning, or might take the form of multiple classes spread out over several weeks. People who are not familiar with any martial arts or self defense techniques should strongly consider taking at least an overview class, because it will improve personal safety and make them much more confident.
The style of a self defense class varies, depending on who is leading it. In general, the teacher assumes that the students have no knowledge of self defense at all. Therefore, simple defense moves are taught, rather than complex ones which require a lot of physical strength or knowledge of martial arts principles. In addition, students are often led through empowerment exercises to increase confidence and make them feel more secure when out on the streets. Typically the group of students is small, allowing everyone to practice all of the moves and to bond the students together.
During a class, people will learn how to get out of basic holds, how to punch someone safely, and other basic physical techniques. In addition, students will learn about vulnerable parts of the body so that they can get a kick or punch in where it counts. Students will be led through the techniques several times, so that they can quickly remember them in an emergency situation, and they are also encouraged to try them out on each other. In many instances, the techniques incorporate a variety of martial arts disciplines, since many martial arts have strong defense moves which are also easy to learn. The classroom is usually well stocked with mats, boxing gloves, and other protective gear so students can learn moves without hurting themselves or each other.
In addition to physical self defense, students will learn about how to increase their personal safety in other ways. Students are taught about awareness, how to assess a situation, and how to communicate clearly. As part of the communication section of the class, students are often led in group exercises which include screaming and other modes of communication which are usually considered to be socially unacceptable. Students are taught about forceful and clear communication in emergency situations so that they are prepared to say “NO!” to an attacker or to cry out for help. At the end of the class, students should feel more secure and confident, and will project that image when they are in potentially dangerous situations.
@Pippinwhite -- You nearly made me spit out my coffee, laughing! There's one in every class. I have taught self-defense classes, and there's always one student who goes to some really dark space and lets the dummy have it. And you can't ever predict which student it will be. But there's always one class when someone goes berserk.
I found it was better to let them get it all out, as long as they weren't hurting the dummy. I've had people get physically sick afterward because of the extreme emotions they were experiencing. It's interesting how intense these classes can be, just because of the emotions they can bring up.
I took a self defense class and ended up taking Japanese jujitsu classes for two years!
I'd recommend a self defense class for anyone. They really do focus on helping people -- usually women, but anyone -- be able to take control of their surroundings and keep themselves safe.
Most self defense classes keep moves simple and scaled to nearly anyone's physical ability. One key aspect of the class is learning to get out of a hold or similar. You learn to use your attacker's weight against him.
Our "bad guy" wore padding a foot thick so we couldn't hurt him, and I really got into the attacks in one class. I think I went back to a place in seventh grade
when I was bullied and felt powerless. He got all my pent-up, old anger. I bulldozed him. It ended up with him flat on his back and me kicking him in the side (padded) and screaming obscenities, a la Ralphie in "A Christmas Story." So yeah. They work.