Why I'm Not a Fan of Self-Defense Classes

I want to begin by saying self-defense classes are great. They teach people (usually women) useful maneuvers that are potentially life-saving. They can also help people feel more confident and capable. However, I also feel that there is a lot that can be done to improve these classes.

For one, they can be victim-shaming. They send the message, “you could’ve done something to prevent this,” and this can cause a victim to feel inadequate. At the end of the class, this message is usually reinforced with comments such as, “you’re stronger than you think,” as if a victim is weak for not being able to fend off an attack.

They are also unrealistic. In a classroom setting, the ‘victim’ is expecting the ‘attacker’. The ‘attacker’ does not exert full force on the victim; for example, a person is unlikely to have their nose or ribs broken during a self-defense class. There is usually one ‘victim’ and one ‘attacker’ in the class, while in real life there may be multiple attackers. The ‘victim’ is also completely sober during the class and the ‘attacker’ comes on in an aggressive manner. Self-defense classes tend to gloss over the many situations that can lead to an assault, and in many of those situations, there is not much self-defense can do to change the outcome.

Lastly, self-defense classes can create a false sense of safety. A one-hour class can provide helpful strategies, but learning true self-defense takes time and consistent training. Even after intense training, it is important to remember that no one is invincible.

Self-defense classes can be more beneficial to those who take them by providing a supportive environment for victims, a more realistic description of possible attacks, and a reminder that in reality, you will not be on an even playing field but that does not make you weak.