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Monday, July 8, 2013

Choosing an Effective Self-defense Course for Middle School and Teen Girls


Are you looking for an effective self-defense course for your middle school or teen daughter, niece, sister, or other loved one? All self-defense programs are different. To find the best one for a young woman in your life, find out how a particular program stacks up by observing a course and assessing it for yourself.


Do instructors demonstrate sensitivity to participants?

Do instructors project calmness and centeredness, offer clear instructions & guidelines, use positive & non-judgmental language, project compassion for each girl, demonstrate patience & competence and project confidence in the participants & a commitment to their success?


Is a supportive and emotionally safe environment created for the participants?

Do instructors establish ground rules for expected behavior in the class (e.g. treating others with respect)? Do instructors give participants a chance to introduce themselves? Are calming and centering techniques taught? Are limits placed and maintained on who can come into the class (e.g. are minimum and maximum age limits established)?


Is a physically safe environment created for the participants?

Are participants asked to identify injured or vulnerable areas to reduce chance of re-injury? Are participants given guidelines in how to use their bodies safely and powerfully? Do instructors guide participants through warm-up exercises? Do instructors pay attention to creating a safe physical space: such as, free from obstruction, safe distance between participants when practicing, access to water and bathrooms, privacy from onlookers, monitored entrance? If offered as a padded-attacker course, does the padding allow participants to use full-power strikes to vulnerable areas (e.g. groin and head) ? For instance, some programs use padding that provides protection from “controlled” strikes and/or allows strikes to the chest or abdomen but not the groin. This kind of padding is inadequate for teaching girls to defend themselves with full power against vulnerable targets.



Do the instructors have a clear pedagogical approach and well-organized class plan?

For instance, do the instructors set a beginning and ending time? Do they have a plan for teaching whereby one thing builds on another? Do they have an opening and closing to the class? Do instructors demonstrate tools and skills slowly so that participants can see what is happening, use clear and measured language and body movement to teach tools and skills and give participants an opportunity to practice and receive constructive feedback? Do instructors create the opportunity for participants to ask questions?


Do participants learn and practice more than physical techniques?

For instance, do instructors offer a big picture of safety issues for girls and self-defense and teach self and environmental awareness, assessment skills, verbal boundary setting, de-escalation and physical tools?



Do instructors demonstrate an understanding of the challenges faced by pre-teens and teens?

For instance, do instructors offer recommendations that are consistent with self-defense laws and with advice by advocacy groups, schools and service providers? Do instructors use language that emphasizes getting to safety, rather than expressing revenge or hatred?



Are instructors certified women’s self-defense instructors?


Are the instructors certified by a nationally recognized women’s self-defense organization, such as the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation Self-Defense Group or IMPACT International? Do the instructors have professional knowledge concerning violence against girls?



Developed by Martha Thompson, IMPACT Chicago Instructor, with input from Jennifer Caruso and Elizabeth Vitell, Rogers Park Community Council. For recommended philosophical underpinnings and FAQs about women’s self-defense, refer to the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault Guidelines for Choosing a Self-Defense course 

June 2013



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