Create Your Own Self Defense Seminar for Fun and Profit by Andrea Harkins
A man runs up to a woman and says, “Give me your purse!” while pulling it from her shoulder. She is stubborn and grabs it tightly and tries to fight for it. Another woman feels she is being followed when she is walking to the bus stop. She picks up the pace but never looks back.
These scenarios are not unusual. They have happened dozens of different times in dozens of different places and yet the danger is not diffused.
This article will describe how you can create a seminar that will help the everyday woman, non-martial artist. It should have certain attributes such as how to identify potential danger, how to increase awareness, and finally, what to do if a physical attack occurs.
The everyday woman does not know how to throw a round kick or smack an uppercut to someone’s mid-section. She has never thrown anyone over her shoulder or blocked a punch to her face. She knows there are dangers in this world but hates to be rude or yell. Therefore, it is imperative that you, a Martial Arts Instructor, should consider teaching a Self Defense for Women Seminar.
Martial Artists may have differing backgrounds and training, but many would agree that there are other responses better than fighting to hold on to a purse or ignoring a possible attack. Now, more than ever, is a great time to organize a Self Defense Seminar for women in your community. These non-martial artists need to learn a few basics about defense in today’s world. It gives them the confidence they need to be empowered and the confirmation that certain basic self-defense concepts to work.
For you, the martial arts instructor, this type of class provides more exposure to your school, is a possible new source of revenue, or is a way to raise community awareness. This article will discuss a simple approach to creating a Women’s Self Defense Seminar that you can set up in no time, no matter what your experience, style or background. Once your seminar is created, you have a template for years to come which can be updated or modified at any time to suit your needs.
There are just a few essentials that you need for a great seminar. Good content, appropriate timing, and students! Market your seminar in local stores, social networking sites, your fan pages, and local newspapers. Invite friends and family members, churchgoers, and co-workers. You will want at least five to ten participants at a minimum.
What to wear? At the seminar you may wear your full Gi or uniform; however, I normally wear Gi pants, a t-shirt, and my black belt. This lessens the intimidation factor but also reminds the attendees that you are an expert and have good knowledge to share. As students enter the dojo, it is important that it seems inviting and friendly. Some women are actually afraid or nervous because they do not know what to expect. Ease their fears by personally welcoming them and being attentive to questions or concerns. Identify who appears to be nervous and generally explain that the class is informative but fun…and make sure you make it fun.
Using Law Enforcement or other Experts. It is beneficial and interesting to have a law enforcement officer present to add input to your seminar. The officer can share stories of actual incidents, give general community safety advice, and help to acknowledge how different escapes might work and not cause any legal ramifications. Or, you might have a psychologist there who can describe certain types of behaviors and what to look for in a potential attacker. Other Martial Artists, as well, may have great insight and techniques for certain types of attacks, verbal or physical, with which you are not familiar.
Break the Ice. Relax your guests by having either an icebreaker, or time to contemplate a certain questions as they arrive. Start with a brief “quiz” on a sheet of paper of some facts and figures; information the class attendees may or may not know but should learn by the end of class and be able to answer. You don’t need to collect these. They are simply a tool for the women to consider as they go through the course. Save a few minutes at the end of the program for them to review the “quiz” again and update their answers.
Highlights. An agenda should highlight the timing of the session, when breaks will be taken, where emergency exits, and restrooms are located.
Set Up. Chairs or tables with chairs can be set up, or if you prefer, mats, for them to sit on during some of the discussion time.
Welcome. When all attendees have arrived and have a place to sit and put their personal belongings, it’s time to welcome them and explain the course.
As the women settle in, welcome them to the class and either hand out or project on a screen the agenda for the class.
Once the attendees are settled, provide a quick bio about yourself and your school. Your name, your style, years practicing martial arts, why this class is important and what you hope they will learn. Then, address any hand-outs. If you use the “quiz” idea, make sure everyone has had time to answer. If you have other hand-outs, describe what they are and provide time for them to read and ask questions. Next, review the agenda and the modules or sessions that you plan to address in the seminar.
Example agenda ideas:
Self Defense and Distractions
Points to Remember
One way to establish an interesting program is to make it progressively more challenging, starting with a broad discussion on awareness, to an array of easy grabs, all leading up to escape techniques for assault or rape situations. By starting off slowly and gently, students will get familiar with you and your teaching methods as the class progresses and their worries will diminish as they engage more fully in the class. Enthusiasm, not trepidation, is the goal.
I normally also find a scenario from a newspaper or magazine about someone who was “nearly” abducted or attacked. It should be a story that reminds the group of that strange feeling that tingles up the back of their spines when something feels wrong (she feels like someone is following her, or just feels unsafe but does not know why, etc.). Read the story aloud and ask “What did this person do right and what could they have done better?” Ask if anyone has had a similar situation and save a few minutes to discuss this.
This discussion will be the perfect introduction to a brief discussion on awareness and why it is so important.
Some women don’t understand the concept of awareness. I live on 5 acres in a rural town. Sometimes we see snakes on the property, black racers, rattle snakes, corn snakes and water moccasins. Some are poisonous, some are not.
No matter what, every morning when I step foot out my front door to leave for work, guess what I do?
I look left, I look right, I look around. No snakes? Then I hustle to the car. I know there are snakes that don’t harm and snakes that do, but in the wee hours of dark early morning it doesn’t matter- if there are any at all in my sight, I want to know. My awareness allows me to identify options- I can retreat, call out for help, or run to the car. I’ve never seen one in the morning, after all these years, but I still use my awareness each day.
Awareness, on its own, can be a very valuable defense. Teach your attendees that if something does not look right, to follow their instincts and no matter what, “look around.” If they see a “snake” or potential situation, then they should know what their options are and what to do.
2. Personal Space
Awareness is part of learning a sense of personal space, but there is more. If a woman is in danger, she must learn that yelling and being rude may be viable options. In the class, address how to deal with invasion of personal space and how effective use of their body language and voice can help.
Explain how yelling a particular word or changing a body stance can help them avoid a pending situation.
Does yelling “stop” or “fire” help? Should they stand in a particular readiness, such as turning sideways to protect vital organs, or with hands slightly extended out in front of their body?
This is your seminar, so the style of teaching and content is up to you. What is important is that both awareness and invasion of personal space are discussed.
3. Self Defense and Distractions
How can these ladies distract the attacker?
Have the ladies think about what is inside their purses. How can they use keys or an umbrella, a notebook or hairspray as a defense? Are there times in their lives when they have a pair of glasses propped on top of their head or are wearing a sun visor? Reaching up in a non-threatening manner and throwing the item into an attacker’s face is an easy distraction that could give them time to escape and potentially save them from being a victim. An Aerosol product in someone’s face will stop them in their tracks. A handful of keys can poke an eye or body part.
Fun ways to show the women how to use distractions on hand is have them stand in a circle with their purses and randomly pull something out. Ask them how the items can be a distraction.
Provide some other easy examples of distractions that they can consider: a loud, quick yell; kicking the shin; striking the groin; spitting in the face; and head-butting, are all effective means that can act as defenses on their own, giving the victim a chance to get away, or distracting the assailant long enough for the victim to ready for another defense.
Awareness, personal space, and distractions are initial forms of self-defense that can control a situation. Escalation beyond that point will require some hands-on techniques.
4. Hands-On and Stretch:
The hands-on portion of the seminar should start with a brief stretch. Remember, these women are here to learn self-defense and they may not work out on a regular basis. Stretching should be gentle and help to warm them up. Assure them they will not have to perform anything overly strenuous during the program. What stretches you use are up to you. The basics always work well, such as touching toes (standing or sitting), warmups for the shoulders, arms, knees.
Once the stretching is done, remind the attendees that if something appears to be too difficult or they have a physical challenge or medical situation, they should let you know what their limitations are or opt out of participating a certain move or technique.
Teaching a self-defense class like this may bring us back in time to when we learned some very basic techniques, and that is exactly how it should feel. Anything more difficult than that will not work with this type of program.
A good way to begin the hands-on portion of the program is by introducing the “bag.” Surprisingly, many women would like to see what it feels like to kick or punch a bag. One of our self-defense students confided in me before class that she could not wait for the chance to “hit the bag!”
Give some basics on kicking and punching techniques and allow students to work the bags for a few minutes at their own pace. Hammer-fist strikes, palm strikes, and sidekicks are easy to learn, effective, and put the least amount of stress on these newcomers. Teach them how to yell as they strike the bag, which gives them, sometimes for the first time, a sense of empowerment that they can overcome fear and physical challenges.
There are some great defense techniques on YouTube, and while clearly, they would work, they are so complicated that even a black belt takes a while to learn them. Each of us has a different background and style so teach some standard defenses to some of these types of “holds” or “attacks” in your own system. Try to address some of the following types of holds that focus on escaping and running away as opposed to fighting back.
Front wrist grab (double or single wrist)
Front of the neck grab
Back of the neck grab
Bear hug (from the back)
Bear hug (from the front)
Thrown to the ground
Attacker on top of woman
If you do not have simple techniques for these, ask a fellow Martial Artist or your Association Group members. Always keep in mind that these women are novices to the art and the simpler, the better. Allow ample time for the women to practice and for fun, give the escape a memorable name- the “robot,” for a double wrist grab defense; the “triangle” to identify how the hands and fingers make a triangle before forcing a release, for example.
Instructors in this type of program will want to have another instructor or helper present for a couple of reasons: liability aspects and as an assistant to help demonstrate. The attendees can use each other as partners for some of the practicing, but anything that requires a throw or a fall…is all you. As a husband-and-wife team we are lucky that we can show the defenses to the class together.
Move through each of the hands-on defenses that you choose by discussing, demonstrating, and delegating each one. Allow for appropriate water and restroom breaks in between. Again, choose techniques that have simple diversions and no more than 2-3 steps to break a hold.
This time will take most of the class time, but it’s effective and entertaining for the members of the class. While there may be naysayer to this type of training for non-martial artists, I can assure you that the confidence that it evokes may be enough to deter or de-escalate a potential attack. The women will surely learn a defense or two and understand how awareness plays a huge role in safety and be assured that simple techniques really do work.
5. Other Topics/Ideas
To break up the learning of hands-on, other topics can be discussed that can help the potential “victim” avoid poor choices and bad situations. I always explain that I try to avoid going out by myself, especially at dark. A buddy system for defense is as important as one in the water when swimming or scuba diving. Provide some suggestions on how safety can be heightened simply by the choices we make.
Other topics that can supplement your seminar could include:
Motor vehicles- approach with keys ready; check car before entering; never pull over on a quiet rode; do not follow closely, road rage
Parking Garages, Lots, and Elevators- survey the area; look for well-lit areas; ask security to walk you out; have keys ready
Jogging and walking safety- be aware of surroundings; music is not a good idea; have a companion or dog, walk or jog in a familiar area; carry pepper spray or a whistle
Facts and figures- provide some insight as to what time of day offenders attack the most; what is the number one place from where women are abducted, etc.?
6. Points to Remember
After all this learning, a review of some of the highlights is a good idea to help reinforce some of the ideas presented in the seminar. Provide a printed Power Point or checklist, or simply give the students time to take notes.
Remind your group that the first rule of thumb is to be aware; next, to de-escalate a situation by handing over a wallet or running to a safe place. If that does not work, there are distractions. Then, there are basic ways to escape from various holds. Finally, if thrown to the ground, ask if they remember what to do.
7. Fun Seminar Conclusion
Once all the dust settles, after a full few hours of self-defense, plan something fun that brings it all together. We often will use board-breaking as a final way to evoke a sense of confidence and confirmation in the women. They have hit bags, learned to distract, escaped from some holds, and thrown their instructors. A board break is the perfect way to end an afternoon of self-defense.
Some will be excited to give it a try; others will shy away from it. Those who are willing should try it first. Slowly identify others in the group to come up. Encourage them and provide a board that is reasonable for their level of skill after taking the seminar. The group will support each other naturally and applaud their newly found friends as they each break a board. It’s a very rewarding end for both the instructors and the students.
Breaking boards is just one idea for a fun conclusion. Some other ideas would be a skill game or calling each attendee up one by one to demonstrate a punch on the bag or a kick. Whatever your choice, make sure it is a positive and exciting way to conclude the session.
Fees really depend on your goals. Are you trying to elicit potential new students? Is this a volunteer program for the community? Do you hope to make a profit? We charge $25.00 for our class, but there are programs out there that are free, and some that charge much more.
Bringing It all Together
As you can see, creating your own Self Defense seminar is all about you, the instructor. Use your own stories and examples, teach techniques from your particular style, and display your own personal twist on awareness, personal space and defense techniques. What is important is that you impart a creative and informative lesson that gives women more knowledge than when they initially walked through the door.
Before they leave, assure the group that while they will not remember everything, they will surely retain some of the concepts learned. Also, as a caveat, let them know that there is no 100% foolproof self-defense, no way to 100% prevent an attack or be able to escape; there are only ideas and possibilities such as those that you have shared with them in this seminar.
Oh, if the world were a better place, if we didn’t have to think about what to do if we get attacked or how to escape. But, since we do, and since we are the experts, let’s share some of the knowledge we have with the rest of the world and maybe we can all focus more on living than worrying.
About the Author: Andrea F. Harkins is a Black Belt Instructor Teaching Tang Soo Do in her community. She has been practicing and teaching Martial Arts for twenty-five years. She is a Life Coach and Author. She is the host of The Martial Arts Podcast and a frequent guest on the Fight for Your Health TV Show. Visit her website at https://themartialartswoman.com
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