What is Empowerment Self-Defense?

If you’re like most people, when you think of “women’s self-defense,” you imagine a woman – probably young, white, and fit – karate-kicking a stranger in a dark alley or parking garage. However, self-defense is far more than just physical fighting, and it is accessible to all women, regardless of their age, race, level of fitness, or physical ability. It also addresses far more than just assaults by strangers.

At UO we teach a form of self-defense that’s been called “empowerment self-defense.” Here are some of the key features of ESD:

  • We recognize that the most frequent perpetrators of assaults against women are people they know and trust, and we teach techniques appropriate for those situations.
  • We focus on awareness, recognizing danger signs, effective boundary setting, assertiveness, and verbal self-defense skills. These strategies empower women to stop assaults in their very early stages, before they escalate to physical danger.
  • We also teach easy-to-learn, highly effective physical tactics — including non-violent tactics — that require minutes or hours rather than years to master. You do not need any prior experience or skills to take this class.
  • Rather than telling women what they should do in a particular situation, we offer a toolbox of strategies for avoiding and interrupting violence, and we empower women to choose the options that are appropriate for their own situation.

This approach has been found to be very effective in reducing women’s risk of sexual assault.