New Certification Classes Available for our
International Women's Self Defense Certification Program
Learn More

Upcoming Certification Classes

Stay up to date with the latest certification classes as we travel around the country making new instructors.

New York Certification

Saturday March 12th, Sunday March 13th and Monday March 14th, 2016 - Girls on Guard, Guarding our Girls and Defense Against Weapons

Tampa, Florida Certification

Saturday February 27th and Sunday 28th, 2016 - Girls on Guard, Guarding our Girls

Need a Local Certification?

Do you have a group of students that you would like to get certified? Contact us today to set up a certification at your local venue. Call 1-(914) 760-8246 for more info.

Self Defense Modules

Different self defense modules available through Defend University and the Women's Self Defense Institute.

Women's Self Defense Institute

Sexual Assault Prevention

Defend University

Self Defense Research and Development

Less Than Lethal

Non-Lethal Police Tatics

Girls on Guard/Guarding our Girls

Entry and intermediate level self defense for women.

Defense Against Weapons

Advanced women's self defense against weapons.

JaneJitsu

Advanced gracie brazilian jiu-jitsu for women.

The Women's Self Defense Institute - Philosophy!

Our motto is "Fight Like a Woman".

Sure it can be seen as a clever play on words for the program, since most people fall into the semantic trap of thinking that "fighting like a woman" means being ineffective, weak or silly. Our point is to highlight the difference between self-defense courses for men and women. When a man attacks a man, he either wants his money or his life. When a man attacks a woman, he either wants her money, her life OR HER BODY. The nature of the conflict is, by definition, hugely different. For us fighting like a woman means that a woman brings her particular strengths to the conflict while minimizing the strengths of a man. She should not attempt to fight directly into the strengths of the man who is attacking her.

That's not silly or flawed reasoning; it is a smart strategy for any fighter. This shift in thinking is what really sets the Women's Empowerment Series apart. But it did not originally start that way, it has evolved. At the start of the program, we were teaching women some really good and effective martial arts moves that we really liked. They worked well for us, but none of the non-martial artist women could: 1) Make the technique work within a time frame of 30 minutes; 2) Remember the techniques at the end of the 2- hour class when we went to review. So, in effect, even though we showed them some really good stuff, they could not quickly learn it and they didn't even retain it during the first day of class! What a problem.

A significant point here - it's not that the martial arts techniques that we were teaching are not effective. I'm saying that the women were "telling" us that these techniques were not working for them. At first we concluded that it was "their" fault they weren't learning and just pushed them harder. However, after multiple classes with the same result, we concluded that it was our fault and we were not teaching them correctly.

We started doing research looking into what was being taught to women by various women's self defense instructors. There were two distinct paths. Others were either: 1) Teaching the advanced techniques that ARE effective if you are a trained fighter (leg kicks, knees, elbows, grappling, etc.); 2) Or instructors would respond and say something like, "Oh I wouldn't teach a woman how to fight, just something to defend herself so she could escape." This meant they would teach the same old stuff - walk with confidence, hold your keys between your fingers, rake the shoe down the shin during the foot stomp, poke to the eyes or kick to the groin. Ironically, the first response gave the beginning students too much credit and the second method gave women too little credit.

There are very few of the first type of schools. They are commendable because they did not discriminate by gender. They are teaching warriors. And, given enough time, interest, and training, they would turn out the women who would be best qualified to defend themselves. The second response was far more prevalent and, quite frankly, kind of sickening. We feel it's very condescending to women. "Oh, don't fight back (because you are too weak, too scared, too inept, unable to learn the real techniques, etc.), just escape". What? If it was that easy, then why wouldn't we all do that?

These instructors were not factoring in the true dynamics of a sexual assault. Plus we found out that a lot of what seems like a good idea at first doesn't work well in a real situation. An instructor working with a cooperative assistant can make anything look like it's effective. Have you ever tried a foot stomp on someone who is moving and taking you down to the ground? Did you really ever try to hit something with keys between your fingers? We kept being approached by women who were not trained in martial arts nor were they going to start training in martial arts but they were desperate to learn self-defense. And, from our perspective, the women who needed it the most were the least likely to train. These are women who are older, overweight, very young, frail, introspective, you get the idea. We have even had blind teenagers as students that were very withdrawn and had multiple emotional and health issues to deal with. They were the perfect victims and needed a system or a method that would work. These women needed something that they could learn quickly, was "natural" for them and something that they could RETAIN during a stressful situation. So we began modifying the program to start with the worse possible position you could find yourself in - the bad guy has you pinned down to the ground and assault and harm is imminent. The system is taught in reverse of how we are typically taught. Normally, programs are taught to avoid or evade the first contact, then what to do if he grabs your wrist and then what to do when he grabs your shoulders, etc. The Girls on Guard module starts with a common sexual assault position and then backs out. Yes, we cover avoidance and evasion, but one of the core principles is that you always know you can escape the worst position possible.

Most of the Women's Empowerment Series modules do not depend very much on hitting. While a favorite strategy of some well-publicized courses that you see on TV, the "stun and run" and "keep hitting him until he is down" philosophy plays right into the hands of the "Fight Like a Man" game. The fact that he is in range of your hits means that you are in range of his hits! We contend that if you hit a guy, most likely he is going to hit you right back and his hit will be 10 times harder than yours. So we don't advocate many punches or pokes. The thousands of women who trained in the program as it was evolving "showed us what worked and what didn't." They began to be able to see sexual assault/kidnapping scenarios as problems that needed a solution. They began to be able to spontaneously respond to full power attacks with an appropriate and effective solution. They even began to solve problems that they had never encountered before.

When playing the bad guy in the scenarios, we felt the difference. Women began to really respond in a way that was immediate and it was effective. So much for those critics of teaching women to fight like a girl! Women began to gain confidence in the techniques because they worked - under stress in realistic scenarios. And as they gain confidence in their skill, they developed confidence in their will. For our graduates, they tell us they feel a huge sense of empowerment because now they have a method they learned quickly, is effective under stress and is simple enough that they will never forget it. We've even had graduates from the courses tell us they are sure that their training from their particular certified instructor saved them from attack and assault.

Instructors

Defend University and The Women's Self Defense Institute has hundreds of instructors all across the globe.

  • Head Instructor

    Steve Kardian

    In addition to being a high level martial artist in arts such as Kyu Ku Shin Karate and Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Kardian is also a long time law enforce veteran and media personality.

  • Head Instructor

    Brad Parker

    Working from Phoenix, AZ Brad began Defend University with Steve in the early 1990s.

  • United States

    Instructors

    Click here for our list of United States based certified instructors.

  • International

    Instructors

    Click here for our list of International certified instructors.

  • Become
    Certified,
    Now!

Contact The Women's Self Defense Institute

Inquire about women's self defense certifications, training or ask a related question.