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No means no - strong safe resilient woman

About ESD+

What is ESD+


ESD+ is our holistic and trauma-informed curriculum that combines the two practical and evidence based systems of:

Empowerment Self Defence (ESD)


Mindfulness-Based Stress Management (MBSM)

The three pillars of our training are empowerment, resilience and safety. ESD+ is designed to help women and girls more confidently navigate challenging and/or threatening situations, anywhere along the stress and violence spectrums. It provides participants with a toolkit of simple, practical & effective life skills they can use,

not only in potentially violent altercations but also in their everyday lives. 

The ESD+ Toolkit

mental resilience



Awareness & Intuition

Risk Assessment

Understanding stress & violence

Verbal & non-verbal communication



Perpetrator Psychology

Evade & Escape tactics

Myth Busting

emotional resilience


Believing in yourself

Finding & using your voice

Resilience & Determination

Self-care strategies


Peer pressure


Boundary Setting

Respectful relationships

Survivor Advocacy

physical resilience


Simple & effective


Easy to apply

Works on any body type

Soft Physical Skills (Non-Violent)

Grabs, Holds and Strangles

Targeted striking

Rear Attacks

Abduction Prevention

Real-life scenarios

trauma informed empowered people

"The empowerment & embodied confidence that comes through connecting with your fighting spirit & learning physical self defence often makes your verbal skills more effective, decreasing the chances of ever having to use those physical skills."

- Lisa Evans (President of Empowered Today)

What is ESD

What is ESD?

ESD is a holistic approach to women's self-defence. 

It was designed by women, for women and the types of violence women are most likely to experience. 

Ultimately, it is about expanding options. ESD training does so by empowering it's participants with a set of practical strategies to help defend themselves on a mental, emotional & physical level. The more strategies you have...the more options you have.

Our aim is to provide you with information that you only need to hear once. This information then shapes the way you deal with volatile situations. Common sense is not always common practice so we teach you simple strategies to stay safe in a range of situations, without restricting behaviour or negatively impacting on your life. 


Since over 80% of sexual assault is perpetrated by someone known to the victim, ESD focuses on respectful relationship principles such as effective communication, consent, assertiveness, boundary-setting, de-escalation & risk assessment. Along with these soft skills we also teach physical self defence strategies that are easy to learn and effective with any body type, against any perpetrator. The empowerment that comes through connecting with your own fighting spirit often makes your soft skills more effective, decreasing the chances of ever having to use those physical skills.

Why do we teach ESD?

Simply put...because it works!

According to Jocelyn Hollander, Professor of Sociology at the University of Oregon and author of the most recent systematic review of the field,  “Women’s self-defence training is the only sexual violence prevention strategy with solid evidence of effectiveness at reducing rates of victimisation”...ESD has been proven to reduce rates of sexual violence.

You can read a summary of her research below.

ESD helps prevent, interrupt and resist violence. It is a short term, medium term and long term approach all in one!

At Empowered Today, we believe the best way to reduce violence against women is to address the issue from all fronts

...with everything we've got!


The types of primary prevention most governments and policy makers are currently focusing on are, without a doubt, necessary; but are not, alone, the answer. The majority of National policies and funding are addressing the issue through one of the root causes (gender inequalities and attitudes) as well as supporting those already experiencing/having experienced violence...which is admirable. The problem with using only this approach is that systemic change can be very slow and in the meantime more and more women & girls are experiencing violence and sexual assault.

It's should not be the responsibility of (potential) victims to stop the violence by learning to protect themselves but, unfortunately, this is not a perfect world....yet. Until it is, there will be people that, for many varied reasons, inflict violence on others. We don't believe it's empowering for women when the only option they are given is to sit around and wait for long-term behaviour and systemic change to end the fact, quite the opposite.  Our approach is to provide them with skills that help them feel safe and Empowered Today.

mindfulness based stress management

What is MBSM?

Mindfulness-Based Stress Management (MBSM) is what we call the set of mindfulness exercises we teach to help people

self-regulate in order to navigate stressful situations more effectively. It includes centring and grounding techniques,  breathing exercises, awareness/meditation practices and energy/emotion release methods.

Why do we teach MBSM?

We can't always choose what happens to us but we can choose how we respond. 

We all experience stress in our lives. It's impossible to avoid challenging situations in life. So if we can't avoid it, we need to be able to manage it. This makes stress management and self-care vital for maintaining both our mental and physical health.

MBSM empowers people with easy and effective state regulation strategies they can use,  not only to reduce stress during challenging times, but to build resilience and maintain positive mental health on an everyday basis. 

Ultimately, stress and self-defence are completely interrelated. In order to access all of the strategies/options available to us and choose the most appropriate action in a stressful or threatening situation, we must be able to remain calm and continue functioning from the rational part of our brain...the prefrontal cortex. For this we need to be able to state-regulate or centre/ground. 


This is why we felt MBSM was the missing piece to ESD training and why we added it in to create our unique ESD+ curriculum. And feel it perfectly complements the EMPOWERMENT & SAFETY pillars of ESD, becoming the foundation of our 3rd training pillar... RESILIENCE.

passion led us here - safe resilient empowered

Our Facilitation Approach

We are very passionate about what we do...and we strive to be the best facilitators we can be. 

We use a gentle, mindful, supportive approach backed by a deep understanding and embodied modelling of the principles and content we teach.


Our training is trauma-informed and there is never victim blaming.

We acknowledge that, regardless of the situation, the perpetrator is always at fault.

It is our aim to create an emotionally supportive environment where you feel in control of your own experience and are able to participate in a way that feels safe...and right for you. We also understand that human interactions are complex and that anything outside of our understanding is outside of our control. For this reason, we take a psychological approach to understanding our own mental and emotional landscape, the motivations of perpetrators, as well as exploring how best to navigate the complexity

of social interactions, communication and relationships.

We are also aware that everyone learns differently and learning is most effective when  fun, interactive embodied. For this reason we use multi-modal learning methods including information sharing, discussions, games and personal reflection, along with a range of kinaesthetic activities to help you embody the principles you are learning. The interactive, social & supportive nature of ESD training is an important component of the learning environment.​

Our Approach
empowered safe resilient woman

“When a man says ‘no’ it’s the end of a discussion. When a woman says ‘no’ it’s the beginning of a negotiation”

Gavin De Becker author of 'The Gift of Fear'

ESD Research

Research to support ESD

“RESEARCH ON SELF-DEFENCE” – Jocelyn A. Hollander, Ph.D., University of Oregon

Q: Does self-defence prevent violence? 

A: This is really two questions:

First, can women’s resistance stop sexual assault? The answer is a resounding “Yes“. There is a large and nearly unanimous body of research that demonstrates that women frequently resist violence, and that their resistance is often successful. This research, of course, includes many women without self‐defence training.

Second, does self-defence training decrease women’s risk of assault?  Again, “Yes“. Three major studies over the past few years, including a large, randomised control trial, found that women who complete an ESD class are at least 50-60% less likely to be raped over the following year than similar women who did not learn self-defence (see Hollander 2014, Senn et al. 2015, Sarnquist et al. 2014, and Sinclair et al. 2013). In other words, women who learn self-defence are both more likely to avoid rape if they are attacked, and much less likely to be attacked in the first place.

Q: Does fighting back increase a woman’s risk of injury?

No. In short, women resist because they are being injured, rather than being injured because they resist, resistance does not increase the risk of injury.

There is no indication of increased physical injury in women who chose to confront their assailant (Ullman, S. E. (1998). Does offender violence escalate when women fight back? – Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 13, 179-192.) 

Q: Shouldn’t we be putting all our resources into prevention strategies focused on perpetrators?

No. Violence against women is a complex social problem. Ultimately, large-scale social changes will be needed before violence against women can be stopped. However, this kind of social change is slow – and so far, our efforts have not been very successful. If we focus only on perpetrator-focused, “primary” prevention strategies, we are condemning millions of women to suffering rape and sexual assault. While we wait for these efforts to work, ESD training can provide an immediate, and effective, antidote for sexual violence.

There has been little research on the effectiveness of prevention strategies focused on potential perpetrators. Most strategies that have been rigorously evaluated have been found to be ineffective at preventing violence.

Preventing sexual violence will require a comprehensive range of efforts. Some efforts should be long-term (e.g., cultural climate assessment and change), others should be medium-term (e.g., bystander intervention training), and some should be short-term (e.g., self-defence training). We do not have to choose only one approach; a complex social problem requires that we address it on multiple fronts and in multiple ways.

Q: Is self-defence victim blaming?

No! Empowerment-based self-defence classes explicitly attribute responsibility for assault to perpetrators, not victims. Just because a woman is capable of defending herself does not mean that she is responsible for doing so.

Although self-defence training is frequently lumped in with other kinds of risk reduction advice (e.g., staying out of public spaces, traveling with a buddy, wearing modest clothing, or avoiding alcohol), it differs in important ways. Staying home, relying on others for protection, and limiting one’s clothing or alcohol consumption all constrain women’s lives. Self-defence training, in contrast, expands women’s range of action, empowering them to make their own choices about where they go and what they do.
Some people have worried that women who learn self-defence may blame themselves if they are later unable to prevent an attack. However, research has found that women with self-defence training who experience a subsequent assault blame themselves no more – or even less – than women without self-defence training. Moreover, women who are raped but physically resist are actually less likely than other women to blame themselves for their assault.

Q: What else should I know about self protection training?

Learning self-defence empowers women in ways that go far beyond preventing assault. Empowerment self-defence training decreases women’s fear and anxiety and increases their confidence, their sense of self-efficacy, and their self‐esteem. Learning self-defence helps women feel stronger and more confident in their bodies. Women report more comfortable interactions with strangers, acquaintances, and intimates, both in situations that seem dangerous and those that do not. Empowerment self-defence training can also be healing to survivors of sexual violence.

Hollander, Jocelyn A. 2014. “Does Self-Defense Training Prevent Sexual Violence Against Women?” Violence Against Women 20(3):252–269 

Sarnquist, Clea et al. 2014. “Rape Prevention Through Empowerment of Adolescent Girls.” Pediatrics peds.2013–3414.

Senn, Charlene Y et al. 2015. “Efficacy of a Sexual Assault Resistance Program for University Women.” New England Journal of Medicine 372 (24): 2326–35.

Sinclair, Jake et al. 2013. “A Self-Defense Program Reduces the Incidence of Sexual Assault in Kenyan Adolescent Girls.” Journal of Adolescent Health 53(3):374–380.

Ullman, S. E. (1998). "Does offender violence escalate when women fight back?" – Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 13, 179-192

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